Heritage, Volume 2, Number 4, Fall 1985 Page: 14
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Forrest Kirkland and his wife Lula at a campsite in the 30's. What began as an interesting hobby on the
weekends became a serious commitment when, after seeing his first rock art site near Breckenridge, Forrest
and Lula determined that they would copy as many of the sites as possible in scaled-down watercolor
paintings. Photo courtesy of the Texas Memorial Museum. (Acc. No. PC-2-97)
Forrest Kirkland at work in a small, nearly
inaccessible shelter. In many cases, Kirkland
sought out obscure sites, clambering down the
sides of thorny cliffs in order to pursue his goal of
copying as much of the ancient rock art as
possible. Photo courtesy of the Texas Memorial
Museum. (Acc. No. PC-2-19)
of his daylight hours to complete one
board accurately (Fig. 7). On the backs of
the boards he provided written evaluations
of the art, notes of their condition
and descriptions of the sites.
Lula assisted him by making a careful
survey of the site, keeping a diary to
document their travels and by taking photographs,
of the sites and of Forrest working,
with her 116 Eastman Kodak camera
Their dedication to their new project was
fired by a certain urgency to preserve a
record of the paintings before they were
obliterated. On their first trip to Paint
Rock, in 1933, Kirkland compared the
paintings he made with the tracings Judge
0. L. Sims had made seven years earlier
to find considerable damage had taken
place even in that short time. Kirkland
noted at that time:
In copying the pictures we found so many
that had been destroyed or badly damaged
by the names of people painted,
chiseled or written across them; by the
pock marks made on them by bullets when
someone used them for targets and by
campfires built beneath the cliffs for vari
ous purposes. A few more years of that
kind of destruction (and) with natural
weathering and no Indian pictures would
At least equal to the task of copying the
rock art was the job of finding the sites
and driving to them over unpaved and
winding ranch roads. Some help was
gained from professional archeologists
of the University of Texas and Sul Ross
College. Some sites were shown to the
Kirklands by knowledgable inhabitants of
an area, such as W. E. McCarson of Comstock.
But more often than not, they had
to garner the confidence of suspicious and
often tight-lipped ranchers and farmers to
ferret out directions to obscure sites. At
the time, it must have seemed highly unusual
to direct an unfamiliar, dusty couple
to hidden caves.
At times, their intention to find rock art
sites was accepted with uncertainty by the
small town denizens. At Fort Chadborne,
in 1934, the Kirklands were approached
by four men:
The eldest of the men, wrinkled and oneeyed,
looked suspiciously at Lula and I.
He was a typical "hayseed" and seemed a
little dubious of Lula's trousers. I could
see that we were "forners" to him. Thinking
that he might know about the petroglyphs
I asked if he knew anything about
a cave in those parts with Indian pictures
on the walls. He refused to talk and the
other men knew nothing of such a cave.
He only muttered something and eyed me
with his one good eye.
Finally, he said, "Look here, stranger, I
ain't tellin' nothin'. What you lookin'for,
gold or silver?"
"I am not hunting gold or silver," I explained.
"I am just an artist and want to
copy the Indian paintings on the walls of
"Wall, that might be," he replied, "But I
shore ain't sendin' nobody up any of them
canyons where one of my friends is bottlin'
up a batch."
Other times, their identities were clearly
suspect. At Palo Pinto, in the same year,
while searching for sites, Forrest writes:
All the time the farmer was watching us
from his house across the field. Several
times I saw him pace across his yard, and
HERITAGE * Fall 1985
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 2, Number 4, Fall 1985, periodical, November 1, 1985; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45445/m1/14/: accessed July 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.