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I’ve found that the sequel is rarely better than the original. Movies like Jaws: The Revenge support this conclusion. But sometimes a second act surpasses the first, and this happened when two Texans used a truckload of plaster to construct Stonehenge II, a monument that’s better than the original because it’s here in Texas.
On a sweltering summer day, I tripped out to the Texas Hill Country, 5 miles west of Kerrville, to visit Ingram. Most visitors come to splash in the Guadalupe River or to relax on its cypress-lined banks. But I was on a mission to see a Texas version of one of the world’s iconic stone structures.
The original Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, England, was built around 2500 B.C. It fascinates Americans, and there are two dozen Stonehenge replicas in the United States. I wanted to know what separates Stonehenge II from the rest.
I followed the Guadalupe and arrived at the Hill Country Arts Foundation. There, in a crunchy field of dry grass, stood 30 interlocking arches encircling five free-standing ones. All were between 8 and 12 feet tall.
My first question was “Why in the world is this here?” The answer begins with Al Shepperd, who received a large limestone slab from his buddy Doug Hill. Rather than use the stone as landscaping, Shepperd dug a hole and stood the slab upright as a monolith. Every day he looked at it and thought, “Wow, that looks like Stonehenge.” Hill agreed, and soon they constructed the first arch out of plaster and chicken wire. It looked so good that they didn’t want to stop. Within a few years, the men had built Stonehenge II, and visitors came from all over the world. The hit TV show Friday Night Lights even filmed an episode on-site.
Standing near the arches, I was amazed by how much work went into building these incredible structures. Even though it’s only 90% as wide as the original Stonehenge and 60% as tall, all the arches are intact. And unlike the original Stonehenge, there are no barriers restricting access. Anyone can walk among the behemoth “stones” and imagine the real Stonehenge when its builders established it millennia ago.
Stonehenge II was originally constructed on Shepperd’s property in Hunt. After his death, the family decided to sell the property and feared that the new owners might not appreciate this quirky art. The Hill Country Arts Foundation purchased the entire installation and moved it to its present location on the river. To make the site even more curious, it also moved Shepperd’s replicas of the Easter Island stone heads, which now stand like guardians protecting Stonehenge II.
Stonehenge I and II remain shrouded in mystery. With England’s Stonehenge, we wonder how and why the ancient people built it. With Ingram’s Stonehenge II, we know the how but could still spend hours pondering why a couple of buddies would dedicate endless hours toward this project.
It may seem complicated, but for those of us who’ve spent enough time in Texas, we know the reason. It’s simply the Texas heat, which can make our brains do some mighty crazy things. And that’s enough explanation for me.
Chet Garner shares his Texplorations as the host of The Daytripper on PBS.