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Texas Ranger John B. Jones and the Frontier Battalion, 1874–1881, by Rick Miller, University of North Texas Press, Denton, 2012, $29.95

“I find that I have a heavy task before me,” wrote Major John B. Jones in 1874 after his first three months in charge of the newly organized Frontier Battalion, whose formation marked the second distinct period of the Texas Rangers. Jones explained: “To protect 500 miles of frontier from Indian depredations for 12 months with 450 men and only $3,000 is an undertaking that a much stouter heart than mine might very reasonably hesitate to engage in, especially when the appropriation is also to pay any minute companies that may be called out during the years, four of which are now in the field. But I have undertaken it and will go through with it, doing the best I can with the limited means at my command.” In other words, in the finest traditions of law enforcement in the Old West, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.” And what Jones did was apply both the organizational skills and true grit he’d acquired as a Confederate army officer to relaunch the Texas Rangers.

Rick Miller, a lawyer, has written biographies of such badmen as Bill Longley, Sam Bass and Eugene Bunch, as well as bounty hunter Jack Duncan. Now Miller offers the first full biography of someone operating on his side of the law, and the story, drawing heavily on primary documents, proves that badge wearers can be interesting, too. In fact, Miller’s tale is the best book of 2012, according to the Wild West History Association.

Jon Guttman