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Treasure Hunting on Horseback – The Hill Country Way

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Tony Maples Photography


Treasure Hunting on Horseback – The Hill Country Way

By Marcy Stellfox

Many horseback riders dream of a day they can wander uninterrupted over rolling hills, under blue skies and through rustic wilderness atop their trusty steed. However, it is increasingly difficult to find wide-open spaces to do just that. Parrie Haynes Equestrian Center, a 2,000-acre gem located 30 minutes southwest of Killeen, materializes from the area ranch land like a horseback rider’s oasis.

Thick Hill Country forest complete with trickling creeks gives way to wide-open fields and finally heavily treed shady banks along the Lampasas River. It is not just horseback riders that will find this place a treasure. Hikers, bicyclists and Hill Country history buffs will not want to miss the wonders of the ranch either.

Who the Heck Is Parrie Haynes?

Treasure Hunting on Horseback – The Hill Country Way
Photo: Parrie Haynes Equestrian Center

Part of the magic of the place lies in its history. Paralee “Parrie” McBryde Haynes married Allen Haynes in 1895. With nothing but a pony named Bogus between them, they worked together as tenant farmers. Scrimping and saving every penny, they quietly acquired land sometimes at the misfortune of others. During the 1930s, share croppers fleeing west after the depression worked the Haynes property growing cotton. Though Allen Haynes eventually went into the banking business rising to president of First National Bank of Killeen, he continued to accumulate property and employ sharecroppers to work it. In time, the ranch morphed from an agricultural ranch into a cattle ranch. Haynes built a business relationship with nearby Army base, Fort Hood, buying property with condemned buildings repurposing the wood to build the couple’s first house on the ranch.

Allen and Parrie both loved kids, but never had any of their own. Allen died in 1953, leaving Parrie behind with more than 8,000 acres of ranch property. Parrie continued to live frugally, allowing herself just one luxury – a black and white television – once her health began to fail. Parrie died in 1957. She left half of her ranch to her sister, but donated the rest to the orphans of Texas. Today, the original 4,500- acre donated portion is split into two parts. One half operates as a camp for at risk youth. The other half belongs to the equestrian center, and is leased by Ona and Charlie Trubee, who act as caretakers and managers.

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