Near the wharf in the southwestern Newfoundland outport of Codroy is a small beach where the ocean stores cobblestones. They look like huge gray potatoes, their surfaces, angles, and corners smoothed and rounded by the constant rolling. One can hear a thousand disunited voices saying “cobble” as each wave rolls them twice, once coming in and again going out. One can also hear a thousand wooden shoes walking in a tunnel walled with stone, or a ruptured storage bin in a bowling-ball factory, or a thousand skulls rolling down a bedrock slope in a catacomb.
Initially I thought the cobble sound obeyed two pulses, the faster pulse with the waves, and a slower one with the tides. On a return visit I was greeted with silence at the cobblestone beach, and assumed I would have to wait for high tide to hear the knock-about rocks again. So I interrupted three fishermen working with gear on the Codroy wharf to find out when the next high tide would be.
“Looks high now,” one of them said, his tone indicating the conversation had run its course.
But I was not deterred. “When I was here last year, the tide was rolling the cobblestones on the beach below the road going up the hill over there.” As I pointed towards the road, I realized I was on the verge of profound silliness, but could not stop myself. “It was a wonderful sound, and I was hoping to hear it again. I thought it happened at high tide.”
“Those was probably storm waves rolling the rocks,” said another fisherman, the look on his face suggesting he was working hard at sounding normal for someone who wasn’t.