The amazing thing about the Texas Rangers is that, after a hundred and eighty plus years, they continue to thrive, despite the pressures of political correctness, the addition of a few women to their ranks and recurring political attempts to change them. Indeed, at 134 strong, there are more of them now than at any time in the past hundred years. Some no longer ride or even like horses, but all still dress Western, with boots and big hats. They are, apparently, more independent than ever and certainly better-trained. And they have kept their legendary reputation for toughness and ingenuity while adding a now-rarely-disputed one for integrity.
Independent historian Mike Cox’s valuable new contribution to Texas history shows the evolution of all that in an entertaining sequel to his popular Wearing The Cinco Peso, about the Rangers’ nineteenth century origins. Their new role is more complicated, in keeping with the times. Mike tells it in the same episodic way as his previous book and shows how the Rangers are woven through modern Texas history: policing the border during the Mexican revolution; enforcing Prohibition and gambling laws; taming overnight oil-boom towns; and catching bank robbers and kidnappers. They wisely drew the line at one politician’s insistence that they enforce laws against fornication. They’ve even survived their own romance, from the first dime novel in 1910 to television’s silly kick-boxing version. But some legends are factual. The apocryphal "One Riot, One Ranger" has proven true as often as not. "There’s an unwritten code in the Rangers," longtime leader Homer Garrison said. "You don’t back out of situations…"
Yet Mike shows they have sometimes failed, sometimes spectacularly, as in a 1970s attempt to free hostages during a prison takeover that became a bloody fiasco, and the tragic end to the 1990s Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, though the FBI had more to do with it. Nowadays all Rangers have some college and function as detectives more often than enforcers. As always they are spread thin across the state, each having responsibility for "two to three" of the 254 counties and "some as many as six." Nevertheless, they can mass anywhere on short notice for "situations" requiring their skills and political independence. As the book ends in 2009, they’re investigating the possibility that the 2008 burning of the 1856 governor’s mansion in downtown Austin may have been retaliation–for the Rangers-led raid a few months earlier on the Yearning For Zion ranch where polygamy with girls as young as twelve was practiced. Driving by the grand old home’s gutted shell, a Texan has confidence that if anyone can track down the pitiless arsonist(s), it will be the Texas Rangers.
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