The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 66, July 1962 - April, 1963

Book Reviews

Taming the Nueces Strip: The Story of McNelly's Rangers. By
George Durham as told to Clyde Wantland. Foreword by
Walter Prescott Webb. Austin (University of Texas Press),
1962. Pp. xx+ 178. Illustrations. $4.50.
After terminating his service with the Texas Rangers, George
Durham frequently recorded details of his police work on the
Texas-Mexico border in 1875-1876 and stored the bits of paper in
a large trunk. Clyde Wantland, a free-lance writer from San An-
tonio, met Durham in the 1930's, realized the value of his story,
and compiled the description of a colorful era under the super-
vision of Ranger Durham. The result is a delightful addition to
Southwestern literature.
The gallantry and courage displayed by Captain Leander H.
McNelly and his special company of Rangers, who restored order
in the lawless territory between the Nueces River and the Rio
Grande, is the theme of the work. Camp life, training, and com-
bat tactics of 'Texas Rangers are discussed, as well as McNelly's
practice of taking no prisoners. This Ranger captain's method of
handling outlaws was ley de fuga. Through torture a captured
bandit revealed information on livestock stealing in the Nueces
Strip, then he was released to the custody of Jesi's Sandoval, Mc-
Nelly's jailer. Sandoval promptly ended the lawbreaker's life by
such novel means as pulling the bandit's head from his body or
causing a horse to jump from under the prisoner who was stand-
ing erect on the animal's back with a taut rope around his neck.
Ranger Durham stated that he did not agree with the harsh ley
de fuga, but he was paid to follow orders, not to make policy.
He believed this policy was effective, however, because cattle
rustling declined in South 'Texas when border bandits learned of
McNelly's effective spy system and the summary way in which he
dealt with culprits.
McNelly's techniques of law enforcement brought criticism
from state politicians and eventually his release from service.
Perhaps if the Ranger officer had written more descriptive ac-
counts of his actions he would have been better understood by
the contemporary authorities. His opponents, many times locally
respectable citizens who had erred in the eyes of the state law,


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 66, July 1962 - April, 1963. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed April 29, 2016.

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