Heritage, Volume 5, Number 3, Autumn 1987 Page: 20
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evidently didn't do much more than
pass on by, and he missed at least ten
other sites in the immediate area.
Forrest Kirkland and W. W. Newcomb,
whose beautiful study, The Rock
Art of Texas Indians, was published in
1967 by the University of Texas Press,
passed over Alamo Canyon. This is a
shame, because Kirkland's paintings of
these sites would have been an instant
Texas National Treasure.
Well, that was about it as far as
Alamo Canyon is concerned. From 1936
to the early 70s, the prehistoric art galleries
remained hidden from general
notice. Which is just as well-a vandal
known only as "Fats" carved his name
above the symbols at Site Four in 1962,
along with another fool, "Joe," who
didn't leave a date. May their descendants
wither on the vine; these are
sacred places they defiled.
Desultory weekend trips were taken
from time to time by members of a
local archaeological society, but nothing
resembling a concerted effort ever
happened, and whatever reports were
done only scratched the surface. The
old archaeological bugaboos of lack of
funds and time saw to that.
What's been needed for a long time
is a year's sustained expedition in the
field . . . the likelihood of that ever happening
is about as remote as the day we
all look up in the sky and see elephants
Any reports that did come out were
sketchy at best, and were centered on
Sites One and Two, lying near the dam.
Our Site Four, the place of the Storyteller
Woman, waited for publication
until 1984, and even then the report
tells of only two petroglyph panels
among the many at the site ("Alamo
Canyon: The Storyteller Woman Panel,"
in The Artifact, Vol. 22, No. 2, ppll25.
El Paso Archaeological Society, El
One of the old saws regarding exploration
concerns a man who found a
fabulous Lost City. "How did you find
it?" he was asked. "I asked an Indian,"
was the answer.
The people who pecked the
symbols on the rock of the damside
sites have long been gone-the Shumla
people, the traders from ancient
Mexico, the Mogollon Mimbres and
the Apache. All of them gone now
beyond recall. So what do you do? You
talk to people living there now-the
Texas is home to the friendliest
people in the world. West Texas has
people so nice they make the rest of the
state look grouchy. Approach any ranch
house door and knock with courtesy and
respect, and you'll find yourself made
welcome. And so we talked with
people "in the country." We were told
of sites lying here and there, of places
as yet unknown to the outside world.
We walked for miles in that wonderful
rimrock country, watching the
colors of the landscape change from
one minute to the next. We walked
slowly-the only way to go-in summer
sunshine, in cloud shadow and in rain ...
and began to feel the rhythms of the
Jacques Soustelle, the French archaeologist,
was asked what was the first
thing he did when he made an important
find. "Sit down and light a cigarette,"
was the answer.
"Slow down" is the message, to be
heard loud and clear. People race
through the countryside, snapping pictures
as they go, but never seem to take
the time to just sit a while and learn to
see instead of merely looking.
It's a pastime that teachs patience,
the slow, reflective walking in the
desert. And you find treasure there
the eastern glow telling of slow sunrise
and all the colors of the land springing
into sudden life ... the shrill of the cicada,
following you as you go ... and the
thrill, unequalled by almost anything
else we can name, of rounding a tumbled
boulder and seeing petroglyphs
you'd not know about before.
That's when the cameras come out,
and the sketchbooks. That's when you sit
down and light that cigarette-when
you look around you and feel the
rhythm and the placement of this spot in
space and time.
Site Four, when we first stumbled
across it, gave rise to goose bumps that
still make the arm-hairs stand up whenever
we think about it. Site Four, home
of the Storyteller Woman.
Picture a rock panel some 30 feet
long and seven high, every inch covered
with pecked designs made by one
ancient artist's hand. Picture a huge flat
slab of rock-an altar, if you willstretching
out in front of that pecked
mural. Picture, then, the people who sat
upon that altar, once upon a time,
looking at the panel as one of the Old
Ones pointed from symbol to symbol,
telling the people the history of their
group or tribe.
We can place this panel fairly well
in time. The style is Mimbres. The
Mimbres lived and flourished along
the Mimbres River in south central New
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 5, Number 3, Autumn 1987, periodical, Autumn 1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45439/m1/20/: accessed August 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.