I feel extremely fortunate to have once met Hondo Crouch and having the opportunity to spend a few of hours in his presence. One spring weekend in Brownwood about 1972 I was hanging with a group of friends and on the spur of the moment we decided to ride our bikes to Luckenbach and spend the night under the stars. We got there, circled our bikes, pitched camp, and made our way across the creek to the Luckenbach Store. As we approached the store the peaceful sounds of a guitar and harmonica combined with someone singing in German began to fill the air. Coming around the corner of the store I was delighted to see another friend from Brownwood, Harry Marlin, playing harmonica and setting next to an elderly gentleman who was “picking and grinning”. A frequent visitor to Luckenbach, Harry was a pretty good steel player and knew half the people in Texas. You would hardly ever find Harry without a harmonica in his pocket and he was always happy to walk into any jam session and just join in.
Harry spotted me and introduced me to his musical companion as “The Mayor of Luckenbach”. At the I didn’t really know why but it just seemed like a pretty big deal. We grabbed a beer from the store and went back and sat under the old oak tree and listened to Hondo sing a few songs, tell a few stories, and have conversations with the visitors. A few other musicians came by and set in for a couple of songs and at one point there were about 7 or 8 musicians gathered around Hondo. No mater how many musicians were there, it was just hard to take your eyes and attention off of Hondo. Usually a colorful dresser and always walking with an air of confidence and swagger that let you know he was “Da Man”, he was one of those people that just attracted attention no matter how big of crowd he was in.
Hondo often created his own unique events in Luckenbach and participated in many plays and public events through out the Hill Country. He created such festivals as The Luckenbach Hug-In, When the Dirt Daubers Return To Luckenbach, The 1st ever “All Woman Chili Cook-Off”, and numerous forms of no talent contests and moseying contests. As I recall one moseying contest consisted of determining who could take the longest time to get from point “A” to point “B” across the Luckenbach Dance Hall floor while still doing their best imitation of John Wayne walking and talking (at the same time). On one occasion my oldest daughter Brooke received the honor of being the youngest “Hugger” attending the Luckenbach Hug-In and was awarded a commemorative t-shirt. She was about 3 months old at the time. I think we still have the t-shirt packed away somewhere.
As far as I know Hondo never practiced magic but he was well known for being able to create magical moments in the most unsuspecting places. He always had a gleam in his eye and you never knew when his mischievous “inner child” would appear out of nowhere and cause confusion and wonderment. Once he was participating in a Shakespearean play in a nearby community. It was one of the more serious works of Shakespear and there wasn’t a humorous moment in it. Hondo had rigged his costume with a string and a rubber mouse. The string ran under his jacket, over his shoulder, down his back, past his tights, into his boot, and back up where the rubber mouse was concealed under his ruffles. With his back to the audience and facing his fellow actor who was in the middle of one of his more demanding oratory performances, he would pull the string in his jacket and the mouse would come out of hiding and be in full view of the audience. The poor unsuspecting actor just wasn’t understanding why everyone was laughing at his serious lines.
The hill country has always been a favorite stop for northern politicians and dignitaries and Hondo always enjoyed visiting with them and often invited the out to his ranch to experience the Hill Country way of life. He delighted in setting up ”city slickers” by asking them to help him with daily chores such as castrating sheep. He would never would explain exactly what he was about to do just that he needed the unsuspecting person to “hold the animal” for a moment. Naturally he would try to line up the animal in such a way that the parts removed from them would fall on the “city slicker’s” foot.
Although his tenure as owner of Luckenbach was fairly short he will always be remembered as the person who put Luckenach on the map. He purchased Luckenbach (population 3) in 1971 just so he would have a place between Fredericksburg and his ranch to stop and get a beer. In September of 1976 Hondo suffered a fatal heart attack and passed away in Blanco, Texas.
The following is a “silent movie”, written produced and stared in by Hondo
Crouch. The villain “Black Dank”, the sheriff, the blacksmith, the Banker, the undertaker, the circuit judge and the “handsome young stranger” are all played by non other than Hondo.
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