Cover

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Frontmatter

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Contents

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p. v

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Preface

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pp. vi-xii

Ira Aten was not a braggadocio fellow. Had he chosen to, Ira could have unleashed bragging rights with legitimacy. He owned not just a few. Unlike some of his better known counterparts Mr. Aten apparently found discomfort in speciously puffing about his Old West law enforcing days. While recounting thrilling experiences for inquiring...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xvi-xx

The obligation of mentioning names of those lending a helping hand is pleasurable. Such a process brings to the forefront of one’s memory congenial visits and conversations during the research phase of gathering data. On the one hand skilled novelists may be envied for their colorful imaginations and talent, but nonfiction writing is above all else, as it should be, people business. An author...

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Chapter 1: “When he got a little older”

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pp. 1-22

Ten-year-old David “Dock” Davis fidgeted. He was idly kicking Texas dirt, shifting weight from one scuffed brogan to another as he held the team’s reins. Dock’s instructions had been short and simple: stand by with the family’s wagon in front of a hardware store on Georgetown Avenue. Whatever he did, he wasn’t to let those mules...

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Chapter 2: “We buried him on the side of a road”

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pp. 23-37

The killing of Sam Bass had catapulted young Ira Aten right to the brink of a sensational story. Frank Aten’s buttons were no doubt popping off his store-bought shirt: He had been accepted as a grownup, at least adult enough to stand quiet at the bedside of a dying desperado. Owing to worthwhile efforts of a hardworking, productive, and overall munificent population, Williamson County’s...

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Chapter 3: “We’ll do the shooting”

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pp. 38-56

Upon becoming a Texas Ranger, Ira had bitten from a hard plug; now it would be Captain Sieker’s turn to see if he could chew. There would be no manual to study. There would be no end-of-semester test to take. The training program was straightforward: Ride with more experienced Texas Rangers, young as they were, learning the job from their tutelage. They were also full of advice, of a personal...

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Chapter 4: “But few honest men in this town”

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pp. 57-70

Sheriff Tom Oglesby had sent an urgent dispatch to Captain Sieker stating that trouble was anticipated at Carrizo Springs, Dimmit County, the province adjoining his bailiwick’s southeastern borderline.1 Apparently, Ranger Ira Aten was at Company D’s headquarters the evening of February 6, 1885: “About sundown one evening, a man rode into our camp on the Leona river below Uvalde. He was...

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Chapter 5: “We opened fire and they returned it”

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pp. 71-89

Accurately focusing the lens of objectivity in an Old West context is often tricky. Sometimes, troublesome as it may be, the exercise is steeped in ambiguity. Conclusive findings are customarily thwarted—or at the minimum skewed by perspective. Unwinding absolute truths regarding nineteenth-century episodes taking place in the Texas/Mexican borderlands is particularly niggling. Texas...

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Chapter 6: “If you pull it, Jack, I’ll kill you”

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pp. 90-103

In accordance with orders from Austin headquarters, Company D’s main camp was shifted from San Ambroisa Creek back to Uvalde County.1 It would seem Lam Sieker, too, could see the rationale in repositioning Company D Rangers due to hardened feelings. He notified AG King in writing: “All I could do at my present camp [San Ambrosia] would be in a negative way….”2 Sieker’s “negative way”...

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Chapter 7: “Curling steel tendrils”

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pp. 104-125

Before striking out horseback for Lampasas County under secret orders from AG King, Private Aten had to tend to unfinished business that not even the adjutant general could override. Ira Aten was under subpoena to testify in the Braeutigam murder case in which Jack Beam was the defendant.1 Par business in court proceedings for lawmen is adjusting to the standby mode—sometimes for hours...

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Chapter 8: “To make a killing, is why I want Aten”

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pp. 126-147

If Ranger Aten took a brief holiday hiatus it has escaped notice. A rising winter sun on January 1, 1887, shone down on Ira and a fellow Ranger scouting in Edwards County near Bullhead (Vance community). Successfully and safely the duo latched on to a suspected cow thief wanted in Uvalde County.1 Ira’s doggedness and pure grit were not traits solely recognized by the Texas Rangers’ headquarters...

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Chapter 9: “Wild boy among the villains”

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pp. 148-169

An infectious disease, until it is stamped out for keeps, undergoes periods of incubation between outbreaks. For North Texas the outburst of another fence-cutting epidemic broke forth during the spring and summer of 1888. Ranchman R. A. Davis had decided it was finally time to fence his Ellis County (Waxahachie) pasture—one thousand acres. Laboriously, and at no little expense, holes...

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Chapter 10: “Would as soon go to a fight as a frolic”

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pp. 170-188

Through a grab bag of Motions, Continuances, and Changes of Venue, the Brown County fence-cutting cases bounced back and forth between Brown and Bell Counties (Belton). Factionalized politics and tinkering legalese forestall easy clarity. For the most part, it may be said, absent concrete acceptance of jurisdictional responsibility the cases were pushed south on the docket on or about January...

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Chapter 11: “Venison is better than no meat at all”

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pp. 189-211

Fort Bend County, geographically blessed with rich Brazos River bottoms gradually giving way to alluvium soils in the flatlands as the winding watercourse amplified, was near perfect farm country—in the western slice of the county, productive cattle growing country, too. Herds of insect-resistant Brahmans stood near belly deep in salt grass, fattening, dependably dropping droop-eared calves for...

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Chapter 12: “Celebrated Xmas day by killing the two Odles”

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pp. 212-233

Sheriff Aten had advised Captain Sieker that Fort Bend County would have a Jaybird government. He was right. Woodpeckers, what few were left, resigned public office and moved on, most leaving the county for good. A tip-off to either Ira’s sense of humor or political tilt may also be drawn from his missive to Sieker. Sheriff Aten was hopeful of maintaining peace for his county, but with the scheduled...

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Chapter 13: “He fell like a beef”

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pp. 234-257

For whatever reason Ira forewent establishing himself in Dickens or Crosby Counties, but he did opt for settling in one of those “line of counties higher”: Castro County. Although it may seem that the 1876 state legislators had been on a drunken spree or fertility drugs when it came to birthing new counties, such had not been the case. Their rationale was fitting. In one fell swoop, for economy’s...

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Chapter 14: “I’ll break them up on lawyers’ fees”

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pp. 258-280

A new year blew in with its characteristic winter blast. Castro County citizens, many yet living in dugouts, burrowed deep anticipating a desired thaw. Springtime would bring forth the warmth, but not a welcoming respite for many Dimmitt area folks. With the good weather came the bad. Cow thieves were at work, again. A sparsely populated range—mostly unfenced—was prime territory for those...

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Chapter 15: “I’ll shoot you right through the middle”

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pp. 281-311

Ira mulled over A. G. Boyce’s proposal. At first Imogen was not enthralled with the idea. It would necessitate relocation. More troubling from her perspective was the fact her husband was being promised the moon and was not being courted for his cow sense, but for his gunmanship. In fact the clever Mr. Boyce was glossing over that pesky aspect and had promised “that he did not intend to...

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Chapter 16: “Never worked harder in my life”

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pp. 312-332

Detailing the intricate, tiresome, mundane, and obligatory tasks linked with an out-of-state relocation is not necessary. Especially not for advancing—winding down—the thrilling story of an ex-Texas Ranger and man who had served as a frontier-era sheriff in two Texas counties, throwing in the ten years he spent as a rawhide-tough ramrod on the largest cattle ranch in the Lone Star State—maybe even...

Endnotes

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pp. 333-421

Bibliography

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pp. 422-434

Index

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pp. 435-452