Rangers on the Screen and in Pop-Culture

On Screen

Few organizations have been featured in more Hollywood movies over a longer period of time than the Texas Rangers. The “men in the white hats” first appeared in theaters in 1910 and continue to do so in the 21st century. During 98 of the last 109 years at least one movie a year has been released featuring an actor as a Texas Ranger.

It may never be possible to create a complete list of Texas Ranger films. Sadly, the Film Foundation estimates that 80% of films made from 1897 to 1930 are now lost.

The films listed include:

  • Feature-length movies,
  • “Shorts” (such as early movie serials),
  • Television Series (such as Walker: Texas Ranger)
  • Made-for-TV movies, or mini series (such as Lonesome Dove)
  • Episodes of television series featuring Texas Ranger characters.

Detailed information about each film or television show is available from the Internet Movie Database.

1910 - 1929

  • The Ranger’s Bride
  • The Border Ranger
  • The Ranger and His Horse
  • The Ranger’s Romance
  • The Ranger of Lonesome
  • Gulch
  • Liberty
  • The Ranger
  • Heart of the Sunset
  • The Silent Rider
  • The Lone Star Ranger
  • Last of the Duanes
  • Rider of the Law, a.k.a. Jim of the Rangers
  • When a Man Rides Alone
  • Speedy Meade
  • The Unknown Ranger
  • The Ranger and the Law
  • The Sky Ranger
  • Kingfisher's Roost
  • West of the Rio Grande
  • The Ranger’s Reward
  • The Big Ranger
  • The Fighting Ranger
  • The Lone Star Ranger
  • The Footlight Ranger
  • King’s Creek Law
  • Border Law
  • It Happened Out West
  • The Whirlwind Ranger
  • The Last of the Duanes
  • Border Women
  • Trigger Fingers
  • The Loser's End
  • The Fighting Ranger
  • Border Justice
  • Border Rangers
  • Ranger of the Big Pines
  • Ranger Bill
  • Rider of the Painted Horse
  • Riders of the Purple Sage
  • One Shot Ranger
  • The Trail Rider
  • The Son of Sontag
  • Unseen Enemies
  • Daredevil’s Reward
  • Ahead of the Law
  • The Fighting Ranger
  • Outlaws of Red River
  • The Rambling Ranger
  • The Fighting Texan
  • On Special Duty
  • The Law Rider
  • The Smiling Wolf
  • The Lone Ranger
  • The Ranger’s Oath
  • Law of the Ranger
  • The Four-Footed Ranger
  • The Phantom Flyer
  • The Boss of Rustler's Roost
  • An Unexpected Hero
  • Horseman of the Plains
  • The Gauge of Battle
  • Fighting Destiny
  • The Card of Destiny
  • The Range Patrol
  • Rio Rita
  • The Lawless Legion

1930 -1939

  • The Last of the Duanes
  • The Lone Star Ranger
  • Under a Texas Moon
  • Border Law
  • The Cisco Kid
  • Lasca of the Rio Grande
  • The Texas Ranger
  • Riders of the Purple Sage
  • Alias: The Bad Man
  • Come On, Danger!
  • Riders of the Desert
  • Hello Trouble
  • The Texas Bad Man
  • The Devil Horse
  • Mystery Ranch
  • The Western Code
  • Without Honor
  • The Texas Tornado
  • Border Devils
  • Riders of the Desert
  • The texas Bad Man
  • Mystery Ranch
  • The Western Code
  • King of the Arena
  • The Ranger’s Code
  • Man of Action
  • The Fighting Ranger
  • The Dude Ranger
  • Miracle Rider
  • Gun Justice
  • The Border Menace
  • Pals of the West
  • Outlaw's Highway
  • Cyclone Ranger
  • Rough Riding Ranger
  • The Miracle Rider
  • Sagebrush Troubadour
  • Law Beyond the Range
  • Ride, Ranger, Ride
  • The Unknown Ranger
  • Drift Fence, a.k.a. Texas Desperadoes
  • Whistling Bullets
  • The Kid Ranger
  • I’m Much Obliged
  • The Texas Rangers
  • The Traitor
  • Fast Bullets
  • Desert Patrol
  • The Phantom Rider
  • The Gun Ranger
  • The Big Show
  • Without Honor
  • The Mysterious Avenger
  • Everyman's Law
  • The Lion's Den
  • The Gun Ranger
  • Lawless Land
  • Rio Grande Ranger
  • Law of the Ranger
  • Reckless Ranger
  • Galloping Dynamite
  • Ranger Courage
  • Guns of the Pecos
  • The Rangers Step In
  • Heart of the Rockies
  • Lawless Land
  • Borderland
  • Border Cafe
  • Ranger Courage
  • Outlaws of the Prairie
  • The Renegade Ranger
  • Phantom Ranger
  • The Little Ranger
  • Desert Patrol
  • The Ranger’s Round-Up
  • Come On, Rangers!
  • Man’s Country
  • Code of the Rangers
  • The Lone Ranger
  • Billy the Kid Returns
  • Starlight Over Texas
  • Code of the Fearless
  • West of Rainbow's End
  • Two Gun Justice
  • Desert Patrol
  • Man's Country
  • Rollin' Plains
  • The Renegade Ranger
  • The Lone Ranger Rides Again
  • The Man from Sundown

1940 - 1949

  • Buzzy Rides the Range
  • The Man from Tumbleweeds
  • Northwest Mounted Police
  • Two-fisted Rangers
  • Rangers of Fortune
  • Rocky Mountain Rangers
  • Texas Rangers Ride Again
  • The Ranger and the Lady
  • Three Men from Texas
  • Hi Yo Silver
  • Dead or Alive
  • Desert Bandit
  • Dynamite Canyon
  • Desert Patrol
  • Last of the Duanes
  • Rawhide Rangers
  • Riders of the Purple Sage
  • Rollin’ Home to Texas
  • Riders of the Badlands
  • Ridin’ the Cherokee Trail
  • Saddlemates
  • Desert Bandit
  • Son of Davy Crockett
  • Outlaws of the Cherokee Train
  • King of the Texas Rangers
  • Lone Star Ranger
  • Come On, Danger
  • Riders of the Northland
  • Bandit Ranger
  • Down Texas Way
  • Down Rio Grande Way
  • Rio Rita
  • Lone Star Vigilantes
  • Undercover Man
  • The Rangers Take Over
  • Thundering Trails
  • Border Buckaroos
  • The Fighting Buckaroo
  • West of Texas
  • Hail to the Rangers
  • The Return of the Rangers
  • The Rangers Take Over
  • Beyond the Last Frontier
  • Fighting Valley
  • Bad Men of Thunder Gap
  • Death Valley
  • West of Texas
  • Rangers
  • Trail of Terror
  • Boss of Rawhide
  • Border Patrol
  • Idaho
  • Riders of the Deadline
  • Hail to the Rangers
  • Overland Mail Robbery
  • Gangster of the Frontier
  • Dead or Alive
  • Guns of the Law
  • Outlaw Roundup
  • Trail of Terror
  • Along the Navajo Trail
  • The Whispering Skull
  • Spook Town
  • Gunsmoke Mesa
  • Cyclone Prairie Rangers
  • Brand of the Devil
  • The Pinto Bandit
  • Brand of the Devil
  • Sundown Riders
  • Enemy of the Law
  • Frontier Fugitives
  • Flaming Bullets
  • Three in the Saddle
  • Marked for Murder
  • Lone Texas Ranger
  • Bandits of the Badlands
  • Both Barrels Blazing
  • The Navajo Trail (a.k.a. Navajo Trails)
  • Renegades of the Rio Grande
  • Roaring Rangers
  • Alias Billy the Kid
  • The Fighting Frontiersman
  • The Scarlet Horseman (serial)
  • Ridin’ Down the Trail
  • Red Hot Rangers
  • Bandits of Dark Canyon
  • The Fabulous Texan
  • Song of the Wasteland
  • Riders of the Lone Star
  • The Gallant Legion
  • The Rangers Ride
  • The Fighting Ranger
  • Fighting Mustang
  • The Tioga Kid
  • Whirlwind Raiders
  • Return of the Bad Men
  • The Lone Ranger (TV Series 1949-1957; 221 Episodes)
  • Riders of the Whistling Pines
  • Streets of Laredo
  • South of Rio
  • Ranger of Cherokee Strip
  • Masked Raiders
  • Crashing Thru
  • Bandits of El Dorado
  • The Pecos Pistol

1950 - 1959

  • Guns of Justice
  • Law of the Badlands
  • Colorado Junction
  • Border Rangers
  • Prairie Roundup
  • Holiday Rythm
  • Battling Marshal
  • The Eagle and the Hawk
  • Lightning Guns
  • Ridin’ the Outlaw Trail
  • My Outlaw Brother
  • The Texas Rangers: The Lone Wolf
  • Watchdogs of the Lone Star State
  • Texans Never Cry
  • Prairie Roundup
  • The Texas Rangers
  • Lawless Cowboys
  • Night Stage to Galveston
  • The Legend of the Lone Ranger
  • Dead Man’s Trail
  • Waco
  • The Lawless Breed
  • Winning of the West
  • Star of Texas
  • On Top of Old Smoky
  • The Lawless Breed
  • Schlitz Playhouse (TV Series 1951–1959) Episode: No Compromise (1953)
  • Schlitz Playhouse (TV Series, 1951–1959) Episode: The Long Trail (1954)
  • Texas Rangers Ride Again
  • Buffalo Bill, Jr. (TV Series 1955–1956) Episode: The Fight for Texas (1955)
  • Tales of the Texas Rangers (TV Series 1955–1959; 52 Episodes)
  • Stage 7 (TV Series 1955– ?)
    Episode: Fox Hunt (1955)
  • Texas Lady
  • The Lone Ranger
  • The Searchers
  • Judge Roy Bean (TV Series 1955– 1956?)  Various Episodes.
  • The Lone Ranger and the
    Lost City of Gold
  • Gun Duel in Durango
  • Trackdown ( TV Series 1957–1959)
  • The Hard Man
  • The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp TV Series 1955–1961)  (Episode: Three) (1958)
  • Frontier Rangers
  • The Wonderful Country

1960 - 1969

  • Seven Ways from Sundown
  • The Last Rebel
  • Return of the Lone Ranger
  • The Comancheros
  • Rocky and His Friends (TV Series  Animated Cartoon 1959–1963)  Episode: Banana Formula: Parts 9-10 (1962)
  • Bullet for a Badman
  • Texas Ranger
  • Laredo (TV series 1965-67)
  • The Virginian: We've Lost a Train (TV series 1962-1971;  season 3 episode 30)
  • The Drifter (TV Series  965–1966)  Episode: The Texas Rangers (1965)
  • Lonesome Ranger
  • Bonnie & Clyde
  • Rango (TV Series, Comedy Episodes: 17)
  • Death Valley Days (TV Series 1952–1970)  Episode: The Informer Who Cried (1967)
  • Three Guns for Texas
  • Texas Rangers and Us
  • The Other Side of Bonnie and Clyde
  • The Great Bank Robbery
  • Backtrack!
  • The Over-the-Hill Gang
  • True Grit

1970 - 1979

  • Death Valley Days (TV Series 1952–1970);  Episode: The King of the Uvalde Road (1970)
  • Gas! -Or- It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It.
  • The Over-the-Hill-Gang Rides Again
  • To Kill a Jackal
  • Big Jake
  • Code of the Rangers
  • The Three Musketeers of the West (Italian)
  • The Sugarland Express
  • The Rangers (TV movie)
  • Kung Fu (TV Series 1972–1975)
    Episode: Empty Pages of a Dead Book (1974)
  • The Town that Dreaded Sundown
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales
  • The Quest (TV Series 1976; 15 Episodes) Episode: Shanklin (1976)

1980 - 1989

  • The Dukes of Hazzard (TV Series 1979-1985)  Episode Jude Emery Season 2 episode 19
  • The Texas Rangers (TV movie)
  • The Legend of the Lone Ranger
  • American Playhouse (TV Series 1981– ?)  Episode: The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982)
  • Lone Wolf McQuade
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
  • Singapore Sling (R-rated)
  • The Aurora Encounter
  • Miami Vice: El Viejo (TV series season 3 episode 7)
  • Extreme Prejudice
  • Phantom Soldiers
  • Once Upon a Texas Train (TV Movie)
  • Lonesome Dove (TV miniseries)
  • Phantom Soldiers

1990 - 1999

  • Pair of Aces (TV movie)
  • Another Pair of Aces: Three of a Kind (TV movie)
  • Blood River (TV movie)
  • Walker, Texas Ranger (TV movie)
  • Walker, Texas Ranger (TV series ; 1993 -2001; 196 Episodes)
  • A Perfect World
  • Return to Lonesome Dove (TV miniseries)
  • Ranger: Muerte in Texas
  • The Old West Cowboy (Documentary)
  • One Riot, One Ranger
  • Texas Payback
  • Texas (TV movie)
  • Lonesome Dove: The Series (TV series)
  • Walker Texas Ranger 3: Deadly Reunion
  • Ranger!
  • Streets of Laredo (TV miniseries)
  • Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years (TV series)
  • Hard Bounty
  • Dead Man’s Walk (TV miniseries)
  • Riders of the Purple Sage (TV movie)
  • From Dusk ’til Dawn
  • Last Man Standing
  • Lone Star
  • Buffalo Soldiers
  • Border Wars
  • The Newton Boys
  • Perfect Prey (TV movie)
  • Point Blank (TV movie)
  • From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money
  • Sons of Thunder (TV series)

2000 - Present

  • Martial Law: Honor Among Strangers (TV series season 2 episode 16)
  • King of the Hill: High Anxiety (TV series season 4 episode 14)
  • Texas Rangers
  • Kill Bill: Vol. 1
  • Martial Law (1TV Series 998–2000) Episode: Honor Among Strangers
  • Wild West Tech (TV Series 2003–2005)  Episode: The Gunslingers: Pilot 2
  • Wild West Tech (TV Series 2003–2005) Episode: Execution Tech
  • Man of the House
  • Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire (TV movie)
  • Medium: Pilot (TV series season 1 episode 1)
  • Carnivàle (TV Series 2003–2005)  Episode: Los Moscos
  • Renegade Gun
  • No Country for Old Men
  • Grindhouse
  • Death Proof
  • Planet Terror
  • The Great Debaters
  • Ghost Rider
  • Crime Stories (TV Series 1998– ?)
    Episode: The Railcar Killer
  • The Investigators (TV Series 2000– ?)  Episode: Interview with the Devil
  • Comanche Moon (TV miniseries)
  • Palo Pinto Gold
  • Forensic Files (TV Series 1996–2011)  Episode: Brotherly Love
  • W.
  • Luke and Lacy: the Texas Rangers (Animated movie) - Suske en Wiske: De Texas Rakkers (original title - Belgium)
  • Drifter: Henry Lee Lucas
  • King of the Hill: To Sirloin with Love (TV Series season 13 episode 20)
  • True Grit (remake)
  • Frontera
  • F2: Forensic Factor (TV Series 2003– ) Episode: Million Dollar Murder
  • Cowboy & Lucky: Bad Ranger (TV series season 1 episode 11)
  • Dawn Rider
  • How the States Got Their Shapes (TV Series 2011–2012)  Episode: Rebels & Outlaws
  • The Lone Ranger
  • Bonnie & Clyde (TV miniseries)
  • Revolution (TV series, second season)
  • Strong Arm of the Law (Short)
  • Hawaii Five-0
    (TV Series season 4 episode 2)
    Episode: A'ale Ma'a Wau
  • A Man Called McClane (Short)
  • Killer Women (TV series; 8 Episodes)
  • From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series (TV series 2014-2016) Episodes: Pilot and others
  • The Town that Dreaded Sundown (remake)
  • Texas Rising (TV miniseries)
  • Wild Horses
  • The Duel
  • Hell or High Water
  • Vengeance Is the Lord's (Short movie - UK)
  • Lethal Weapon: Lawmen (TV series season 1 episode 11)
  • Timeless (TV Series 2016–2018)
    Episode: The Murder of Jesse James
  • Leatherface
  • NCIS New Orleans: Vindicta (TV series season 5 episode 11)
  • The Duel (NETFLIX)
  • The Highwaymen (NETFLIX)
  • Terminator: Dark Fate
  • Walker (TV series)
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • One Ranger
  • Killers of the Flower Moon
    Films Announced - No Date
  • Morgan Kane
  • The Gunslinger
  • Crimson Saints
  • The Last Duane
  • Law Dogs

Interesting Ranger Movie Trivia

  • 1943 was the high point of Texas Ranger themed movies with 17 films incorporating Texas Ranger characters.
  • When Texas celebrated its Centennial in 1936, Hollywood responded with a movie featuring — the Texas Rangers.
  • Zane Grey’s "Lone Star Ranger" was made in 1919 and re-made in 1923, 1930 and 1942.
  • Grey’s "Riders of the Purple Sage" premiered in 1918 and was re-made in 1925, 1931, 1941 and 1996.
  • Grey’s "Last of the Duanes" premiered in 1919 and was re-made in 1924, 1930 and 1941.
  • Movies with the title of "The Fighting Ranger" were made in 1925, 1926, 1934 and 1948.

Well known actors who have played Texas Rangers over the last century include:

  • John Wayne
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Robert Duvall
  • Glen Campbell
  • Tommy Lee Jones
  • Tom Mix
  • Dylan McDermott
  • Willie Nelson
  • Tex Ritter
  • Chuck Norris
  • Gene Autry
  • The Our Gang Kids
  • Tim Conway
  • Bill Elliott
  • George O’Brien
  • Roy Rogers
  • Clayton Moore
  • Audie Murphy
  • Nick Nolte
  • Tim McCoy
  • Kelly McGillis
  • Richard Widmark
  • Sam Jones
  • William Holden
  • William Hurt
  • Tricia Helfer
  • ...and many more


In Worldwide Popular Culture

Written by

Christina Stopka 
Deputy Director/Archivist
Texas Ranger Research Center

Rebekkah Lohr
Former Curatorial Technician
Texas Ranger Research Center

Rangers have existed for hundreds of years in many cultures. They were militia men, usually volunteers, mustered into company service to protect homes and families from enemy incursions. The tradition is a part of both our Anglo-European and Spanish heritage. Units, such as Roger’s Rangers in the French and Indian Wars, and Spanish/Mexican “flying companies” in the early Southwest, established the Ranger as part of American culture.

The most famous and long-lived of Ranger organizations is the Texas Rangers. Created in 1823 to protect the “Texian” colonies, the Rangers were the primary defense for Texas from the Republic to statehood. Their primary mission, until well after the Civil War, was protection from Indian and Mexican incursions. As the 19th century drew to a close, their responsibilities changed from military protection to law enforcement, duties they continue to perform today.

Visual Enhancement Image of black and white tv show Almost from the beginning, the image of the Texas Ranger has been one of romance and adventure. The nation was first introduced to the Texas Ranger by news dispatches and stories chronicling their heroic deeds during the Mexican War. The Ranger and the ranging tradition soon became a theme in popular culture. The Ranger was celebrated as one who could fight and prevail against over overwhelming odds, surviving the hardships of the frontier. The Ranger became an icon of rugged individualism, courage, honesty, and virtue. Songs, poetry and novels about the Rangers were common as early as the 1850s. Today, movies, radio, television, advertising, merchandise, sports teams, toys and games keep the popular image alive. And, although not all of these characters and products bearing the name Ranger can be directly traced to the Texas Rangers, they all still share, in some way, the ranging tradition.

The Ranging Tradition as Marketing Tool

Advertising and entertainment have always had a close association. Promotional items — fast food give-aways, toys, games — are produced to advertise movies, television shows and sports teams. They are sometimes more successful than the products they promote. Companies in the 20th century capitalized on the popularity of ranger related programs to promote their new products and create new ones.

In the 1930s Kellogg's sponsored the radio show Riding with the Texas Rangers and a club called the Junior Texas Rangers was promoted through cereal box promotions. Each enrolled Junior Ranger received a commission, a badge, and the opportunity to purchase a cowboy hat, clothes, a ring, and a toy pistol. Kellogg's also promoted the movie The Texas Rangers which was released at the Texas Centennial Ranger character actors, including The Lone Ranger, Buck Jones, Buck Rogers, and Ranger Joe promoted products from bread to cereal, and from ice cream cones to school supplies. They also inspired countless games, toys, posters, pins and badges which are all now part of a large “pop culture collector’s market.”

Kellogg's Junior Ranger Certificate
Image: Kellogg's Junior Ranger Lieutenant’s Badge, 1936
Donation of the Friends of the Moody Texas Ranger Memorial Library

The modern world of advertising has enthusiastically embraced the ranging tradition, ranger characters, and the Texas Rangers specifically. Companies have named their products after the Ranger, or used the image of the Ranger.

The most popular light pickup truck in the world is the Ford “Ranger” which evokes the image of ranging open spaces. Winchester has named its brand of ammunition marketed to the law enforcement community Winchester Ranger.

Businesses in the past named their products such as bicycles, motor oil, and even potatoes after the Texas Rangers. Still other companies simply use the ranging and ranger tradition to characterize their products and services, emphasizing the integrity, courage, and toughness of the Ranger.

Ranging in the Entertainment World

From the 1920s through the 1950s, Texas Rangers and Ranger characters appeared in movies, radio programs, and television programs.

Perhaps the most famous and enduring of these characters is "The Lone Ranger" who appeared on radio, television and in the movies. Created in 1933 by George Trendle for Detroit radio station WXYZ , "The Lone Ranger" was an overnight success. Over 6 decades later, the popularity of "The Lone Ranger" remains high. The character starred in nearly 3,000 radio episodes, two movie serials, three feature movies, 18 novels, more than 220 television episodes, uncounted newspaper comic strips, comic books, cartoons and promotional items.

Who was that “masked man” who became this cultural icon?

Visual Enhancement Image of Heigh-Yo Silver comic book "The Lone Ranger" is the sole survivor of an ambush that killed five of his Texas Ranger comrades. With the help of Tonto, a friendly Indian who comes to his aid, the Ranger buried his five companions and recovered from his injuries. In order to mislead the outlaws into thinking that all of the Rangers died, the Lone Ranger dug a sixth grave which was left empty. Hiding his identity with a black mask, he set out with his new friend to track down and apprehend the outlaws. Heigh-Yo, Silver! Away!

But "The Lone Ranger" was not alone for long. Whether on the big screen, radio set or small screen of television, Rangers were soon found everywhere.

Visual Enhancement Image of Another show that successfully crossed over from radio to television was "Tales of the Texas Rangers". "Tales" was first broadcast on NBC radio from 1950 to 1952 and starred Joel McCrae as Texas Ranger Jace Pearson. The stories were said to be based on actual Texas Ranger case files dating from the 1830s to 1950. A television program starring Willard Parker and Harry Lauter spun off from the radio show and aired on CBS from 1955 to 1957. It was rebroadcast on ABC from 1957 to 1959. Producers recruited retired Texas Ranger Captain M. T. “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas, as technical advisor. Each script was submitted to the Texas Department of Public Safety headquarters for review.

The popularity of the television western faded to near extinction in the 1970s. In the late 1980s it was reborn when baby-boomers, who grew up with "The Lone Ranger" and "Tales of the Texas Rangers", hit middle age. The "Lonesome Dove" mini-series and "Walker, Texas Ranger" had introduced the Ranger to a whole new generation of fans.

Ranging the Final Frontier

The Ranger was not relegated to just the western. The “Atomic Age” that dawned in the 1940s led to a fascination with science fiction in the 1950s. In search of a hero, the Ranger was transplanted in space and time from the frontiers of the Wild West to the frontier of outer space.

Characters such as Buck Rogers, Captain Video, and Rocky Jones were dubbed space rangers and were ordered to defend the final frontier on radio, television, in comic books and novels. More recently rangers have been found in programs such as "Babylon 5" and even Buzz Lightyear from Disney’s "Toy Story" is a space ranger. Like their western counterparts, these lone rangers uphold the ideals of the ranging tradition.

The big screen has seen a resurgence of movies with Texas Rangers playing pivotal roles. Not all of these movies are set in the Old West, many of them are set in the Texas of the mid to late 20th century. These include "Extreme Prejudice" (1987), "Pair of Aces" (1980), and "A Perfect World" (1993). To name just a few, John Wayne, Fred MacMurrey, George Montgomery, Audie Murphey, Walter Brennan, Rip Torn, Kris Kristofferson, Nick Nolte, Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duval and Clint Eastwood have all portrayed Texas Rangers.

Texas Rangers in Fiction

In 1856, two novels — "Bernard Lile" by Jere Clemens and "The Rangers and Regulators" by A. W. Arrington — were published. Since then, Rangers have been a part of the story line in dozens of books in the western, detective, police and even the romance genre. Novelists quickly discovered that a Ranger in the story was an almost certain guarantee of success.

In addition to mainstream publications, the pulp and dime novel industry of the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought Texas Ranger stories to a broader, and younger, audience with affordable and easy to read novels. Pulps were the forerunners of today’s formulaic novels. The plot was predictable – wrongdoers threaten/harm innocent people, places, or things with the hero Ranger arriving to save the day. By changing the names of the main characters, and, perhaps a place name or two, the same story could be used for the Texas Rangers, Buffalo Bill, Deadwood Dick or any of the other heroes of the pulps. Hundreds of issues were produced every year for very little cost.

Visual Enhancement Image of the Movie poster from Lonesome Dove The Texas Rangers continued to be a popular topic in western novels from the1910s to the 1950s and the detective and true crime books of the 1940s – 1960s. Today, Rangers are showing up in the works produced in the multi-million dollar romance novel industry. Since the 1940s the traditional book format has been joined by magazine and comic book publications. Two modern examples of bestsellers using Texas Rangers in their plot lines include Larry McMurtry’s "Lonesome Dove" series and James Michener’s epic "Texas".

Rangers, Rangers Everywhere

In addition to the examples of Rangers in pop culture presented above, Rangers can be found in other areas. How about Rangers in song and verse? One of the oldest known Texas Ranger songs, The Texas Ranger, dates from the Mexican War period of the late 1840s. Other ranger songs and ranger poetry have come down to us through the cowboy song tradition. The 20th century has seen many ranger songs being written to accompany the movies and television programs featuring ranger characters. And ranger songs often appear on the albums of modern country western, cowboy and folk artists.

We’ve barely scratched the surface of the ranging tradition in popular culture. We challenge our readers to list everything they can associate with the ranger name. Be sure and include other ranger law enforcement organizations – that have not survived to the present – such as the Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, and California Rangers. And don’t forget Ranger Bass Boats and Bell Ranger Helicopters. What about the rangers who patrol and protect our national parks and forests? You will find that the list will grow to be quite lengthy. Again, not all of these rangers can be directly traced to Texas Rangers, but many can. The thread that binds them together is the ranging tradition.

The Texas Ranger Research Center actively collects material on the ranging tradition and Rangers in popular culture. Donations of Ranger character premiums, sheet music, books, records, etc. for the collections are gratefully accepted. We are also seeking information on ranger characters and products, songs, poetry, novels, etc. Anyone wishing to donate items or information is invited to contact Christina Stopka, Deputy Director/Archivist.