We’d like to share with you today a love story of sorts … the love of a generous couple for each other, the love they had for their community and country, a love-filled promise from one friend to another, and the love they all have for their home and ranch. The couple is Leo and Pinky Batto and the account of this story was given to us by Mrs. Barbara Miles, all of Leon County.
Keeping a Promise
Shortly after World War II ended Leo Batto, a native of Bandera, met Ben Beene, who had re-located to Bandera from Leon County. When Mr. Batto accompanied Mr. Beene back to the Jewett area, he was amazed at the abundance of grassy pastureland and decided it was the perfect place to make a home for himself and his new bride. As a veteran, he was able to purchase property six miles southwest of Jewett from the Barkley family out of the Underwood and Wilkerson surveys with assistance from the GI Bill. After moving his cattle from the Hill country to Central Texas and while making improvements to the nearly 700 acres, the Battos lived in several temporary residences, one of them being a log corn crib original to the property. They built their home in 1965. Mr. Batto worked at the Buffalo sale barn, but he was never happier than when he was home on his ranch with his dogs.
After working at the State Bank of Jewett and Hilltop Lakes Resort in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mrs. Batto, known as Pinky to her friends, went to work in the Leon County Clerk’s office. During her years of service, Pinky became an unofficial authority on Leon County history, especially their ranch, which she researched extensively, piecing together its history. She learned that remains of a rock formation and depression referred to as “the Indian bowl” is located near the two miles of Brushy Creek that traverses the ranch. Native tribes were said to have used it to water horses and draw water for their camps. Numerous arrowheads have been excavated from the area. While exploring their property, the Battos also discovered remains of slave quarters farther down the creek bank. In the 1930s and 40s, the fertile creek bottom yielded an abundant cotton crop, which was hauled to the gin in Jewett.
During Jim Miles’ service as Leon County Commissioner for Precinct #3 (1992-2000), he and his wife, Barbara developed a very close and loving relationship with the Battos. Mr. Batto and Mr. Miles partnered in a cattle operation, with Mr. Miles taking over some of the aspects of ranch management that Mr. Batto was no longer able to perform. In the mid-nineties, Mrs. Batto was diagnosed with late stage cervical cancer. Having no other family to see to their needs, the Miles’ cared for Mrs. Batto until her death in 1999. During Pinky’s last days, she asked the Miles’ to take care of her beloved Leo, and their ranch; she never wanted it to suffer the fate that so many other large properties in the county had—being cut up and sold off piece by piece to “weekenders.” She knew that as a Leon County native, Jim understood the importance of the land, of their love of it. Pinky also wanted Jim to promise that she and Leo be buried in the old orchard near their home and that the Miles’ assume stewardship of the ranch—the place the Bandera natives called home for more than 50 years—and to preserve it in its entirety. Shortly before Leo’s death in 2006, the Miles’ built their home just west of the Batto home on what is now known as the It’ll Do Ranch.
Mr. and Mrs. Miles, who have been married since 1982, operate a cattle ranch and sell Angus Plus bulls. Several rescue animals call the ranch home as well, including a buffalo bison (“Bob”), a thoroughbred retired from the TAMU polo team (“Chi-Chi”), and a donkey (“Ruthie”). More than 25 species of birds live here. Though some were lost in the drought of 2011, there are several Water Oaks here that date back several centuries and measure more than 4 ft. through; some have a circumference of 18 ft.
Prior to their moving to their current residence, the Miles’ lived on Hwy 79, near Leon School. When a high-speed rail project proposed in 1992 threatened to destroy their home, they joined the grassroots movement that eventually derailed the project. They are determined to fight this latest threat as well, which is proposed to effectively cut their ranch in half, destroying years of work and more than a century and a half of history. Mrs. Miles, who directs the Jewett Historical Museum, also sees this as a threat to the local economy and area tourism, two things that small towns count on for survival.
The Miles’ will do what it takes to honor the Batto’s memory: the ranch will never be voluntarily split up and sold off as long as the Miles family owns it.