The Wild Wild West
Cowboy Justice: The five fiercest Texas Rangers (Sorry Chuck)
According to legend, Texas Ranger Capt. Bill McDonald stepped off a train in Dallas, where he was sent to quell an illegal boxing match. Asked by the mayor where the other Rangers were, McDonald famously responded, "Hell! Ain't I enough? There's only one prize-fight!"
For most of its history, Texas was a huge swath of land with only a scattered handful of Army battalions supplementing the limited abilities of local sheriffs and police. After the trials-by-fire that were the Mexican-American War and the Civil War, as well as an unending conflict with Native Americans, the Texas Rangers, a small but dedicated group of men, brought order to the Western range. Their hands were not always clean (some argue that Rangers were just outlaws with badges), but their exploits are legend.
Here's a breakdown of the top five men who fought for law and order in the wilds of Texas:
John Coffee Hays
Though young (23) and slight (5-foot-9) Hays was one of the first Texas Ranger captains, leading outnumbered brigades — first against the Comanche and other Indian tribes, then against the invading Mexican armies. Under Hays's leadership, the reputation of the Texas Rangers was solidified as rough-and-ready citizen-soldiers, armed with some of the first Colt .45s in the country.
John Barclay Armstrong
After being shot (accidentally, by his own gun) at Goliad, Armstrong — whose nickname was Bulldog — took the lead on the chase for notorious outlaw and murderer John Wesley Hardin in 1877. Pursuing Hardin through Alabama to Pensacola, Fla., he alone captured Hardin's gang of four, shooting one and knocking Hardin out with a pistol-whip before the final two submitted. Armstrong was also involved in the killing of train robber Sam Bass in Round Rock in 1878 and the arrest of cattle rustler John King Fisher in 1877.
A Ranger on and off for most of his life, Hamer became famous for exposing a murder for hire scheme, in which two-bit convicts would be set up to rob banks and complicit police would kill them for the banks' reward money. But his most famous accomplishment was tracking and eventually killing notorious bank robbers Bonnie & Clyde in 1934, following their movements through the Midwest and laying a trap in which 150 rounds were fired into the unsuspecting duo's car.
Manuel "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas
Gaining his nickname for his singular control of all criminal elements — gambling, bootlegging, bank robbery, riots, prostitution, narcotic trafficking, and general lawlessness — from the Rio Grande to the Sabine in the 1920s and 1930s, Gonzaullas was appointed SuperIntendent of the Bureau of Intelligence in the new Department of Public Safety in 1935, creating a modern scientific crime lab that was second only to the FBI's lab in Washington, D.C. Returning to the Rangers in 1940, he was the first Hispanic-American to serve as a Rangers captain.
John R. Hughes
In 1886, Hughes tailed a band of men who were stealing horses, killing some and capturing the rest in New Mexico. Attracting the attention of the Rangers, Hughes joined and was eventually made captain, becoming the longest-serving Texas Ranger in history.