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Tired, disoriented, and confused, Robert East was no match for the wolves when they arrived.
Robert East loved his older brother, Tom, but always resented Tom’s favored role in the family cattle business based at their San Antonio Viejo ranch near Hebbronville, Texas, just north of the Rio Grande.
Tom was a figure to be reckoned with, a cattleman with ambitions to supplant their Uncle Bob Kleberg, head of the enormous King Ranch, as the leading cattle raiser in Texas. Robert, by contrast, was a cowboy who cared little for what occurred beyond the San Antonio Viejo’s main gate. Handsome and ornery, with no head for business, he nevertheless chafed in his brother’s shadow until 1984, when Tom died young of a heart attack, just as their father, Tom East, Sr., had 40 years earlier.
Suddenly Robert was the new and untested patrón of 250,000 acres of East Family ranchland—and the majority owner of the ocean of natural gas pooled beneath East rangeland. It was his turn to issue the orders.
Robert’s contentious nature drove the Easts into bitter intra-family legal hostilities that persisted for a decade. He lost his beloved sister, Lica, to cancer, and as old age advanced, he found himself alone and isolated on a remote ranch with only an unreliable foreman and a scattering of vaqueros and other workers for company.
The physical wear and tear from decades of working cattle on horseback began to show. Robert’s knees gave out, and he developed serious cardiovascular problems. His doctors prescribed pain pills, sedatives, and medications for his chronic depression.
In 2000, drillers hit the most productive gas well in the U.S, if not the world, on East property, making the rich old man suddenly and spectacularly wealthy beyond his comprehension.
Soon enough the wolves began to circle, and Robert’s grotesque final days were at hand.