Like most of the artifacts he has spent a lifetime collecting, Alvis Delk is one of a kind. His house is wedged in between trees that once backed up to Ray's Garden overlooking East Washington Street. Remains of the cement arches, fountains, benches, and posts, crumbling now along with the colored glass, marbles and shells embedded in them, are scattered remains of what was once considered Stephenville's magical garden. Today the garden is a memory but there is another kind of magic here in the form of petroglyphs on rocks that Delk has collected. Drawings of birds, ships, and in at least one case, the ancient goddess, Tanit, make the rocks interesting to the curious and Delk, whose daughter says he is a true, mountain man, has several to show visitors. Tanit, usually portrayed with a round head, arms upraised, and a triangular body, has been found in many countries on both sides of the Atlantic but she is generally attributed to have originally been native to Carthage, an ancient city built on the coast of North Africa, founded in 814 B.C. There is an elaborate drawing of Tanit in Delk's collection of petroglyphs.

It is this point that makes Delk believe that the first settlers in North America were not Vikings but that people from Carthage, Egypt and other ancient cultures, sailed up rivers in the "new world" long before Columbus set foot on American soil. He reasons that the first white men to reach the new world came in boats across the Atlantic, sailed up the rivers to the interior and claimed land in several of the present states. He believes this because of his interpretation of the drawings and scratches found on certain rocks. Delk has collected these specimens over a lifetime of digging in hillsides and caves across several states. There are lines, circles, and depressions on the rocks that need a little imagination to make into anything the mind of modern man can understand but some of the scratchy drawings are clear enough to read.

Delk's theories are far from what is taught in today‚s classrooms but he is not alone in believing that early day Phoenicians, Greeks and Egyptians walked across Erath County and that sharp-eyed individuals can see and read the stories they left behind.

Sixty years ago, school teachers taught their students that Columbus was the first white man to reach the New World but those lessons changed with evidence that men from Scandinavia visited Greenland a hundred years before Columbus. A farmer in Minnesota dug up a large stone covered with strange letters carved into its surface in 1898. Called the Kensington Runestone, the stone has been studied by runic scholars who have interpreted the inscription to be an account of Norse explorers in the 14th Century. Archaeologists from 20 states attended a conference in 2000 and declared that there was indisputable evidence the Runestone inscription is real, probably dating from the 1300's.

Strange? Sure, but just because we never learned this in fifth grade geography doesn't mean that it didn't happen and Avis Delk thinks he has the proof that Europeans walked around this land long before Spanish, French and English explorers. For him, it is all written plainly on the rocks.

"It is there if you know where to look and then understand what you see," he said. His theory has some company from respected researchers.

"In Plain Sight" the title of a book published in 1994 and now in its sixth printing, has page after page of illustrations, photographs and documentation that coincide with Delk's findings. It was written and referenced by native Oklahoman, Gloria Farley who passed away last year. During her lifetime, she traveled around several states including Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, studying the carvings on rocks. Her findings are similar to those of Delk's.

Dr. Joseph Mahan, Columbus, Georgia stated, "Anyone who reads this book (In Plain Sight) can never again believe that Columbus or even Lief Erickson discovered America. Evidence presented that old-world people were here centuries before them is in the form of translated writing on stone and related petroglyphs."

Alvis Delk leads a very simple life but that life includes everything that he wants a loving daughter, a fine son, daughter-in-law and a grandchild. His wife died a few years ago but as long as she could, she went with her husband on trips of exploration and together the family shared each "find".

"I've lived most of my life outside," Delk said. "I love the land and everything about it." He stopped talking and smiled as he sat back in his chair. "But reading the stories in the rocks is the best part."