Heritage, Volume 12, Number 2, Spring 1994 Page: 11
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the Red on a winter day, one can imagine
the scene of the mid- 1800s when hundreds
of lodges lined the river course, smoke
rolling lazily into the cold morning sky
from the embers of smoldering fires.
My imagination ran wild as Knute and I
made our way along a tributary arroyo of
Palo Duro canyon. The stream bed was
along the old north trail into Palo Duro,
and I was shooting photos for the article on
vanishing rock art. A rancher had graciously
allowed us to go onto his property
and document on film some rock art that
might possibly depict scenes of Indian life
in the Palo Duro locale, and our excitement
level was high. Dropping into the
creek bottom, the mouth of a small shallow
cavern soon appeared ahead. Squatting to
peer inside, I was perplexed as to where this
rock art might be hidden. Then I was given
a camel hair paint brush and instructed to
brush it lightly across the cavern floor. As
the wind-blown sand and cottonwood
leaves were pushed aside, forms of creatures
and humans soon took shape. Here, inside
this sandstone overhang, people from another
time had wiled away the hours, documenting
events of that era in the form of
stone etchings on the floor. A man on
horseback, a fallen warrior, fish, and other
images continued to take form as more
sand was pushed aside.
Soon we finished the photography in
this location and moved over the brushlined
stream banks to yet another rock
panel. Proceeding through almost impenetrable
brush, poison ivy, and wild grape
vines, we suddenly broke into a very small
opening almost overgrown with shrubbery.
The sun had moved into a position to shine
sparingly in this hidden pocket and produced
small spotlights on the rock panel
before us. The sight was breathtaking. Men
and women on horseback, people moving
en masse, turkey tracks, and scenes of possible
battle stared back at the 20th century
viewers. I could only stand in awe for several
minutes and imagine what it could all mean.
Was it a depiction of the battle of 1874
when Mackenzie culminated the "wrinkled
hand chase" with the famous confrontation
in Palo Duro? Were we way off track and
perhaps decades too late in our theories?
Was this rock art from a time before the
Anglo military activities in the region? We
could have speculated for hours about the
meaning of it all, but time was of the essence
and the photography work began.
For some 12,000 years, the plains of
Texas have been the stage for mans' travels
The explorer gazes in awe at ancient images of oxen, squire, and shaman at a Cowhead Mesa rock art site.
and life work. Wolf Creek, Palo Duro,
Cold Water, Black Water Draw, Running
Water Draw, Yellowhouse, and Blanco
Canyon echo with the voices long before
our time, and evidence of the "ancient
ones" is still being uncovered by the very
rains and winds that covered and guarded
them for centuries.
Unfortunately, as wind and water erosion
once more display these priceless works
of art for modern man to marvel, too many
sites are discovered and destroyed by those
more interested in plunder than the intricate
secrets of our past. At each site that
I visited, names and graffiti adorn the pan
els, sometimes completely ruining the images.
Rocky Dell, Cowhead Mesa, Wagon
Train, and Yellowhouse are but a few names
that carry the scars from modern-day "artists".
Bullet holes, names, and slogans tell of
a problem with no easy solution. I hope that
through education and respect for our past,
we will allow these sites to survive so that
the stories of old can be studied and admired
by men and women in centuries to come.
Wyman Meinzer is a photographer from
Benjamin whose book, "The Roadrunner"
was recently published by Texas Tech Press.
HtERITAGE * SPRING 1994 11
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 12, Number 2, Spring 1994, periodical, Spring 1994; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45413/m1/11/?rotate=270: accessed May 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.