When Captain Richard King first encountered the Wild Horse Desert over 150 years ago, he was traveling from Brownsville to Corpus Christi on a mission to improve commercial opportunities in what was still a hotly contested area of a relatively new country. King was, by all accounts, a bright man, a hard worker, and he was driven to succeed, to build, to innovate, to create. As it turns out, his initial visit along the Santa Gertrudis Creek set the course for a working ranch, a strong family business, and highly sought after lines of beef cattle and quarter horses. Many have argued that King was the father of American Cattle Ranching, taking into account his innovative systems approaches and gutsy cattle drives into the emerging markets of the western frontier. And yet that’s the tip of the spear. King’s legacy is much broader and more diverse, and it extends well beyond what he could ever have imagined or realistically taken credit for. And isn’t that part of what we celebrate on Father’s Day?
If you’ve ever had a kid graduate from college or get a big promotion, you know the feeling. Or maybe it’s the launching of their family in their first house or even the birth of the first grandkid, or the second. It might also be when that grandkid is sitting on the boat cushion trying to catch a fish and asking you about when you were a kid. It might be all of these or none, but that Father’s Day moment is coming, the crossroads of biology and destiny when you realize your legacy is no longer fully yours to control. That’s the point at which you’ve got to hope that the work you’ve done, the foundations you’ve laid, will sustain the vision, the idea, the child that you had in the first place. If you have, then the odds are in your favor. If not, well it’s more of a crap shoot.
Captain King was a gambler, though maybe not in the traditional sense. He saw the hand he was dealt at age 11 and wagered that he could do better, stowed away on a southbound steamer, and emerged not too many years later a successful businessman and entrepreneur. As he crossed the Wild Horse Desert for the first time, he made a bet on the thirsty grasses of South Texas, and most would argue that he won that bet. He fathered a family and a ranch that have no doubt exceeded his expectations. Along the way, he did the hard work, had the hard conversations, embraced the good fortune, and lead by steadfast example, building something that has not only lasted over seven generations but is poised to continue for many more to come. This Father’s Day, let’s celebrate that spirit and the legacy we all create but may never see. Let’s be the fathers of all we survey.