I will be the first to admit that in all of my years of swimming at Barton Springs, I never took a good look at Philosopher’s Rock until recently. I’ve absentmindedly passed by the statue more times than I can count on my fingers and toes, not once stopping to read the inscription on the stones around it. The sculpture has always been at the entrance of the pool, a constant during visits with my family when I was younger, with hometown friends during college visits years ago, and with several of my friends and roommates in the recent summer months. I always assumed that the men portrayed by the statue were old Austin blue hairs who donated millions to Zilker Park. They were men who didn’t really hold any relevance to the springs, men without names and faces. I was sure.
I could not have been more wrong. The men depicted in Philosopher’s Rock, J. Frank Dobie, Roy Bedichek, and Walter Prescott Webb, have everything to do with Barton Springs and everything we call Austin, as I found out on my last visit.
Under an archway of trees, Philosopher’s Rock sits surrounded by random chunks of stone, some flat and some jagged, all four or five paces from the statue itself. A rowdy group of pre-pubescent boys find the rocks to be a perfect place for a game of tag, running and leaping from rock to rock and completely oblivious to my quiet study on a flat slab nearby. The faces of Dobie, Webb, and Bedichek look disgruntled from far away, especially with 13-year-old boys swinging on their arms and using their feet as footholds and launching pads. The game is eventually called off in favor of snow cones from a stand in the park, and the bronze faces of the three friends relax in the summer sun.
The friends are stationed on and around a large rock meant to represent a famous one of limestone inside Barton Springs, known back in the day as “Conversation Rock” or “Bedi’s Rock”, where Dobie, Bedichek, and Webb often met to talk and enjoy the...