The King Ranch

2205 Texas 141, Kingsville, TX 78363
(361) 592-8055


“In 1951 the Kleberg family asked me if I would write ad illustrate a fairly brief monograph – I could decide on the length of it myself – narrating the colorful history of their King Ranch, a volume for presentation to the ranch’s friends, marking and celebrating the King Ranch’s centennial year, 1953. To speed and to facilitate the necessary assemblage of material for my use, the ranch would employ the experienced journalistic talents of my friend Holland McCombs to round up and rope down whatever historical facts, figures and details the work might require. To design and to produce a suitably handsome volume in a limited edition, the ranch sought the typographic talents of my friend Carl Hertzog. We met for discussion in El Paso, surveyed a cursory outline for the project, and signed on for the job. We thought it would demand about a year of work…


It got longer every day.


There was a very great deal of ranch, and there was just as much story as there was ranch, an epic story nobody had ever put together accurately, a dramatic story nobody had fastened down on paper.


I decided a monograph would not hold it. There would have to be a book. The more I saw, the more I heard, the more research material Holland handed me to read, the more I looked Carl straight in the eye, the more I stood with Dick over the chute at the Calandria pens, the more I sat on Bob and Helen’s porch at the Norias, the more book.


No matter what I did, at the King Ranch or on Savannah Street, more book. Thicker and thicker. Pretty soon a tome. With footnotes. And appendices. Indexed. Satanás y sus cuernos – what if it wasn’t one tome? Suppose it was two. Gradually I realized the situation. I had signed on for a tour as a two-tome historian.


It did not take a year. It took five.


It was finished four years after the ranch celebrated its centenary. The two volumes were issued in a limited edition printed for the ranch, as planned; a trade edition followed, printed at El Paso from the same plates, published by Little, Brown and Company, Boston.


Volume one of The King Ranch is essentially a biography of Richard King, his pioneer life and times as a steamboater and a stockman in South Texas. Of wider disparity in its material, and necessarily so. Volume two is a biographical memoir of a huge property and three generations of a family which made that property into the greatest ranch in the world. Throughout the writing of both volumes I sought to keep in continual sight the prime and transcendent theme of the entire work, a theme that moves me profoundly and always will, the three words I placed in summation and in capital letters as the final line at the end of Volume Two:


"HERDS AND GRASS“
(A Picture Gallery, Brown and Company, 1968, pp. 124-128).