PAINT ROCK, Texas – Pulling into Paint Rock, you get a sense of the bustling town it used to be.
With only 273 residents, the Concho County Seat is one of least populated county seats Texas and while the beautiful historic court house remains, not much else has.
But these old buildings are the earliest signs of an early civilization here, for that you have to travel a few miles north, cross the right cattle guard, and visit the ranch of Fred and Kay Campbell.
Kay is sort of the curator of Paint Rock, her Grandfather D.E. Simms came upon this site while doing his research and took it up himself to be the care taker
“The people who came here to camp after the Indians where people who hated the Indians,” Kay said. “So you see where the Indians have written their stories and you’re not going to preserve them for posterity because you hate them. They’re your enemy! So you shoot at them and you write your name on them and you try to ruin them. So when my grandpa came and saw the pictographs where being ruined he said I cannot go back to Missouri. I’ve got to stay here and guard the pictographs.”
Nearly half of mile of this bluff, just a few hundred yards from the Concho river, is covered with over 1,500 pictographs.
“It’s believed that there could have been as many as 300 different cultures that would have camped here nomadically over the 12 thousand years that they were using this for one of their major camp grounds in this area,” Kay said.
Each incredible drawing has it’s own story.
“They thought that the bird was capable of taking their prayers up to their sun god, and so this is a good example of the birds. And you’ll see lots of examples of the birds as we go along,” Kay said.
With Kay’s family history, she’s heard the stories and theories of what these symbols mean her entire life.
“While the boys had to go work on the ranch, well I got to come and listen to people talk about pictographs, and I have just been a pictograph fan ever since,” Kay said.
After our walk along the cliff face, we came upon some flowing water that painted us into a corner when it came to pictographs.
“There are no more pictures past this, and the reason is the spring,” Kay said. “See that’s where the women prepared the meal and took care of the children and everything while the men where down here doing the important things like singing, dancing, and painting. The women where down here doing dumb things like taking care of the kids and cooking.”
Kay’s passion for this place is infectious. Her stories keep you silent as she shares with you the most delightful details, because for Kay, this is her connection to the Lone Star State.
“Somebody told me a long time ago, ‘love isn’t love until you give it away,’” Kay said. “And you know if you’re sitting on something wonderful and won’t let anybody see it, it loses its magic.”