Guns along the Guadalupe By Bob Boyd Kendall County Given the current escalation of the war of riverbank landowners in Kendall County against the canoeists foolish enough to float down the Guadalupe River, the following scene seems certain to take place at some point in time. A young couple, baby strapped to the back of the father, is enjoying a canoeing trip down the Guadalupe. Suddenly they lose control of their craft and are thrown into water 20 feet deep. They are surrounded by steep cliffs, but the father manages to find a handhold and pull himself partially up the cliff. His wife clings desperately to his leg as he slowly inches toward the top. A wave of relief sweeps over the terrified family as they hear voices above them. Grasping the ledge of the cliff with one hand, holding onto his screaming child with the other, and his wife still clinging to his leg, the father looks up and sees a law officer and rancher staring down at him. “Help,” he says. “You’re trespassing,” answers the rancher, who looks surprisingly like Jack Palance. A handmade, leather boot comes down heel first and grinds into the conoeist’s hand. “You son of a bitch,” he screams as his wife and child plunge into the swift river.. “Why, that foul-mouthed bastard. If he lives I’ll arrest him for abusive language,” the law officer says. TOO MUCH FANTASY for you to swallow? Then consider the following true story of recent events on the Guadalupe in Kendall County. Two San Antonio youths \(18 and 19 three-day trip down the Guadalupe when their craft became entangled in boulders. Unable to budge the canoe, the pair went ashore and walked to the nearest house, thinking that it was the residence of the owner of the riverbank where their canoe was trapped. A man who answered the door refused to let them enter, told them he didn’t have a phone and advised them that the nearest telephone was eight miles away in Boerne. The youths hiked the eight miles and called their father, a well-known San Antonio businessman who, ironically, comes from a family which has owned land in Kendall County for more than a century. The father, a friend and two employees picked up the pair and returned to the scene of the accident. Meanwhile, the man who had deliberately sent the boys on an eight-mile walk into Bob Boyd is an outdoorsman and a sports writer for the San Antonio Express. town was using his telephone to call his neighbor and warn him that some canoeists had landed on his property and were returning. Minutes after the San Antonians arrived on the riverbank, a landowner showed up with a limited vocabulary and a loaded rifle. He cursed the father to his face, telling him that the canoe could not be taken out over his property, that they would have to retrieve it by water. A deputy sheriff drove up in the middle of the landowner’s tirade. He offered no help to the unnerved San Antonians, but said he was there to do whatever the landowner wanted him to do. The group was escorted from the landowner’s property and told in no uncertain terms that they would be shot if they were ever caught on the place again. They drove to the camp of the man who rented the canoe to the boys and explained the situation to him. Less than an hour later, the canoe owner went by way of the river to attempt to retrieve his property. He found the canoe riddled with 21 bullet holes. The businessman who swallowed his pride and took the abuse dished out by the enraged landowner \(at the point of a gun sensible when he discussed the incident. His lawyers have advised him that he has no legal recourse. He asked that his name not be used for fear he or a member of his family might be shot if the word got around that he was a “canoeist-lover.” There have been many other incidents involving Kendall County residents and visitors such as canoeists, hitchhikers and bikers during the past few years. A Boy Scout troop boating down the Guadalupe stopped for a rest on a grassy spot along the bank, only to be confronted by a furious landowner armed with a shotgun, who marched the troop at gunpoint back to his ranchhouse. He called the sheriff and had the kids, some not even in their teens, arrested for trespassing. The sheriff jailed the whole troop, which remained locked up for several hours until parents posted bond for their sons’ release. A Sunday school youth class, which mistook an isolated patch of private property for a public picnic area, was marched off the land at gunpoint. The children were turned over to sheriff’s deputies, but they escaped the trauma of being booked and held in jail. Last year a 24-year-old San Antonio high school teacher was shotgunned to death by Kendall County landowner who thought the man had trespassed on his property. Although the teacher was several miles down the road, in the process of changing a flat tire, the landowner testified that he had chased a man off his property. He said he had noted a car similar to the teacher’s parked near his property, so he assumed that the trespasser had gotten into that car. He drove several miles until he came across the teacher. The landowner testified that he shot the man at a distance of 12-15 feet after the man made threatening gestures with a weapon \(which Country jury acquitted the landowner of charges of murder. Afterwards, one juror was quoted as saying, “Up here a man has a right to defend his property.” DON’T EXPECT an even-handed approach to the problem by the sheriff if you are unfortunate enough to have a run-in with a Kendall County landowner. When interviewed about the recent incident involving the San Antonio canoeists, Sheriff Lee D’Spain said bluntly, “I’m 100 percent behind the landowners.” He is just as completely opposed to canoeists. “They have no business getting in the river,” D’Spain said without even a Sept. 21, 1973 9
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