In 1980, after returning from a brief detour in NYC, I decided it was time to become an expert on something. Considering my attachment to Enchanted Rock over the years, I thought, "Why not? There probably isn't much on the topic. I'll round it all up and write about what I've learned. How hard can that be?"
I published my History of Enchanted Rock in the November/December 1998 issue of Enchanted Rock Magazine. Although my involvement with Enchanted Rock prompted news articles, radio interviews and TV appearances, it was with the publication of the magazine where I accomplished the most, and served the most.
Ira was featured in the Austin Chronicle, The Highlander newspaper (below) in Marble Falls, The San Marcos Record, and the German magazine Spotlight, as well as segments on KLRU-TV & KTBC-TV, plus several area radio stations including the syndicated "The Sound of Texas," with Tumbleweed Smith, and the syndicated TV program Texas Country Reporter ( the video "Bob Phillips Tours Texas State Parks" available at their website).
Ira was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the Texas Parks& Wildlife Department for providing numerous educational talks at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Feature articles by Ira have been published by Texas Monthly, Texas Highways Magazine and in The Nature of Texas (hardcover anthology) Texas A&M Press.
by Gerald McLeod (published in 1995)
Ira Kennedy and Enchanted Rock are two defining symbols of the Texas Hill Country. The pink granite mount's rugged beauty has endured for centuries, while Kennedy left a career in the city to pursue a dream in the hills like the pioneers.
Enchanted Rock Magazine has become Kennedy's western frontier. The 48-page monthly publication is a treasure of travel tips, history, and news about the Fredericksburg and Llano area. "I've never worked so hard for so little and enjoyed it so much," Kennedy says.
The magazine began as a newsletter to share stories and history gathered after more than two decades of research. The first four-page issue appeared in February 1994 with a cover story on the first people to inhabit the rock. From there it grew to include tales of Texas Rangers and Sunday drives. "I'm going to tell the history of Fredericksburg piece by piece," Kennedy says.
At first the newsletter was available by subscription only, as Kennedy continued to work as an advertising consultant. But within the first six months its size doubled and by the last issue of the first year - when stories about Enchanted Rock's history and legends proved attractive to locals and tourists - the newsletter had become a magazine and a full-time job. The topics cover everything from history to geology, from barbecue to bed-and-breakfast inns. Besides being a travel guide, Enchanted Rock Magazine preserves colorful local history. "You won't read about Luckenbach in a history book," Kennedy says.
Looking more like a rancher than an editor, Kennedy takes a skeptic's view of legends that swirl around Enchanted Rock like foul winds. When asked about a story that says the Indians believed that the creaking sound of the rocks contracting on cold nights was the moaning of an ancient chief's spirit, which was banished to the rock after the chief made the gods angry by sacrificing his daughter, Kennedy's hair bristles.
The Plains Indians did not sacrifice people, Kennedy says - at least not their own kind. Having known about the rock for generations, the Indians understood nature better than most people think. The truth, Kennedy adds, is that the rock was sacred ground to the Indians. They were not afraid of it, but according to the Comanche and Tonkawas, one must be purified before stepping onto the rock.
As you approach Enchanted Rock on FM965 between Llano and Fredericksburg, it invokes a spiritual sense of awe that is hard to explain. The rock fills the horizon like a sleeping giant with a life all its own. It is this spirit that pulled Kennedy back to the Hill Country from an advertising career in New York City.
Born in nearby San Saba, Kennedy discovered Enchanted Rock while studying at UT in the 1970s before the area became a state park. Since then, he has made it his life's mission to learn all he can about the inspiring mount. Along the way he has attracted some very talented people to help the magazine. Buck Burkle's cover art of Indians, wildlife, and Willie Nelson are as collectible as the prose inside the magazine. Stories by Dale Fry, Charles Tischler, Kenn Knopp, and cowboy-poet Frank Hill round out the entertaining and informative publication. Even the advertisements are a good source of travel tips.
Copies of Enchanted Rock Magazine are available at many retail outlets around Fredericksburg and Llano. It is also available on Austin newsstands. For subscription information, call 800/865-6163.
Note: Enchanted Rock State Park has initiated a policy of closing the park when it reaches its limit of visitors. On most weekends the park reaches capacity by noon and does not allow visitors in until 5pm. This new policy turns away irate tourists who have driven for two or more hours in their Chevy Suburban full of screaming kids who desperately need a day in the country. Area ranchers have to deal with the overflow. It is a very volatile situation, and, remember, if someone asks you to get off their property, it is their right to do so.
- Gerald E. McLeod