Winchester Warriors: Texas Rangers of Company D, 1874–1901
by Bob Alexander, University of North Texas Press, Denton, 2009, $29.95.
General histories of the Texas Rangers are legion, but in No. 6 of the University of North Texas Press’ Frances B. Vick series, Winchester Warriors, former lawman Bob Alexander narrows his sights on a representative “little picture” that nevertheless takes a Texas-sized 402 pages to recount. In this case, the slice of Ranger life is the first quarter-century of Company D.
Officially sworn into existence on May 25, 1874, Company D comprised a cadre of officers and sergeants and a large contingent of talented young volunteers who became experts in patrolling for Kiowas and Comanche raiders but whose understanding of impartial law enforcement sometimes left a good deal to be desired. When plunged into the buildup of Mason County’s so-called Hoodoo War later that year, the company’s performance suffered from a tendency to take sides.
Author Bob Alexander draws from a wealth of documentation, including personal letters, diaries and memoirs, and illustrates the proceedings with equally personal photographs. He strips away the legends to show what everyday life and the challenges of duty meant for a unit made not of carved-stone supermen but very human and consequently all-too-flawed individuals learning their way as they went.
Even with objective treatment, Company D’s story abounds with gunplay and gore, spiced up by occasional encounters with such familiar names as John Ringo, Judge Roy Bean, Will Carver and Tom Ketchum. This seems to elicit a lot of colorful prose from the author —perhaps too much at times.
Originally published in the April 2010 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.