Monday, July 21, 2008

Limey Kay

Limey Kay was a stonemason, a bricklayer, and a colorful character. He was also my neighbor in La Honda, California.

All around La Honda and the Santa Cruz Mountains you come upon samples of his work - a brick fence post, a barbecue, a chimney, or a wall.

Limey had a distinct style. Often he mixed abalone shells among his bricks.

Sometimes he added scallop shells and mussels.

Often he added a whimsical touch.

Limey's old house, which is just up the street from my own, is an eclectic mix of brick and stone reflecting, I suppose, different stages of his growth as a craftsman.

It's a small house, but it has six chimneys. No two are alike.

Consistency and symmetry were of not much interest to Limey Kay. Neither were foundations, so some of his work hasn't held up particularly well.

Every day I'd see Limey walking down the road past my house on the way to Applejacks, our local bar. He moved like a cat. I always marveled that a man so old, who had spent his life lifting stones and bricks, could be so limber. Alcohol, apparently, works as a lubricant ... for a while.

Limey could be your sworn enemy one day, and the next day he could hand you a flower. He didn't always have the firmest grasp of finances. One day he walked into our local realtor's office and said, "I hate to do it but I'm broke and I'm gonna have to sell my house." The realtor replied, "Limey, I hate to tell you but I already sold your house for you - three years ago."

The house remains. It's on a steep hillside. Landslides and earthquakes and falling trees have done their damage. The current owner, who loves Limey's craftsmanship, is working to restore it.

Limey died in 2005, but his gun-toting, hard-drinking, cantankerous, fun-loving spirit lives on in La Honda, as well as examples of his craft. He was a folk artist, a pain in the butt, a one-of-a-kind stylist, and I salute him.


  1. What a nice tribute to Limey, he certainly was one of a kind.

    One evening when I was bartending at AJ's he came in plunked his revolver on the bar, demanded a drink. I told him "Now Limey, you know you can bring that in here. Get it out of here, and I'll consider it."

    He did remove it and I gave him a beer, even though he didn't need it.

  2. Yeah, he was fond of guns, and he was fond of alcohol. It kept us all on our toes.

  3. Long live the Limey of the World

  4. Hi Joe. My name is Greg Thomas, I'm a reporter with the Half Moon Bay Review. I've noticed a recent surge of commentary on this Limey fellow--sounds like a colorful character who was of importance to the La Honda community and I'd like to write a feature on his life and work for the paper this week. If you could please get in touch with me to discuss, that would be great. Thanks Joe, I hope to hear from you soon.

    Greg Thomas
    (650)726-4424 ext.306

  5. Great blog and Half Moon Bay review article. The reason there are six chimneys and not the same amount of fireplaces is that Limey had built five or six chimneys for Neil Young's place and Neil shouldn't have more chimneys than Limey! He told me that a very long time ago. I will always have fond memories of my difficult but fun father in law. He left his creative mark on some places up here in the NW before he passed too. Debbie Kay - daughter in law

  6. Great Job Joe! You have brought back so many memories of life in Limey's "Castle." He was "King of the Castle" you know. My son learned to walk on that kitchen floor. Thanks,

    Debbie Kay

    Limey's epitaph: "You ain't seen nuthin' yet!"