King Ranch

Out-Texas Me This!

About a month ago, my son went off to college with my Jeep, and I needed to get another vehicle. I had been truckless for a few years – a rare condition in my life – and I decided I wanted to fix that right away. For a long time, I had wanted a King Ranch Edition Ford pickup, with those fine leather seats, carrying the classic brand of the ranch I hunted on as boy. So now, I had the chance – and the reason – to buy one.

With two kids in college, it was no time to splurge on a new one, but I thought I might find a previously-owned truck that would satisfy my longing. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I was able to search for just what I wanted: a one-owner vehicle in near-mint condition being sold by an owner who had elaborate maintenance records and a pristine Carfax report. I found what I was looking for in San Antonio, 300 miles from where I live down in the Valley.

So I contacted the owner and we made a gentleman’s agreement as to price over the phone, and I headed up to look at it. I loved it – beautiful truck, dark brown with tan trim. Meticulously maintained. I said, “Let’s do it.” So, he pulled out the title to begin the paperwork and I was surprised to see that his name was William B. Travis.

I said, “I guess you know, you’re kind of famous.”

He said, “Yes, I do have a famous name. And I have the whole name, too. I’m William Barrett Travis and I’m also a descendant.”

I was astounded by the coincidence. I thought, “Here I am, a specialist in Texas lore and legend, about to buy a King Ranch pickup from a descendant of the commander of the Alamo, and he still lives in San Antonio. How cool is that?” In the favorite word of my teenage son, “Awesome!”

We finished up the paperwork and payment, and he walked me out and gave me a detailed tour of all the unique features of the truck and directions on how to get back to the expressway to head home. I could tell he was a little sad to let go of the pickup. They’d had many good years together. I said, “I promise I’ll take good care of her.”

So, I drove my new truck (new to me, anyway) back to the Valley. It was good to be riding high in the saddle once more, driving into a blustery coastal wind without breaking a sweat.

In fact, I drove my King Ranch Edition pickup with its Alamo lineage, back through the actual King Ranch, while eating a Whataburger and listening to Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again.”

I have just have one thing to say: “Out-Texas Me That!”

The only thing that would have made it better is if a Southwest Airlines jet had done a flyby at 200 feet and given me a wing salute.

Texas Standard: May 4, 2018

Smuggling across the border with Mexico. You might be surprised what’s in that duffel bag, border agents certainly were. We’ll have the latest. Also, do you remember Jade Helm? A U.S. military operation that was seen by many on the right as a kind of blueprint for a Federal takeover? Now hear this: an allegation that Jade Helm was really a beta test for Russia messing with the 2016 elections. We’ll hear more. Also, in what is arguably the gun-friendliest state in the union, a weekend long celebration of gun rights as the NRA holds its annual convention in Dallas. We’ll have a view from the ground zero. Plus the week in Texas politics and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Land Rush

The most expensive property currently on the market in Texas is a 2300 acre estate in Lago Vista. It is near Austin, on Lake Travis, going for a mere 68 million. Only 30 thousand an acre. Get out your checkbooks.

That’s quite a contrast compared to the deals the first Texans were getting on real estate. Stephen F. Austin charged 12 and a half cents an acre for a league of land, which was 4428 acres.

He offered two deals, 4428 acres if you were a rancher and 177 acres if you were a farmer. So you can imagine that many farmers became ranchers right quick. And that’s not all. Married men got far more land than single ones. So there was a stampede up the church aisles as single farmers rushed to become married ranchers. Imagine, you walk down the aisle with nothing and come out with almost 4500 acres. Compare that to today where you walk in with thirty thousand dollars and walk out broke.

That was quite a deal Austin offered. 12 and a half cents an acre (and mostly on credit) at a time when land in the rest of the U.S. was ten times more than that. Someone later pointed out, “Land in Texas was what gold was to the gold rush.”

A league of land for $550. Even adjusted for today’s dollars it would be only $12,000. 4428 acres is a lot of land. It would require a long hard day of walking to make your way around it by sunset. But you still wouldn’t have a King Ranch. Even with all those acres you would still own less than half a percent of the King Ranch. By comparison, you wouldn’t even have a ranchito. You would have a ranchititito. Essentially a postage stamp.

In deep South Texas, the original land grants of 4500 acres sold for even less. Sometimes as little as the filing fee of $50 and other times for ten cents an acre, with payments not starting until the fourth year of the seven-year term, to give you the chance to work the land and have it help pay for itself.

And even considering that $30,000 an acre today is shocking – it may well seem like a bargain 20 years from now. How many times have you sat at someone’s kitchen table and heard them say, “See that house over there? 30 years ago I could have bought it for $100,000. Today it’s worth $300,000.” Or more. As the old saying goes, “Buy land, they’re not making anymore of it.” Certainly been a wise adage to live by in Texas for about 200 years now.

What I need is a good time machine. I wish I could go back to see my great grandfather when he lived in East Texas. I could say to him, “Great gramps, here’s $1,000. I want you to go over to Beaumont and find a little hill known round there as Spindletop. Buy that hill and the 4,000 acres that surrounds it. Here’s another thousand for mineral rights. Leave it all in a trust to be shared by your descendants who are 6’ 5” or more, blue-eyed, and work in radio.

If only rebooting your life were that easy.