By CLINT FOSTER
Independence Day weekend turned out to be a rough one for the members of Palo Pinto Challenge this year. The non-profit teaching program that employs mentally and physically challenged adults fell victim to multiple acts of vandalism throughout the holiday weekend and into last week.
Palo Pinto Challenge's Strawn headquarters has a garden, for the personal use and enjoyment of its employees, that was recently equipped with a new soaker system. Sometime over the Fourth of July, the system was turned all the way up and left running, pumping 16,000 gallons of water into the garden, flooding it and virtually destroying it.
Also vandalized was a large rock that was set in front of the building in 2000. Believed to be an Indian grinding stone, the approximately 10-inch tall and 2-foot wide rock was systematically destroyed and was found last week broken down to its base. Strawn police are investigating these acts of vandalism.
"Of course, the soaker system means a lot to us financially, but the rock was just kind of their symbol of 'tough,'" Executive Director Barbara Cranfill said as she held back tears. "[One of the employees] Poncho's daddy said, 'It's as tough as Poncho.' We're talking one incredibly beautiful rock. For someone to come in and do that is unreal."
Adding to the list of offenses against Palo Pinto Challenge, Cranfill said someone also set off fireworks Fourth of July weekend in the lot adjacent to the program's wooden storage building. Trash and a lighter were left at the scene, but Cranfill said thankfully, nothing caught on fire.
Just when it seemed things could not get much worse, Cranfill said she discovered someone had keyed her van right through the Palo Pinto Challenge sign on its door as it sat under her carport in Mineral Wells last Thursday night. Thursday was Cranfill's birthday.