Earl Nance sat down to write the “Boy Scout News” column for that week’s issue
of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, he was planning to take the scouts of Troop 100
on a hike at Enchanted Rock.
First, however, each boy in the troop had
to pass two scout requirements, things like mastering the use of a compass or
learning how to tie knots. As Nance noted in his column for July 6, 1933, “Only
boys who have passed the required tests will be allowed to go on this hike.”
Evidently hoping to inspire his scouts to complete their badge work by getting
them more excited about the coming excursion, Nance offered a “History of Enchanted
Rock.” Despite that unenchanting title, what the scoutmaster did was tell just
one story about the rock. Decades after its publication, what Nance wrote reads
more like a campfire tale than history.
years ago when Indians roamed the hills of Southwest Texas, the Enchanted Rock
was regarded with awe and fear by members of tribes in its vicinity,” he began.
reason the giant granite formation in what is now Llano County meant so much to
the Indians, Nance continued, was that the “Evil Spirits that the Great Spirit
had chased from the heavens” inhabited the rock. The Indians took that ethereal
occupancy so seriously, he wrote, that they would not even touch the rock, much
less venture on top of it.
One reason the Indians believed spirits lived
at the rock had to do with the way it sometimes appeared at night. Any time a
heavy dew fell on a moonlit night, the massive rock appeared to glow. While that
is perfectly logical scientifically, the eerie look of the rock at night certainly
helped reinforce the notion that there was something special about the formation
in a bad way.
Of course, there is something special about E-Rock, as it’s
now popularly known. Since prehistoric times, the giant igneous rock has loomed
as Central Texas’ most singular landmark. Though most would say it hasn’t attracted
spirits good or bad, it certainly lured Indians and later, explorers and travelers
of European descent. The rock served as waypoint and lookout.
Ranger Capt. Jack Hays supposedly staved off an attack by Comanches at the
rock, and in the more pacific days since then, generations of Texans have enjoyed
climbing it or camping beneath it.
But to get back to Nance’s tale, the
Indians feared that if the evil spirits were allowed to leave the rock, they would
cause their people serious trouble, as in death and destruction. To keep the spirits
in check, the scout leader wrote, the Indians periodically offered a human sacrifice
at the base of the rock.
Rather than reducing the size of their tribe by
one unfortunate person, the Indians raided the Spanish settlement of San
Antonio de Bexar to find someone suitable to appease the evil spirits. At
the edge of town, Nance wrote, the Indians killed an elderly Spaniard and captured
his beautiful daughter.
The Indians carried the hapless girl back to Enchanted
Rock, where they intended to burn her at the stake to cool down the malevolent
Learning that his beloved had been carried away by Indians, the
senorita’s boyfriend quickly recruited volunteers from San
Antonio and Goliad
to ride in pursuit of her abductors. As soon as he had an ample force, the young
man and his comrades in arms rode out on the trail of the Indians. It led them
to Enchanted Rock.
“At the Enchanted Rock everything was in readiness
for the sacrifice,” Nash wrote. The fire that would consign the young lady’s soul
to the evil spirits would be lit as soon as the moon rose.
You can almost
see the glowing campfire coals and taste the ‘smores as the scoutmaster went on
with his story:
“The poor girl was hysterical at first, for she believed
that the end was near. Controlling herself, she prayed that God might rescue her
from this terrible ordeal.”
However, as the time drew nearer, she grew
calm, resigned to her awful fate.
The Indians tied the young woman to
the stake, piled brush and wood at her feet, and began a ceremonial dance that
would be the prelude to the sacrifice.
Just at that moment, Nance wrote,
“a wailing, scream-like cry came from some part of the rock.”
the Indians thought, the evil spirits had spoken. For whatever reason, despite
the pending sacrifice, the spirits had grown annoyed. In truth, all the Indians
had heard was the cry of a mountain lion.
Then, “like a bolt out of the
sky,” the young Spaniard and his fellow riders charged the Indians. Thinking the
mean-spirited spirit and its allies had decided to attack them, the Indians scattered,
leaving their intended sacrifice victim unharmed.
Well, that’s the story.
Not only did it never happen, given what is known of the culture of the Indians
who once lived in the Hill Country, it isn’t even plausible. Even so, chances
are that when Nance’s teenage charges read their scoutmaster’s column on Enchanted
Rock, they got their badge work out of the way in a hurry.
Cox - June 5, 2013 column
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