Hondo Crouch, the Legendary Swimming Cowboy Who Founded Luckenbach

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Hondo Crouch is a legend among Texas legends. Primarily known as the founder of Luckenbach, the little settlement popularized through Waylon Jennings’s and Willie Nelson’s popular song, it is difficult to determine where the man ends and the myth begins. Before all of this, he was known as “The Swimming Cowboy.”


What most know about Crouch is that he was a rancher, a writer, and humorist. He bought Luckenbach as a means of preserving a particular way of life that was near and dear to his heart. Upset with commercialization in Fredericksburg that was spreading throughout Gillespie County, crouch established Luckenbach as a humorous protest. You can read more about it here.


What many don’t know about Hondo is that he was a world-class swimmer when he was a younger man.


John Russell Crouch, All-American

Hondo Crouch, the Swimming Cowboy Who Founded Luckenbach

Photo: @tread1998 via Twenty20

Before he was known as the legendary Hondo, Crouch was a standout high school athlete. The moniker “Hondo” paid homage to the Texas desert town where Crouch was born and raised. He taught himself to swim, and by the time he was a senior in high school, he was all but unbeatable in the pool. At the Texas State Swim championships in 1934, Crouch won every event he entered, which gained the attention of University of Texas Coach Tex Robertson. As a member of the University of Texas swim team, Crouch swam on the medley relay-team and earned All-American honors.


Reportedly, Crouch would show up to swim meets with his guitar, cowboy boots, and cowboy hat. He would stay this way until it was time to swim, which earned him the nickname “The Swimming Cowboy.”


Hondo, The Coach

Hondo Crouch, the Swimming Cowboy Who Founded Luckenbach

Photo: @wanaktek via Twenty20

After his time at The University of Texas, Crouch moved to Fredericksburg and established several swim camps over the years. Combining his love for swimming with his heart for service, Crouch taught hundreds of Hill Country kids how to swim.


One of Crouch’s groups of students even put on a swimming exhibition for the opening of Fredericksburg’s first municipal pool. When asked about his love of the sport, Crouch famously said, “This is swimming. You can’t find a better sport to save your life.”