Hanging Cave in Paint Canyon. Lula Kirkland
poses, giving the viewer an idea about the
immensity of the terrain, and the incredible vistas
along the lower Pecos. The artists who painted the
Pecos River style pictographs were gatherers,
hunters, and fishermen, unacquainted with
gardening and probably not unlike the historic
Coahuiltecans of northeastern Mexico and southern
Texas. Photo courtesy of the Texas Memorial
Museum. (Acc. No. PC-2-65)
A solitary Kirkland, with meticulous skill, mixed many of the pigments for the watercolors from the local
environment in order to duplicate exactly the pictographs. Days were sometimes wasted in searching for
paintings which did not exist or were disappointing after they were found. Though clothes were torn from
their backs, innumerable canyons climbed into and out of, and blazing heat and choking dust remained
constant companions, the Kirklands clung to their mission. Photo courtesy of the Texas Memorial Museum.
(Ace. No. PC-2-95)
when I took a swing across his field, he
climbed the fence and started toward me.
Evidently he was disturbed. It was during
the time when Clyde Barrow and Bonnie
Parker were on such a rampage. . .The
man approached me, whittling a stick
with a large knife. I spoke first and inquired
about his crop. He looked me over
and finally said he thought we might be
the bandit pair. He had told his wife,
he said, that he was going to tell Clyde
Barrow that he would split the reward
money if he would go with him and surrender
to the sheriff.
"Where is your gun?" I asked.
"Well," he said, "I figured if I couldn't
get him to go peaceable like, I wouldn't
have much luck anyway."
In most cases, the misunderstandings were
quickly resolved when Forrest produced
some of his paintings.
The hardships the Kirklands endured to
create the painted documentation of rock
art sites were great. Lula's diaries are
filled with stories of encounters with wild
animals, shadeless hikes, and flooding
canyons. The descents into the rock shelters
from steep cliffs in the heat of the
summer were hindered by thorny bushes
and unstable footings. At Lewis Canyon,
in Val Verde County, Lula notes in her
Never have I worked under more trying
circumstances. First the sun caused a
steaming heat to come from the rocks and
later the rocks were as hot as if they had
a fire under them; the glare even with
smoked glasses was bad and the reflected
heat from the hot rocks became almost intolerable.
Still we worked on. There was
no shade near to give a minute's relief and
hardly a breath of air could be felt. We
crawled under a bush for a bit of very thin
shade and ate our lunch. Back to work we
went, but about 4 o'clock we had to quit.
The sun seemed as if it was baking our
brains. Water we had would not quench
our thirst and it became so unbearable we
had to walk down the river to the water
hole and crawl in the shelter and stay for
an hour or more.
Forrest's ability to create accurate copies
under these conditions is remarkable. At
Rock Pile Ranch, in 1935, Lula writes
that he ". . .had to rake out the cactus
thorns rodents had carried under the rocks
and place newspapers, then quilt far back
under the slanting rocks to get the pictures.
He spent the morning crawling
around under the drawings while lying
on his back and other awkward positions".
. . Another time, in Seminole
Canyon she writes,
. . .he left all his materials below, because
he didn't expect to find any pictures.
. .when right in plain view on a
rock, he discovered an interesting design
in red. Not having his material with him,
yet wanting to get the design, and feeling
the climb too difficult to go after and get
his material up there, he found a flat rock
and with another lime rock made the
drawing on the flat stone. Sitting on the
river bank (later) he transferred it to a
Not just interested in copying the rock art,
he wanted to know how the paintings were
made. He kept his eyes open for colored
mineral deposits that could have produced
the multi-hued panels he found at Paint
Rock (Fig. 9). In 1934, near Breckenridge,
he found such a deposit in a clay
formation. He took samples of the soil
and experimented with them:
From the sack of color which I collected
from the deposit I selected a grade of
twelve colors. When ground and mixed
with glue and glycerine, this material
made an excellent water color. . . To further
test the use of the colors, I copied
HERITAGE * Fall 1985
Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 02, Number 04, Fall 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45445/. Accessed May 3, 2015.