Anyone familiar with my books might think I have a thing for Texas Rangers, and they be would right. The Texas Rangers are the oldest law enforcement agency and will celebrate their bicentennial in two years. Stephen F. Austin organized the first group of 10 Texas Rangers back in 1823.
Those early Rangers had no formal law enforcement training, used their own horses and weapons, and faced some of the deadliest outlaws alone. Some even worked without pay. It was a hard job, requiring countless hours in the saddle and endless nights beneath the stars.
Some modern historians take issue with the Rangers’ “brutal force,” but times were tough and the stakes high. Historical events are often subjected to differing interpretations when viewed from modern times.
Most agree, however, that many Texas Rangers made their mark in Western history. Too many, in fact, to name here. But here are a few:
Counted as one of the most fearless men in Western history, he is credited with killing more than 60 outlaws. In the course of his work, he sustained 17 wounds and had been left for dead four times. He retired in 1932 but, even then, no outlaw was safe. Two years after his retirement, he retained a commission as Special Investigator in the case of Bonnie and Clyde. His work ended their deadly crime spree and resulted in their deaths.
Considered by some to be the greatest captains in Texas Ranger history, McDonald’s distractors considered him an irresponsible lawman who precipitated violence and sought publicity. Most, however, agreed that he was “a man who would charge hell with a bucket of water.”
“No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that’s in the right and keeps on a-comin’,” was his motto. Upon being sent to Texas to prevent a prizefight, he was asked by the sheriff where the other rangers were. According to legend, this was when the phrase “One riot, one Ranger,” was coined.
Texas Ranger Armstrong didn’t let anything get in the way of catching his man, not even a bullet wound to his leg. On assignment to capture notorious criminal John Wesley Hardin, Armstrong cornered the outlaw on a train. Limping aboard, Armstrong switched his cane to his left hand and drew out his gun. (Now that’s something you don’t see in movies.)
He shot and killed one of Hardin’s gang members, knocked Hardin unconscious, and disarmed the other three outlaws. Once he had everything control, the other law enforcers filed onto the train to take the men into custody.
John “Rip” Ford
Ford couldn’t seem to make up his mind what profession he wanted to pursue. He was a lawyer, doctor, surveyor, newspaper editor, teacher, historian, playwright, printer, mayor, sheriff, chief of police, city marshal, and state and national senator. But he’s most remembered as a Texas Ranger.
He was nicknamed Rip because of his habit of writing the words “Rest in peace” next to the names on the company’s casualty list, and for leading his men into successful battles.
Ira joined the Rangers in 1878 and played a central role in the Fence-Cutting Wars. Barbed wire put an end to the once-open range. Disgruntled cowboys, hustlers, and outlaws became fence clippers. Attempts to stop the wire cutters failed until Ira came up with a solution: dynamite.
He rigged the wires so if the one on top was cut, it would trigger an explosion. Word quickly spread that bombs were planted under the fence lines, effectively ending the “war.”
So what is your favorite type of western hero?
Two of my Texas Ranger stories