Texas Rangers

I have written about the head of the Rangers who informed me that he had taken care of and protected me all of my life. 

Some of the other Rangers that I have known just seemed bigger than life. There is a popular saying about the rangers, that the local authorities call Austin and urgently appeal for help because of a huge riot that is happening. Austin sends one ranger. The local authorities are just shocked, since they were expecting a big contingent of lawmen. Then the Ranger is asked why more lawmen were not sent. He says……”Well, there is only one riot”.

But I actually knew and spent some great times with the lawman who helped the Texas Ranger from which that saying started. It really happened. He was one big, tough dude. Some of these old lawmen have an authority about them that you can just sense and feel. 

My lawman friend was never more that a Deputy Sheriff for Dallas County, but he was so useful to the Texas Rangers that he was rather adopted by them. They used him on so many of their operations across Texas. 

This fellow was still stationed in Dallas when Dallas had its one and only huge race riot. It had been going on for many days. There was all manner of destruction. Several people had been killed. The Dallas police were just at a stand-off from all that was going on along Hall Street. Hall Street was the center of the riot. Gunfire was coming from the buildings along it, and the Dallas Police were not about to go in there. 

The Dallas authorities wired Austin for help from the Texas Rangers. They sent one ranger and he immediately conscripted my friend as his partner. When the Ranger got to Dallas, the Dallas authorities expressed their dismay that many more should have been sent. That is when the Ranger who was standing beside my friend said: “Well, it is only one riot.” I got my friend to tell me exactly what he did. 

He and the Ranger quickly saw that everything about the disturbance was centered along Hall Street. In those days there was no TV, but everyone religiously listened to the radio. He said that he went down to the local radio station (WFAA) and asked to make a special broadcast. He went on the air and said that he and the Ranger were going to walk down the length of Hall street tomorrow at noon. He said that: “if any shots were fired at them from a building, they were going to set that building on fire, and that they were going to kill every single man and woman that come out of that building.” 

Sharply at noon the next day, they put their shotguns on their hips and walked the entire length of Hall Street. No shots were fired and the riot was over. 

It is the custom in Texas that when a prominent law man retires, he is appointed as U.S. Marshal for most of the rest of his life. This happened to my friend. 

When Lyndon Johnson got his Great Society Program passed by Congress, the anti-discrimination laws were good things, but there was an immediate over-reaction to them. For a short time, a few very aggressive blacks thought that they could just get away with anything and no one would touch them. It was at this very time that a criminal case was scheduled in the Court House in downtown Dallas. 

A group bragged that they were going to storm the Court House and stop this trial. At this “interesting political time” the Dallas Police were reluctant to interfere with this group, but they knew that they should not allow a criminal trial to be stopped by a mob. Their solution………to call out my lawman friend who was now a US Marshall in retirement. He agreed to come down to the Court House and “keep order”. 

He showed-up with his badge pinned prominently on his khaki uniform and took his station at the court room door. Like I mentioned, some of these old lawmen just have a real authority about them. You can tell that they are just “not going to be moved”. The mob showed-up also. But when this big old lawman with his innate authority said to the leader of the mob: “Son, you just stand over there!”. The mob did not set one foot into that court room. 

However, there was one story that he refused to talk about, no matter how much we implored him too. Bonnie and Clyde were considered rather romantic figures by the public until they shot two Texas Highway Patrolmen to death just northwest of Dallas. It turned out that one of those highway patrolmen was this lawman’s best friend. He took it very personal. He swore and oath that he would not eat another bite of food until he shot both Bonnie and Clyde to death. 

He was only 29 years old at the time, but he found out that the lawman, Frank Hamer, who was a former Texas Ranger, was planning to ambush the couple on a back road near the town of Sailes at Bienville Parish, Louisiana. The Methvin family who lived near there had been taking care of the outlaws for nearly a year. 

My friend grabbed his 1918 Browning Automatic Rifle and headed straight to Louisiana. That ambush was actually filmed with quite clear photographic results. I have seen the film. It shows the 1934 stolen Ford V-8 Deluxe climbing the hill to the ambush. It also shows my friend in his white hat standing up and getting in by far the most telling results with his powerful BAR. After his long “fast” he enjoyed a great Louisiana dinner that night. 

When my son, Mike, was about 14 years old, I decided to take him down to hunt ducks in the marshes along the bay north of Brownsville. We got all packed and headed south on a Thursday morning. We got as far as Kingsville (the home of the King Ranch), and it was getting late and time to spend the night. After a restful night in Kingsville at a local motel it was time for breakfast the next morning. 

When you are out traveling like that and needing breakfast in a town in Texas that you are really not acquainted with, there is one rule that will never fail you in getting the best breakfast. There will probably be 3 or 4 places in a town that size that are serving breakfast along the highway. What you want to do is pass them all by that have 2 or 3 cars in front and stop at the one with a large number of pickup trucks in front.  

In Kingsville we quickly found the eating place with a whole bunch of pickups in front. We went in and took our seat among all those farmers and ranchers. At one big table across from us was a whole group of rancher looking guys who were animatedly talking with this much older fellow with a most interesting dark brown leather coat on. His coat was obviously very well worn, but I had never seen a leather coat just like that. 

Just as we were finishing breakfast, the ranchers finished also and all walked out, leaving the old fellow with the leather coat just sitting there. You could just tell that the old fellow had much character about him just as his coat did. So, Mike and I decided to go over and sit down with him. 

It turned out that he was a retired Texas Ranger with a long, long career behind him. I am sure when he was younger, he would not talk much about his exploits, but now that he was really old and a young 14 year old was sitting there, Mike and I got him to relate some of his many exploits and stories. He had worked solo all along the Texas border, mostly protecting the ranches there from predator outlaws crossing the border. 

See, the Texas Rangers were started to protect the first settlers in north central Texas from the Comanches. When most of the Comanche raids were suppressed, the Rangers were disbanded soon after the Civil War. Then in the early days of the King Ranch, it was losing so very many cattle to the predators coming across from Mexico and stealing cattle and horses that Richard King persuaded the Governor of Texas to re-establish the Rangers in 1874.

Mike and I were enthralled with some of the stories that this old Ranger related to us. And I had actually read about one of them. 

See, my mother was a famous Bible teacher and speaker. When she would be going to speak to a large women’s group, she would leave me at the nice public library in Waco. It was in what had formerly been a large home made of fine white stone. 

In the really early days of Texas, they had designated Austin as the capital, but there was little structure across the state and no news papers. Those early settlers felt the need to write-up and record the significant things that were happening…….mostly Indian raids. They would write up the happenings, most times in great detail, and send them in to Austin. Some years later in the early days of the University of Texas, the school took all those hand-written tales and published them. For some reason, the library in Waco wound-up with the whole published compilation. I have never seen it anywhere else. 

So, I would spend hours and hours reading those tales while I was “parked” there in the library. I remember one where these three farmers were riding back home to Groesbeck and were caught by a small band of Comanches. One of them was shot by an arrow in the shoulder, one was not harmed, and the third was shot from his horse. The first two were able to escape, but when they looked back as they were racing away, their friend was totally surrounded by the Indians. 

In two days, a few settlers returned to the scene to recover his body. To their amazement, they found him sitting-up braced against a tree. He had been scalped by the Indians, but he was still quite alive. He had taken off his boot and put his sock over his head to keep the flies away from his exposed brain. They took him back to their community, and in the report that I was reading, they felt that he was for sure going to live. 

Anyway, when the old Ranger was telling Mike and me one of his stories, I realized that I had read every detail of it in the Waco Library. It seems that he was following a small herd of cattle that a group of Mexicans had stolen and were taking back to Mexico. He caught-up with them just as they were crossing back into Mexico, but what made the situation so complicated was that a contingent of Mexican Federales was right there at the river to escort the rustlers back into Mexico. 

They had about 3/4ths of the cattle across the river when the Ranger came upon them. He pulled out his Henry Rifle from its scabbard and (in Spanish) ordered them to: “Put those cattle back across the River” (Poner ese ganado de nuevo a través del río). The Captain of the Federales explained that: “You are only one man; we are many. We will kill you for sure”. The Ranger explained: “You may do that Captain, but I will get at least two of you bastards before I die. Who wants to be the first two bastards to die right now?” (“Puedes hacer eso, capitán, pero conseguiré al menos a dos de ustedes bastardos antes de que muera. ¿Quién quiere ser los dos primeros bastardos en morir ahora?”) 

The Federales put all those cattle back across the River and not a single shot was fired. 

At just that week, Mike was writing a report for his English class about the Texas Rangers. I don’t have tell you that he got an A+ on the report.

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