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The Texas Ranger,Sergeant Gillett, took audacious liberties with the law

Posted in America, Historical articles, History, Law on Wednesday, 31 July 2013

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This edited article about the Texas Rangers originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 356 published on 9 November 1968.

Texas Rangers, picture, image, illustration

The Rangers were quite prepared to flout international law by crossing the Rio Grande into Mexico to bring outlaws to justice

The two Texas Rangers rode up to the bank of the Rio Grande river. On the far side, a hundred yards away, was Mexico. And a mile or two beyond the border, a Mexican, wanted for a murder on United States territory, was serving in a store in the little town of Zaragoza.

No American lawman could legally touch the Mexican – or claim the 500-dollar reward for bringing him in. The Mexicans, who were not overfond of Americans, preferred harbouring murderers to letting Rangers or Marshals across the border.

So – the only way to get him out was to kidnap him!

Sergeant James Gillett, one of the two Rangers, had a particular interest in seeing justice done. The killing had happened the previous Christmas. A popular editor had been shot down by two Mexican brothers, Abran and Enofre Baca, after a church social.

Abran had hidden in the house of an uncle, who happened to be a United States judge! Gillett caught him there and collected a 500-dollar reward – after being offered twice as much by the judge to let his nephew go. Enofre had disappeared.

A month passed without news of the wanted man’s whereabouts. Then a friend of Gillett’s spotted Enofre in Zaragoza, and rode back to break the news that the murderer was out of reach on Mexican territory.

But Gillett was not going to let a little matter of geography thwart him.

By the 1880s, the Rangers, with the Indian wars in Texas over, had been reduced from a thousand to some five hundred men. They were organised like an army, but had no uniforms or routine military duties. They were the toughest law-enforcement men in the West. Nevertheless, Gillett’s commander, Captain Baylor, could hardly allow one of his men to cross the border illegally.

So Gillett looked around for a reliable man to help him. He picked on a nerveless young Texan, George Lloyd.

“We’ll never do it, Sergeant,” said Lloyd, when Gillett first brought the subject up as they rode along the Rio Grande on a routine patrol.

“Look at it this way,” replied Gillett. “Ranger pay is bad, promotion chances are worse. If we pull this off, there’ll be law jobs open to us all over Texas when we retire. Reckon it’s worth the risk – and the reward won’t hurt none!”

Then he outlined his plan.

“O.K. by me, Sergeant,” said Lloyd cheerfully when Gillett had finished. “Sounds as easy as taking on the whole Apache nation! What a way to die!”

The next morning they rode across the Rio Grande at a ford where the water was only a few feet deep, and headed for Zaragoza. Americans, though not popular in Mexico, were quite often seen there, but Gillett and his companion took no chances and kept to the side tracks.

Reaching the town, they rode slowly across the main square and up to the store. The sun was burning down and only a few people were about. Gillett alighted, climbed up the steps and walked towards the swing doors of the store. Lloyd held his horse and looked as relaxed as he could under the circumstances. Gillett sauntered through the doors of the low adobe building.

Once inside, he spotted his man right away: posters had been circulated about him throughout the South West. Baca was measuring calico for an old Mexican woman. There were only two other customers.

Gillett acted quickly. He walked up to Baca, whipped out his six-shooter and grabbed the man by the collar.

“What are you doing?” asked the startled Mexican.

“You’re coming with me to the States,” said Gillett, pressing his gun against Baca’s head. The old woman fainted and the other two customers fled.

Rapidly, Gillett steered Baca out of the store and forced him to mount behind Lloyd. Then he leapt on his own horse.

As they raced across the square the onlookers came to life and gave the alarm. Men were already going for their horses. The bells of the town’s church started to peal out, as if the Indians were attacking.

The road the Rangers and their prisoner were following was little better than a sand track, and it wound so much that the distance to the river was more than doubled.

After two miles, Lloyd’s horse started flagging.

Suddenly nine armed riders swung into view a mile back and started firing – low, to avoid hitting Baca.

Swiftly, the Rangers transferred their prisoner to Gillett’s horse, and started off again. The Mexicans had shortened the gap to six hundred yards and their bullets were tearing into the ground around the fugitives. It could only be a matter of time before Gillett’s horse found the going too tough.

But then, all at once, there was the Rio Grande in front of them. They reached the bank and plunged straight into the river. A final hail of bullets cut up the water around them, and then they were across and on Texan soil.

The Mexicans halted at the river. Gillett turned his horse to face them, raised his stetson, and waved it at them. Howls of rage rent the air.

The two Texans then decided not to chance their luck any further, and headed for the Ranger camp.

Captain Baylor was not amused, but he could hardly help admiring what his men had done, and he let them off with a severe reprimand.

The Mexicans were not so easy, and telegrams flew between Mexico City and Washington. But there was no denying that Baca was a murderer, and Baylor stuck by his men, who had become heroes.

Things turned out as Gillett had predicted. When he retired from the Rangers, he became Marshal of the wild town of El Paso, which he soon tamed. Finally he became a prosperous rancher.

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