Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

The Family Rock


Last fall, I shared this picture with you when I was talking about family pictures.


My great-grandmother was much better at commanding the fam to get together for a pic than I am. She succeeded. I didn’t.

This picture still isn’t very good, but I used a photo-editing program to darken it a little, because I wanted you to see what’s behind them.

That’s Twin Rock on Eagle Mountain. (Okay, it’s not really a mountain, but that sounds better than Eagle Hill. Right?)

Twin Rock is a sort of Spess Family icon. We love it.

My dad’s only sister had a picture of her and her cousin snapped there. It was a shot of one of the girl’s head as she’s lying on one rock, and the other girl’s feet, as she’s lying on the other. I THINK they were supposed to look as if the first girl was so tall, she could lie down and curve her body all the way around so her feet stuck out from the other.

It took me several years of looking at it to figure out what they were doing.

Naturally, since Twin Rock is famous in our family, I’ve been there a few times. Once, I was reading all the names and dates carved into it. Lots of names–most of whom I’m related to.

Then I came to a four letter word. H-E-L-L.

That stopped me. Rock chiseling is a lot of work. Why would someone be so proud of knowing the word, they’d work that hard to share it?

Maybe, I thought, it was a warning. Something like, Beware of hell? So I brushed off lichen and moss, trying to see if there was more to it.

There was.

It said, “Mitchell.” LOL. Yep, a family name.

The carving probably wasn’t as hard as I thought, I realize now, because Twin Rock is made of sandstone. Sandstone is a soft material, which erodes quickly.

Twin Rock isn’t nearly as tall as it was in this picture that was probably taken about 1903 or 1904. In fact, it’s barely taller than my head. But most of the names are still there.

And I’m very glad. I know that they spent quite a bit of time in that very spot where I’m standing when I look at it, a direct connection with family I never met.

Author: Susan Shay

For as long as I can remember, I've loved two things--reading and people--and that led me to become a writer. Many of my stories are set in Small Town Worlds. I'm a wife, mother, sibling and an aunt. I have a deep faith in God, and an exciting life in Christ. Maybe I shouldn't be (after all, he's God!) but I'm constantly amazed at the things He's up to. :)

8 thoughts on “The Family Rock

  1. Susan, When I was reading this story, the first thing I thought of was our cousin, Helen Fisher Hooper. I imagined her out there trying to carve her name, then Helen might have just got tired & didn’t finish the “EN”. It is fun to think of my Mom (a Mitchell girl) and Aunts & Uncles and tons of cousins who might have been carved or climbed on that rock–I assume it is in the East Basin area. Phyllis was such a fun person that it is not hard to imagine her “setting” up that picture as a joke. 🙂
    One of the stories I remember is my Mom, Lena Mitchell Shoemaker, telling us about the ice wagon coming down the road. She said on a hot summer day they would chase after the ice wagon hoping to get a small chip of ice to cool them on a scorchingly hot Oklahoma day. I always thought that was strange when I was a kid – “Why didn’t you just go to the fridge, Mom?” was one of the questions that formed in my mind.
    Now that I am a bit older, it is so funny to answer some of the questions that my grandkids ask me about the “olden” days. Thanks for sharing this story!

    • For me, learning about family is just fascinating, Sharon. I love to hear my dad talk about Grandmother’s sisters. He adores family and passed that love to his children.
      For some reason, it’s much easier to learn about Grandmother’s family than Granddad’s. Maybe someday I can learn more.
      Thanks for sharing the ice wagon story. I’ve read about them in books, but didn’t know Old ‘Ford had one.
      Too cool! (Literally.) 🙂

  2. Hi Susan, I am really glad you posted this story. I don’t know where it is but it has my family name, Mitchell, on it. Anyway is it me or does the man second from left look like Steven? Or is it just me? Thanks, Allene

    • Hi Allene!
      Yes, he looks a lot like Steven. (Good eye since that’s not a great picture.) You can’t see it here, but one of the women looks a lot like Steven’s sister Linda. My favorites in the picture are Granddad and his twin, May–the two little blond girls in front. LOL.
      Granddad is the prettier one. 😛

  3. I think the Mitchell could have been Lillis. She was a fun-loving, outgoing person I’ve been told. I like the story too but couldn’t find the names for this part of our family.???..

    • I believe it might have been Avard–the brother that dated May (Granddad’s twin) and died who died when he was pretty young.
      Pictured is Granddad Ray’s family. Granddad and his twin are about three. If I understood, the Spess family didn’t actually own Eagle Mountain until later, when Granddad Ray bought it. I think Twin Rock was a place people from the basin went to picnic or play or get their picture taken.

  4. Susan, Allene, & Bea, I think one of my favorite stories is the one that Uncle Charlie Stanley who married one of the Mitchell twins, Lola. Uncle Charlie told me that when he wanted to date our Aunt Lola, she told him very matter-of-factly (that was the way she was!) that she would only go out with a Christian man. Therefore, Aunt Lola led Uncle Charlie to the Lord as he wanted to know her & he became a Godly man in pursuit of the woman he loved & was married to for the rest of their lives. The values instilled in their children sure speaks a lot for our Grandmother and Granddad Mitchell, doesn’t it?? You all may remember more “love stories” of the Mitchell descendants,& I’d love to hear them, too

  5. Lola was a smart woman, wasn’t she? She believed that part that talks about not being unequally yoked. I remember the love Uncle Charlie and Aunt Lola had for the Lord. It was beautiful!

I'm so glad you dropped by my Small Town World! Hope you'll leave a comment. I really enjoy hearing from you!

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