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Rock solid

Jordan Romig has spent months creating a retaining wall outside his mother's Ash Street bungalow

Week after week, day after day since last October, Jordan Romig has been slowly, painstakingly creating a rock-solid work of art along Ash Street.

He's spent eight months and counting on the job, and intends to keep going until the circa-1919 Craftsman-style bungalow boasts a wall that might eventually outlast the home itself.

'I'd like it to be pretty permanent,' said Romig, who grew up in Beaverton and worked as a mason's apprentice during college.

Neighbors pass by and compliment him on his tenacity and the intricacy of the puzzle pieces he's assembling into art.

They're amazed at his dedication, showing up, rain or shine, to continue the massive project.

Once owned by Don and Edith Watrous and now by Jane Romig, the large white house with the columned front porch and purple wisteria climbing along the eaves has graced Old Town since the early 20th century.

Still, Romig insisted, the property needed a curb-appeal facelift.

The wandering roots of a towering sweet gum tree had wrecked the original concrete retaining wall, making a mess of things in the front yard.

'It was all broken to pieces,' noted Romig, who spent four years in Sun Valley, Idaho, fashioning river-rock fireplaces and doing stone veneer work on giant homes in the resort community.

When he returned to Oregon in 2004, Romig vowed to return to traditional masonry - the kind that's common in New England.

'What I wanted to do was the old style of stone masonry that never took off in the West,' said Romig, adjusting the reception on the AM-FM radio he listens to while he labors.

There are 'a few impressive stone projects' in Oregon, such as the Burnside tunnel entrance, Timberline Lodge and Crown Point in the Columbia Gorge, he noted.

But as far as Romig is concerned, his efforts to produce a one-of-a-kind wall based on an art called 'coarse random rubble' are well worth a few bruised fingers and a couple pairs of ruined cargo shorts.

'I got tired of the resort life,' Romig said of his time rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. 'I learned that I actually prefer breaking rocks.'

He's started Beaver Stoneworks, a sole proprietorship that specializes in the type of masonry he takes pride in. With a full schedule of jobs to juggle, Romig is building his mom's wall on borrowed time.

Working by himself, Romig is using three types of basalt - each with its own distinct colors and qualities - on the project.

On a good day, he said, he can finish 15 square feet in an eight-hour shift. He's doing it for free - make that room and board - in his mom's house, for now.

Over the summer, he plans to complete the capstone, the only part that will contain mortar. He'll re-pour the sidewalk and plant some new trees.

Romig is no slouch in the manual labor department. He's happy when he's working with his hands.

In college, Romig said, he was 'jealous of people who simply loved to read. For me it was always a chore.'

Once he closed the books on a sedentary way of life, Romig felt much better.

'This fits my lifestyle,' he said. 'I like lifting things.'