Four-year old Alan Bean and his sister, two-year-old Olivia, thought they were in for their usual trip to Yelm City Park last month, but they came away from the experience with precious treasures of their own finding.
The treasures came in the form of painted rocks, part of the “Yelm Rocks” movement, where people paint rocks and hide them all around the area for others to find. The idea is that if a rock is found, you paint and hide one of your own.
“We just got up and just came to the park for a field trip to play with (Alan’s) classmates and sissy came along to enjoy the day in the sun,” Mom Letty Bean told the Nisqually Valley News. “He went down the big slide and found his rock beneath the play set and she found hers by the swing. He was super excited when he found his (rock). He found it and came running to me, saying, ‘look, I found a rock,’ and it was a beautiful one.”
The rock was yellow, with a painting that matched the uncharacteristically warm April day.
“Mine was a sunshine,” Alan said. “It was a beautiful flower. It said ‘smile’ on it. It’s called ‘Yelm Rocks.’ It was right over by the play set. I wanted to go down the slide to find it.”
Alan said this while sitting at one of Yelm City Park’s many picnic tables, ready to paint a rock of his own. Olivia was there too, primed to let her artistic merit shine through. Alan planned to paint a dinosaur and Olivia, a flower.
And still, the excitement of Alan’s find reverberated off of him.
“He was so excited about it, wanting me to hold on to it so he didn’t lose it,” Letty Bean said. “He wanted to go and show his teacher and his classmates.”
Olivia’s rock was painted the color of the sky, with a green fish swimming around in the azure waters.
“When we went to go push sissy (on the swing) she found just a little blue pebble on the ground, and when she found it, she yelled, ‘a rock,’ because she finally got one, too,” Letty Bean said. “We are painting on bigger rocks so that other kids can find them, too. There is nothing like doing something nice to make a kid smile.”
And as it turns out, it was a pretty good thing that both of her kids found rocks that day, Letty Bean said.
“How they are is that if he found one, she had to have one, too,” she said. “So it worked out perfectly that there were two there. They were just so excited, so they went home to show dad the rocks, too.”
Tyler Bean, home from a long day as a carpenter in Seattle, thought the whole affair was such a great thing for his kids to be part of, he said.
“When I first saw the rocks, I thought they painted them at the park for their school trip,” he said. “I just thought it was part of the trip, then I later found out that it was part of the ‘Yelm Rocks’ thing, and I thought that was pretty cool.
“It’s really neat that the community does this. It’s definitely something that’s new to us, that something like this would happen, that the community would do something like this. We’ve never really heard of people doing something like this.”
Due to his long commute and longer hours, Tyler Bean said he relishes the time he gets to spend with his kids.
“I’m always away from home, so having time with my family is everything,” he said. “I mean, I get off of work, and the only thing I want to do is come home and spend time with the family. That’s what makes stuff like this cool, because it gives us an excuse to do other things outside of the norm, so it’s neat.”
Letty Bean said the “Yelm Rocks” movement has only solidified her family’s love for the community.
“We’re still new to the area,” she said. “We’ve been here for almost two years now. We lived in Idaho for five years. My parents live in Roy, so we came back to help out with my grandma, who was diagnosed with dementia. I’m a medical assistant so I left my career to come here and be a caretaker for my grandmother.”
She said she likes how tight-knit the community is.
“I like that Yelm’s a small area,” Letty Bean said. “It’s a nice community and people seem to be friendly so far with us. Everything’s here. You don’t need to go on the outside of town. It’s close to home, which is nice.”
She said that even with the COVID-19 pandemic, her family was able to hole up at home and live life as close to normal as they could.
“We live on two acres, so we let the kids go outside and be in the yard or we come out to the park, if people aren’t too afraid to be around each other. Being a stay-at-home mom, nothing really changed for us, except masking up and being overly cautious,” Letty Bean said. “We are kind of in the easy phases of life right now — you don’t really have to go out and do much. Lately we’ve been trying to go to different restaurants, supporting the small businesses.”
For the Beans, the excitement of finding treasures in primary colors was a great way to make the ordinary seem a little bit more extraordinary.
“It’s fun,” Letty Bean said. “They love painting and they really love rocks, so it’s exciting and it gets them out of the house, too. So we’ll paint our rocks and hide them so other kids can have that kind of excitement, too. It was really fun watching them, unexpected.”
Perhaps Alan said it best: “We are going to paint it and hide it here.”
The city of Yelm encourages people to paint and hide the stones of “Yelm Rocks,” but reminds folks to refrain from concealing them in the grass, as lawnmowers could run them over and launch them at unsuspecting people.