Today, he’s talking about what you can learn from research.
Welcome, Mike Cox.
When I do the research for my books, including the second of my two-volume history of the Texas Rangers, Time of the Rangers, I like to visit as many of the places I write about as I can.
I’ve been to the remote Coal Mine Ranch in Presidio County, where Mexican bandits killed a Ranger in 1915. I’ve spent hours walking around Camp Mabry in Austin, where the Rangers officed before the Texas Department of Public Safety built its current headquarters in the early 1950s. I’ve been to the Walls prison unit in Huntsville, where narco kingpin Fred Gomez Carrasco tried to escape in 1974 only to be thwarted by Rangers and other officers.
But until recently I’d never visited Snake-den Tank.
As I explain in Time of the Rangers, the men (and now women) who wear the distinctive silver Ranger badge have always been welcome guests on the ranches they helped bring law and order to. Since at least the 1950s, the famous 6666 Ranch near Guthrie has hosted an annual get together for the Rangers at a large stock tank on one of its sections.
Rangers gather to shoot, compare notes with colleagues, eat well and, at least at the Snake-den Tank, work in a little off-duty fishing. It’s even possible they will play a few hands of poker or sip something stronger than iced tea.
Snake-den Tank is aptly named, being a great place to run across a rattlesnake – or several. Retired Senior Ranger Captain Lefty Block, an old friend, tells me the only accommodation at Snake-den used to be a drafty plank shack. Often, when Rangers first arrived to set up camp, they found it full of snakes.
One time, Block says, he and several other Rangers had broken for lunch after finishing a round of target practice. As Block enjoyed his grub he spotted a coiled rattler under the chair of the Ranger next to him.
“Don’t move,” Block whispered.
The Ranger, a rookie, wrongly sensed a gag and laughed.
“I said don’t move,” Block ordered in a voice normally reserved for uncooperative suspects.
About the time the young Ranger finally realized his precarious situation, the diamondback unwound itself and calmly slithered right through the Ranger camp.
“We’d all taken our guns off,” Block says. “All we could do was just sit there and watch it until it crawled off.”
The Snake-den is still a good place to find a rattler, but the amenities have vastly improved. Now it’s a complex of attractive new ranch buildings complete with bunk beds, kitchen, bathrooms, flat-screen TV, computer with internet connection and the remodeled original camp house, now home to the owner’s trophy game mounts.
According to retired Company C Captain Carl Weathers, the 6666 Ranch sold a chunk of land to Amarillo wheeler-dealer T. Boone Pickens, who divided the acreage and in turn sold it to various others. Max Williams, a Dallas businessman and avid hunter, bought 2,500 acres including Snake-den Tank and named it the 2-4-6 Ranch.
I visited the ranch for the first time when the Former Texas Ranger Association’s board met there Oct. 21. Happily, I encountered no snakes.
Thank you, Mike.
What about all of you? Do you venture away from the libraries and computers to do research? Have you found first-hand stories that have given you ideas and visual pictures of settings and events?