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Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Lone-Star Lawmen
Texas Rangers still hitting their mark
By Bill Whitaker
Reporter-News Staff Writer

FORT GRIFFIN — “One riot, one Ranger” may be the rule, but it takes a few more of the tough Texas lawmen to make a successful reunion.

And when they do gather, all you have to do is follow the sound of gunfire.

So it went this week when nine retired Texas Rangers held a reunion at Clifford and Lynne Teinert’s ranch on the site of old Fort Griffin — today a ghost town but once one of the rowdiest, most lawless towns in the American West.

Besides eating and reminiscing, the retired Rangers spent Tuesday morning demonstrating their proficiency with firearms — something they do once a year to keep their Ranger commission intact as well as their pride.

“They’re good,” said Abilene-based Texas Ranger Calvin Cox, who oversaw the shooting for the record. “They still got it.”

If nine seems a small number, it’s partially the result of the few men kept on Ranger rolls. As decreed by the Texas Legislature, there can be no more than 107 active-duty Rangers at any one time.

That may explain the camaraderie they speak of. Although the Rangers are spread out when covering Texas’ 254 counties, they fondly recall assisting each other in investigations, sometimes sharing close quarters while laying low in troubled towns and tense situations.

“It’s really about what you go through,” retired Ranger Joe Wilie explained. “We may be spread out, but depending on what’s happening, we might be sleeping together on a bank floor or speeding down the highway during a shoot-out.”

Retired Capt. Bob Mitchell recalls once trying to keep such a low profile in Hillsboro during one case that he spent the night in jail rather than reveal his imposing presence by checking in at a motel.

“But it was a nice, new jail,” he said, “and the mattresses were lice-free.”

If the Texas Rangers — retired or active — are small in number, they certainly stand taller in stature than most lawmen, judging from movies and television shows. That doesn’t mean confusion doesn’t arise.

Retired Texas Ranger George Frasier, 62, who serves as a preacher for Coleman’s Church of the Nazarene, recalls once being confronted by a Cub Scout who was touring the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office.

“Are you a real Texas Ranger?” the boy asked.

“Yes,” the Ranger said.

“Well,” the boy continued, and without missing a beat, “how many home runs have you hit?”

If such confusion is humbling, the new technology embraced by today’s Texas Rangers is completely baffling. Just the same, the retired Rangers are still grateful they served when they did.

“No matter how advanced today’s Rangers are, we older Rangers still feel we were better equipped than the guys who came before us,” Mitchell said. “I mean, I never had to ride a horse to El Paso. And in the old days, it seems some Ranger was always having to ride a horse to El Paso!”

Contact story editor Bill Whitaker at 676-6732 or whitakerb@abinews.com

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