An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

Contact Information
Friends of The Daily Texan, Inc.
1401 Lavaca St
Austin, TX 78701

[email protected]

Texan Editorial Adviser Bob Hilburn and his cousin Larry McMurtry

Editor’s Note: Those who worked at The Daily Texan on the University of Texas campus in the 1960s, 70s and 80s remember  “Mr. Hilburn.“ He was the editorial adviser to the student paper, and a renowned journalist himself before returning to Austin to work with the students. Bob Hilburn was also the cousin of  author Larry McMurtry. Bob never mentioned that to Texan staffers. But when Hilburn was inducted into the Friends of The Daily Texan Hall of Fame in 2018 the photo with this article came from his wife Jeanette, and his daughter Sidney Hilburn, who provided this info: “The older man is my father’s beloved Uncle Jeff, a true cowboy. The younger one was my father at about the age of 4 or 5. They were very close. Uncle Jeff got my father his first horse, Snigglefritz, at about that time.”

The below info is from Carol McMurtry Fowler, via friend Janie Lee Paleschic

Remembering Larry McMurtry

Larry McMurtry was my first cousin.

He was an odd boy, never fit into the machismo culture of the nine McMurtry boys, as the brothers were called.

All were ranchers, hell for stout (cowboy term for super strong). These were the uncles. They started poor, worked well into their 80s and all died if not rich, then very well fixed.

Larry and I were never friends. Early on we competed for the adulation of our uncles. Not an easy job.

Larry’s father, Jeff, was the youngest son who stayed on our grandparents’ ranch, near Wichita Falls. A heat hell hole even by Texas standards. Never really did much to impress and was a sour puss to boots. He and I traded barbs as soon as I learned to talk.

Bob Hilburn, right, and Uncle Jeff

As kids I thought Larry a big sissy. He suffered badly from bronchial and breathing woes and allergies that befell me later. Of course I did not understand his ailments, judging him harshly for staying inside the ranch house of our grandparents.

I was a dedicated tomboy. First horse at three, then came a pony and an evil burro named Teddy. These animals lived to throw me into cactus patches.

With great success. I think Mother used up three sets of tweezers pulling thorns out of me while we had the ranch in NM.

But it was our grandparents ranch, the home place, where I earned stars for being obnoxious and showing up Larry. The longer he stayed inside the house the harder I excelled. On horses, off horses, climbing corral fences and windmills, learning to rope.

Our uncle Roy, top horseman and horse wrangler for the old JA ranch, told my daddy I had “one hell of a fine seat.” Translates into I sat a horse very well. I bugged Larry with those words.

He never fought back. Probably never considered me worthy.

Larry was not cowboy material, but he lavishly utilized the uncles as characters in “Lonesome Dove.”

Gus was Uncle John, the laughing brother. I recognized Jim, Roy, Joe and my Daddy who made up Captain Call: hardheaded, righteous Victorians, short on humor, incredible horsemen who rode with gentle bits and loose reins. They were then, and now, the strongest men I ever knew, each a philosopher and wonderful story tellers.

The uncles missed the famed range wars, the cattle drives were pretty much history by mid 1890s. But they were close to the men who made those trips. I grew up hearing the stories. I found them both amazing and impossible to comprehend. Not sure if Larry did. He wrote about them, but I never felt his writing ever showed much respect for them.

Larry was a lose limbed and scrawny boy. I never saw him on a horse. But I am certain Uncle Jeff got plenty of work out of him. I was taught to do everything at the ranch but brand, which included helping build barbed wire fence.

I look back with a modicum of regret that Larry and I never talked at family reunions, usually hosted by Uncle John, which included roasted buffalo, tougher on the teeth than barbed wire. Larry and I had more in common than I knew. We were both nerds, hugely bookish types who preferred the written to the spoken word.

I was a newspaper reporter and book editor when “Horseman Pass By,”    (words that are inscribed on Yeats tombstone) was published. I reviewed the book and wrote Larry a congratulatory note.

His one-word response: ”Really?”