Tom Lea’s Paean to El Randado & the Wild Horse Prairie

“An imperishable tribute that tells the story of the Southwest in epic form”

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206. LEA, Tom [Thomas Calloway Lea III]. Randado. [El Paso: Carl Hertzog, 1941]. [14] pp., text illustrations by Tom Lea (images in grey, initials in maize). 4to (29.3 x 22.4 cm), original textured reddish brown wrappers, upper wrapper with title printed in silver and mounted pictorial paper label, stitched, as issued. Very fine in original glassine d.j. Signed by Lea.

            First edition, limited edition, wrappers issue (#89 of 100 copies, signed by Lea on colophon page). Randado was the author-artist’s first work to appear in print containing both his words and illustrations. Mary Lasswell in her reproduction of the poem in her 1958 book I’ll Take Texas described the work as “an imperishable tribute that tells the story of the Southwest in epic form.” Adams, Herd 1317. Dykes, Fifty Great Western Illustrators (Lea 28). Hinshaw & Lovelace, Lea 46A. Lowman, Printer at the Pass 16: “When Tom Lea undertook to illustrate J. Frank Dobie’s book The Longhorns, the author and the artist made a trip together, visiting the ranches where they might see the last remaining herds of wild longhorns. When Lea saw the ruins of the old ranch at Randado, and heard its legend, he was inspired to write his poetic tribute. According to Hertzog, ‘the type selected was not by choice, but was simply the best available face in El Paso for machine composition. The presswork is faulty, partly on account of the pressman, but more on account of using an old press with a loose platen and loose rollers.’ Even so, the book is stunning in its format. Only 25 copies were for sale to the public, prompting H. Bailey Carroll to comment at the time: ‘Copies may soon become as scarce as the remaining tangible evidence of the existence of El Randado—now largely dust upon the sunburned face of Jim Hogg County.’—Southwestern Historical Quarterly (April 1941), p. 512. The original binding for the entire edition was a heavy brown paper cover. When certain collectors wanted a more permanent binding, 15 copies were rebound in boards, using the same light brown cover (although on three copies a yellow cover was substituted). These copies have a knife edge.” See also the introduction to the Book Club of Texas reprint, Randado: A Commemorative Tribute to Tom Lea (2001).

            El Randado Ranch, dates from the late eighteenth century years of Spanish colonization in Texas. The 1830s San Rafael Chapel, the campo santo (ranch cemetery), La Presa and Norias de Buque (water sources), La Bodega (site of the ranch commissary and post office), and several other stone buildings are maintained by owners, Bernardo de la Garza, a great-great grandson of the founder, Hipolito Garcia. These days the longhorns are gone, and Bernardo de la Garza manages a purebred Beefmaster herd. El Randado is one of the longest continually operated family ranches in the United States. Lea was not the only person inspired to write about El Randado. Confederate General Robert E. Lee described his stay at El Randado while touring the border before the Civil War. J. Frank Dobie and John Houghton Allen also wrote about the historic ranch. But no one has more perfectly captured the essence of El Randado than Tom Lea is his words and images. In his oral history published in 1995, Lea describes the genesis of this book (p. 61):

I had the opportunity to spend a little time all by myself at the ruin of one of the outbuildings of the old spanish ranch of Randado, they call it “Randa’o” down there. A great strain of Spanish horses were raised there in the old Rancho Randado. And I wrote a piece about it and showed it to Frank (Dobie) and he said, “Well, I don’t know if it’s prose or poetry, but it’s pretty damn good.” And when I got home I showed it to Carl (Hertzog) and he said, “Let’s print it!”

            Texas map enthusiasts will be interested in Lea’s observation in his preliminary notes to Randado: “The numberless wild mustang progeny of Randado stock caused cartographers of the early 1800s to mark the region WILD HORSE PRAIRIE.”


Sold. Hammer: $1,100.00; Price Realized: $1,347.50.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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