Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ranger Jim’s Ramblings for August.

Where has the summer gone? Seems like only yesterday it was Memorial Day, and now Labor Day is less than a month away. Been an exceptionally hot, rainy, and buggy summer in my neck of the woods, so Yank and I haven’t been hitting the trails as often as we’d like. This month’s subject: The Texas Rangers - Good or Bad? For probably close to the first century of their existence, the Texas Rangers were considered an organization of men fighting for the common good, defending the people of Texas from their enemies, namely outlaws, Indians, and quite often Mexican raiders. Of course, what was overlooked was how often the Rangers were fighting people for no reason other than the color of their skin or their ethnic backgrounds. This tendency became more pronounced as the 20th century approached, and reached its apex during the period of the early 1900s through World War I, when the people of the southwestern United States, particularly those living in close proximity to the Rio Grande and the Mexican border, feared an invasion of Mexican and German troops. While there was at least a bit of cause for this fear, it led to many reprehensible acts against Texans of Mexican descent. This tendency to suspect all Mexicans or Texans of Mexican ancestry would only slowly fade away, and in some cases it still exists. Then, starting in the 1960s, the revisionist historians started to rewrite the history of the Rangers. In their view the organization was nothing but a bunch of white thugs who spent their lives oppressing minorities, basically anyone who wasn’t a white Anglo, and Protestant to boot. These histories conveniently overlook the fact that right from the start there were Hispanic, Native American, and Roman Catholic and even Jewish Texas Rangers, who came from many countries and ethnic backgrounds. In fact, Kleberg County is named after one of the first Jewish Rangers. Just like the revisionists twisted the history of the Native American Indians to make them appear as if all Native Americans were peace-loving, hippie flower children communing with nature and living in peace and harmony with all the tribes and the land, despite the fact many Native American tribes were warrior societies, they painted the Rangers with a broad and black brush. The truth, of course, as it always is, is somewhere in the middle. The history of the Texas Rangers is chock-full of brave men who sacrificed much, including in many cases their lives, to help make the Lone Star State safe for settlers. Without the Rangers settlement of Texas would have taken place much more slowly. On the other hand, the history of the Rangers also includes many episodes and incidents that were tragic, disgraceful, and inexcusable. These cannot be ignored in any serious study of the Texas Rangers.

In 1935, Walter Prescott Webb wrote what was to be considered the definitive history of the Rangers. With the Rangers having just come under the jurisdiction of the newly formed Texas Department of Public Safety, it was fully expected the Rangers would be dissolved. However, as happened many times, the reports of the Rangers demise proved to be premature. Webb’s history, while thorough, unfortunately reflected the prejudices of the Rangers at the time, and Webb too often took them at their word, to the ignoring of any other viewpoint. Their prejudices against Mexicans and blacks are apparent throughout the book. Later, Webb himself admitted that. When the Rangers were still going strong in the 1960s, Webb planned to write a new and revised history, but died before he could start the project.
 Over the next few months, I’ll be discussing some of the more interesting events in the history of the Texas Rangers, both good and bad. In my September posting, I’ll be talking about one of the sorriest episodes in their history, the El Paso Salt War. This was a fight which involved intrigue, deceit, and corruption, by both Mexicans and Anglos, including a disgraced, defrocked priest and a ruthless Anglo businessman. To close, here’s this month’s surprising horse fact. One of the hardiest breeds used in the frontier West was America’s first true breed, developed right here in New England from one stallion named Figure. The breed is the Morgan, which was named after Figure’s owner Justin Morgan. Small, hardy, gentle, and intelligent, the Morgan was well suited to the harsh life of the frontier West. Quite often it would be a team of Morgans pulling a stagecoach. Until September, stay in the saddle and keep those guns loaded. 

“Ranger” Jim

West of the Big River: The Ranger by James J. Griffin

           nook    Smashwords


  1. Jim, I'm looking forward to your series about the Texas Rangers -- particularly next month's post about the San Elizario salinero revolt. If I'm not mistaken, that debacle still represents the only time in history when a contingent of Rangers surrendered. No wonder the episode isn't well known! :-D

  2. Jim. Good post. Good to know about the Rangers. I have one ranger character (not yet used in a full-blown novel). His name is Rothwell Havelock and he married a Western Cherokee. Looking forward to your posts to help me fill this character out.


  3. Yeah, that Salt War incident was pretty well kept suppressed for a long time. And you are correct about it being the only time a contingent of Rangers surrendered, at least in Texas. There were some who had to give themselves up during the Mexican war, but they were in Mexico, and technically fighting as members of the United States Army... although the Rangers far outfought the Army regulars.

    Jim Griffin

  4. And then there were the Texas Republic era Rangers, including Bigfoot Wallace, of the Mier expedition, captured and forced to participate in the infamous black bean lottery after their unsuccessful invasion of Mexico. I agree with you, Jim, true history usually lies in the middle. I look forward to the rest of your series!

  5. I loved this post. I wish more people would try to balance and get the facts to the best of their ability before saying something is true. Thank you and looking forward to future posts. Doris