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Reflections on Service and Duty [June 2014]

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posted on Jun, 29 2014 @ 07:27 PM
Reflections on Service and Duty

It’s 1901 now, as I find myself watching the sun set. I relax on my porch in West Texas and consider the years which have passed. I find few regrets and much I come to reflect on these days. There isn’t time left to tell all I have seen or honor those I’ve known over this long period.. However, if you will sit a spell and lend an ear, I believe I can help the afternoon pass as time well spent.

I shall start where my story really began, with the most unusual of beginnings.


It was the year of our Lord, Eighteen Hundred and Seventy Five, when I received word of a special opportunity. The Texas Rangers were in need of good men to ride with them and set law and order in the land to the West. No less a man than Captain Leander McNelly came to town when I heard of their need. He must have liked what he saw in me—as my life as a Ranger began that very afternoon, so long ago. . .

November, 1875

It was a cold morning, as I recall, and the dew was still clinging to the grass as we approached the Rio Grande River.

You see, there had been cattle stolen on our watch, and from those who looked to us for protection. The Captain was having none of it, that day. It was with this thought that we hardly slowed down in crossing at a shallow point and on into Old Mexico. Leaving the horses with a guard, we crept up on the ranch where the head we sought had been taken.

To our surprise, 400 members of the gang under General Juan Flores Salinas awaited our arrival. In short order, we were nearly surrounded and out gunned. This was a situation I came to face many times over the years of service but never quite as it was that day. Of course, we carefully relocated back to the Rio Grande where we found the odds more to our liking.

While we were getting the rustlers attention to follow us, the 24th and 8th Calvary had set up on the Texas side of the river. There, they commenced to engage in support of our efforts to retrieve those head of cattle. Following a brief and one sided lesson in Texas law, General Salinas lay fallen among 80 of his men.

The Calvary actually ordered us to leave Mexico, as if we had finished what we came for. Captain McNelly was not having any of that, either. He very generously gave the remaining 320 Mexican Militia members the opportunity to surrender to our Company after returning those cattle I mentioned we had come for. After some negotiating between the Mexican survivors and the Captain, with words I can’t be sure of, it was agreed that we would grant them freedom from the scene as long as they returned what they had taken.

So it was that the Calvary was pressed into service a final time in helping drive the cattle back to a local ranch for safe keeping until properly delivered to their rightful owners. I had yet to serve a full year in the Special Company of the best men Texas could offer, when that day came, and I can tell you our Captain rode a bit taller in the saddle with a bit more authority afterward. We would have followed him to the gates of Hades after swimming the river Styx.

He passed, as all things of the earth do, in 1877 from consumption.

posted on Jun, 29 2014 @ 07:27 PM
July, 1877

My next bit of excitement came during that hot summer of ’77 when there was a fight building in the area of El Paso over some salt mines outside of town. The local politicians had riled up the Tigua Indians and Chicano population by shooting one of their leaders in a dispute for those very mines. Things were heading toward a bad outcome when we got the call to help some volunteers that had formed a temporary Ranger Company under local direction.

It was a bad scene we found, with much hate and discontent felt by all. Upon riding into town, we were greeted with terrible news from the Rangers already there. One among their number had been taken prisoner and killed before we could intervene!

It’s at this point that our Major set down the law and restored order, whereby the fighting came to an end, with peace restored. The 9th Calvary arrived in time to support our efforts and offer their assistance, although none was needed by then. We sure appreciated the Army taking over so we could move on to other matters quickly, though.

Among the changes to come after that event was the addition of “Never Surrender” to the creed we rode and live by. Never again would a Ranger be surrendering to anyone, so he might be killed for his trouble. Those who did this dastardly deed were seen to, as well, I can assure you.

That story is for another time, though.

September, 1880

Trouble came to the Northern land of Texas and off we rode to settle matters as they might need to be.

The old Slaughter spread was losing horses to Indians and that simply could not go on. This time we never did find the Indians guilty of the thievery. Local reports told us the rustlers had ridden hard for Oklahoma Territory upon hearing that our Company had come into the area. I recall this as the only case where we succeeded in seeing to order without ever finding those who dared disturb it.

The pike was clear to the Oklahoma border when we turned and found new springs and watering holes. These were all previously unknown to those parts and helped greatly.

The discovery was much appreciated and brought many a settler into the region, helping to establish the borders of Texas in the panhandle area.

posted on Jun, 29 2014 @ 07:28 PM
November, 1881

I now have a special story to share, and it would be what I imagine you have most wanted to hear about since coming to my porch to hear me talk.

The year was 1881, and winter was off to a hard start. There was trouble with Indians in the East. Apache had run up and down the lines near the Diablo Mountains, attacking settler and stage coach alike. I believe it has come to be called the Battle of Sierra Diablo by those who write and record such things. I simply recall it as the last battle of the Indian wars in Texas.

It was a mixed group of another Ranger Company and Tigua Indian Scouts we met up with. I might mention here that the Tigua Tribe had come to work for the Rangers from time to time in helping to counter the ways of their more violent brothers. There was no love lost between the Tigua people and the Apache. The Tigua had also come under the attack of Apache braves, without cause, and felt motivated to see matters set right. Their feud with the Apache was a long standing one with history, which added to the tension of the task at hand.

Once formed with a proper number, the lot of us rode hard behind the Scouts, who used their talents for spotting natural sign to track and hone in on the Apache Camp. We came to the camp on the third day. Upon seeing a lone teepee atop the ridge above the camp, it was clear what must be done. This Apache band had wantonly victimized both fellow Tribes and White settlers alike. The lawlessness and murder had to end.

The Major divided our number so as to send a small group after the braves on the ridge who had a commanding view of the broad valley approach. The bulk of the men were tasked with making a very careful crossing over exposed ground to the camp itself. I was among the second group. Our task was leading the assault at first light. Surprise was essential, as the band we pursued were known to be the most vicious sort and had given no quarter to others they had attacked in the past.


As the sun set and we parted for our separate tasks that evening, it was with the uncertainty of what the following day would bring. It proved to be a particularly cold and bitter night that saw us crawling over low hills and a sandy wash to reach the Apache camp. We were so close as to hear the movement of the camp as they broke from a late supper and settled in for the night. As dawn broke, we found ourselves within 100 short yards of the nearest teepee. Upon the awaited signal from the ridge, we commenced our assault.

The battle was not a long one by the standards of previous engagements with Apache raiding parties. We had, as hoped, achieved total surprise as we opened fire on the camp. Some returned fire and were cut down where they stood. Most ran and were seen to flee in all directions, like deer having been spooked by a predator. In the confusion and chaos, several ran right into our other section who were then coming down from the upper ridge to join the fight below, having taken care of their assigned task. Several of those running into the other Rangers were likewise brought down in short order while a few huddled tightly together to seek protection from what must have seemed threat in all directions. Those who did not persist in fighting were captured on the spot.

A small number successfully broke free of the camp and were seen climbing the hills around to escape, followed by the constant fire of our rifles. One brave we came to call “big foot” for the size of his track, managed to escape entirely for a time, while leaving a trail of blood to follow. We found him, expired in a dry wash later that morning. At least two escaped us entirely. I heard reports that remains of one had been located some years later by a hunting party, not far from the scene of the fight.


I must share another aspect of the events of that day to make this telling complete. When we opened our assault from the edge of camp, we could not have known the number we faced. We certainly did not know there were women and young among them.

They had apparently been conducting their raids while these more vulnerable members of the band had stayed clear and out of sight to report. So it was that we did not hesitate to hold the line and keep up the fire when figures wrapped in blankets ran along with the bare backed braves from each teepee. Only after the action had ended, did we learn the terrible truth of the matter. Those wrapped up and running hard had been the women of the group and many fell near the warriors.

Almost nothing about that day or the actions we took has followed me for question or doubt in the necessity of it. We found the possessions from one Stage Coach among the items in their camp and confirmed beyond doubt that we had found the guilty party. Yet, it was this last detail of the women and young which has given me more than one sleepless night. If only we could have known, perhaps.

. . . It was with great care that I helped transport the wounded among them to the point where the other Ranger Company broke from our group the following day. Their party continued on to make a full report to the local Fort and Officers in Garrison there. Medical attention was seen to for those surviving Apache then, as we had neither surgeon nor supplies to attend to them in the field.

posted on Jun, 29 2014 @ 07:30 PM
August, 1885

It was a normal day that found me on a rare trip out across the plains of Northeast Texas and Scouting for men intent on cutting fence and raising trouble for local farmers. The Barbed Wire Wars had been an ongoing fight for a number of years at this point with no signs of stopping.

A portion of people believed that dividing the range into set parcels by fence was against God’s plan for this good land. They set to correcting this perceived wrong by cutting those fences erected by others to contain cattle and other livestock, causing no end of problems. By this point, it had progressed into murder and outright conflict between the fence cutters and farmers.

This was the setting as I rode across those dusty plains, looking for what might be found of a group that had recently been through to do a great deal of damage to the area’s cattlemen.


I recall it being about midday when I stopped near a spring to rest a spell and give my horse time to drink and recover from a long morning of travel. I heard the rustling of brush nearby and froze where I sat. I must have been getting slow after my years, as I had failed to notice anyone near the spring upon my approach.

The rustling stopped and after a few long, tense moments to survey the area with my eyes alone, I dared slowly move in the direction the commotion had come from. It was the horse I saw first. It was lying in a shallow depression and obviously dead a couple days by that time. It had been carefully covered in brush that explained my failure to first spot it. After my eyes took in the sight, the smell hit me and struck me hard.

There came again a slight movement which I now saw to be on the other side of the horse. A shot rang out which saw me diving behind what little cover I could find behind a large boulder. Now I really took stock of my senses. I called out “TEXAS RANGER! Who goes there?!” The reply was weak and barely audible at a distance of a dozen yards. “Please, Senior, no shoot! I’m sorry!”, it said.

Well, I can tell you that after walking up once to find a lethal surprise, I was not taken to trying a second time. I demanded he throw out his pistol, then watched as not one but two revolvers were thrown across the distance and lay gleaming in the hot sun.


It seemed an eternity that I sat there, giving time for anything else to develop or anyone else to make themselves known, before carefully rising to keep careful aim on the spot I knew the shot and voice to have come from. It was at that moment, I caught the first sight of what came to be a face I can never forget. It was an old, weathered face of a Chicano who had seen much better days than this one.

Kicking his pistols further as I crossed the distance, I moved the brush away to reveal the entire scene before me. The man had obviously met with real trouble from somewhere. His horse had taken a shot through the neck, I could clearly see now. The man who had tried to shoot me just a short time before was no longer a threat to anyone. Perhaps, he never had been. Somehow, his horse had stumbled and fallen into this depression and caught him beneath it, full across the legs, as it crashed down.

It wasn’t fear or even relief I saw on that old, tired face. In those eyes, I saw only pain and anguish reflected back toward me. He’d known for some time what I quickly deduced by a quick inspection by my eyes alone. His legs were worthless, broken as they were. We were a day’s ride or more from help that may have meant hope, had the trip started sooner. At this stage, it was too late for that to be of help and I could clearly see he understood that and had come to make peace with it.


After confirming that I wasn’t among the group which had set upon him and shot his horse, he eased his position as best he could and began talking. He must have been sure he would never have the chance again, as once he began it was well into the afternoon before he seemed to run low on words. I could but sit and listen as the story poured forth.

He had been hired by a farmer three days east, to scout out to the far boundaries of the ranch. While at the extreme edge, a pack of men had rode up and opened fire without word or warning. In the following moments, he was hit once in the leg while his horse had taken multiple shots to the side I couldn’t see. One shot took the poor creature through its long neck. Despite the wounds, this magnificent animal, I could now see had been a truly fine horse, outpaced his pursuers until they broke the chase and returned to what they had been doing. As he told me, he had been trying to make this spring to find relief and care for his horse and himself before trying to make the trip back to his employer, where proper medical care might be offered.

Upon sight of the spring where we now sat, his horse failed to see the natural trap it had fallen into, in its weakened state. His own odd position was explained by his leg wound and having to ride side saddle to preserve his leg as best he could. When the horse took a fall, he was pinned and unable to summon the strength to free himself.


We continued talking for the rest of the day, in the light banter of men who know nothing discussed will matter beyond that moment. It was marking time to a moment we both knew had to come in these circumstances and neither of us wanted to see any sooner than it would impose itself. I was glad to be there to give this old Soul comfort in his final hours.

As night fell, I shared what I had in a cold camp, to give this last bit of help I could. He ate greedily and I was happy to offer more until he had seen his fill. A long silence which seemed to stretch on, followed supper.

The moment we both knew was approaching, had finally come. His pain had again reached an unbearable level and his eyes said it all. In a quiet voice, filled with pride and strength from a life well spent, he simply whispered, “It’s time, my friend”.

I took a deep breath and looked to the Heavens to give me strength as I slowly stood and looked down upon this man I was ready to shoot in confusion and anger, just hours before. Now, I looked upon a man I had come to think of as a friend and would have been proud to ride with in another time and place.

With slow and deliberate action, I did what had to be. It was over in a moment and the look of peace and solitude to cross a face I’d seen nothing but pain on since my first view was what has given my comfort to know I did the right thing.

At that moment, I’d been a Texas Ranger and advanced to the rank of Sergeant among the toughest land the new nation had to offer. I had chased some of the worst bandits and rustlers across Texas and faced odds of 50:1. We all had, in the Ranger service. Yet, it was that day I did the hardest thing I’d ever been called upon to do in my life, before or since.

posted on Jun, 29 2014 @ 07:30 PM
December, 1890

The day broke as a crisp cold one. The men in my Company were lined out before me in formation as a rare show of formal stance. It was not a sad occasion this day, but a happy one. After 15 years of service, I had reached the end of my career. Over the years I saw the very good and the very bad. I served with a couple cowards and I served with some of the finest men Texas will ever produce. Through it all, none better than those men who now stood before me.

This was to be my formal retirement gathering. I’ll not bore you with the details of how that day progressed but to note just a couple things. The men had two items made as gifts. One, is the badge you see on my wall above the fireplace inside. The other is the Colt Revolver, engraved to show the rank of Sergeant in the Texas Rangers, Company F.

I have received many a gift in my life and I have treasured every one of them. None have held such a place of honor as those two hold to this day. Please take a moment before leaving to look at them, if you will, and see the care and craftsmanship put into the engraving of the 5 Peso Coin used to form the Badge, as well as the love behind the engraving across the whole of the revolver’s frame.

Some ask what it means to be a Texas Ranger. Most will never understand, no matter what answer we may give. I believe the answer can better be viewed in those two beautiful gifts given by men who put every best wish and ounce of Heart into them both.

What it means to be a Ranger is to give all for the sake of giving.

It is to give all in Service and Duty.

posted on Jun, 29 2014 @ 08:53 PM
Great story, Wrabbit, but I didn't see it linked in the contest thread. Purty sure (In a Texas Ranger drawl) that it needs to be linked there to be considered.

posted on Jun, 30 2014 @ 06:18 AM
a reply to: Wrabbit2000

G,day mate
really enjoyed the above i could picture the ranger broad brim hat on his head and right down to the jinglebobs on his spurs
and i gotta tell you bloke a hog leg holds well in the hand

once again loved your yarn thankyou

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