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        Tuesday, August 30, 2005

    One Riot, One Ranger...

    I doubt you hear that said anymore, unless someone is reminiscing. With the politically correct, neutered, pussy cops the police academies seem to be churning out these days, I bet even the Texas Rangers get diversity training, now.

    There was a time though, that when a Ranger rode into town, he put his star on the outside of his coat, with all the dust buffed off, as a warning to you.

    It meant that you stopped all of whatever dumb shit you were doing, or he'd kill you to make it stop. And if you were Mexican, he'd likely kill you anyway for being Mexican In Public, so you'd best skedaddle as fast as you could back over the border. Better make a run for that damn border.

    Rangers travelled singly, and in packs, and they kept the peace in a very huge amount of territory, and there are ghost towns now where somebody was both stupid and lucky enough to kill one.

    There were never really more than a hundred and fifty of them, and there hasn't been what I would call an 'OG' (Original Gangsta) Ranger since 1936, when they all resigned or were fired when a corrupt woman was elected Governor of Texas and she put all her cronies in.

    I used to know one of the OG Rangers, and he was an impressive man.

    A little old banty rooster of a man, wizened from decades in the sun, top of his Stetson just barely to my chin, that old buzzard terrified the shit out of me, and I was a 20 year old bad-ass (or so I thought).

    My girlfriend at the time, the redhead of the 'beer mugs and blackout story' fame, did side work for old folks in town, cleaning and cooking for them, and this proud old man was one of her clients. She worked more and harder than anyone I have ever known, and she took to taking pharmaceutical speed to give her the pep she needed, and I sold her much of it. Eventually, she would go on to become a burned out, wasted fat hulk, ridden by lice, and not even remembering me.

    That old Ranger would have doubtless kilt me had he known. As it was, my long hair and beard made him crazy, and she had to protect me from him as it was, by threatening to quit him, and he adored her, so I was mostly safe.

    The first time I ever saw the old ranger, he was launching into this breakfast place I was in and slapping an example of our local consabulary in the back of his head and taking his gun.

    The deputy sheriff had been sitting with his back to the front door, his cowboy hat tipped back on his head, making time with the waitress there, at the seat by the cash register. When struck, his hat flew off, his coffee flew, and he lurched around to see a wild eyed old man in a Stetson and a black suit with a string tie, and his own gun pointed right between his eyes.

    I was some impressed, and surprised that the deputy hadn't pissed himself, though there was a stain. Probably coffee.

    The old Ranger was shaking with rage, and chewed this guys ass out up one side to the other about being fuck-all dumb enough to sit with his back to the door like that, and it was something to behold. I thought the deputy was gonna cry.

    Finally, out of gas, the old man handed the gun back, butt first, and stalked off to sit in the corner, his back against two walls, to have his repast. The cop collected himself and left.

    I learned more about the old Ranger in the ensuing weeks, as my girlfriend drug me along. The first words he ever said to me were "There was a time that I would have killed you, and everybody who looks like you!" as he shook a bony finger in my face. The look in those old, cold blue eyes showed me that, why yes, my death is just swimming inside...right..there...
    I considered knifing him on the spot, and maybe he saw that, too, and he cackled as if that cheered him up some.

    A few minutes later, after my girlfriend had cooled his jets, he was proudly showing off to me a brand new in the box Universal .30 caliber M-1 Carbine. He saw that I knew how to handle guns, and showed me some more, and warmed to me...some.

    In time, I learned what he meant, and he meant it exactly, about killing me. He was a lonely old man, and I was truly interested in him, and I enjoyed watching my girlfriends lady-parts as she bustled around his spartan studio apartment. He did, too.

    He ended up showing me pictures he had, sepia, brownish things, the kind you know where they are standing there because the photographer told them to not move, and there was just a big flash of chemicals and a fwump!

    Pictures of young men, hanging dead from trees by a rope, their eyes agoggle, sometimes some tongue lolling, a recently startled horse off to one side, guileless in its participation with the death of its most recent rider...

    Piles of dead Mexicans, spattered with blood, festooned with cartridge belts, shot all to shit and gone...

    White men, laid out on boards, or in boxes, or in the backs of wagons...

    And always, surounded by grinning, or serious, or blank-faced hard men, them festooned with the finest firearms of their day. Their horses looking like they had just recently been bought from Arabian princes, or feudal knights. I don't much like horses, but these were the Hummers of horseflesh, thick, muscular beasts, War Horses, who would not flinch when your rifle sent a man to hell.

    And this old mans eyes, shining like the chrome hubcaps of Death's hearse out at me from so many of those photos, looking out at looking like the twin of so many of his strange fruit, arranged in trees and dangling above these men of violence.

    And yes, Men of Honor.

    For that's what they were...Knights of the Old Republic, principled killers, tasked with keeping a fledgling, growing society safe from the predators who were swarming.
    Predators who looked like me.

    Young men, run out of the cities in the north by hard-fisted Irish policemen, coming out to the wild frontier, to rape and kill and take without giving back...meeting proud Sons of Texas, who would kill them on the spot for wearing the wrong clothes, or facial hair configuration, because they had learned...knew now...what someone who looked like that meant.

    I cut my hair into the style of the day, and trimmed my beard down considerable, and he relaxed around me. I had learned the art of 'fitting in'. Do not make someone's trigger finger itch.

    This story just kind of unfolded, here. Wrote itself. It started when I asked myself the whimsical question:

    "What would my Old Ranger have done today had he been there in New Orleans and heard a cop shrug and say 'Nothing we can do...there's not enough of us, and I don't want to start a riot'..."

    What, indeed...


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