51dRYUl3KSL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Texas Devils: Rangers and Regulars on the Lower Rio Grande, 1846-1861, by Michael L. Collins, University of Oklahoma Press, (405) 325-3200, $19.95, Paper. Photographs, Notes to the Chapters, Bibliography, Index.

This book is a carefully researched account of the turbulent times along the Lower Rio Grande in Texas from 1846-1861.  The author delves into these fifteen years filled with conflict between Anglo ranchers, homesteaders and businessmen at odds with the Hispanic people after the Mexican War.  New International boundaries pointed to trouble when people lost their old homelands and the Republic of Texas established a new government as well as new political rules.

The author creates a page-turner that reads in places like an exciting novel.  With measured cadence and vivid word descriptions, the warring factions are brought to life.  He explains how the Rangers were hired to defend the homeland, protect the new border and keep the peace.  Understandably, the Mexican people were mostly filled with resentment toward these armed posses riding across their old homeland.  Known by the Mexicans as Ids diablos Tejanos, or Texas Devils, these men patrolled the countryside often clashing with Mexican bandits and roving Comanches.  Here are details regarding the various battles, what happened, who lived and who died.  Often young Rangers were brutally murdered, their hacked remains left rolling in the sun.

In retaliation, the Rangers were known to exact their own brand of vengeance, and sometimes committed atrocities with equal savagery upon those they fought against.  The book aims to tell the Ranger story with fairness, dispelling some of the romanticized myths surrounding the early Ranger companies.

Important leaders of the Ranger units are given biographical coverage as to their places in history.  Some had political ambitions; some were mercenaries interested in land and plunder.  Still others, like Major Samuel Heintzelman and Col. Robert E. Lee were military gentlemen performing their duties in Texas with dignity, and who were destined to fight in terrible battlefields back east.

A clear and sentimental portrait is drawn here regarding Robert E. Lee who left his beloved Virginia plantation (now Arlington National Cemetery) in service to his country.  He knew the winds of war would call him home to face heart wrenching decisions that would linger to the end of his days.

Too, this Ranger story includes the well known Juan Cortina known on the border as the “Red Robber.”  The son of wealthy Mexicans who owned vast ranch lands, he became a champion for the Mexican cause after his mother lost most of their land to gringo lawyers and speculators after the Mexican War.  Filled with bitterness and revenge, he led his Mexican followers against the Texas Rangers.  Somewhat of a Robin Hood, he became an illusive adversary much loved by the Mexican people.

The author points out that injustice on both sides of the border conflict were experienced by many people.  In 1860 Civil War broke out in the United States, and Texas went with the Confederacy.  So much turmoil ensued due to that cause, the fighting on the Texas border settled down since there was a much larger conflict to deal with.  Meanwhile, old myths and fables die hard because we all need our heroes.  However, still to this day Anglos and Hispanics on the Lower Rio Grande have their reasons to mistrust one another.  Even after 150 years, there is still much work to be done.  Western history readers will reflect on what is written here long after turning the last page.

Editor’s Note:  The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of many books about the Old West including Hell Horse Winter of the Apache Kid, Silk Label Books, P.0. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 Ph. (845) 726-3434 www.silklabelbooks.com

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Soiled Dove Madame Mustache

Soiled Dove Madame MustacheSimone Jules was a young French girl who arrived in Northern California at the height of the gold rush. For about four years she worked as a soiled dove in San Francisco’s Bella Union. Accumulating enough money to open her own place, she headed up to Nevada City, California, changed her name to Eleanor Dumont and opened the Dumont Palace gambling saloon. 
 
After a falling out with a male partner, who was getting a piece of both the gambling action and Simone, she turned to drink, and started moving around the mining camps in Nevada, again  as a soiled dove. When Simone, was in her late 20’s the hair on her upper lip began to grow rather dark. One evening a drunken miner called her “Madame Mustache.” And to her chagrin, it stuck.   
 
Later Madame Mustache sold all her gambling interests and bought a cattle ranch near Carson City, Nevada. Now in her early 40’s, Madame Mustache was ready to settle down, and become a cattle rancher. But, along came a con man named Carruthers. Carruthers proceeded to romance Madame Mustache, marry her, have all her assets put in his name, sell the assets, and bug out faster than I was able to say it. But don’t worry; Carruthers didn’t get away Scott free. Madame Mustache caught up with him a little latter, and evened the score with two blasts from a shotgun.  
 
With no money, Madame Mustache went back to working the gambling tables. Now in her late 40’s, with the hair on her face growing ever darker, her features those of a woman much older than her age, and her charm gone, on the evening of September 6, 1879 Madame Mustache took poison and died. She was just another victim of the harsh life of the Old West
 

Texas Ranger Frank Jones

Texas Ranger Captain Frank JonesBorn in Austin, Texas in 1856, Frank Jones joined the Texas Rangers at the age of 17. He saw his first action when he and two other Rangers were sent after some Mexican horse thieves. The horse thieves ambushed the Rangers. Frank’s two companions were immediately taken out, but Frank was able to kill two of the bandits and capture a third.
 
Frank was promoted to corporal and later to sergeant. Once again while chasing a large gang of cattle rustlers, Frank and his six Ranger companions were ambushed. Three of the Rangers were killed, and Frank and the other two Rangers were captured.
 
Now, it would have been much better for the rustlers if they had also killed Frank, for while the rustlers were congratulating themselves on their victory, Frank grabbed one of their rifles, and proceeded to kill all of them.
 
A few years later, now a captain, while traveling alone, Frank was again ambushed. This time by three desperadoes who shot him, and left him for dead. With a bad chest wound, Frank tracked the three men down on foot until he found their camp. He waited until dark; took one of their rifles; shot one and brought the other two back to stand trial.
 
Over the next few years Frank continued his confrontations and victories over outlaws. But on June 29, 1893 Frank went on his last mission. He and four other Rangers went after some cattle thieves on the Mexico border. This time they did the ambushing. But it didn’t turn out well for Frank. In the ensuing gunfight this man of many lives was finally killed.

Chuckwagon: Plum Pudding Sauce

Ingredients:  Glass of brandy; 2 oz of fresh butter; Glass of Madeira; Pounded sugar to taste.

Mode:  Mix pounded sugar with part of the brandy and the butter.  Warm until sugar and butter dissolved then add the rest of brandy.  Either pour it over the pudding or serve in a tureen.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Old West TV – Bose Ikard

Dakota Livesay gives us a history lesson about Bose Ikard. Bose Ikard was an African American who participated in the pioneering cattle drives on what became know as the Goodnight-Loving Trail, after the American Civil War and through 1869.

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