My old columns: lots of perspective and little skill

“Time’s a funny thing, bending, warping, stretching, and compressing, all depending on perspective.”

—Lisa Genova, American neuroscientist and author

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Continuing efforts to file and archive my columns, some written 40 years ago, have offered renewed perspective on not only events in my life but also on my writing skills over the years.

Some are funny, some are sad, and some should have never seen the light of ink and newsprint. Yep, some are bad. Reading them now, however, helps me see how my perspective on life has changed and my writing skills have improved over the decades, at least a little. Preserving my columns provides me with a historical glimpse of myself and ensures that I never forget where I’ve been or from where I came.

Also enlightening has been the perspective on societal change in just a scant few years. Like thoughts I penned just six years ago about a conversation with retired Texas Ranger Max Womack at the Waco Civic Center. I was serving as the event photographer where he was being honored at the Texas Rangers Association Foundation Reunion.

“You from Waco,” he asked with a smile in his voice that matched the one on his face.

“No sir,” I replied. “I live in Center; grew up in Mount Pleasant.”

“So, you know where Talco is,” he said, his smile growing larger at the mention of the northern Titus County community.

“Yes sir,” I said. “A high school classmate at Mount Pleasant was from Talco, and I worked in the Talco oil field myself some years ago during college.”

“Been there lately,” Womack asked?

“No sir, been a while.”

“Not much there anymore,” the retired Ranger said. “I lived in Talco when I was younger. Left there in 1951 to go to work for the DPS (Department of Public Safety).”

Texas journalist Mike Cox, author of several non-fiction books about the Texas Rangers, records them as the oldest state law enforcement agency in North America dating to 1823 when the ”Father of Texas,” Stephen F. Austin, called for “ten men … to act as rangers for the common defense… “

In the almost 200 years since, the Rangers have been compared to other world-famous elite law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, Scotland Yard, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When a tough law and order job needed doing throughout Texas, the solution usually included Texas Rangers like Captain William “Bill” McDonald who served from 1891 to 1907. His 1906 leadership in the Twenty-fifth Infantry case made him known as “the man who would charge hell with a bucket of water.” He’s also credited with making a statement that serves as the epitaph on his tombstone at Quanah, near Wichita Falls, “No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that’s in the right and keeps on a-comin’.”

McDonald is also associated with the legend about a town in frontier Texas that sent for the Rangers to quell a riot. When the mayor met the train, a single Ranger stepped off. The mayor asked, “Just one Ranger,” to which the Ranger’s response was, “There’s just one riot, ain’t there?”

The historical version of “one riot—one Ranger” appears to have been based on a whimsical statement made by McDonald during that time that was used by author Bigelow Paine in his book, Captain Bill McDonald: Texas Ranger.

“One Ranger—one riot,” came to mind that night just six years ago as I listened to Womack’s acceptance speech. His Ranger service began in 1969 in a newly created district in Atlanta where he retired from East Texas’s Company B in 1989. He recounted investigating crime and enforcing the law in a lighthearted manner evoking frequent laughter from the audience. Although humorous, it belied the real-life courage and dedication displayed by men and women like him who exemplify the Texas Ranger Association Foundation website’s declaration, “To preserve and perpetuate the history and heritage of the Texas Rangers.”

Reading my column last week in the perspective of Dallas’s elected official’s recent removal of the Texas Ranger statue captioned, “One Riot, One Ranger” that stood in the city’s Love Field Airport for 58 years, because “it might be offensive to some,” caused me concern.

What if some sensitive folks were to read my early columns and find my writing skills back then to be offensive? They might even want to remove my statue for journalism skills. Oh wait. No need for worry—that statue doesn’t exist.

—Leon Aldridge

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(Photo at top of the page: Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, Waco, Texas.

Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

2 thoughts on “My old columns: lots of perspective and little skill

  1. Tonight I ran across your article from a few years ago about Mr. I.N. Burchinal, Jr., and the Flying Tiger Air Museum just outside Paris Tx. I grew up in Lamar County and we drove by there all the time. My best memory, however, has to do with an air show they did once when I was a child. It must have been late 60’s or early 70’s. One of the planes there that day was the plane my Dad flew in Korea during the Korean War and the pilot was kind enough to take Dad up for a spin. He was so happy that day. Dad’s been gone almost 22 years now, but memories like this one keep him in my heart. Thanks for writing about something that I related to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Than you for your kind words. I often tell people that I enjoy writing because it’s something I’ve done all my life and it’s my “cheap therapy” — helps me keep a balanced outlook on life. Part of that is kind comments like yours. I love it when something that brought me enough pleasure in life to remember and write about has done the same for someone else. Thanks again! — Leon


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