Family: July 2008 Archives

Elvis Polo has an entertaining and enlightening talk show every Saturday night from 6 to 9, but as an extra special treat, he's invited my son Joe to bring his fiddle to the studio and play the bumpers into and out of the commercial breaks during the first hour, from 6 to 7. Tune in to 1170 to listen live, or check the weekend shows podcast page later to listen on demand.

Here's Joe's performance at last month's Skiatook Bluegrass Festival. (He did even better at the Texas Cowboy Reunion, but I haven't got that uploaded yet.)

Backing Joe up is Eldon Combs, from Lowell, Ark., on upright bass, and Scott Pendleton on rhythm guitar.

MORE: Here's the podcast from Saturday night.

We were driving south from Ballinger, Texas, on US 83. It was about time to stop and stretch our legs anyway, when I saw a skinny brown and white sign -- an official -looking, state-placed sign marking a recreational or historic feature -- that said "Indian pictographs." I stopped some yards further down at what I thought was a historical marker. (It was a dedication plaque for the 1930s bridge over the Concho River.) On a whim I turned around and turned in at the sign.

The road was a winding gravel ranch road which led to a small house. We passed a couple of bison along the way. My expectation was a 10-minute stop and a look at a some faint paint marks on rocks. The Paint Rock pictographs turned out to be much more.

Ranch owner Fred Campbell came out of the house to meet me. He told me about the tours, and we discussed the logistics of bringing along a 2 1/2 year old along a 1,000-foot-long trail. He offered to lead us down to the start of the trail -- we in our minivan would follow him in his small utility truck -- then I could drive the utility vehicle along the trail with the toddler on board, while the rest of the family walked along beside him. (Visions of piloting a stickshift on a bumpy, twisting trail filled me with fear, but I agreed anyway.)

The ranch, we learned, had been in his wife Kay Campbell's family since her grandfather settled there in the 1870s.

The house turned out to be a very nicely appointed visitors center. A couple of persian cats and a border collie roamed the shady yard. Inside, Fred demonstrated how the Indians used rocks like hematite to make paint, explained some of the symbols we would see and the lore behind them, and showed us a time-stamped video of "daggers" of light crossing certain pictographs on the solstices and equinoxes, indicating that the rocks were used as a kind of calendar.

Then Fred got into his utility truck with the two big kids riding shotgun, while we followed in the Odyssey. He led us through a gate, past some of his angora goats, down to a flat camping ground between the Concho River and the limestone bluff on which the pictographs appeared. The 1,000 foot trail was a level path along the base of the bluff, easy to navigate. We stopped briefly at about a dozen stations along the bluff, as Fred pointed out and explained some of the most interesting of the pictographs. The pictographs were easy to make out.

Back at the visitors' center, we paid for the tour ($6 each for adults, $3 each for children), picked out some postcards, and chatted with Fred, as we took a final pit stop before getting back on the road. (The visitors' center has very nice restrooms.)

(Fred told me an interesting story about meeting the Duke of Wellington, who invited him to his Spanish estate to discuss its suitability for raising angora goats. The Duke was affable, but his wife was standoffish as soon as she had been introduced to Mr. Campbell. On the last day of the visit, the Texan learned why -- Lady Wellington told him she was descended from Clan McDonald, which had been massacred by the Campbells of Argyll at Glencoe in 1692. For his part, Fred apologized for what happened three hundred years ago, but pointed out that he hadn't been there. Old grudges die hard over there.)

As we got into the van to leave, Fred gave the kids some small rocks of the type used to make paint. While it wasn't in our plan for the day, all five of us thought the Paint Rock Pictograph site was a very worthwhile and fascinating detour.

To arrange a tour, phone 325-732-4376, or write:

Fred and Kay Campbell
Paint Rock Excursions
Box 186
Paint Rock, TX 76866

This Google map shows directions from the town of Paint Rock ("A") to the visitor's center ("B"). The loop in the road about 1500 feet west of "B" is the at eastern end of the pictograph-covered limestone bluff (which looks like a thin white road), but you may only go there as part of a tour.

View Larger Map


An American Profile article from February 2008 about the Paint Rock pictographs will give you an idea of what happens on one of their tours:

Kay Campbell, 80, walks along a dusty trail on her central Texas ranch, leading a tour group of school children. She stops along the way to point out dozens of crude drawings painted on a rock bluff overlooking a once popular American Indian campground. Ranging from a few inches to several feet in size, the rock art is the legacy of American Indian tribes that roamed the area centuries ago. Some of the drawings--animals, human figures, weapons, stars and suns--tell stories that experts can decipher, while others remain mysterious, vague communications from cultures that existed some 200 to 500 years ago....

At the beginning of each tour, she scrapes hematite rock, mixes the red shavings with water, and uses this to paint symbols on her arm. A retired school teacher, she uses "show and tell" to demonstrate the process by which American Indians made the paint that they used to fill in designs etched by flint. "I try to show how people lived thousands of years ago and how they wrote history without letters or words," she says.

This brief 1999 press release by archaeastronomer R. Robert Robbins of the University of Texas explains what has been observed, with photos showing the interaction of sunlight and pictograph on the solstices.

An article on the Concho Valley Archaeological Society website tells what has been found in excavations on the plain below the decorated limestone cliffs.

Bob Anderson, a gourmet garlic grower and amateur astronomer, has written about the astronomical features of the Paint Rock pictographs. He believes some of the drawings depict the spring sky, widely-observed supernovae, and an eclipse.

This article is about visiting the pictographs on the winter solstice.

Here's A January 27, 2008 San Angelo Standard-Times story, in which Fred and Kay talk about the Sims/Campbell ranch.

The pictographs are just across the Concho River from the town of Paint Rock, population 300, seat of Concho County.

Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, three times is a tradition. (So went a saying that was common around my college fraternity house.)

Two years in a row now, our minivan has suffered a flat tire as we returned home from a trip to Texas. Last year, the tread came off of our left rear tire while on the H. E. Bailey Turnpike south of Chickasha. The Wal-Mart tire store stayed open a bit later and replaced our tire for us, allowing us to make it back to Tulsa that night.

This year we were on our way back, coming up I-35 from San Antonio, where I had been on business, bringing the family along from our trip to Stamford. We stayed overnight in Denton, and the following morning my wife noticed the right rear tire had gone flat. (I was too busy congratulating myself on a good job repacking the back to notice the flat.)

While I put the temp spare on and rearranged the back of the van to accommodate the flat, my wife called tire stores. We wound up at Discount Tire, 2245 S Loop 288, just off of I-35E. The LaQuinta gave us an extra half hour in the room so the rest of the family could stay cool while I changed the tire.

Discount Tire took care of us in just over an hour, during which time we had lunch at the Burger King next door, which had a huge indoor play area. The tire had a leak, which they were able to fix. When the manager handed me my keys and my bill, I saw that the total was $0.00.

"No charge? That was a lot of time and effort for no charge."

"I'd tell you to keep us in mind when you need tires, but you're not from around here. But we'll be in Oklahoma before long."

Discount Tire is in 22 states. There are four locations "coming soon" to Oklahoma City: I-240 & Shields, Kilpatrick Tpk & Penn, 10800 N May, and 8268 NW Expressway.

The Denton location of Discount Tire deserves praise for showing kindness to travelers who were very unlikely to become customers.

Belated congratulations to Tulsa's Emma Jane Pendleton, 14, who took first place in the Patsy Montana National Yodeling Championship, and to her younger sister Marina, 13, who took second. The two sisters are also top fiddlers; Emma Jane is the reigning Oklahoma Junior Fiddle Champion and won the junior championship at the Grand Lake National Fiddle Fest.

Here's a Tulsa World slideshow featuring Emma Jane Pendleton singing Patsy Montana's million-selling hit "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart."

We saw the Pendleton family a couple of weeks ago at the Skiatook Bluegrass Festival, where the two girls both won prizes in the Youth Fiddle competition. Emma Jane won first and Marina won second in the 11-15 and took first and third in the open category (if I recall correctly). Their dad, Scott Pendleton, played rhythm guitar for all the contestants. My oldest son was in the competition as well. The Tulsa World posted a slideshow of photos from the contest, which includes interviews with the Pendleton sisters, my son, and Claremore fiddler Jordan Flippo.

The Pendletons' next performance is Tuesday, July 15, at 7:30, in downtown Sand Springs at the Triangle Park. You'll enjoy hearing this multi-talented musical family perform.

(Corrected, July 18, results of the Skiatook context.)

I am very proud to announce that my son finished second Saturday in the 18-and-under division at the Old Timers Fiddle Contest at the 2008 Texas Cowboy Reunion in Stamford, Texas. His prize was a $50 bill, presented to him by the event's MC, former Congressman Charlie Stenholm. He performed Cotton-Eyed Joe, Tennessee Waltz, and Faded Love. I heard a number of people in the audience humming along on that last number. He has only been playing violin for two years, and he's made great strides since last year's contest, when he placed third.

As I told him before his performance, however the contest turned out, we already know he's a much better fiddler than he was a year ago. I hope to post video later in the week. (Internet connectivity here is rather limited.) One of the senior contestants, Bonnie Workman, complimented him afterwards and encouraged him to keep going, even though he didn't win. She told him it takes heart to be a fiddler, and she could hear it in his music.

He had the novel experience of being recognized today. He was wearing a distinctive hat, which made a difference, but a couple of people stopped him when we went back for the cowboy poetry performance that afternoon -- a young man told him he was in awe of his fiddling ability. He was recognized again at a dance at Old Glory that evening. We just happened upon the event - a Czech polka band playing under an open-air pavilion to a crowd of about 50.

Abilene TV station KRBC was covering the fiddle contest and interviewed my son. Click that link to see the video.

There may not be a better place to experience old time Texas than Stamford, Texas, at the annual Texas Cowboy Reunion.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Family category from July 2008.

Family: June 2008 is the previous archive.

Family: August 2008 is the next archive.

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