About Robert’s Story

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.

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Also by Stephen G. Michaud

“A bizarre story―full of intrigue and machinations over a half-billion dollar fortune with a cast of characters that might have been invented by Balzac.”

Robert Lindsey,
Author of The Falcon and the Snowman

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About “If You Love Me, You Will Do My Will”

This is a story of a vast cattle and oil fortune left hanging by the thread of a widow’s dying wish; a story of prodigious egos and ambitions competing for the fortune before the widow was even buried; a story about a legal battle that has lasted a quarter-century and has swept like a range fire from dusty cow-town courtrooms to the marble halls of the Vatican, pitting captains of industry against princes of the Church. And if it had happened anywhere other than Texas, you probably wouldn’t believe a word of it.

Sarita Kenedy East was the aging, melancholy mistress of a cattle kingdom as big as Rhode Island: La Parra, 400,000 acres of South Texas rangeland next door to the fabled King Ranch. She was the last Kenedy. And although she cherished the huge ranch founded by her grandfather, her life there oppressed her. Mrs. East’s only solace was in her memories, her abiding Catholic faith, and her nightly tumblers of scotch.

In 1948 Sarita received a surprise caller, a young and charismatic Trappist monk, Brother Leo―the alleged Svengali of this saga―who had been sent out from his monastery in New England to scout potential sites for new Trappist monasteries…and to find rich Catholic donors to pay for them. In time he discovered what Sarita herself did not know, that under her lands lay an ocean of oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Brother Leo had a gift for persuasion. He became the lonely widow’s spiritual counselor, and before she died she made him trustee of a charitable foundation that he says was meant to help the poor of Latin America. But Brother Leo ran into some formidable opposition: Sarita’s vengeful relatives in Texas, Fortune 500 industrialist J. Peter Grace, and the Catholic Church itself all had other plans for the giant estate.

“If You Love Me You Will Do My Will,” based upon two decades of investigative reporting and interviews with almost every major character, details this extravagant drama, an epic even by Texas standards.