The Men Who Wear the Star: The Story of the Texas Rangers
In 1935, Walter Prescott Webb first told about them in his classic The Texas Rangers, but not until now do we have a modern retelling of this storied organization, based on new material and written with the encouragement of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame.
Most narratives of this colorful story, even Webb's, leave out several important eras in the history of the Rangers--the Civil War years, for instance, simply don't exist, and there is little acknowledgment of the Reconstruction period, from 1866 to 1874. In addition, though these previous chronicles concerned themselves primarily with the Rangers since their formal organization in 1835, the earlier years, when the "Ranging" defense force was established by Stephen Austin, are significant and exciting. And while most stories about the Texas Rangers treat them uncritically and uniformly as heroes, this was not always the case, to say the least.
The Texas Ranger captured the imagination of the American public like no other individual. Here is his colorful story, told anew, by the highly praised author of A Good Year to Die.
exclusive rights. This dispute, however, paled in comparison to the bloody Salt War of 1877.² The bloodshed centered around a string of salt beds at the base of Guadalupe Peak, the tallest mountain in Texas, located about 110 miles due east of the new community of El Paso and ninety miles from San Elizario, then the county seat. Tejanos and Mexicans had been exploiting the beds for many years before 1862, when the area’s Anglo-Saxons learned of their existence. Development was slow, however,
and Texas Rangers were known to engage in the trade, the soldiers stealing and selling machine guns from government armories. The arms trade was accompanied by the same violence that characterizes today’s drug trade in that region. It was aggravated by cattle and horse stealing and attacks on remote ranches. Unlike the violence of the Lower Rio Grande, which had political overtones through the Plan of San Diego, these raids were little more than ordinary banditry. No one was safe; in 1913, two
acquired many of their survival skills. In the process, they had become much more Mexicanized than either side cared to admit. Many Rangers spoke Spanish, had the same likes and dislikes as the Mexicans, and enjoyed the same types of amusement and entertainment. Sometimes circumstances brought the two groups together. One night Lt. John McMullen, who commanded McCulloch’s company in Reynosa while the latter was in Matamoros on business, was told the ranchero leader Antonio Canales was attending
one particular type of terrain, no two areas have the same environment. In the southernmost tip of Texas, the Rio Grande marks the transition from tropical jungle to temperate forest. Here the whitetail deer and bobcat of the north coexist with the coatimundi and ocelot of the south, and until it was hunted out midway through the twentieth century, the jaguar was considered a native. The temperate forest hugs the river. A few miles above the mouth of the Rio Grande, the beaches of the coast give
each shot, encouraged the men to fire accurately and conserve ammunition. A repeating rifle with a full magazine might prompt them to “blaze away.”28 Arriving in Carrizo Springs, McNelly sent a second letter to Steele, in which he described a classic range war: The country is under a perfect reign of terror from the number and desperate character of the thieves who infest this region. The country is rich in stock, but very sparsely settled, and the opportunities and inducements for anyone to