Introduction to Before the Stories are Lost – Pat D. Lane – Author
To the best of my knowledge the stories within are true, and the names have not been changed to protect the guilty. The men in these stories have left this world excepting me, to pass these stories on and is the reason why I wanted to tell them. Before you plunge into these stories, it is critical that you understand, that this was at a time that is long since been gone; I strongly urge you not to try this today, the penalties if captured, will follow you for the rest of your life. Certainly, there exists many who will give anything a try, pero my stories are from an era that made this possible and please again, let it go.
In 1906 two families whose names were the Hornsby’s and the Culpepper’s left their homes in La Grange, Ga. and moved to Texas. Like others, they were lured by the prospect of the available fertile land in the Rio Grande valley. The land did not yet have the water supply from the irrigation canals (resacas), so they opted for land north of the valley between Falfurrias and Premont. The Culpepper’s had a young son named Zenus who eventually married Mammie Lee Hornsby. Mammie’s brother married the Culpepper daughter, and I called him Grandpa Hornsby. We do not have a word in the English language for a brother and sister marrying a brother and sister, but in Spanish they are called cocunos. Grandpa Hornsby’s son Wayne, was my stepfather. Uncle Zenus taught Wayne and he taught me, the rest they say is history.
Now that I am getting up in my years, I find myself compelled to write these stories down, if I don’t, they will be lost forever. All these men are gone now and it was a different time than today. Driving through South Texas now and seeing the high fences makes me so sick I physically want to violently discharge my stomach contents. The land owners used their influence to changes the laws in Texas, so if caught today, they can take everything you got and lock you away, for a long time for killing one of their deer. During my time, if caught the fine wouldn’t amount to much, maybe a couple of hundred dollars. The thought of losing your virginity to a game warden or Ranch security by getting caught, was more important to me. I took that as part of the code to be an outlaw hunter. You are going to do it anyway, and none of us ever wanted to get caught, and a man should have pride in what he does. I made a resolution, that there just wasn’t any way them pecker heads were going to outsmart me! I can proudly say that I was the cause of several of them to lose a lot of sleep trying to catch me. Unlike most other outlaws around, I was taught to keep my mouth shut. Too many of them boys that got caught, did so because they ran their mouth about the deer they took. The King, Kennedy, East and some others encompass over 2 million acres where these stories occurred, and that is a bunch of Texas controlled by a hand full of people. During my tenure, those ranches employed a plethora of suck ass pimps that would rat you out. I was taught to go in quietly, shoot one time only, leave no trace behind, and keep your damned mouth shut! It worked for many years for those who taught me and that was good enough.
When I officially became an outlaw hunter, completing the required curriculum and in strict accordance with the laws and code; I went forth and made some stories of my own. We did not condone nor approve of leaving meat in the field. The thought of it alone was foreign and repugnant to our Posse, where buzzards and coyotes are allowed to feed on fresh venison. We killed those bucks for food and entertainment and never left meat in the field. I have had some wall-hangers in my sights and let them walk, because I knew retrieving that animal successfully would be questionable without running the risk of getting caught. Out of all the men I have known that killed a significant number of bucks illegally, there are but a few that were never caught. I am proud to say that I am one of those cherries. The King Ranch and game wardens had their sights set on me for years, pero they never laid a glove on me. Our opponents in this game we played, enjoyed their part as well, though they never realized that it was primarily for our entertainment. They took the whole damned thing seriously!
Growing up in the Wild Horse Desert (el desirto de caballos salvajes), there were little diversions from a routine day, so being creative, our little game of hide and seek evolved into what is today; an act so despicable they will put you in the crossbar hotel and throw away the key. You have to get over yourself, we were simply providing ourselves with sustenance and some amusement in an unforgiving and tough piece of Texas. In our minds we were carrying on a great tradition. It remains difficult to paint a picture so people can understand, how little time has actually passed, when a man would shoot another one for simply pissing him off.
A quick journey through history, before the hunting begins, should offer insight as how the Wild Horse Desert began. This fifty-thousand-foot view that I will provide, so you can make your own decisions, as mine are prejudiced. History is funny, it is written to be complementary to those that have power and wealth. The oral history that was told to me, does not resemble what you will find in the history books. The men I was taught by, lived and practiced their religious beliefs; I still have memories of Grandpa Hornsby explaining, that to tell a lie was one of the “Big Ten”, you know, those Thou Shalt Nots, and it would not be tolerated. Grandpa Hornsby and Uncle Zenus, were young teenagers when they arrived in the area; They knew and told stories about people that had lived in that country since the Civil War, on both sides of the Rio Grande River. If you dig far enough, you will be able to see how those that ended up with it all, spun the history a little for their patrons perceptions.