Monday, June 20, 2016

Texas Rangers Museum, Waco, Texas

After leaving Glen Rose we stopped in Waco, Texas for a couple of nights so we could visit the Texas Rangers Museum and the Waco Mammoth National Monument.  The Texas Rangers are a fascinating group of men.  Mostly "cowboys" riding the Texas range on horses and wearing their customary white shirts and white cowboy hats.  They are the oldest state law enforcement agency in the United States, beginning with the earliest settlements in Texas, protecting the early settlers from Indian attacks and bandidos from Mexico.

They fought in the battle for Mexican Independence from Spain in 1821 to the Texas Revolution in 1836, as well as defending the Texas frontier in 1837 through the Civil War and the readmission of Texas to the Union in 1870. Between 1837 and 1839 there were numerous skirmishes with Indians and Mexican forces.

In 1874 the Frontier Battalion was composed of six companies of 75 men each to uphold the laws and peace of Texas.  There have been 8,000 to 10,000 Texas Rangers since 1823.

By 1901 the Texas Rangers' mission was to protect the frontier against marauding or thieving parties and the suppression of lawlessness and crime throughout the state.  This was the era of oil discoveries, prohibition, and the rise of motorized gangsters (Bonnie & Clyde).Horses were their method of transportation and the Colt Government Model 1911 their weapon of choice. 

However, the different guns and rifles they used was amazing. Most Rangers supplied their own firearms and gear, but as many of the early records have been destroyed or lost, it is hard to verify what was used by them.  Check out this Colt Patterson:

Jim putting the Colt together

Colt Patterson

To reload the Colt Patterson, it had to be taken apart to remove the cylinder. The cylinder was either reloaded or replaced with an extra cylinder already loaded with gunpowder and a projectile. Then the pieces were put back together.  Can you imagine trying to reload while in a gun fight?

The Bowie Knife

The term Bowie Knife commonly refers to any large sheaf knife, but the original style of knife is named after Colonel James "Jim" Bowie. Although the development of this knife is clouded by legend, the Bowie knife was created by James Black of Arkansas. Historic Bowie knives have a blade that is 6-15 inches long and 1 to 2-1/2 inches wide. The broad blade includes many features that maximize the knife's effectiveness, including a strip of soft metal along the back and a bent upper guard to catch an opponent's blade, a sharpened back edge to execute the "back cut" or "back slash" maneuver and a molded brass guard to protect the hand. The shape and style of blade allows the Bowie knife to serve as both a weapon and a camping or hunting tool. Many knives and daggers serve well as either weapons or as tools, but the Bowie knife is designed to do both jobs well. This multidirectional knife makes it popular even today with hunters and sportsman.

Colt .45 Buntline - one of the many special revolvers used by the Texas Rangers.

Mills Slot Machine, c. 1949.  It was confiscated from a gambling house in west Texas by Texas Rangers Company C.

Giant Still, Borger, Texas 1927. Rangers and other officers captured the largest still in Texas. The tank was 8 feet in diameter, had 75 feet of condensing coil, and could produce 32 gallons per hour. At $8 per gallon, it earned $6,144 per day.

Furniture from the early houses of the Rangers.  What were they thinking about when they made this chair?  I wonder how comfortable it is.

Case files over the past 50 years show that the Texas Rangers have investigated thousands of crimes from murder to kidnapping to political corruption.  They served as peace keepers during strikes and riots, apprehended fugitives, and protected governors.

The most famous is the hunt for Bonnie & Clyde.  The most famous Texas Ranger was Frank Hamer who was pulled from retirement to help track and capture them.  Hamer spent 102 days following their trail, learning their strategy, sleeping in his car and their camps.

Hamer recruited Louisiana law enforcement to assist in the capture of Bonnie & Clyde. All the men had information on Bonnie & Clyde's movements or had inside information on their whereabouts. Hamer and the men drove out to a stretch of road outside Gibsland and were hiding in the piney underbrush waiting for the pair to drive by. It is believed by some that they coerced Ivy Methvin, father of Henry Methvin, to pretend his truck had broken down by the side of the road.

On the morning of May 23, 1934, Bonnie & Clyde drove up to the site.  As they slowed down, the six men stood and opened fire.  It was 9:15am when the shooting started and by 9:20am the pair was dead. Over 150 shots had been fired and both criminals had been struck multiple times.

Walker, Texas Ranger first aired in April 1993 and produced 203 episodes before ending in May 2001. The star of the show, Ranger Cordell Walker, played by Chuck Norris, portrayed a modern day Texas Ranger stationed in the Fort Worth and Dallas area who relied old fashion instincts to catch today's sophisticated criminals. The fictional character of Ranger Walker was not based on a particular Ranger. Instead Walker, Texas Ranger combined the popular image of the rough and tough Ranger of the old west with that of a 20th century crime fighting Ranger. The show was not based on actual events, only inspired by contemporary crimes. The show is often remembered for Chuck Norris' fighting scenes. Norris is a Black Belt Grand Master in Tae Kwan Do, however, actual Texas Rangers rarely use martial arts in apprehending criminals. 

The "Lone Ranger" was another famous ranger played by Clayton Moore (1914 - 1999).  Before becoming the Lone Ranger, Moore worked as a circus acrobat and aerialist, model, stunt man, and bit player in Hollywood.  By late 1938 he was acting and played the lead in several serial cliffhangers in the 1940s and 1950s.  In 1949 he was signed to play the Lone Ranger.  In all, Moore starred in 169 episodes of the television series.

Moore and Jay Silverheels, as Tonto, also starred in two feature length Lone Ranger movies. For more than 40 years following the close of production, Moore continued to both portray the Lone Ranger and promote Ranger "ideals" in personal appearances, TV guest spots and commercials.

Fun Facts about the Lone Ranger's Costume:

HAT: The colors of his hat changed from white, off white, or cream with a silver, black or off-white band.

MASK: The mask in the show was made from the fabric of Dan Reid's black vest, the Lone Ranger's dead brother. The masks used in the TV series were made from plaster and felt, purple felt, and then black felt.

SILVER BULLETS: Fran Striker, creator of the Lone Ranger, was said to have gotten the idea of silver bullets from Robin Hood, who used silver arrowheads.  In the show the silver bullets came from the Lone Ranger's family's silver mine. The Lone Ranger and Tonto used the silver for bullets and to buy goods.  The silver bullets reminded the Lone Ranger that life is precious and valuable.

REVOLVER: The Lone Ranger used two Colt .45 cal. peacemaker pistols with ivory handles.  He never shot to kill, only to disarm the bad guys.

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