posted on Jun, 29 2014 @ 07:30 PM
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
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
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.