Rock art craze combines social media, real-life treasure hunting
By Max Everhart, Assistant Director, Darlington County Historical Commission
Here’s how I became obsessed with rocks.
About a week ago, I was walking down Hewitt Street when I noticed a green car idling in front of the Historical Commission where I work. Stepping into a patch of shade, I watched as a little girl emerged from the passenger side, leaving the car door open. Approaching the building, she paused, looked back toward the car, and then left something small atop one of the waist-high concrete posts flanking the Commission’s entrance.
Once the green car disappeared down Fountain Street, I hustled back to work, anxious to learn what the little girl had left behind. What I found was a golf ball-sized rock with a ladybug painted on it. After smiling down at that ladybug for a full minute, I picked up the rock for closer inspection. Written on the back were these words: “Post on Darlington County Rock Art FB. Keep or re-hide.”
Started by April Yarborough-Roache, the Darlington County Rock Art project is a family-friendly Facebook group dedicated to decorating and hiding rocks in different safe locations throughout Darlington. To participate, you simply decorate a rock using paint, chalk, or a Sharpie, making sure to write Darlington County Rock Art on the back along with post or re-hide. Then you hide the rock somewhere safe in Darlington, so others can “hunt” it.
Yarborough-Roache recently said in an email interview that she was intrigued after finding out about other local groups.
“I started the Darlington County Rock Art group after being inspired by the Florence County Rock Art Facebook page, and my mother finding a rock in Myrtle Beach from Northeast Ohio Rock Group,” Yarborough-Roache said. “I love this project, because you get to see happiness brought to so many people.”
One of those happy people is a girl named Rayne, who had several rocks painted specifically for her by
Cindy Cross, a local artist who sells her work at Park Florist.
“Rayne is a very special little girl that is confined to a wheelchair and has numerous special needs,” Cross said through email. “I am friends with her mother on Facebook, and I loved it when she would post pics or videos of things that made Rayne smile! One day I saw where her mother requested that someone paint some special rocks for kids in wheelchairs that are not able to ‘hunt’ rocks in the traditional way. I immediately…painted a rock with a little girl with brown hair enjoying life in a wheelchair, and a special pink wheelchair rock.”
Cross has been offered money to paint rocks for other people, and I know I would open up my wallet for the Elvis-themed stone she painted with The King’s blue suede shoes on it. However she said, “the smile on someone’s face brings me joy and that is all the payment I need!”
Another talented member of the Facebook group is Katherine Mincey. The mother of two first became aware of the project when her son found a rock at Wal-Mart.
“I’ve always loved to draw,” Mincey said. “I’m always looking for a way to put a smile on someone’s face and make their day seem a little better. I saw the opportunity in this project and the creativity seems to just flow.”
And Mincey isn’t the only one feeling creative. Just scroll through the group’s Facebook feed, and you’ll find hoot owls and flamingoes, Clemson Tiger paws and smiley faces, Minions and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, M&Ms and candy corn, American flags and peace signs, flowers and snowmen. You’ll even find a silhouette of Michael Jackson. Scott Weatherford, a self-described “music junkie of epic proportions,” recently painted an image of the King of Pop and hid it in Cherry Grove Cemetery. Accompanying the photograph on Facebook was this clever message: “It’s close to midnight, something evil’s lurking in the dark.”
Of his choice to paint Michael Jackson, Weatherford said:
“I sat down to start painting a rock and for some reason I thought maybe painting a person would be different and neat. , .Painting a portrait would be pretty difficult on a rock so I started leaning towards a silhouette, and the idea hit me. My five-year old son Tripp has a shirt with the same image I chose for my rock so I just ran with it.”
Regarding his recent interest in rock painting, Weatherford credited his wife Erin Weatherford, his mother-in-law Carol Britt, and his two children Tripp and Harper. “When they caught wind of the rock painting around town, they joined the crowd and bought some rocks, paint, and brushes, and haven’t slowed down since,” Weatherford said. “Throughout the week while I was at work my wife would send me pictures of rocks they painted and rocks they had found. When the weekend rolled around, I couldn’t wait to join them and get in on the action.”
Neither could I.
After I found the ladybug and discovered the Darlington County Rock Art project online, I began looking for any excuse to walk on the Public Square, a popular spot to find decorated rocks. Since I joined the group, which now has over 1,400 members and counting, I’ve found six rocks, my favorite being a smooth yellow stone with the words “You can’t find me” scrolled in a child’s messy yet adorable handwriting. The best part: the rock was sitting in plain sight, right beside a tree near the Courthouse. A few days later, my son Harry hid that rock underneath the Beware of Alligator sign at Lawton Park in Hartsville, along with a strawberry stone, which, ironically, he hid at the top of the rock-climbing wall on the kid’s playground.
To me, the Darlington County Rock Art project is an example of the best possible use of social media. When working on and hunting for these rocks, kids and adults alike get to be creative, get to be out in nature, and, most importantly, get to be together.
So far, rocks that began in Darlington County have traveled to Tennessee, Ohio, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, and even Australia.
Just imagine a kid strolling through a park in the Land Down Under, and he comes across a hand-painted rock with the words “You R Enough”, “Be Happy” or “God Loves You” painted on it.
Now do you understand why I am obsessed with rocks?