Tammy Murphey and her sons enjoy playtime at the Rock Zoo in Fackler. The colorful attraction was created by Murphey’s grandfather Leonard Dawson after road construction led to a large boulder that looked like a bull being placed on his property.
Photo by Grace Thornton

Fackler Rock Zoo provides colorful roadside attraction

When the county paved a road by Leonard Dawson’s farm in 1976, they pushed a big boulder up onto his land.

But he wasn’t mad about it. He just had a thought he couldn’t shake.

“He thought it looked just like a bull,” said Larry Dawson, his son.

The elder Dawson had that thought every time he saw the rock, to the point that he considered hiring a professional artist to paint it the way he saw it in his mind. Eventually he decided to just grab a brush and do it himself. Then he and his son found the horns on the property and added them too.

And with that, the family’s Rock Zoo was born, just a couple of miles down County Road 32 in Fackler, past Harmony Baptist Church, where Larry Dawson serves as head deacon. Through the years, more rocks have been found, added and painted. The roadside “zoo” has a rooster with a comb fashioned from cement, as well as a skunk, giraffe, alligator and maybe a couple dozen more “animals.” Some are more obvious as to what they are; others are open to some artistic interpretation.

‘Special area’

Additions to the collection appear from time to time. There’s currently an unpainted rock just waiting for a little paint to make it into a snapping turtle.

Tammy Murphey, Larry and Nalda Dawson’s daughter, said people come by all the time to stop, take pictures and let their children climb on the rocks. She said they’ve even had children leave painted rocks of their own to join the “animals,” and they’re encouraging children to keep doing that if they want.

“We’re hoping to even have a special area for people to leave their own rocks soon if they want to and come back and see them later,” Murphey said.

To view more photos of the Rock Zoo, visit tabonline.org/rock-zoo.

The Rock Zoo is located at 3215 County Road 32 in Fackler and open to visitors anytime.