September 23, 2010
The author with Col. Quiros on a Shipp-ranch hunt in the mid-1970s. From left: Col. Quiros, the author, Walter Gleason (then-president of Colt), Bill Blankenship, and Skeeter Skelton.
My suspicions are that it doesn't happen to many people in their lifetimes, and if so, perhaps only once. In my case good fortune has permitted me to know more than one hero during my life, and I'm particularly fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend quality time with them.
The first time I met Colonel Evan B. Quiros, I was engulfed by several different feelings — admiration and vast respect for him, appreciation for his warm South Texas humor, and maybe a little fear. None of those feelings ever dissipated in me, even after 40 years. It was during the latter part of the 1960s that my dad met Col. Quiros. My dad was a special agent narcotics investigator for the U.S. Customs Service in Laredo, Texas. He'd met the Colonel someplace in Laredo — a gunshop as I recall — and they immediately took a liking to each other.
Col. Quiros and his family ranched in Webb County, Texas, and his outfit was rich with game. The Colonel was also a firearms aficionado to the maximum degree. He loved all sorts of guns, handloading, and hunting, which was one of the many reasons he and my old man got along so well. On top of the firearms and hunting thing, they both also had an astute ability to spot charismatic characteristics in a person, and they both took advantage of it.
I'm not sure how long Dad and Col. Quiros were friends before I was allowed on the Shipp, Quiros's beautiful Webb County ranch, but when it finally happened I was surely taken by it. We spent a lot of time on the Shipp, shooting, hunting, and generally knocking around. Col. Quiros hosted numerous get-togethers at the Shipp, which included several fascinating characters Dad had known and introduced to the Colonel. Among them were Colonel Charles Askins, master gunsmith Jimmy Clark, U.S. Customs Agent Jack Compton, and champion pistol shot Bill Blankenship, along with many other gun writers and gun industry bigwigs. Fortunately, I was invited to many of these pachangas. The stories told during them would fill volumes. Nights in front of the Shipp's mighty fireplace were more educational than any university. The tales flowed freely. After my dad passed on in 1988, the pachangas continued with the old gang.
As I grew older, my informal education continued at the Shipp, and over the years I learned more about the captivating Col. Quiros. I had always had many questions about the Colonel's life, but was too shy to ask him directly. As time passed it became evident to me that much of Col. Quiros's personality had been created through the intriguing events of his life.
Born in New York, New York, on the 5th of May, 1918 (the Colonel and all of Mexico celebrated his birthday every year), Evan Belisario Quiros was destined to live a long, fulfilling life. At the age of 14, his mother and father moved the family to Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. It was during the Great Depression, and Evan was given many responsibilities during this time, including moving the family's belongings to Mexico. Once in Mexico, Evan's father, Jose Belisario Antonio Quiros, from Spain, wanted Evan to perfect his skills in the Spanish language. Evan was sent to live with a priest who traveled to multiple villages around Monterrey. Part of Evan's responsibilities while with the priest was to harvest game using an old 1917 Enfield rifle his dad had set him up with. He took to the task with great reverence. Not only did he perfect his Spanish, he also developed an insatiable and lifelong interest in guns and hunting.
The Quiros family later left Monterrey, moving to the Texas bordertown of Laredo, in Webb County. Evan joined the United States Army in August of 1941, completed officer candidate's school, and quickly earned his officer's rank. He was deployed to Africa, where he participated in the campaign raging there. He was later reassigned to Puerto Rico, where he was second in command of training for the infantry force scheduled to make an invasion of Japan. He was enroute to Japan when the war ended. Quiros retired from the Army in 1947 as a Lt. Colonel, after receiving a number of decorations. He was just 27 years old.
After entering the Army in 1941, Evan had met and married the beautiful Mary Elizabeth Walker, whose family ranched in Webb County. After leaving the Army, the Quiroses moved back to Laredo, and Evan was asked to work for his father-in-law, J.O. Walker. This was a move that none of the family would ever regret. The Colonel was to oversee the accounting and oil and gas leasing for the ranches. Along with his two brothers-in-law, he was able to establish the esteemed ranching operation known as Vaquillas Cattle Company.
It is widely known among ranchers who are also involved in the oil and gas business that large oil companies can have a tendency to take advantage of their ranching "partners." Not the case with Col. Quiros, however. It turned out that the Colonel possessed an uncanny skill when it came to negotiating with big oil. It was a skill that he practiced and perfected, resulting in mammoth gains for the family business and a great deal of heartache for big oil companies. When the Colonel was at the negotiating table, oil companies quivered.
During his hard work with the family ranching business, the Colonel also found time for his passions, guns and hunting. He assembled a fabulous collection of firearms of all kinds, along with a vast supply of reloading dies and equipment. He made many hunting expeditions to various places in the world, including many African safaris, during which he harvested a fine collection of species.
I was very fortunate to have hunted with Col. Quiros on the Shipp over the years. I shot my first buck there, along with javelina, quail, and varmints of all sorts. I'll always remember the Colonel and his constant companion, an 8-inch S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum in a fine belt and holster outfit--he could shoot it, too.
Our last hunt on the Shipp was a few years ago. It was a fine time, and it brought back many old memories of my younger days running around the Shipp.
The Colonel passed away on December 13, 2009. He was buried with full military honors in his beloved Laredo. It was a cool, misty morning, and after the service the clouds burned off and the day turned into one of those glorious South Texas winter days.
I wish I'd had the chance to hear the Colonel's booming voice and great humor just once more. Webb County lost a legend, and many people lost a hero.