Reflecting on the six years he rode with the Texas Rangers, from 1875 to 1881, James B. Gillet penned three sentences that captured the history of the legendary lawmen, defined their mission and set the standard for their future.
"Night and day will the ranger trail his prey, through rain and shine, until the criminal is located and put behind bars where he will not molest or disturb peaceful citizens,"Gillet wrote. "For bravery, endurance and steadfast adherence to duty at all times, the ranger is in a class by himself. Such was the old ranger, and such is the ranger of today.%d3;
In Gillet's time, Texas was a haven for lawless individuals; some things haven't changed. From the rugged mountains and desert valleys of West Texas to the thick blanket of pine forests in the east â lawbreakers still think they can get lost here.
Desperados continue to find, however, that they can run, but they can't hide, when the Texas Rangers are on their trail.
Rangers Still Saddle Up
Today's elite force of 117 who wear the Texas Ranger badge still track down criminals and bring them to justice.
"We use whatever means is available to us to apprehend a suspect," says Lt. Jerry Byrne of Company B in northeast Texas. Most rangers are divided into six companies â labeled "A" through "F"â that identify specific geographic locations around the state. All rangers, however, have jurisdiction throughout the Lone Star State. In addition, the rangers maintain an unsolved crimes investigation team and a headquarters unit.
"We all have helicopters, heat sensors and many sophisticated tools at our disposal," Byrne says. "We'll do what it takes to track down criminals, and if that means riding a horse all day and all night, we'll do that, too.
"Typically, a fugitive or suspect is spotted and runs from a highway patrolman as long as he can in a high-speed car chase, drives through fences, runs the car until he blows the engine or it can't go anymore. Then he takes off on foot. Before you know it, he's lost somewhere out there in thick brush. That's when you need the horses and the tracking dogs."
Read the complete story in the September issue of Western Horseman.