By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM
The latest craze among Liberty Hill families with young children is a nationwide hide-and-seek game with a simple idea: paint a rock. Stash it somewhere in a public place. And wait for someone to find it.
Liberty Hill mom Stormi Seay Boyd and her 13-year-old daughter just started playing.
Her daughter loves the creative side of it, Boyd says, but “the fun part for me as the parent is getting my kid outside and exploring Liberty Hill.”
Her daughter’s latest creation, a colorful owl painted with Mod Podge, should be ready to be hidden soon, she says. Then, it’s off to the Sculpture Park. Or the Junior High. Or Schlotzsky’s. They still haven’t decided.
In any case, the directions on the back of the rock will guide its finder to the same place, the “Liberty Hill Rocks” Facebook group.
The page is the central hub for the game’s activity in the community. There, people post pictures of rocks they’ve discovered, or, hints about the rocks they’ve just hidden.
“I don’t know half the people on the page,” says the group’s founder, a Liberty Hill mother, Jackie Payne-Gumbert, “but I know when they see a new post about a hidden rock, they’re there.”
She and her family began playing earlier this year, after her sister, Cegie Dunken, told her about a similar group in Brown County, near Abilene.
At first they stayed inside their neighborhood of Saratoga Springs, but soon spread into town as more joined. The group now has 362 members.
The two sisters and their children–Emily, Luke, John, Hailey and Ashley–would gather rocks, sometimes six at a time, and paint them together with the children’s grandmother.
Gumbert and Dunken say the game should have a strong appeal to any family.
“It gets the kids outside,” says Gumbert, “And off their cell phones,” her sister continued.
She says it brings together families for quality time, and sows connections in communities. It’s creative, it’s social, and, it’s cheap. The only requirements are rocks, paints and an imagination.
It’s not just for the kids either, she says. Gumbert herself likes to paint “abstract” style rocks, with polka dots and stripes. Dunken has a knack for painting crosses, hearts and butterflies.
The amount of variety found on the rocks can be surprising. A scroll through the Facebook page shows ladybugs, a fish, an ice cream cone, the Grinch, a mummy and more.
One Liberty Hill rock, painted with a yellow smiley face, found its way to West Virginia. A woman there messaged the page to say that her town had been recovering from a devastating flood, and that during the clean up, her son stumbled onto the rock with the group’s name on the back.
“It’s just what we needed after this long emotional weekend,” the message read. “Although we would like to keep it, we will re-hide it.”
Most of the group’s rocks however, stay much closer to home.
They can be found in the City Park, Veterans Park, or at Parker’s Corner Market; near the ice machines, outside the pharmacy, in the soccer field and more.
The Facebook group gives the impression that the Liberty Hill Public Library is the most popular spot. An assistant there confirmed that yes, they get a “ton” of painted rocks.