Smith: No winners in this Game of Stones

  • The Rincon Valley cross, seen Wednesday, Aug. 6. (Chris Smith / The Press Democrat)

The Christian cross has been contested for two millennia, so it could be that what’s playing out on a hillside in east Santa Rosa manifests an ancient conflict. Or is it merely unfortunate and perhaps dangerous mischief?

No one is supposed to be ascending the steep slope above Skyhawk/St. Francis Acres to the cross of whitewashed stones. It’s private property.

But in the midst of a community debate over Rincon Valley teenager Cameron Whiteside’s petition to be allowed to maintain the cross built three decades ago by believer in Christ and WWII veteran Arvo Kannisto, someone hiked up there, more than once, apparently at night, and dismantled one entire arm of the crossbar. Displaced stones litter the hillside below.

Subsequently, someone ascended the slope, gathered many of the scattered boulders and restored the border of the disassembled part of the cross.

And on Wednesday afternoon, I and others watched from hundreds of feet below as three young men collected strewn stones and lugged them back up to the cross.

It’s as though the hillside has become a game board and the rocks the players’ pieces. Some of us will root for those who attempt to dismantle the cross, others for those seeking to restore it.

I’m in the middle, nervous that a trespasser will be hurt up there or that this game of move-the-rocks will get out of hand.

The landowner has good reason to prohibit anyone from climbing to the cross, and the right thing is to let it be.


CHRIS REYNOLDS, private investigator, has received a fair bit of media play for his investigation into the case of the mother accused of taking hold of the neck of a boy she believed had bullied one of her children at Olivet Charter Elementary School.

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