On this day I was driving deep in the heart of Texas on a trip to visit courthouses. From Ballinger I drove south to Paint Rock, the county seat of Concho County. The stone courthouse in the very small town of Paint Rock was built in 1886 and is a fine example of Second Empire architecture.
Just before I arrived in Paint Rock I saw a small, unimposing sign simply stating “Indian Pictographs.” This caught my attention as I was aware that the town of Paint Rock was named for the many hundreds of paintings done by numerous tribes that visited the area. This would be a great time to stop, stretch my legs, and take a break from driving.
I could not find evidence of any “official entrance.” All that I did see was a very “unofficial” rough, gravel drive leading up and over a hill. It looked more like a private drive to me, but, thinking since I’m here I might as well check it out. I turned in and followed the narrow, winding road to a house where an older lady was sweeping the front porch. I got out of my Jeep to inquire about the sign, my thinking was just to see the pictographs take a few pictures and be on my way, but she had other ideas. Without lifting her head she told me to “go on inside” and she continued sweeping without missing a stroke. Okay, this was a courthouse trip and in this part of Texas it’s a lot of driving and not much scenery, so I was a little anxious to get to my destination, San Angelo. Not wanting to be rude I went inside to find a large room filled with artifacts, pictures, and tables used for instruction. Shortly the lady came in and introduced herself as Kay Campbell and without asking what I was looking to do, she lead me to one of the tables and starting her story. Now I’m thinking, “ I just want to see the pictographs, not really interested in the whole tour” so, my plan was to politely wait for a break in the story and ask to see the pictographs. With no break she told of how her grandfather bought the land to preserve the Indian drawings from being destroyed by landowners who were trying to squeeze out a little more pasture for their cows. Then she told of how her father sought state protection to stop the wanton graffiti and target practice which was threatening the integrity of the drawings. Without so much as a breath she told the history of the pictographs, how numerous tribes of Indians would gather along the banks of the Concho River and trade. She, then handed me a piece of hematite and a rough stone and instructed how the paint was made while I ground the hematite to powder, in my mind I’m still thinking ‘need to go.’ Talking on Mrs Campbell took the dark red powder and mixed it with a little water, stating that the Indians would mix in a little blood, animal fat, or plant oil for permanence. In addition to red, other rocks were used in the same manner to make the colors black, yellow, and white. Very interesting, I was finding myself drawn into the story.
Finally, the instruction was over and we were on our way to see the pictographs Riding in Ms Campbell car I realized she was still going to go at her pace not mine. She slowly drove and talked the whole way, waving at her buffalos, and stopping to say “hi” to her angora goats and sheep.
I began to realize her passion and desire to pass on history to whom ever would listen. A passion that came from an almost spiritual mandate to pass on knowledge. This is the same passion I saw in my mother, a love of history and family and the pressing urgency to pass on the mantle of knowledge. I began to admire and gain a deep appreciation for her genuine interest, knowledge, and love of Indian history.
In the past I had visited several sites of Native American pictographs, and petroglyhs. In Vermont I risked life and limb climbing down a steep, wet, rock-face to see a single petroglyph, I had walked trails in the scorching deserts of Arizona and Utah to see one, two, or three drawings, I didn’t have expectations of seeing any more than a few Indians pictographs. But to my surprise, the wait was worth it. The limestone bluffs were like a wall made of neatly stacked stones and on these stones were paintings, not one, not two, not three, but over a thousand drawings. It was more than I could have expected or imagined. I left that day feeling enriched and a little ashamed of my impatience. Thank you Mrs Kay Campbell for your determination to pass on the story.