Thursday, December 31, 2009

PIONEER LAWMEN

PIONEER LAWMEN
By
Roberta C.M. DeCaprio

When I was a little girl I’d watch many westerns, from Hop-a-long Cassidy, to Daniel Boone . . . Davy Crockett and Annie Oakley to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. In fact television viewing in the 1950’s, though only three network channels existed, was jammed packed on Saturday mornings with children’s shows. My all time favorite was The Lone Ranger (1949 to 1957), starring Clayton Moore in the title role and Jay Silverheels as his trusted Indian friend, Tonto.

In 1957 Clayton Moore came to my part of town and my father, knowing my admiration for the man and the show he acted in, took me to see the on-stage performance. However, at the end of the show, when all the children ran to get his autograph, I was unable to participate. Having been born in 1950 with a walking disability, I was unable to make the many stairs between Moore and I, in order to reach him. And with such a maddening crowd, my father was hesitant to carry me.

Disappointed, I rode in the front seat of the old Buick in tears. Then a large, black limo passed by our car and my father recognized the passenger sitting in the back seat. It was none other then Clayton Moore, on his way to the airport. My father beeped the horn, motioned for the driver to pull over, and to both of our surprise, the limo driver did just that. My father then ran to the driver’s side of the limo and explained the disappointment of his handicapped daughter. Clayton Moore then asked for my father to bring me to him.

Sitting next to Moore, my heart pounded with glorious excitement. Through the eye-holes of the black mask he wore, two very blue orbs peered down at me. And he told me to clean my plate, brush my teeth three times a day and obey my parents. Then he handed me a silver bullet with THE LONE RANGER inscribed on the bottom. I have that bullet still today, and the fond memory of such an thrilling time.

In 1987 Clayton Moore returned to my area to promote a local bank, the slogan being: THE LOAN ARRANGER. I, by the Grace of God, somehow was able to get in touch with Moore’s wife, Connie. After explaining my initial meeting with Moore, 30 years prior, Connie said she knew he’d want to see me again. This time our meeting was filmed by Channel 10 (WTEN/ABC) news and anchor-woman Marci Elliott. I showed Moore the silver bullet and he remembered the whole incident.

Down through the years The Lone Ranger and Tonto have remained with me, in fact my first historical, released by TWRP September 11th, 2009, entitled THE GOLDEN LADY, was created because of my love for Native Americans, which Tonto inspired. So this month I thought I’d dedicate my blog to the pioneer lawman, the Texas Ranger (which Moore portrayed in his series).

From my research using Wikipedia and DEA auctions/Police & Government sites this is what I found:

Texas Rangers, mounted fighting force, was organized (1835) during the Texas Revolution. During the republic they became established as the guardians of the Texas frontier, particularly against Native Americans. The Texas Rangers at first consisted of three companies of 25 men each. Said to “ride like Mexicans, shoot like Tennesseans, and fight like the very devil,” the rangers were unique as a police force in that they never drilled, were not required to salute officers, and wore neither uniforms nor any standard gear except the six-shooter. In their first decade of operation, the rangers effectively quelled lawlessness in Texas on frequent occasions, and in the Mexican War (1846–48) they served as scouts and guerrilla fighters, gaining a wide reputation for valor and effectiveness.

In the late 1850s the rangers fought vicious battles with the Comanche, and in the Civil War, Terry's Texas Rangers gained renown. In the Reconstruction era the Texas Rangers were engaged to control outlaws, feuding groups, and Mexican marauders and were responsible for keeping law and order along the Rio Grande. In 1874 the Texas Rangers were organized for the first time on a permanent basis in two battalions; one was assigned to arbitrate range wars on the frontier, and the other was sent to control cattle rustling on the Texas-Mexico border. The heyday of the great cattle business, with its feuds and shootings, its outlaws and rustlers, was also the heyday of the Texas Rangers.

In the 20th century the police responsibilities of the rangers, around whom much lore had built up, decreased, and by 1935 their numbers had diminished considerably. By act (1935) of the Texas legislature, the rangers were merged with the state highway patrol under the jurisdiction of the state department of public safety. The rangers now form an elite investigative squad within the Texas highway patrol. The first women rangers were admitted to the force in 1993.
Now based in Austin, the capital of Texas, the Texas Ranger Division, commonly called the Texas Rangers, is a law enforcement agency with statewide jurisdiction. Over the years, the Texas Rangers have investigated crimes ranging from murder to political corruption, acted as riot police and as detectives, protected the Governor of Texas, tracked down fugitives, and functioned as a paramilitary force at the service of both the Republic (1836–45) and the state of Texas.

The Texas Rangers are believed to have been unofficially created by Stephen F. Austin in 1823 and formally constituted in 1835. The unit was dissolved by the federal authorities during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, but was quickly reformed upon the reinstitution of home government. Since 1935, the organization has been a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety; it fulfills the role of Texas's State Bureau of Investigation. As of 2009, there are 144 commissioned members of the Ranger force.

The unit has been called the oldest state-level law enforcement agency in the United States. The Rangers have taken part in many of the most important events of Texas history and were involved in some of the best-known criminal cases in the history of the Old West, such as those of gunfighter John Wesley Hardin (reputed to be the meanest man alive, an accolade he supposedly earned by killing a man for snoring. In May 1874, Hardin killed Charles Webb, the deputy sheriff of Brown County, for which the outlaw was relentlessly pursued. Officer Webb had been a former Texas Ranger). Also brought to justice was bank robber Sam Bass, and outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. Scores of books have been written about the Rangers, from well researched works of nonfiction to pulp fiction, making them significant participants in the mythology of the Wild West. During their long history, a distinct Ranger tradition has evolved; their cultural significance to Texians and later Texans is such that they are legally protected against disbandment.

Modern-day Rangers (as well as their predecessors) do not have a prescribed uniform, per se, although the State of Texas does provide guidelines as to appropriate Ranger attire, including a requirement that Rangers wear clothing that is western in nature. Historically, according to pictorial evidence, Rangers wore whatever clothes they could afford or muster, which were usually worn out from heavy use. While Rangers still pay for their clothing today, they receive an initial stipend to offset some of the costs of boots, gunbelts and hats.

To carry out their horseback missions, Rangers adapted tack and personal gear to fit their needs. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the greatest influence was from the vaqueros (Mexican cowboys). Saddles, spurs, ropes and vests used by the Rangers were all fashioned after those of the vaqueros. Most Rangers also preferred to wear broader-brimmed sombreros as opposed to cowboy hats, and they favored square-cut, knee-high boots with a high heel and pointed toes, in a more Spanish style. Both groups carried their guns the same way, with the holsters positioned high around their hips instead of low on the thigh. This placement made it easier to draw and shoot while riding a horse.

The wearing of badges became more common in the late 1800s. Historians have put forth several reasons for the lack of the regular use of a badge; among them, some Rangers felt that a shiny badge was a tempting target. Other historians have speculated that there was no real need to show a badge to a hostile Indian or outlaw. Additionally, from a historical viewpoint, a Ranger's pay was so scanty that the money required for such fancy accoutrements was rarely available. Nevertheless, some Rangers did wear badges, and the first of these appeared around 1875. They were locally made and varied considerably from one to another, but they invariably represented a star cut out of a Mexican silver coin (usually a five-peso coin). The design is reminiscent of Texas's Lone Star flag.

Although present-day Rangers wear the familiar "star in a wheel" badge, it was adopted officially only recently. The current design of the Rangers' badge was incorporated in 1962, when Ranger Hardy L. Purvis and his mother donated enough Mexican five-peso coins to the DPS to provide badges for all 62 Rangers who were working at that time as commissioned officers.

4 comments:

Paty Jager said...

What a great story about the Lone Ranger and wonderful information about the Texas Rangers.

Kathy Otten said...

Wow, what a fantastic story! I loved the Lone Ranger growing up, and asked Santa for a Lone Ranger costume every year. It was great that you got to see him again and he remembered you.

Mary Ricksen said...

Well we really are dating ourselves, but I do remember watching the Lone Ranger and The Mickey Mouse Club Show. one after the other.

Tanya Hanson said...

What a wonderful blog! I vaguely recall watching LR but I super loved the Mickey Mouse club. Thanks for the memories.