Today only, comment here to win an out-of-print hardcover copy of
The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900
by A.C. Greene Lifetime Achievement Winner Mike Cox, of Austin.
For more detail about this great history, see its Amazon sales page here.
Former newspaper colleague turned author Mike Cox has this good column at TexasEscapes about how, because email is killing the post office, it’s time to remember some of the fabled ones.
Because they will, in all probability, soon be vanishing. Strangely, Mike leaves out the story of how Dime Box got its name. Aided, in part, allegedly, by its onetime lack of a post office.
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.
For more on Mike’s book:
Publisher’s book page: http://us.macmillan.com/timeoftherangers
Author’s blog with virtual tour itinerary: http://www.lonestarbooks.blogspot.com/
Author’s website: http://www.mikecoxonline.com/
I’m jumping the gun a bit here, promoting former newspaper colleague Mike Cox’s new book before my review copy arrives from the publishers. I’m not supposed to be part of his virtual book tour until the end of the month. But when I saw the news that the FTC will begin requiring bloggers to disclose conflicts of interest (i.e. product freebies), I thought no time like the present.
The AP’s claim that “traditional journalism outlets” are required (by their publishers) to return products “borrowed for reviews” is a fantasy. Review copies of books, for instance, are never returned. Indeed, many newspapers have year-end discount sales to their employees of their thousands of free review copies, the vast majority never having been reviewed at all.
I happily review Mike’s stuff because he’s a heckuva writer and this Texas Rangers book, the twin sequel to a previous one which I also reviewed, promises to be another good one of importance to Texas history. As for the “bribery,” I’ll undoubtedly buy several more copies to send to friends. But I’ll keep the review copy, just like “traditional journalism outlets” do. I assume this disclosure will be good enough. But if it isn’t, tough.
Via Instapundit and Hot Air.
Like my former newspaper colleague Mike Cox, the author of this thoughtful new look at a fabled Texas story, I have connections to the oil patch. Mike introduces his in the book via a postcard from "the wild and woolly boom town of Ranger." His late maternal grandfather sent it to his grandmother in 1919 while covering the runaway oil boom for a Fort Worth newspaper. Seven years later, Mike’s paternal grandfather was a roughneck on a rig in Borger, another of the era’s many instant boom towns.
My maternal great grandfather, a Corsicana banker, was an original investor in Magnolia Petroleum, a Texas outfit which later became Mobil Oil. Great granddad went bust in the 1929 stock market crash and had to go to work for the company he once owned. His eldest son, my grandfather, was an engineer for the Magnolia, and then Mobil Oil, until he retired in 1960.
So I was especially taken by the book’s cover photo of eight "worn-out" Magnolia roughnecks taking a break on a rig in the East Texas field. Two of them, as Mike notes, seem to be courting death by fire with lit cigarettes. They are the beginning of a 199-page sentimental journey. You still see pump jacks all over the state, though many are idle when oil prices are low. But they only hint at the tall drilling rigs that preceded them. The book has the rigs. Forests of them. Skylines full. Blue-black gushers blowing. People happily swarming to the oil of prosperity.
There are muddy drillers and clean drill-bit salesmen, oil-soaked roughnecks and mule teams incongruously pulling wagonloads of the stuff that makes cars go. Big-hatted Texas Rangers tote rifles to cool boundary disputes and enforce state pumping rules, or break up criminal rings in the boom towns. It’s a stirring reminder of when Big Oil displaced the cowboy and the Alamo as primary Texas symbols, and literally propelled Allied victory in World War II. Today, the oil patch is little more than those occasionally-bobbing pump jacks, laden tankers leaving the port of Houston and reruns of Dallas. But the boom times live on, undying, in Historic Photos of Texas Oil. They used to say: If you haven’t got an oil well, get one. At least now you can get the book.
For years I quite mistakenly thought the two squat little mortars that guarded either side of the main doors at the south side of the Texas Capitol were the famous Twin Sisters. The ones used to fire handfulls of musket balls, broken glass and busted horseshoes at the Mexican soldados in the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836. Whatever they were (and I think they were removed during the Capitol renovations in the 1990s), they weren’t the "sisters." Texana author Mike Cox reminds me the real ones are still lost, buried somewhere in either Houston or Harrisburg in East Texas at the end of the Civil War. So replicas at the battlefield park are all there are for the present.
This was Company B of the old Frontier Battalion about 1880. (Here’s today’s Company B.) About half through now with a review copy of Texana author Mike Cox’s new book on the rangers, The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso 1821 – 1900, I can endorse it with only a quibble or two. Basically it’s a worthy updating of Walter Webb’s 1935 classic. More when I finish it.