Far-Ranging History

The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900; by Mike Cox ; Forge Books, hardcover, 496 pages, $26.
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The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900; by Mike Cox ; Forge Books, hardcover, 496 pages, $26.
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From its inception as a ragtag band of men charged with protecting settlers in the Texas territory from roving bands of cannibalistic Indians, to decades spent warring with outlaws, Comanche, Mexican banditos, and Union soldiers, Cox takes readers on a compelling and unflinching journey through the checkered past of the legendary Texas Rangers in the first of this two-volume series.

Cox, who writes a syndicated column on Texas history, spent fifteen years as spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, which includes the Texas Rangers. His fascination with the subject began as a child listening to his grandfather’s stories of famous Rangers he had known during his newspaper career, and has grown throughout his lifetime.

With this kind of background, it’s no surprise that the author writes in a narrative style that is both accessible and authoritative. From the outset, the reader is plunged into the story of Stephen Fuller Austin as he leads a group into the new territory with the aim of establishing a settlement. It’s soon apparent that the fledgling colony needs protection from, as Austin writes, “errant thieves united with Indians,” and he advocates for a “paid corps ‘to act as rangers for the common defense.’ ”

From this portentous beginning, Cox meticulously traces the formation and rise of the unit as it evolves from a handful of mounted militiamen into an organized peace-keeping force to be reckoned with. The reader is left with a clear sense of the elemental role the Rangers played in shaping what Texas would become.

"With this kind of background, it’s no surprise that the author writes in a narrative style that is both accessible and authoritative."