The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

Book Reviews

A Private zn the Texas Rangers, A. T. Miller of Company B, Frontzer Battalzon. By John
Miller Morris. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2ool. Pp.
ix+334. List of illustrations, acknowledgments, prologue, epilogue, ap-
pendix A, appendix B, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-890o96-946-7.
$24.95, cloth.)
Every historian knows the old adage, "If you want to be immortal, write a di-
ary." Of course, it helps if the journal falls into the hands of a talented scholar.
In this instance the immortality of Private Miller and his frontier experience,
centered on and just below the Texas Panhandle of the late 188os, enjoys not
only the capable attention of award-winning author John Miller Morris, but also
the loving touch of a great-great grandson.
Like most any edited piece, this one lacks the narrative flow of a monograph,
yet more than most it tells a captivating story. The diary and Morris's commen-
tary provide a sweeping, personal view of a unique westering experience. When
Miller arrived, the wagon-road economy of first-comers had already beckoned
another wave of settlers who enjoyed an easy boom of mercantile capitalism. As
the ranger private's enlistment unfolded, Morris helps him describe a scene of
settlers and businessmen striving vainly to hold fast against the inevitable entry
of monopolistic ranchers and railroads. Together, diarist and editor capture the
cultural imprint that left its indelible mark on the regional identity embodied in
the legends that surround such places as Doan's Store, Mobeetie, and Tascosa.
Whether by imparting a context, flashing forward, or providing details un-
known to the diarist, Morris hovers above the action like an omniscient narrator.
At times he inspires poignancy: "Company B rides . . . trails and streets that will
be largely deserted in only a few more years[,] . . . the ranch towns, stage roads,
and ghostly settlements beyond the advancing railroad must disappear, .. . all ...
swallowed up by relocation, atrophy, or abandonment" (p. 61). In other places
Morris's observations tie the past to the present. Taking a sideswipe at former
Governor Bush-who in 1995 touted his concealed handgun bill as a measure
that would "take us out of the Wild Wild West"-the editor demonstrates that ac-
tually "more gun control was thought logical for the violence threatening Victori-
an frontier communities" (p. 67).
Above all, Morris edifies, and his observations regarding violence-"the reput-
ed lawlessness of the frontier was both exaggerated and accurate" (p. 153)-pro-
vide the kinds of textbook cases that should make such scholars as Richard
Maxwell Brown veritably salivate. The landscape of Miller's jurisdiction became
littered with men who, in Brown's turn of phrase, felt "no duty to retreat." Still
others lay victim to heavy-handed tactics of individual rangers like "Cap" Arring-
ton, whose brutal removal of a Hardeman County nester left him facing murder
charges. A more ham-handed incident saw a ranch matron lose her end of what
Brown has called the "civil war of incorporation" by assuming the law's con-
nivance in her casual and open solicitation for assassins to thin the range of
small-time competitors.
Notwithstanding William C. Foster's The La Salle Expedztion to Texas (TSHA,
1998), edited volumes do not often receive the scholarly kudos and attention

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed April 18, 2014.