T E X A S   S T R A N G E
The Face of the Bear Creek Beast

By Logan Hawkes

There have been plenty of tales in Texas about half man/half beast creatures that roamed the countryside terrorizing anything and everything that got in the way. A few Native American cultures, like the San Ildefonso Puebloans near Santa Fe, believe they have the power of transformation and can assume the shape of an animal at will.

Whether it be fable, legend, fact or fiction, were-creatures have a long history in Texas, and just about every culture that has touched the state has had some form of beastly mythology or folk tale to tell related to these imaginative creatures.

Take the case of Hill Country settler and tombstone carver N. Q. Patterson of Kimble County.  A Tennessee transplant, Patterson settled around present day Junction and served a year as treasurer, then as county judge.

Even as a tombstone carver, business was slow at times, especially since there wasn't  a lot of people in Kimble County in those days. And to add to the problem, Patterson suffered from tuberculosis, a disease that was called galloping consumption at the time. With so much time on his hands, Patterson took to carving on limestone rocks that lined Bear Creek that flowed gently past his cabin settlement.

Before long, Patterson's carvings became a popular topic around the county and before his death, the "faces" that he carved gained a degree of notoriety. Especially one particularly large image, one of a face that sported a broad nose, glinting eyes and a snarling mouth with long, fang-like teeth.

The carving came to be known as Cleo's Face, because the small settlement nearby was known as "Cleo". At one time, Cleo the community had its own post office.

What did the face represent? Some have said the face reminds them of a wild bear. Some believed, for years, the carving was made by Indians. But according to local accounts, the face was indeed carved by Patterson. Who or what it represented is still anyone's guess.

In the what-it's-worth department, some say there is legend around parts of the Hill Country that tell of an old Indian man who would change his shape in order to avoid capture by calvarymen stationed in the area. Legend has it that when cornered, the old man would assume the shape of a wolf and attack his pursuers, often resulting in death or serious injury.

Whether Patterson's carving had anything to do with that legend, no one knows for certain.

Today Bear Creek runs through private property and is not accessible by the general public. But locals say the face, though badly worn by weather and time, is still visible on a large rock that lines the stream in Kimble County.