They can be found just about everywhere in Texas,
have been around longer than recorded history, can be useful or annoying, but
we pay little or no attention to them.
Mostly hard, always dumb and ranging
from plain to pretty, and pebble to boulder, they are literally the bedrock of
Prehistoric Texans heated rocks to
cook their food, wore deep depressions in them while grinding their mesquite beans
into meal, arranged them in circles for their campfires, chipped them to tip their
darts, spears and arrows or simply chunked them at small animals. Later, Texans
of European descent used rocks to make fireplaces, fences, walkways, flowerbeds,
buildings and monuments.
Today, in addition to the more traditional uses
we have for rocks, landscaping companies sell them to homeowners for use in xeriscaping.
Geologists have divided rocks into three basic categories – igneous, metamorphic
and sedimentary -- and given names to all the many varieties. They can tell us
where a certain rock came from, how old it is and more, but the origin of rocks
is a question predating science.
Plains Indians who once roamed Texas following the buffalo herds on which they
depended had a creation myth involving rocks.
The tale was saved for posterity
in 1922 when the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Indian Affairs oversaw
the publication of “American Indian Legends,” a 12-page booklet published by Indians
trained as printers.
“A long time ago there were no stones on the earth,”
the story begins. “The mountains, hills and valleys were not rough and it was
easy to walk on the ground swiftly.”
In addition to the earth being without
rocks, all the bushes and trees grew tall, straight and evenly spaced “so that
man could travel through without having to make a path for himself.”
large buffalo having the magical power of transformation ranged the land. But
his gift only worked if he drank water from one particular place.
buffalo liked to spend time on the large mountain that loomed over the grassy
plains on which he and his fellow bison grazed. The god-like buffalo cared for
this mountain, so one day he asked if it would like him to change it into something
Yes, the mountain replied, it would like to be something that no
one would want to climb.
“I will change you into a hard mountain which
I will call a stone,” the buffalo said. “You will be so hard that no one will
want to climb you.”
And with that, the mountain became a giant stone.
Not only that, the mountain-stone could change itself into anything it wanted
as long as it remained unbroken.
All seemed right with the world, but on
the other side of the mountain lived men who killed the buffalo. Because of that,
most of the buffalo stayed on their side, but one day the buffalo with the power
decided to reach out in friendship to the men.
Crossing the mountain,
he came to a teepee by the side of a stream. An older woman and her grandson lived
“The buffalo was pleased with the old woman and her grandson, so
he told them he would change them into anything they would like to be,” the story
The boy said he wanted to be a fast runner. The grandmother
desired only to be something that would allow her to be with her grandson wherever
The benevolent buffalo took them back to his side of the mountain
where the other buffalo could teach the boy to run swiftly and the water that
gave him his power could change the grandmother according to her desire.
other buffalo were happy to grant the boy his wish, so long as he promised to
keep his people from killing buffalo. The boy agreed to that and the buffalo taught
him to run so speedily that even they could not keep up with him. The magical
buffalo transformed the grandmother into wind, so she could follow her grandson.
When grown, the boy returned to his people. The chief of his tribe told
him that if he could provide buffalo meat and hides, he would adopt him as his
son and one day he would be chief. Alas, ambition overcame the boy’s commitment
to protect the animals that had taught him to be fast.
He led a party of
hunters to the other side of the mountain and they killed many buffalo. When this
happened, the large buffalo with the special powers happened to be elsewhere,
so far away that he got thirsty and drank from a stream that did not have the
magical power of his regular watering place. As he lapped the cool water, his
Back on his regular range, he saw how they boy had betrayed
him. Angry, he tried to turn the hunters into grass so he could eat them. Discovering
that he had lost his power, he went to the stone mountain for help.
“I will ask the trees to entangle themselves…so that it will be difficult for
man to travel through them,” the mountain said. “Then I will break myself into
many pieces and scatter myself all over the land so that the swift runner and
his followers can not run over me without hurting their feet.”
more, rocks covered Texas.
- January 4, 2014 column
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