In the spirit of Texas: Crouch endowment honors character, skill

Hondo Crouch was a father and a grandfather, a rancher and a dreamer.

Hondo grew into all those personalities, because he was a swimmer. Because he first taught himself how to swim.

Growing up in the early 1900s in a dry west Texas town, Hondo laid on a piano bench and mimicked the strokes from a mail-order how-to manual. He relied on grace more than technique, which allowed him to become an All-American and one of the first University of Texas individual Southwest Conference champions while representing the Longhorns from 1935-41.

Swimming inspired Hondo Crouch's imagination and determination – two traits that ultimately defined his life. His family swimming legacy at The University of Texas lives on through the Hondo Crouch Men's Swimming and Diving Endowment.

"There's nothing like the pride of being a Texas swimmer," said Kit Patterson, Hondo's grandson
who also swam for Texas under championship coach Eddie Reese. "I cannot think of anything else on the planet you could be more proud to be part of than the UT swim team.
That team is your family on campus."

Hondo passed away in 1976 when Kit was still a grade-schooler, and Hondo did not witness Kit's growth into a record-setting swimmer at San Antonio's Churchill High School, a renowned powerhouse program. Yet Becky Patterson, Hondo's oldest daughter and Kit's mother, perceived the similarities in the water between Hondo and her boys.

"Hondo and his teammates were some of the ones who invented the flip turn, so it was a very different style back then," Becky said. "He was a beautiful swimmer, and I think that carried over to this uncanny talent the boys had."

Regardless of the discipline or decade, the qualities required of a swimmer are essentially the same. It's a grueling sport with little glory. Swimming necessitates a mindset focused on work ethic and delayed gratification.

Hondo's penchant for performance camouflaged that inner drive. He created a true Texas persona, wearing boots and a cowboy hat on the pool deck. And in his campus dorm room, Hondo greeted his freshman roommate, a native New Yorker, by reaching up with curled toes, grabbing his drying beef jerky from the ceiling and offering a piece to his new friend.

"What Hondo brought to swimming was his character and his humor, as well as his skill," said Cris Graham, Hondo's youngest daughter. "His sense of humor, we saw it as a gift, but to him it was hard. He was expected to perform, and he had to psych himself up for that. With swimming, he could jump in the water and forget."

Among Texans especially, Hondo is famous -- perhaps infamous. He was a humorist, rancher, showman and naturalist. He turned the Texas intersection of Luckenbach into a western destination for singers and songwriters wanting to escape the rush of Nashville.

A combination of Will Rogers and Peter Pan is how his grandson Kit describes Hondo.

"His business card said, 'Hondo Crouch, Imagineer,'" Cris recalled. "That may have been even before Disney."
All the while, Hondo remained a swimmer. He taught swimming throughout his adult life in and around Fredericksburg, near the family ranch.

"Swim camps allocate kids in skill-level groups. Maybe they're called the sharks and the minnows, but with Hondo, you were either a rutabaga or a pineapple. A fruit or a nut or something – which is better than the other?" Kit said. "It was just to keep the kids from one-upping each other. That goes hand-in-hand with his ability to un-stuff people's shirts if they thought they were a little more of a somebody."

Comedy also concealed Hondo's competitive nature that ultimately raised his kids into champions.

"We were competitive kids. We just didn't realize we were," Cris said. "Everything was timed. Everything was an activity. We'd ride in the back of the pickup truck and see who could pick up the most bottles from the road. He built obstacle courses for us in the pasture."

Hondo's family remains competitive, and Hondo's swimming tradition is kept alive by his nine-year-old great granddaughter, Alice Welder, who has taken up the sport with the same passion that he displayed. It's this competitive spirit that also earmarks their desire to establish an endowment to preserve and promote the historic men's swimming and diving legacy at Texas.

"We're moving ahead in the future, but the past defines and shapes that," Kit said. "You have to know where you came from so you know where you're going and why you want to go there."

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For more information about the Hondo Crouch Men's Swimming and Diving Endowment, please reach out to Kristin Gobberg at or call (512) 471-0112.

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