I rarely suffer from back problems - which is unusual for someone of six foot three who works with stone - and the few times that I have strained the muscles in the lower part of it, there has rarely been a link between the injury and the weight of stone.
Here's an example: The time when I injured my back most severely was some years ago, when I was sitting at a desk in my bank (yes, that's how long ago - when banks had desks you could sit at), writing out some paperwork. On the other side of the desk from me sat a woman doing the same thing. I was about to sneeze, so I twisted myself in the chair to face away from the woman in front of me and sneezed. That was it. Something gave in my lower back and I was unable to stand - or even move - without excruciating pain.
I remained in the seat for about an hour, attempting to stand every 30 seconds or so, until - after one mighty effort accompanied but a sort of animal roar - I got on my feet and hobbled toward the bullet-proof glass of the cashier's desk. It took about 5 minutes to reach it, and when I did, I explained what had happened and asked the girl to please call me a taxi. She said that they had wondered what was going on and why I had been shifting around in the chair for an hour, but it never occurred to them that I might need some assistance. Maybe they thought I was trying to lure them out so I could hold up the joint by pulling a pistol out and waving it around? Who knows?
I discovered that I could sit down in relative comfort, so when the taxi arrived and I finally managed to get in it (which took about 3 minutes), I asked him to take me to my car. As I got out of the taxi and into my car (which took about 6 minutes), I noticed some women staring at me with a look of extreme concern on their faces, and - for a time - I was comforted by their attention. Then it occurred to me that I must have looked extremely drunk, so I started the car and drove away before they complicated the situation even further by calling the police. I spent the next two weeks taking an hour to get out of bed in the mornings, and asking friends to tie my shoelaces for me.
Well, yesterday, my step-daughter's boyfriend called me and asked if I would help him by taking a small wardrobe to the city dump for him in the back of my Volvo estate. I said (reluctantly) that I would, so long as any piece of it was no longer than 6 feet. When I arrived at the house, there was a giant wardrobe of about 8 feet in height, still bolted together and jammed into one room of the tiny house he had just sold. I had to borrow a friend's lorry after we had dismantled it, and it took all morning. During the process, I strained my back. Not a piece of stone in sight.
There are some situations that a stone carver gets into during his life, which are literally a matter of life and death. If, for instance, you find yourself beneath a 4 CWT block of stone as it is falling off the props and you are unable to get out of the way in time, you have to decide very quickly between catching it and being killed. It's a no-brainer - either way!
One frosty morning, I was outside in the yard attempting to move a half-ton block of stone on my own, when it fell and trapped all my fingers against the frozen ground. I was faced with two outcomes - I would either spend all day and all night trapped by the block, probably dying in the night through exposure, or I would do the impossible and lift the half-ton block, releasing my fingers. In two seconds I had lifted the block.
Another occasion was when a fellow worker and I were hoisting a two hundredweight block of stone up a 120 foot church tower, using nothing but a single wheel and a very long rope. When we had the block about 6 feet from the top, we were standing in the yard, surrounded by about 100 feet of coiled rope which had wrapped itself around our legs as we hoisted. We were at the point of no return and exhausted, then one of us (I forget which) wondered out loud what would happen if we let go of the rope. That was it, we had a laughing fit which made us even weaker, and the joke question almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On all these occasions (and there have been many over the years), my back has remained unharmed. It takes a sneeze or an IKEA wardrobe to do any real damage.