This past weekend, the Washington Post published a tidy little scoop about Rick Perry's family's West Texas hunting campground, which is notable to the wider world for one reason: It was colloquially known as "Niggerhead." This informal name, reportedly well-known to locals, had been "painted in block letters across a large, flat rock standing upright at its gated entrance."
The story managed to roil the 2012 race, and, perhaps not surprisingly, the fortunes of Herman Cain -- whose criticism of Perry caused a backlash against the pizza mogul in the conservative blogosphere. For Perry himself, it was one more round of negative attention in the press. In the Post piece, however, Perry explains things thusly:
"When my Dad joined the lease in 1983, he took the first opportunity he had to paint over the offensive word on the rock during the 4th of July holiday," Perry said in his initial response. "It is my understanding that the rock was eventually turned over to further obscure what was originally written on it."
As you might expect, everyone else in the media was frightfully interested in the Post's story. But how could they add their own contribution? Well, as you might expect, everyone within driving distance of Paint Creek, Texas, began the 2012 Primary Season's Quest To Find The Racist Rock! The New York Times' Manny Fernandez performs the meta-journalistic task of reporting on all this reporting:
The day after The Washington Post reported that Mr. Perry had once hunted at and taken guests to a hunting camp that had the name Niggerhead painted on a rock at the entrance, cars and trucks traveled the dusty road leading to the area on Monday afternoon. The vehicles belonged to reporters with various newspapers and television news outlets, but their visits were short-lived, and it remained unclear if the rock was even still there.
According to what amounts to legend, the rock was believed to be somewhere in a pasture at the Krooked River Ranch Outfitters hunting lodge. Reporters were apparently turned away by the angry property-owners, who admonished the reporters and "escorted them from the property."
The property is owned by a Texas charity called the Hendrick Home for Children. Chuck Wilson, the manager, declined to comment about the word on the rock, whether it was ever there and, if so, when it was removed.
"I will tell you one thing," Mr. Wilson said. "There's nothing to see out there. I've been handling the property for 10 years, been all up and down it, and I ain't never seen that rock."
Does no one understand how many Pulitzers could be won by the first news organization to score the first interview with a rock in a field somewhere in West Texas? As it turns out, the locals were not sympathetic. In the words of one area woman, "It's a bunch of crock."
Yes. 'Twas a crock, this rock, to which reporters flocked, in an ad hoc bloc jocking to first take stock. But I mock.
READ THE WHOLE THING:
In West Texas, Wagons Circle Around Perry [New York Times]