Dr. E.W. “Doc” Darilek was born and raised in Flatonia, TX just 55 miles away from Seguin, Texas, where he would settle down, work as a dentist, raise a family and nurture his pecan orchard. What started out as a hobby has now become a decently sized farm with a few cows, a smattering of fruit trees and over 2,500 pecan trees. Doc didn’t imagine that things would work out this way- he and his four brothers all graduated from dental school- practically the furthest thing from farming!
When Doc purchased a 540 acre piece of land on the Guadalupe river in Seguin in 1958, he made friends with a man named Hugo Pape who urged him to plant pecan trees. It was under Hugo’s mentorship that Doc planted seeds in five gallon buckets, later transferring them into the ground along the river on his property. Eventually after years of nurturing his pecan seedlings, Doc grafted them into the native varieties- Sioux, Caddo, Chocktaw, Barton, Desirable, Pawnee and more. He did this all the while managing the thousand existing native trees on his land.
Doc’s success was largely due to the mentorship he received from his friends Hugo Pape and Blueford Handcock. They passed on their knowledge of the importance of proper irrigation, adequate spacing between trees and how to prevent pests. He learned the best practices for taking care of his trees and knew how to guarantee their success, but he took it a step further by diversifying his crop. There are three to four varietals of pecans that are typically grown for production- pecans that are easy to crack open, provide the most pecan meat, and are generally preferred by consumers because they’re familiar and well known. Doc stepped outside of that realm and decided to graft 38 different varietals- this resulted in the preservation of these heirloom varietals that are rare and hard to find these days!
Doc was a pioneer in the pecan industry in Seguin and as he dug more into the business, he saw some really unique stories that were underrepresented in the town- one of them being the story of Cabeza de Vaca- a Spanish explorer said to be the first person to ever record the existence of pecans. Doc dug into the story and as his love for the pecan business grew, he decided he wanted to commemorate a monument to be displayed in the town where everyone could learn about their area’s rich history.
In 1962, Doc unveiled the world’s original largest pecan with a plaque to tell the story of Cabeza de Vaca and his time on the “River of Nuts”, now known as the Guadalupe River. The Texas Pecan Growers Association honored both Doc Darilek and Hugo Pape, for their work in helping further the pecan industry. To this day, nearly 55 years later, the constructed pecan sits on the north side of the Guadalupe County Courthouse. Sure, there have been replicas made larger than Doc’s, but Doc and the whole Darilek family can rest well assured knowing they have the original world’s largest pecan.
Doc passed away in 1991, leaving the orchard to be cared for by his son-in-law, Gary Rainwater and his grandson, Mark Walls. Gary still cares for the pecan orchard to this day and Mark has taken over the business side of the orchard- reinventing their name as 38 Pecans, in honor of Doc’s 38 varietals. Gary and Mark hope to carry on Doc’s legacy and keep his spirit alive through carrying on his vision, bringing the best Texas pecans to the public.