The Texas Rangers
That's the way the late Colonel Homer Garrison, Jr., longtime director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, once described the men who have worn the silver or gold star of the Texas Rangers, the oldest law enforcement agency in North America with statewide jurisdiction.
Rangers have a heritage that traces to the earliest days of Anglo settlement in Texas. They often have been compared to four other world-famous law enforcement agencies, the FBI, Scotland Yard, Interpol and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Scores of books, from well-researched works of nonfiction to Wild West pulp novels to best-selling works of fiction, have been written about the Rangers. Over the years numerous movies, radio shows and television shows have been inspired by the Rangers.
The Rangers are part of the history of the Old West, and part of its mythology. Over the years, a distinct Ranger tradition has evolved.
As former Ranger Captain Bob Crowder once put it, "A Ranger is an officer who is able to handle any given situation without definite instructions from his commanding officer or higher authority. This ability must be proven before a man becomes a Ranger."
That definition worked well more than 150 years ago and still fits today. Yet, unlike years ago, today Texas Rangers have access to modern communications, which keeps them in touch with the rest of the world.
But a good horse was the only fast means of travel, and the best alibi for outlaws, in the early days of the Rangers.
Despite the long history of the Rangers, the term "Texas Ranger" did not appear officially in a piece of legislation until 1874.