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Cattle Brands

No State in the Union was ever called upon to meet and deal with the criminal element as
was Texas. She was border territory upon her admission to the sisterhood of States.
An area equal to four ordinary States, and a climate that permitted of outdoor life the year
round, made it a desirable rendezvous for criminals. The sparsely settled condition of the
country, the flow of immigration being light until the seventies, was an important factor.
The fugitives from justice of the older States with a common impulse turned toward this
empire of isolation. Europe contributed her quota, more particularly from the south,
bringing with them the Mafia and vendetta. Once it was the Ultima Thule of the criminal
western world. From the man who came for not building a church to the one who had
taken human life, the catalogue of crime was fully represented.
Humorous writers tell us that it was a breach of good manners to ask a man his name, or
what State he was from, or to examine the brand on his horse very particularly. It can be
safely said that there was a great amount of truth mingled with the humor. Some of these
fugitives from justice became good citizens, but the majority sooner or later took up
former callings.
Along with this criminal immigration came the sturdy settler, the man intent on building
a home and establishing a fireside. Usually following lines of longitude, he came from
other Southern States. He also brought with him the fortitude of the pioneer that reclaims
the wilderness and meets any emergency that confronts him. To meet and deal with this
criminal element as a matter of necessity soon became an important consideration. His
only team of horses was frequently stolen. His cattle ran off their range, their ear-marks
altered and brands changed. Frequently it was a band of neighbors, together in a posse,
who followed and brought to bay the marauders. It was an unlucky moment for a horse-
thief when he was caught in possession of another man's horse. The impromptu court of
emergency had no sentiment in regard to passing sentence of death. It was a question of
guilt, and when that was established, Judge Lynch passed sentence.
As the State advanced, the authorities enlisted small companies of men called Rangers.
The citizens' posse soon gave way to this organized service. The companies, few in
number at first, were gradually increased until the State had over a dozen companies in
the field. These companies numbered anywhere from ten to sixty men. It can be said with
no discredit to the State that there were never half enough companies of men for the work
before them.
There was a frontier on the south and west of over two thousand miles to be guarded. A
fair specimen of the large things in that State was a shoe-string congressional district,
over eleven hundred miles long. To the Ranger, then, is all credit due for guarding this
western frontier against the Indians and making life and the possession of property a