Prehistoric man in this very section felt some urge to express himself. As a result, there are left for us to decipher the pictographs painted on a ledge above the rock shelters at what is known locally as "Blue Mountain."
Blue Mountain is no mountain, neither is it blue. It is merely a peninsular projection of the "staked plains" into the "breaks," some thirty miles northwest of Odessa, approximately ten miles due west of the Goldsmith-Cummins oilfield. When approached from the lower country of the Monahans section, it no doubt looms up as a mountain or hill and on hazy days it probably is tinged with blue.
The pictographs or crude paintings have interested a few recognized archeologists. These pictographs are to be found on the face of a limestone ledge which forms the wall of a small cave or shelter cut back into the edge of the plains by erosion. Old-timers say that a spring once flowed from the cave, and today a small creek bed running from the entrance gives proof of the story.
The Indians made their color by burning red rock until it was ready to crumble, then crushing it to a powder and mixing it with some medium, making a red pasty paint. Then, with a stick or twig, feathered out on the end for a brush, they painted whatever came into their minds. When a warrior came back from a raid, he always made a long ceremony about what he had seen and done in the white man's country, and he would draw a picture on the cliff to illustrate what he told.
One of the largest figures in the group at Blue Mountain Caves is an angular design formed by two triangles joined at their apexes and supplemented with a crude head and feet. Since the figure appears to be clothed in the white man's style, it is thought to represent some white woman, probably a captive or victim of a raid.
Another realistic and interesting painting at Blue Mountain depicts a long-necked horse standing in front of some bars, representing a fence, let down at one end. The artist meant to show that this place was a good horse country, and an easy place to steal ponies. The Comanches who lived in this region had the reputation of stealing horses.
What could easily have been meant for directions to the next water hole is a figure painted on the cliff, which appears to represent a tree, with a group of regularly spaced symbols attached. These may represent the number of days' travel and directions. It appears to have nine curve marks pointing toward the north. Since water was scarce in this section in the early days, no surface tanks being found except at very rare intervals, it is easy to imagine the prehistoric hunter's leaving at this watering place a crude map show ing the nearest available water in this section. Perhaps it was a water hole made by some springs up on the north plains, north of where Lamesa is now. These springs, of course, dried up a long time ago.
The paintings in the cave are predominantly in red, with a few touches of black in some of the larger and more com plicated figures. Many of the figures are symbolic, and the squat figure at the lower left probably is intended for Thunderbird, one of the dominant mythological figures, a huge eagle whose wings were the clouds, whose voice was thunder, and who carried on his back a lake of fresh water which spilled to make rain.
Another diagrammatic and illustrative drawing is an angled arrow pointing to what easily could be taken for the skeleton of a fish. The title, "Good Fishing," given to this drawing 15 merely a guess, but a reasonable guess, since the Pecos River, which was not a great distance away, did furnish the Indians with good fishing.
There is a picture of two lizards, which is typical of Indian life. Realistic and attractive, it appears to be showing the end of a lizard fight. (The animal figures closely resemble lizards.) One lizard is standing up on his hind legs, evidently the conqueror, while the other lies dormant, with toes turned up and a red smear, like blood, streaming from his side. Some buck probably saw these lizards fight and drew the picture while he was telling about it. The Comanches did not just paint signs; their figures always meant to relate some message. Usually they tried to paint in full the things about which they were thinking. Anyway, the ancient brave who made this vivid illustration was quite an artist for his time.
In a remote corner, often missed by the first-time visitor, is a crude figure of a man, with his arms and legs spread out. It is easy to imagine that some early buck drew on the lime stone walls this crude record of some victim while giving his fellows an account of his victory.
Hidden in a small cleft several yards east of the main group of paintings is the imprint of a band showing an obvious mutilation of the third finger, which was amputated at the first joint. Archeologists say that even our earliest known ancestors in Europe left records very similar to this, representing an ancient custom of individual sacrifice on the attainment of maturity. Authorities on anthropology say the Stone Age men of most races had a ceremony which involved the painting of such a handprint. The sign of attainment of manhood for every youth was his first hunt, and before going on this hunt, the young man sacrificed a joint or two or a whole finger to the gods of hunting. To make a permanent record of his sacrifice, he painted the handprint, showing the mutilation plainly. The young fellow often would take his flint ax and cut off a finger from his right hand. This ceremony showed that he was a man of courage and immunity to pain, which befitted a mature warrior and hunter.
These paintings, made from some unknown mixture of ground rock and possible animal or vegetable fat, which have withstood the erosion of centuries, give us concrete evidence of the people who inhabited our country in prehistoric times, and fire the interest and imagination of all who see them. The red men who knew this land before the coming of the earliest pioneers have left their mark as a permanent record of their lives.