In Norse mythology, Mistletoe was the sacred plant of Frigga, the goddess of love and the mother of the sun god, Balder. One night Balder had a dream, a terrible nightmare of his own death. Of course this greatly alarmed his mother since she loved him as any normal mother loves a son, but also because if he should die, the sun would go dark and all life on earth would end.

In an attempt to keep this from happening, Frigga went to air, fire, water, earth, and every animal and plant seeking a promise that no harm would come to her son. All agreed so now she knew Balder could not be hurt by anything on the earth or under the earth. But Balder had one powerful enemy, Loki, god of evil and he knew of the only plant Frigga had overlooked in her quest to keep her son safe. It did not grow on top of the earth nor under the earth, but on apple and oak tree limbs. It was the lowly mistletoe. So Loki made an arrow tip of the mistletoe and shot it, striking Balder dead.

The sky paled and all things in earth and heaven wept for the sun god. For three days each element tried to bring Balder back to life. Frigga, the goddess, his mother, finally restored him. The tears of joy she shed when he awoke turned into the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant. In her happiness, Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which the mistletoe grew. And so it was that a decree was made throughout the land that whoever should stand under the mistletoe, no harm should befall them, only a kiss, a token of love.

Click for another Christmas Tale.


How Do You Move Grandma's House?

You never know what you might see on a road trip. While passing through Edgewood, a small, rural East Texas town, my road trip partner and I found our road temporarily closed. The police officer whose car had the road blocked told us it would only last a few minutes. Being an early Saturday morning, there was nobody else around and we were the only ones inconvenienced so we decided to just pull over, park, grab a Dr. Pepper from the ice chest in the back seat & see what was going on.

A couple of minutes later we found out why the road was closed as a big old house came rolling into view from a small side street. "Hey," I said to my buddy, "you see that? Is that a house coming down the road?" Then we noticed a couple of guys riding on the top of the house's roof! What the heck?

As they very slowly came to the intersection, we saw why. The peak of the roof was taller than the utility lines slung across the road. No problem for some good-old country boys though.

And this is how you move Grandma's house through small-town U.S.A.


Well done, guys!


The Death of President John F. Kennedy

Dealey Plaza Historical Marker
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It happened in Dallas, Texas, a fact that has haunted, saddened, and unfairly shamed Dallas as the media began repeatedly calling it "the city of hate" and "the place where Camelot died."

In the immediate aftermath of that horrible Friday, it was easy to forget that thousands of Dallas residents snuck out from work and skipped school to line the motorcade route to see and cheer the president and the First Lady. One national magazine called it "the most enthusiastic reception accorded President Kennedy in his three years in office." Nearing the end of the route, Nellie, the wife of Texas Governor John Connally who was riding in the front seat of the limo turned to the president and said the last words ever spoken to him, "Mr. President, you certainly can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you.” Those words still haunt Dallas because all of the southern hospitality, all of the welcome shown on that day, was forever destroyed in the next 3 seconds, the time it took for a disturbed madman to fire 3 shots from his $19.95 rifle.

The view of the end of the motorcade route
where President Kennedy was shot
It's been over 50 years, and many younger Americans don't know Kennedy was shot in Dallas. Many have no idea who Oswald was. It may not be ancient history yet, but it is finally just another historical fact to most. Of course, to those of us who were born and raised in Dallas, to those of us who looked upon President Kennedy as our hero and the leader of our generation, to those of us who were there that day, it's not really history yet. It still saddens us. We haven't forgotten.

Looking back on the route toward the School Book
Depository building where Oswald fired the
fatal shots.
The "X" in the street marks the place where the
limousine was when the president was shot.

View from the "grassy knoll" with the School Book
building in the background on the left

School Book Depository Building. Oswald shot
from the 6th floor, 2nd window from the right.

Historical marker on the School
Book Depository Building. A
museum is now on the 6th floor.
The Dealey Plaza overlook parking lot. On the left
behind this fence is where the rumored "
2nd gunman" also fired shots.


Postcard from the Cowboy Cemetery

The two men worked for W. G. S. Hughes and his wife, Sarah. They were riding to fix a broken section of fence on the remote central Texas ranch when they found him. When they found his body anyway. Nobody knew his name or where he came from. He had no wallet, no papers, nothing to tell who he was. He had been shot once in the chest and now he lay dead under a large oak tree, his un-branded horse quietly grazing just a few feet away. The men buried him where he lay, a flat rock placed at the head of the shallow grave. It would be the only mark of his passing. If he had friends or family they would never know what happened to him, but this lonesome, wandering cowboy would have a cemetery named in his remembrance.

Later, in 1882, W.G.S. and Sarah's 4-year-old son, William, died and they donated 2 acres of their ranch at the cowboy's burial spot, 1 acre for a cemetery and 1 acre for a school. They named the burial ground Cowboy Cemetery after the unknown cowboy buried there, and the school became  the Cowboy School. Within a few years the population on the surrounding ranches had grown enough that dances were being held in the school building and a post office was opened. The building and cemetery became the focal point of the area and unofficially became known as Cowboy Town.

In 1930, with the need for a larger building and more teachers, the Cowboy School merged with the Rochelle school and the post office was eliminated. In 1932, Sarah took back the 1 acre where the school building had been and in turn donated another 33.5 acres around the cemetery which had run out of space for additional burials. A committee, called the Cowboy Cemetery Association, was formed to oversee the maintenance and operation of the cemetery.

Today, Cowboy Cemetery contains the graves of Mr. & Mrs. Hughes, their four children and numerous family members as well as many of the original settlers of the area and their descendants. The large number of graves for babies and young children indicate just how hard life was on this Texas prairie in the 1800's. Also buried here is Texas Border Patrol Agent Jefferson Barr who was killed by drug smugglers on the Texas border in 1996.

Cowboy Cemetery is one of the most pleasant, well-maintained cemeteries in all of rural Texas. Inside the rock fence enclosure is a small chapel and a working windmill which furnishes water for the many lantana bushes and trees. Of the 375 graves, 347 are identified. One of the unidentified is that lonesome cowboy whose name was never known and whose grave is now lost as well.

Postcard From Dead Horse Point

Yes, that is droppings from an obviously live horse at the
entrance to Dead Horse Point Park. Sometimes you find
the picture and sometimes the picture finds you.
32 miles outside of Moab, Utah is Dead Horse Point State Park. The park is 5,362 acres of isolated high desert with breathtaking views overlooking Canyonlands National Park and the Colorado River. The view from Dead Horse Point is one of the most photographed in the world and was used in the movie Thelma and Louis as the spot where they drove over the edge of the Grand Canyon instead of filming the actual Grand Canyon as the view was more spectacular.

From the lookout point at the end of a narrow neck of land, you can see layers of ground representing 300 million years of earth's history. Look down the vertical walls of rock to the valley floor over 2,000 feet down. From the same spot you can look out and see the snow topped La Sal Mountains rising 12,000 feet.

In the 1800's, cowboys used this narrow finger of land sticking out over the valley for capturing wild horses. Fanning out in a u-shape, they would chase the animals onto the point and then block off any escape by piling up brush & dead tree's across the narrow neck of the plateau which is only 30 yards wide. This formed a 40-acre natural corral and the cowboys could then cull out the best horses for breaking and eventual ranch use. The old, young and small-in-stature mustangs (called "broomtails") would be left behind to find their way back into the wild.

The Colorado River 2,000 feet below the point
In the late 1800's, a large herd of wild horses were driven to the point and the "gate" of brush and dead tree's was put in place. For some unknown reason, several hundred horses were trapped on the point and kept circling and circling until they died of thirst. They could see the Colorado River with its life-sustaining water, but it was 2,000 feet straight down. Nobody seems to know the reason the horses were trapped - some say a sudden storm came up causing the cowboys to leave with the intention of coming back but for some reason never did; some say the cowboys got lazy, left only a narrow path through the "gate" when they departed and the remaining horses became confused and couldn't find the small opening. Whatever the reason, the name "Dead Horse Point" came about when several riders found hundreds of horse skeletons on the waterless point of the plateau, scattered in and about a large circle of hardened ground where they kept on the move looking for a way to get to the water until, one by one, they fell exhausted and died.


Postcard From Utah

One of my favorite roads in Utah
Having traveled in every state in the U.S. except Alaska (on my bucket list), other than my native Texas, one of my favorite places is Utah. The 10th least densely populated state, it is home to only about 3 million folks and the vast majority of those reside in and around Salt Lake City. That leaves the rest of the state to small towns, open spaces and long stretches of road winding through some of the most wild an beautiful landscape you will ever see.

While Utah has the wooded mountains of the Wasatch Range and the Unita Mountains with their snow-capped peaks rising over 13,500', the region I prefer is the scenic southern and southeastern area's with its rugged, stark landscapes of weathered sandstone. Here is where National Parks such as Bryce, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef and Zion can be found. There are also numerous state parks such as Dead Horse Point and Monument Valley.

Best of all are the seemingly hundreds of remote hiking trails where you can go for hours without seeing another person; where you can be awed and totally transfixed by the power of nature and its beauty; where you can be standing in a shallow, gurgling stream of crystal clear water in between two sheer canyon walls rising hundreds of feet and feel  as if you are nothing more than a little ant lucky to live on this amazing planet. You don't need to go to a huge, beautiful but impersonal cathedral with stained-glass windows and it doesn't have to be on a Sunday morning, stop and look, stop and listen, this is where you meet God.

Hoodoos (also called Fairy Chimneys) in
Bryce Canyon National Park

The start of another great day...

...and the end of one.

Big Bo Head

On one of my little road trips, I found myself rather aimlessly driving south out of Mount Pleasant, Texas on Highway 271. It was a good day for aimless driving on backroads - late spring before the heat becomes uncomfortable for even us native Texans, just me in the pickup singing along to music I grew up with (songs the middle-age adults call "Oldies, but goodies" and the teenagers call "old timey stuff") and raising an index finger in greeting to the few oncoming cars I encountered. You never know what you might find when you drive off the interstate, but I was still a bit surprised when I starting seeing numerous poultry processing buildings, but no chickens to go with them. Just a few more miles down the road and before hitting the town limit signs for Pittsburg, I came upon a large, white-columned pavilion topped off with the bust of a man wearing a big, black Pilgrim hat complete with a buckle. I knew right away what I had stumbled upon - the headquarters for Pilgrim's Pride, the largest producer of chickens in America.
Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim and his brother Aubrey, started Pilgrim's Pride in 1946 as a feed store right there in little Pittsburg, Texas, population just a bit over 4,400. One of the brother's successful gimmicks was to give a live baby chick with every order of feed. The local farmers and children loved the free chickens, which were very cheap to provide, and to raise them required feed. In effect, the more cheap baby chickens they gave away, the more higher-profit feed they sold.

Bo capitalized on his last name by wearing his signature Pilgrim's hat wherever he made an appearance. As he became more famous through personal appearances and TV advertising, Pilgrim's Pride became larger and larger. Eventually they became the supplier of chickens and chicken parts to Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy's, Wal-Mart, and Publix among many other large sellers to the public. There are now about 38,000 employees selling 36 million chickens each and every week. In a year's time, Pilgrim's Pride provides 9.5 billion pounds of live chickens which earns the company over $8.1 billion per year. Not bad for a little small-town feed store!
In the pavilion under the 37-foot tall Bo head is another sculpture depicting a younger Bo Pilgrim seated on a bench reading his Bible. Scattered around on one end of the bench are "Good News For Modern Man" pamphlets which the devoutly religious Bo has had printed in many different languages and distributed around the world. The Bo statue holds his Bible and is reading the five loaves and the two fishes story from the Book of Luke. On the other end of the bench is a statue of Bo's pet chicken, Henrietta, who was a regular feature in Pilgrim's Pride advertising."

Strangely, there were very few workers around the plant and the beautiful mansion-looking building across the street was for sale. And what about those missing chickens? Well, after getting back home that evening, I did a little research and found that controlling interest in Pilgrim's Pride had been purchased by a Brazilian multi-national company and the headquarters moved to Greeley, Colorado. A good number of the local folks lost their jobs and evidently the missing chickens were all being raised somewhere else. It wasn't bad news for old Bo though. At last report, he is still with us and very comfortably retired. Living in a large mansion on the outskirts of Pittsburg which the locals call "Cluckingham Palace," he is occasionally spotted around town - always without the hat.

World's Littlest Skyscraper

In 1912 with the discovery of oil in tiny Burkburnett, Texas, many land owners in Wichita County became almost instant millionaires. Million dollar deals for mineral rights were being negotiated on street corners and under open-air tents in the nearby town of Wichita Falls because there were not enough office buildings to meet the demands of the bankers and oil companies. Seeing an opportunity, promoter J.D. McMahon arrived in Wichita Falls in 1918 from Philadelphia with blueprints in hand for a multi-story office building he promised to build on a vacant lot he had purchased just across the street from the thriving St. James hotel. He quickly sold $200,000 (equivalent to $2,720,000 in 2015) in stock to investors caught up in the frenzy of making a quick financial killing.

What J.D. conveniently forgot to point out to his investors however was that his blueprint was in inches rather than feet. Evidently too busy making other deals to keep an eye on construction while McMahon was building his skyscraper, the investors eventually found themselves owners of a building that was much closer to being an elevator shaft than the skyscraper office building they had envisioned. The building's outside dimensions were only 11 feet by 19 feet and only 4 stories tall. There was no elevator and the interior stairs leading to the upper floors took up 25% of the floor space.

When the duped investors sought out J.D. to get their money back, they discovered he was nowhere to be found. He was finally located back in Philadelphia, but when legal recourse was attempted, investors found they did not have a case - J.D. had built exactly what the blueprints called for and they had signed off on them.

With office space in such short supply, several of the oil companies crammed in a few desks and a handful of workers had to be content that at least they were working out of the hot sun and off the dusty streets. Eventually, the boom ceased and shortly afterwards came the Great Depression. The offices were closed, the desks removed, the windows boarded up and the little building was abandoned. In 1931, a fire broke out and made the interior unusable. For the next 55 years the structure remained an empty, burned-out forgotten shell.

By 1986, the city had assumed ownership due to non-payment of back taxes, but they didn't know what to do with it and didn't want it so they simply gave it to the Wichita County Heritage Society. The Society raised funds and attempted to restore the long-neglected and crumbling structure, but it proved too much and several years later it was once again abandoned and returned to the city.

The city was on the verge of having the crumbling building demolished when a few powerful citizens intervened to save it. The city hired the architectural firm of Bundy, Young, Sims & Potter to stabilize the structure until they figured out what to do with it. While working on the building, the firm became interested in the history and legacy of it and in 2000, they formed a partnership with Groves Electric, another local business, to purchase it. The city was only too happy to have it off their hands and sold it to them for $3,748. The partnership began restoration work and were close to completion when in 2003 a tornado tore through downtown Wichita Falls and a 15-foot section of a brick wall was knocked down and severe damage done to the interior. In 2005 after more than $250,000 in repairs had been completed, the little skyscraper was good as new.

Now, almost 100 years after it was erected, the building has withstood fire, tornado and years of neglect to be a symbol of the greed, graft and gullibility of the oil boom days in Texas. It is listed on the Texas Historic Landmark Building rolls and the Guinness Book of World Records has certified it as the World's Littlest Skyscraper. And yes, it does have tenants. In addition to being a tourist attraction, an antique dealer and an artist call the little skyscraper at 701 LaSalle Street their business home.

A lot of things in Texas really are bigger, but there's at least one thing that is the littlest.

Postcard from The Indian Marker Tree

History is all around us. Sometimes, history can be staring you right in the face and you don't know it. Take this live oak tree for instance. Located along the banks of Hamilton Creek in the small town of Burnet in Central Texas, it overlooks the Highlander Inn's parking lot on Highway 29. Other than having an unusual shape, it is unremarkable and hundreds of people park next to and under its limbs with not a second thought or glance. Actually though, it is a living memorial to the Comanche Indians, the fierce tribe of Native Americans who caused the early settlers much pain, anxiety and death.

The Comanche traveled with the seasons, spending their summers on the high plains of the Panhandle and their winters in Mexico. Each fall, they passed through Central Texas and one of their favorite camping spots was along Hamilton Creek. 
According to written reports from early settlers, the Indians would come in the night and set up their tepees along the banks of the creek. After a few weeks, they would pack up and leave as silently as they had come. 

The Comanche liked Hamilton Creek for its flow of cool, clear water as well as for the native pecan trees which lined its banks. Flint and other hard rocks were also available in large quantities for the making of weapons and tools. While camped along the creek, the women gathered and shelled pecans. The meats were ground into a meal and made into cakes. The warriors spent the time chipping arrowheads and hunting game.

The Comanche had several trails they traveled from the Panhandle to Mexico and back. At the better camping spots along a trail, a sapling-size tree was bent to the ground and tied down to serve as a marker. As the tree grew, the limbs would grow upwards, but the trunk maintained this horizontal position. Such is the configuration of this live oak now known as "The Indian Marker Tree" by those in the know. An estimated 300 years old, it is a living monument to the presence of these early Native Americans in Central Texas.

Wolf Girl of Devil's River

In the late 1830's, when the land and people were still wild, two men, John Dent and Will Marlo, became fur-trapping partners in the backwoods of Georgia. Wild game was plentiful and for a few years things went smoothly. Then, in the spring of 1843, an argument broke out over the division of their winter catch. Death and a strange tale resulted. And it was all because of a woman.

While trapping near the cabin of a mountain man, John fell in love with the man's beautiful young daughter, Mollie Peters. Fortunately for John, Mollie had fallen in love with him too and the two became engaged to be married. When John and Will had become partners, they made a pact to jointly sell the pelts they trapped and divide the money equally. But with marriage on the horizon, John wanted to take half the pelts and sell them himself since he was sure he could get more selling them separately.

After a bitter quarrel, Will relented and did things John's way. Soon after though, Will began telling townsfolk that he had been cheated. This continued for a few weeks until a vicious fight occurred and John stabbed his old partner to death. Since public opinion was against him, there was nothing for John to do but quickly leave the country. Before leaving however, he managed to see his young love and tell her he was going to find a place where they could be together and that he would return to steal her away.

A whole year passed and people soon lost interest in the matter. During all this time, every morning and every evening, Mollie stood outside her father's cabin, silently looking off into the distance. Not once, as far as anyone knew, did she hear from her lover. Then, a little after sundown on April 13, 1844, as she did every day, the mountain girl went to the barn to milk the cow. After she had been gone an unusually long time, her father decided to investigate. He found the cow unmilked and in the empty pail, a Bowie knife with dried blood around the hilt. The peculiar stag horn handle made it easy to identify as the knife with which John Dent had killed Will Marlo.

In the dark, Mollie's father searched and called for her, but could find no trace. The next morning, after summoning the surrounding mountaineers and a few towns people, the search began again. They found the tracks of a man and a woman leading to the Chickamauga River. On the bank, under the overhang of a leaning tree, they found a freshly driven wooden stake to which a small canoe had evidently been recently tied. Mollie was gone with no explanation and without a moment's preparation. All she took with her were the clothes on her back.

Six months later, a letter arrived at Mr. Peters’ lonely cabin. It was postmarked Galveston, Texas and read: "The Devil has a river in Texas that is all his own and it is made only for those who are grown. Yours with love, Mollie."

In those days, the people of Georgia were not familiar with the rivers of Texas or their names. Even in Texas itself, few folks knew anything about Devil's River, far to the west of San Antonio. Along its banks was the small colony of Dolores, sparsely populated with mostly Spanish speaking people. It was the last outpost of the settlements. Poor Mr. Peters and his neighbors merely considered that somewhere in Texas, John Dent had to himself a river on which to trap. They knew Dent was a devil all right, but they were surprised at Mollie's admitting it.

John and his bride settled near Dolores, but like the lone wolf he was, he built a small log cabin a few miles away from the town. Within a year however, the colony was abandoned. Indians killed most of the settlers; a few went back to Mexico. The remainder, fourteen adults and three children, headed east for more civilized territory. The Comanche caught and attacked them at an unnamed lake, near what is now Carrizo Springs. After killing them all, the Indians threw their bodies into the waters. The Mexicans named the lake Espantosa, which means “frightful,” and to this day people consider the lake to be haunted.

Two days ride west of the site of Dolores, two or three Mexican families, who, like John, had an agreement with the Indians, raised a few goats in the Pecos Canyon. About noon one day in late August 1845, during a thunderous rainstorm, a man on a horse rode up to one of these ranches. He told the Mexican ranchero and his wife that he was camped where Dry Creek runs into Devil's River. He said his wife was giving birth to a baby and they desperately needed help. As the rancher and his wife saddled up their horses though, a bolt of lightning struck the wooden hitching post, killing the messenger standing impatiently beside it. This, of course, considerably delayed the helpful Mexicans. From the description of his campsite given by the man, the ranchero knew the location, but night came before they reached the river. They did not find the camp until the next morning. There, under a sheltering tree, lay the woman dead, alone. Indications pointed to the fact that she had died giving birth to a child, but no baby could be found. Tracks around the tree made the ranchero suspect that lobo wolves had devoured the infant.

In the pocket of the dead woman's dress, the good Samaritans found a letter. After burying the unfortunate woman, they took the letter with them to show the first person they might encounter who could read English. A few months later, a white man did come along and read the letter. It was written a few weeks before her death by Mollie Peters Dent and addressed to her father. It served to identify her and her husband. And so, their romance suddenly and tragically ended.
Ten years passed. A wagon road had been laid out across the new Republic of Texas from San Antonio to El Paso. This seldom traveled road went by San Felipe Springs, where there were a few Mexicans, and on across Devil's River. In 1855, a young boy living at San Felipe Springs told of seeing a pack of wolves attacking a herd of goats and with them was a creature, long hair half covering its features, that looked like a naked girl. Some cowboys passing through the settlement heard the story and quizzed the boy, but they seemed more interested in getting his description of what a naked girl looked like than in getting information about the strange creature he reported. The boy was accused of fabricating the tale, but the story spread among the surrounding settlers.

A little over a year later, an Indian woman outside San Felipe declared she had seen two big wolves and a naked girl eating a freshly killed goat. She was able to get close, but they saw her and all three ran. The naked girl, at first, ran on all fours, but then rose up and ran on two feet, keeping up with the wolves. Other Indians also reported seeing barefoot human tracks mixed among wolf tracks in the sandy places along the river.

The few people in the Devil's River country began to keep a sharp lookout for the girl. They remembered the disappearance of poor Mollie Dent's infant amid wolf tracks. The men told of how female wolves carry their young by the scruff of the neck without injuring them. Perhaps, they said, some female wolf, having lost her own young, had carried the newborn to her den and raised it.

Being confronted with unmistakable evidence of a human being reared by and running wild with wolves, a hunt was organized to capture the Lobo Girl, as she had now come to be called. On the third day of the hunt, two riders found the girl in a side canyon. She was with a big, black wolf and both of them ran at the sight of the men. The wolf and the girl became separated when she dodged into a crevice in the rocks. Here, the men cornered her. She cowered at first, but as the men reached for her, she spat and hissed like a wildcat and began to fight, biting and clawing. While the men were tying her, she began to emit pitiful, frightful, unearthly sounds described as resembling both the scream of a woman and the howl of a wolf, but being neither. As she was howling this awful scream, the big wolf that she had been separated from suddenly appeared, rushing at her captors. The men's lives were saved when one of them saw it before it could get close enough to use it's powerful jaws and he managed to shoot it with his pistol. When she saw her animal companion lying dead in the dirt, the girl fell into a silent faint.

After she was securely tied, the men closely examined the creature. She had a full head of long, tangled, dirty hair that had obviously never seen scissors and very hairy arms and legs. Her hands and arms were muscled in an extraordinary manner, but not ill proportioned. Other features showed she was a normally formed human female.

The Lobo Girl was taken to the nearest ranch and placed, unbound, in a sturdy room used to store potatoes. After she revived, the rancher's wife offered her clothes, food, and water, but the girl would only cower in the corner, hissing and howling in such a threatening manner that no one dared come near her. Finally, the door was tightly fastened and she was left alone for the night.

Shortly after darkness fell, the girl began howling her unearthly wail. The sounds traveled through the logs and far into the surrounding desert. Soon they were answered by the long drawn out, deep howls of wolves. The lobos seemed to answer from all sides, near and far. The ranchers, who had heard wolf howls all their lives, had never heard anything like this. It seemed to them that all the wolves in the western world were gathering around. It was easy to tell the wolves were getting nearer and nearer, their sullen, soul-chilling howls getting louder and closer. The wolves began to howl in unison, a chorus of ferocity and darkness and lost hopes such as no man had ever heard. Then they would be silent as if waiting for an answer, and the wild, captured creature would let forth with her unearthly scream, a voice neither of woman or beast.

After a time, the great pack rushed the ranch, attacking goats, cows, and horses. The noises brought the men out into the night, yelling and shooting at the dark shadows. A few minutes later, the men heard the girl emit her scream once more, and the lobos retreated into the darkness.

After gathering themselves, the shaken men went to the little potato bin. Somehow, the Lobo Girl had managed to wrench off the cross board which held the door closed and made her escape. It was supposed she rejoined the wolves since no howls were heard the rest of the night. The next day, no tracks of the girl could be found and for a long time afterwards, the sight of a wolf in the area was very rare.

For six years, nothing more was heard of the Wolf Girl of Devil's River. Then, in the spring of 1862, a trio of men passing through on their way to the gold fields of California, told of seeing a long-haired naked girl on the banks of the Rio Grande, far above the mouth of Devil's River. She seemed to be suckling two wolf pups, but before the men could get close enough to get a good look, the girl jumped up and with a pup under each arm, ran into the dense brush faster than any horse could follow. Their story was met with stares and silence, but the residents knew it could have been none other than the wild Wolf Girl.

As far as is known, the girl was never seen by man again. For many years, the Indians told of occasionally seeing human footprints mixed with wolves' far out in the wilds and even today there are whispers by Mexican cowboys who ride their horses in the remote unpopulated ranges of a rarely glimpsed pack of strange looking wolves with almost human faces. Of course, everyone knows that can't be. These brave men will tell you though, It sure is unsettling when you are camping at night all alone in the remote brush country of far West Texas and you happen to glance into the darkness to see a wolf watching you through human eyes.

Heavener Rune Stone

No longer a state park, but the sign still
points the way.
Did Vikings visit Oklahoma almost 500 years before Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and found the "New World?" Some scholars are convinced they did while others, not so much. 

According to old Icelandic sagas, Bjarni Herjolfsson, a Norse settler to Greenland was sailing from one place to the other in 985 A.D. when he was blown way off course by a huge storm. He managed to make it back home and reported he had seen a large land mass to the west of Greenland - land that nobody knew was there. Word got around and other sailors tried to once again find this land that Bjarni had talked about, but none succeeded until 15 years later when Leif Eriksson was brave enough to keep going west until he found and landed on what would become North America. He also managed to return home safely and for the next 10 years, many Viking voyages were made to explore the land they called "Vinland." These voyages and settlements in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia have been extensively explored and documented by present-day archaeologists.

Trailhead to the Heavener Runestone
Although still unproven to everyone's satisfaction, the old stories tell of one intrepid ship in the year 1000 A.D., whose crew sailed her south along the Atlantic coast of America all the way around Florida, into the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi River and then on up the Arkansas River. No doubt these brave Vikings found the extensive woodlands and the warmth of Arkansas and Oklahoma to be a paradise compared to the cold northern climate they came from. Perhaps they thought they had found the home of Idun, the Norse goddess of spring and eternal youth.

It is now thought that near present day Heavener, Oklahoma, within a deep ravine surrounded by forest, one or more of these Vikings, before they disappeared forever, carved a message on a large, flat stone. This massive slab of rock measures 12 feet tall, 10 feet wide and 16 inches thick. Deeply chiseled into the surface are symbols known as runes.  

The Heavener Runestone
The Heavener Runestone remained hidden in the deep forest until 1838 when Native Americans found it while exploring their new home after being forcibly removed from Tennessee to Eastern Oklahoma. Word spread about this large rock with the strange markings carved into it. Caucasian settlers in the area began calling it "Indian Rock" even though the Indians told them they did not do it and had no idea what it was or what it meant. 

Over the next 80 years, more and more white settlers came to the area and more rune stones were found on a fairly frequent basis. Not knowing what they were, most were simply thrown on rock piles when farmers were clearing their fields for crops and some were used as door stops, only to be lost over the years. In the mid-1920's, one curious resident, Carl Kenmerer, sent a copy of a runestone he had found to the Smithsonian for identification. The Smithsonian experts determined the writing was Norse, but they had no way of telling at that time how old the writing carved in the stone might be. When word spread of the finding, treasure hunters descended on the area and destroyed most of the runestones while trying to break them into smaller pieces which could be carried away.

In 1928, Carl took his young daughter Gloria to the remote place in the woods where the Heavener Runestone remained hidden. She was so intrigued by the inexplicable stone and the beauty of her father's secret wooded ravine that she spent most of her life researching and trying to find the meaning to the mystery. Without her efforts and diligence to protect it, the Heavener Runestone might well have suffered the same fate as the other stones which were destroyed or lost.

Over the years, Gloria was able to find 4 more runestones in the region. The additional stones were found in a straight line from the Heavener stone. This led her and other researchers to conclude the stones were used as trail markers toward the end of the Viking's exploration and served to signify the land had been claimed by them.

Just a few steps from the Heavener stone,
is this indention in the rock overhand.
According to old-timer's stories, it was
the entrance to a Viking cave. Before it
was covered by a rock slide, a dog ran
into the cave and never came out. 
Although there is no way to determine the true date of carvings in stone, weathering of the edges of the carving along with the hardness of the stone and exposure to the elements has proven to be an acceptable guide. This, along with deciphering of one of the stones points to the date of Nov. 11, 1012, about 480 years before Christopher Columbus first landed in the Bahama's.

Norse scholars, cryptographers, and archaeologists in the last few years are mostly in agreement the carving on the Heavener Runestone translates to "GLOMEDAL" - Valley of the Gnomes - or "GAOMEDAT" - Gnome's Valley. Exactly what this means is open to speculation.

In 1970, the Heavener Runestone and the area around it were developed into a 50-acre Oklahoma State Park. Steps and a trail were built leading to the stone and the stone itself was encased in a wooden shelter behind a thick sheet of clear plastic to protect it from the weather and vandals. A small visitor center was built at the top of the trail which led into the valley. In 2011, the state declared the park would be closed due to budget cuts. Fortunately, the small town of Heavener agreed to assume ownership and operation of the park. Currently, the town can only afford to have one paid employee and the park is in need of repairs.

The structure enclosing the Heavener
So did Vikings really explore all the way into Oklahoma over 1,000 years ago? If they did, what became of them? Norse legends tell of sailing to present day Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, tales that until a just a few years ago were considered nothing more than fanciful made up stories, but which have now been proven to be true. Those same saga's tell of a ship which sailed south along the Atlantic Coast of America, never returning home. Would the Norse sailors tell stories that have proven to be true and also make up a story which is a lie? So many "facts" we are certain we know about our history, but so many mystery's remain. Perhaps someday, somehow, the ancient Viking runestones will be proven authentic and American children will have to learn a different rhyme to help them remember who really discovered America.