The Commerce Journal

April 28, 2014

Mapping Texas’ rocks

By Tumbleweed Smith
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — Jim Runge of Eldorado is always doing unusual things.

He practically holds the world record for the number of characters he has portrayed. Among them are Elvis, Sam Houston, Batman, Cupid and the Grim Reaper. His costumes are in a special place on the T 9 C Ranch where he lives with his wife Claryce.

Jim has staged just about every type of event you can imagine, from goat races to llama kissing. A few years ago he got involved with senior athletic games and has won just about every event he enters. He has a room full of trophies, ribbons, medals, certificates and plaques.

What he is calling his signature project is a limestone rock outline of the state of Texas. It covers 30 acres. “I took a road map of Texas, measured it by inches, then stepped it off on the ranch,” he says. “One inch on the map equals 20 steps on the property. I’ve been working on it five years so far. It’s a very scientific project.”

 “That was the lucky part. When the farmers cleared their land, they took the rocks and piled them all around the perimeter of our land, so all I had to do was go out there with a five-gallon bucket, put rocks in it, then haul them to the outline and pour them out in the right places.”

The outline is one-third of a mile across and one-third of a mile from top to bottom.

“Now that I’ve got it complete, I’m going to start widening the rocks. Got plenty of rocks. It’s a foot wide now and I want to make it two or three feet wide, whatever it takes to make it visible from an airplane. Last week a plane flew over and took pictures of it. That made me realize what it needs, what you can or can’t see. The air traffic is picking up over the outline.”

He says you can see it on Google Earth, but the picture there was taken two-and-a-half years ago. Some of the rocks are baseball size; others weigh 200 pounds or more. They were all laid by hand. It is a lifetime project. “But it’s good exercise. You have to move around, you have to walk and move rocks and you have to pull down trees and burn them. It’s a multi-purpose project.”

Inside the outline he will show highways and landmarks. “Eventually I want to get rid of all the mesquite trees and all the prickly pear and clear it out. I’ve already got a big oil tank down where Texas City is to signify that area with all the refineries. I have some windmills around Lubbock and a teepee for the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation. For Brady, I might cut a big heart for the center of Texas. I want to have something to denote every area of the state.”

Jim says the T 9 C is the only place you can come and travel the whole state of Texas in less than one hour. Two dogs, Donna Quixote and Sancha Panza, handle ranch security. “Be careful they don’t lick you to death.”

Contact Tumbleweed Smith at