Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
About 100 years ago, there was a fight brewing in Dallas. Back then there was a different type of 9-1-1. When you needed to bring in the big guns, you knew who to call. So the Dallas mayor made his urgent plea for help and was waiting anxiously for the Calvary to ride into town, so to speak. As Captain Bill McDonald stepped off the train, the mayor was elated, but wondered out loud where the rest of ‘em were? "Hell! ain't I enough? There's only one prize-fight!" Those words have become synonymous with the Texas Rangers: One Riot, One Ranger.
This past weekend I had the honor and privilege to speak to over 300 Texas Rangers in Waco, Texas. I was like a kid in a candy shop! Some were not active Rangers anymore, but don’t think that made any real difference in their appearance or demeanor. Just like a Marine; once a Ranger, always a Ranger. There is no “ex-Ranger.”
As I mingled through the sea of starched shirts, jeans and cowboy hats, I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. You can always spot a Ranger. Long, lean and mean with a silver star made out of a Mexican sliver dollar and six guns. It was like I was talking to Gus McCray and Woodrow Call of Lonesome Dove. The legends of the greatest law enforcement agency ever known were alive and well. And me, a mere US Congressman, was getting to hang out with them!
The Texas Rangers can be traced back to the earliest days of Texas history, technically long before we were Texas. They are the oldest law enforcement organization on the North American continent with statewide jurisdiction. Stephen F. Austin got a few men together to protect the early settlers from Indians in the early 1800s. They got their name from their primary duty – patrol the range and keep the peace. For over 200 years, their purpose hasn’t really changed.
In 1835, at the beginning of the Texas Revolution, the Corps of Rangers was established; and in 1847, they officially became known as the Texas Rangers. Twenty-five men under the command of Silas M. Parker were designated to protect the frontier between the Brazos and the Trinity; ten men under Garrison Greenwood were assigned to the east side of the Trinity; and 25 men under D. B. Frazier to patrol between the Brazos and the Colorado. They did what even the U.S. Army could not do – protect the settlers from the Indians.
Through the years the Texas Rangers have increased and decreased in numbers and their charges have varied, but their duty has never waivered. During the Texas Revolution, while the Texians’ focus was on defeating Santa Anna’s army, the Rangers focused on protecting the settlements from Indians. During the Mexican-American War, they became know as the "Los Diablos Tejanos" – the Texas Devils, for their fierce protection of the frontier.
Their storied history can fill pages and pages; their duties and contributions are just too long to list. But, the famous words of Captain Bill McDonald have evolved into the Ranger creed and pretty much say it all: "No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on a-comin."
They have been the focus of legend, lore, radio shows, Hollywood movies and television dramas. One Ranger, and the outlaw who wronged him, even made their way to my courtroom. Back in 1988, the Lone Ranger flew into Houston Intercontinental Airport to speak at a charity for disabled children. When he left town a baggage handler stole his luggage. (Yes, the real Lone Ranger; some people know him as the actor Clayton Moore, but believers know he is actually the Lone Ranger.) Inside this bag were his twin ivory handled Colt .45s – might as well have been the Hope Diamond itself.
Well, when it came to sentencing I really had no choice in the matter. This was the Lone Ranger after all and he had been wronged. It was my duty as a Texan and a man of the law to punish this outlaw in the name of everything holy and sacred – 600 hours shoveling manure at the Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol stables.
And through it all, I refused to reveal the true identity of the Lone Ranger. I allowed him to remain “masked” and wear his white hat in the court – even over the loud objections of the defense attorney. I was not about to go down in history as the man who un-masked the Lone Ranger!
These lawmen have always had a certain swagger; a certain something about them that made them Rangers. Another legendary Ranger, who lived up to his nickname, “Rip” (Rest in Peace) Ford said this about the men that served under him: “A large proportion...were unmarried. A few of them drank intoxicating liquors. Still, it was a company of sober and brave men. They knew their duty and they did it. While in a town they made no braggadocio demonstration. They did not gallop through the streets, shoot, and yell. They had a specie of moral discipline which developed moral courage. They did right because it was right.”
Whether they be fact or fiction, Texas Rangers are a special breed. But, would we really expect anything less from Texas? They are the finest law enforcement agency in the world.
By the way, Ranger Captain Bill McDonald successfully stopped the Dallas Prize Fight Riot – by himself.
And that’s just the way it is.