They’re still trying to figure out if Randolph Runnels really was a Texas Ranger before he was hired by the builders of the first transcontinental railroad (forty-seven miles across the Isthmus of Panama connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific) to solve a nasty bandido problem.
Runnels didn’t fit the physical image of a Ranger, according to historian David McCullough in his 1992 book Brave Companions, but he acted the myth well enough: he hanged seventy-eight men in two separate incidents in 1852 and, lo and behold, the banditry stopped. The Texas Rangers Association apparently has no record of Ran’s Ranger service, but their records admittedly aren’t complete.
But at least one railroad historian found sources crediting the Ranger tale, and there was a Runnels who had to do with the Rangers in the 1850s, Texas Gov. Hardin Runnels who took office in 1858. He was a champion of the Indian-fighting Rangers and he may have been Randolph’s brother.
We’re not normally into “boy art” around here, but we’ll make an exception for the Iranian-Japanese heartthrob Yu Darvish, the pitching sensation for whom the Texas Rangers recently paid $107.7 million—$57 to Darvish and 51.7 to his old team the Nippon Ham-Fighters.
You’re not likely to see this sort of thing in your daily’s sport section but it’s not unusual for the 25-year-old Darvish. He’s posed for soft core porn in Japanese magazines much more revealing than this, but we’ll skip those.
Me, I gave up on the Strangers years ago. But not TFG. He’s a devoted fan.
UPDATE: Hall of Fame pitcher and Texas Rangers president Nolan Ryan won the bidding. I’m happy. So is TFG (Warning: second link Not Safe For Work).
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/
Mr. B. and I leave early tomorrow morning for the annual fall Cub Scout camping trip. This time we’re staying at Enchanted Rock state park, the big pink granite dome north of Fredericksburg where Texas Ranger Jack Hays fought off a Comanche war party about 1844.
The boys will be hiking to the top at noon. Not sure I’m going to make it to the top this time, but have done it many times before. Fortunately the mail today brought my review copy of Mike Cox’s new book, so I can read until they come down.
We’ve been advised to bring lots of bug spray, as all the recent rain in the Hill Country out there has vastly increased the mosquito population. Forecast highs in the seventies, lows in the fifties, however, should make long pants and long sleeves comfortable, as well as protective.
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.
Down 10 runs to none in the first inning, Mr. B.’s Texas Rangers came roaring back last night, looking by the seventh like they were going to finish off Boston 16 to 14. So Mr. B. went off to bed happily. Alas, the Red Sox then came back, winning the game 19-17. This is the problem with being a Rangers fan. Even when they seem to be winning, they lose. Their hitting is tops this year, but their pitching stinks. It’s always half-a-loaf with the Rangers, and by August they turn into bums. Luckily for Mr. B., he also likes the Red Sox–especially Ortiz who hit two three-run dingers in the first.