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Book Review: Six-Shooters and Shifting Sands

By HistoryNet Staff
2/24/2016 • Wild West Magazine

Six-Shooters and Shifting Sands: The Wild West Life of Texas Ranger Captain Frank Jones, by Bob Alexander, University of North Texas Press, Denton, 2015, $34.95

Most Old West aficionados are familiar with the Texas Rangers’ hard-earned reputation. In recent years retired U.S. Treasury agent Bob Alexander has set his sights on recounting the lives and deeds of individuals who contributed to that collective rep. His latest, Six-Shooters and Shifting Sands, profiles Frank Jones, who, though he may fall short of being counted among the Rangers’ “Great Captains,” exhibited some of the best attributes of his cadre. Entering service when the Comanche depredations were the Rangers’ principal raison d’être, and employing the usual mix of deadly marksmanship and dogged persistence in bringing malefactors to justice, Jones was also, in Alexander’s words, “a thinker—a practical philosopher.”

Jones preferred a show of force to preempt gunplay on the part of cornered badmen, and he was meticulous in establishing, as best he could, that any killing was justified by circumstances. Even so, Jones joined the martyred ranks of Rangers who died on June 30, 1893, when he and what he considered an inadequate force came under fire from a Mexican family business, whose business was cattle rustling, just over the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. It took three bullets before Jones told his men, “Boys, I am killed,” and it took some fancy negotiating—and palm-greasing—for El Paso County Sheriff Frank Simmons to recover his body the next day from Federales protesting the American “invasion.”

Needless to say, a number of familiar names—including some about whom Alexander has written previous biographies, such as Ira Aten and other members of Jones’ Company D—pop up in the course of the author’s lively narrative. That’s as it should be, because, distinguished though so many of its members were, they all contributed to the team. As evinced in Six-Shooters and Shifting Sands, Frank Jones’ contribution was considerable.

—Jon Guttman

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