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.
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May 06, 2001
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Excerpt from The Men Who Wear the Star by Charles M. Robinson
ARE THEY STILL THERE?
When Richard McLaren, self-styled "ambassador of the Republic of Texas," holed up in the dry, rugged mountains of west Texas during a weeklong standoff in the spring of 1997, many Texans feared a bloodbath. Federal law enforcement has not been universally admired or trusted in Texas since the Branch Davidian debacle near Waco, and McLaren had threatened destruction. Later it was discovered that his refuge was booby-trapped and rigged for defense against assault. Yet he released his hostages the second day and, six days later, surrendered peacefully with most of his followers.
Several things separated the relatively quiet McLaren standoff from the fiery end of the Branch Davidians. First, the state maintained jurisdiction; federal authorities functioned in a strictly "advisory" capacity, which is to say virtually no capacity at all. Second, the man in charge was a Texas Ranger; McLaren trusted the Rangers because they predated American rule. Finally, the Ranger in charge was a soft-spoken company commander from Midland named Barry Caver, who, at thirty-nine, was the youngest captain in the service.
In classic Ranger tradition, Caver made his own rules based on the immediate situation, educated guesses, and simple instinct. Where conventional hostage wisdom calls for procrastination in hopes of wearing down the suspects, he made decisions. First, he accommodated McLaren by swapping a jailed Texas separatist for the hostages. With the hostages safe, Caver had more freedom of action, and he dealt with McLaren with one hand while tightening the cordon around him with the other. McLaren finally saw the hopelessness of his situation and surrendered. Two of his followers escaped into the mountains, where one was later killed, but he and the majority of his group surrendered without a fight.
The McLaren case reaffirmed the prestige and skill of the Texas Rangers at a time when a small but vocal minority had begun to question whether they were even relevant to the modern age. Despite all the advances in criminology, they retain the nerve and sense of duty that have made them legendary throughout the world. In 1968, when I spent a weekend with a family in Glasgow, Scotland, I was introduced to their friends as a "Texas Ranger" for no other reason than that I am from Texas, and the Glaswegians viewed the words "Texas" and "Ranger" as inseparable. When the Washington Senators baseball team relocated to Dallas, they became the Rangers.
The name and the legend go far toward making the Rangers effective. Former adjutant general William W. Sterling, who commanded the Ranger Service in the 1920s and 1930s, once wrote:
There is no question but that a definite potency exists in the name "Texas Ranger." Take two men of equal size and arm them with identical weapons. Call one of them a deputy sheriff and the other a Ranger. Send each of these officers out to stop a mob or quell a riot. The crowd will resist the deputy, but will submit to the authority of the Ranger.
Seventy years later, it still holds true.