Dysfunction permeates all levels of politics, from the top of the federal heap to local city councils.
Del Rio is certainly not immune to it. Some would argue it is the epitome of bad government. Whatever the case may be, two new council members have a chance to steer a perceived wayward ship right. One of those is Alexandra Falcon Calderon, a native Del Rioan.
In a city and county where incumbents frequently go appallingly unchallenged, and popularity seems to trump substance in contested races, nascent policymakers are a welcomed sight.
Sworn in during November, Calderon represents District III, which she said needs some adjustments.
“A lot of things have not been done in this district,” she said. “It’s been neglected.” Oversight or lack of prioritization have kept the district in need. “Communication is what’s lacking, and leadership…and working together is very much needed.”
Supporting the cultural aspects of the community, specifically for the children, alleviating the volume of trash in the district and the development of small businesses are primary goals.
“In reality, the whole of it is not to forget the south side of Del Rio,” she said.
Calderon, a small business owner for more than 20 years, has always been very involved in the community. She is the president of the Del Rio Downtown Foundation, and locals have sought her advice on business, personal or civic-related issues throughout the years. She feels this has built a platform of trust within the community. These reasons compelled her to run for the city council seat.
“The seat is coming up open. I’m a Del Rioan. I’m from District III. All my life, I’ve been District III…I live in the same house,” Calderon said.
She ran her campaign without any staff, saying that direct contact with voters is a more effective way to cultivate rapport than to have a worker speak for you. COVID-19 required her to campaign heavily through social media and supplement it through print media. “I did it the best I could, and here I am.”
“Here I am,” wasn’t so easy. Calderon barely won. The metaphorical margin of victory didn’t even measure the width of a ballot. Her race against the opponent, Silvia Ojeda, ended with 1,214 votes to 1,212 votes, respectively.
Calderon said she is there to help the entire city, not just her district. “I’m going to be open to the whole city of Del Rio. I’ve always said that.”
That means solving the water billing issues, which supposedly is occurring, but Calderon insists she will follow-up on the city’s progress to make sure something concrete is underway.
The lingering resurfacing project of the city streets was an agenda item at her first meeting. “The streets is [sic] something that is a priority all the time…There is money. I don’t like where it’s moved around.”
Franchise tax revenue is supposed to be earmarked for roads and not to be used or borrowed for other expenses or projects, Calderon told the Texas Times.
“Then they come around and say there’s no money for streets. There was money and there is money.”
Face to Face: VV County Republican Chairman Frank Lopez Jr.
Politics isn’t for everyone. Only the idealistic, well-intentioned changemaker or the power-hungry, self-serving megalomaniac.
Val Verde County Republican Chairman Frank Lopez Jr. is the former.
The retired U.S. Border Patrol agent takes the role very seriously, displaying a self-effacing yet purposeful demeanor.
He is opposed to open borders and socialist ideology guiding the American economy and public policy and all about clutching a conservative perspective of America, which includes less regulation, judicious individual freedom and pro-entrepreneurship.
“It’s not about demonizing people or anything like that. Either you embrace one vision of America, or you embrace a different vision of America…pro-family; pro-life; honestly; it’s marriage, one natural man one natural woman for life; economic entrepreneurship and creativity,” he said.
Lopez began his chairmanship in August, taking over local GOP duties from the outgoing Fernando Garcia at a time when the numbers indicate the Republican vote in the county has surged.
He said the increase is a result of promotion via social media platforms and newspapers. But also noted that the District 23 Congressional primary race in 2019, comprised nine Republican candidates, which amplified the Republican Party locally through a slew of advertising.
Promotion, coupled with concerns about the direction of the Democratic Party, was another factor for the increase in popularity of the GOP in Val Verde County Lopez said. He feels identification with Christian pro-life agendas and border security have played a role in why there has been an uptick in Del Rioans voting Republican.
“I think a lot of folks here in Val Verde County are center-right. We talk about family, we talk about children, the prosperity, careers and the future.”
Originally from McAllen, Lopez moved to El Paso with his family when his father became a Border Patrol agent, later joining the Army serving with the military police in Honduras and former West Germany. After his military service, he attended college but left to pursue a career in the Border Patrol, which brought him to Del Rio. Lopez is married and has adult twin sons. He was the first chaplain in the federal law enforcement agency’s chaplaincy program.
After spending 30 years in the Border Patrol, Lopez reached out to Garcia in late 2018, expressing an interest in getting a political foot-in-the-door. He eventually joined the campaign of Republican congressional candidate, Raul Reyes, becoming his campaign manager. Reyes lost in a runoff to candidate Tony Gonzales who lost to Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones in the November election but it brought Lopez through the door.
“So the direction of the Republican Party, the way I want to take it here in Val Verde County is to identify and encourage people to run for office, every conceivable office…that’s my goal,” he said.
Lopez has already implemented programs to expand the party’s sphere of influence in the area. He started the Young Conservatives Club of Val Verde County to begin grooming the next generation of conservative leaders and is hoping to stimulate an interest in running for office through a speaker series called, “CHAMPIONS,’ or Conservative Heroes, Advocates, Mentors, Patriots, Impacting Our Nation. “It’s folks who will champion the cause, who will champion the concerns and needs of the people.”
The series aims to bring in national-level conservative thought leaders and doers to Del Rio. Allen West — Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas — was the first series speaker.
“We bring speakers to kind of fire up and energize the base.”
He said voters in Del Rio carry a lot of weight in non-local elections. In particular, Congressional District 23, state Senate District 19 and the Texas Court of Appeals.
“That’s why we need to, at the county level, identify and field conservative Americans and get them into the Republican party,” he said.
FACE TO FACE: FIVE POINTS MARKET
As pandemic woes and shortfalls still linger for many communities and businesses across the nation, some resourceful people have found ways to remain viable through convenience and accessibility.
In Del Rio, the businesses of Rick and Spanky Martinez aptly personify this model.
The couple saw opportunity amid the health-order restrictions and chaos and took direct action in the form of Five Points Market.
“During quarantine, everything got shut down,” said Spanky. “A lot of the farmers’ markets got shut down. A lot of the art shows got shut down. This actually came because of that.”
The idea for the market germinated while the couple attended weekend events and wondered why the vendors there weren’t offering products in a brick and mortar setting.
Consequently, the confluence of the virus and their idea turned Five Points Market into a reality and a successful endeavor as business has been booming.
Rick and Spanky prefer to deal with smaller producers who exude excitement about their creations rather than out-of-state distributors that are a cog in the corporate supply chain.
Five Points Market’s goods are also insulated from pandemic challenges Spanky said. Focusing only on Texas products that aren’t delivered via second or third parties, the Martinez’ can consistently provide customers with their products.
“If anything does happen and we do have another shutdown or anything like that, we are able to go drive…anywhere around Texas we can actually drive and pick up your products,” she said. “We’re not limited to what products you can have and what products you can’t have.”
The Martinez entrepreneurial journey in Del Rio began three years ago at Del Rio Vapor formerly located on Highway 90 heading east out of town. In 2017, the owners sold the business to them. Rick had already been working there. And the second edition of Del Rio Vapor was born. Within six months, they overhauled the advertising, created relationships with numerous distributors and moved locations. Business picked up.
Their singularity of purpose with Del Rio Vapor is to wean people off of nicotine and vaping. That was the intent of the former owners too.
“We still stick to the original program,” Rick said. “And the original goal is to get people off of anything that they’re inhaling, completely.”
He said continuing to sell nicotine products to people who don’t need it is akin to being a drug dealer. “It’s like selling medication to someone that doesn’t need it.”
The couple says they have helped nearly 9,000 people quit smoking and vaping.
The couple now owns three establishments in the Buena Vista section of town all located in the strip mall on Margaret Lane by The Spot.
The third business is a CBD shop which opened its doors in 2019. Healthy commerce has kissed that business too. “We got the highest legal-grade products in Texas,” Rick said.
Rick is a native Del Rioan and Spanky is from Rocksprings. They met in Kerrville and were married there relocating to the desert confines of Del Rio a decade ago.
Most of the merchandise at Five Points Market is exclusive and can only be purchased there or at arts and crafts festivals or farmers’ markets statewide. Several of the items don’t have an online presence.
Almost all of the products are Texas-made and naturally produced. Their items have a wide geographical range as well; unique honey from Quemado, gourmet pasta from Round Rock—the sauce in the flour, epic herbal teas created in Seguin and pottery made completely out of Rio Grande clay by an artisan in Eagle Pass.
Those are just a few examples from the array of specialty products that are smartly displayed throughout the well-lit and exceptionally clean store.
Additionally, Five Points has fresh organic or hydroponic produce — longer shelf life than organic — every Friday.
But their soda pop is the prime seller. Made at the famous Dublin Bottling Works in Dublin, Texas, the first plant to bottle the iconic Dr. Pepper soft drink, Five Points began with 12 cases in its first week of operation then soon increased that to 24 cases and now are up to 60 cases per week. The natural beverage is made with pure cane sugar and holds its carbonation extremely well.
“I left one open about halfway and the next morning I figured it’s going to be a flat soda so I just dumped it out in the sink. When I dumped it out it was fizzing everywhere…so the next day I did it again but I left it out and I drank it and I was like, ‘Whoa, this is still like you just opened the bottle.’”
The pleasant and satisfying revelation of Spanky’s experience simply invites and begs everyone to visit Five Points Market and own their experience with one of the many distinctive and useful products that line the shelves and inhabit the display cases.
The COVID-19 pandemic that has been ravaging the globe for months has not shown any signs of slowing down in the United States.
Texas has been hit brutally hard by the virus this summer and that includes Val Verde County. The numbers confirm that.
Around 20 positive cases were reported right after the Memorial Day weekend and as of July 29, 2020, there have been 49 deaths and 1,396 confirmed positive cases according to Val Verde County.
The first case in the county was confirmed on March 26, 2020, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) data. During the first 10 weeks, there were approximately 19 positive cases reported. From early June through July 29 there have been more than 1,350 new cases. As of July 29, 2020, the county indicates a total of 692 recovered cases.
The percentage of the population in Val Verde County that has tested positive is currently at 2.42. Maverick County is at 2.36%.
To put into perspective, USAFacts, a site that reflects information about the American population via data, shows Harris County, Los Angeles County and Miami-Dade County at 1.38%, 1.76% and 3.97%, respectively. Los Angeles County and Miami-Dade County have the highest reported number of cases in the nation according to USAFacts.
The county’s positive cases match counties double its size said the San Angelo Standard-Times
The progression of positive cases for Val Verde County began slowly with 10 in mid-April and 14 by the end of May. But better accessibility to testing, the relaxing of health orders and the sheltering-in restlessness of the public ramped up the cases in June.
The strategy it seems is to keep your distance.
County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. stated in a July 10 video posted on the county Facebook page that permits would not be issued for outdoor gatherings of 10 or more people, He also urged people to practice social distancing and mask up. He said the plan is to isolate.
“I hate saying it like that but because businesses, everybody else, still needs to function, but the least amount of contact that we can have with each other right now the better off we’re all going to be,” Owens said in the video.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently stated the guideline for close contact may not be effective enough according to MSN.com. The CDC guideline of close contact — the basis for social distancing — is defined as being within six feet of a person for more than 15 minutes. The health organization is saying the duration of exposure isn’t as paramount as the circumstance, e.g., an unmasked person sneezing or coughing.
“Droplets from sneezes or coughs can transfer to objects and individuals 13 feet away, even without the benefit of wind,” MSN.com said.
Now that hand sanitizer and masks have become ubiquitous and almost cultural, is the next logical step temporary isolation for everyone? Local estimates place the COVID-19 death toll at 22 in Val Verde County. Perhaps a 100%-population quarantine for two weeks will soon be on the preventative agenda.
The virus known as COVID-19 that began its insidious creep into our society during January has now gained a solid foothold on American soil terrorizing and threatening the entire nation. But how did it get here? What’s its backstory?
The following is a timeline for the development and spread of the upper respiratory disease.
In late December of 2019 — remember then, when the Cowboys smoked the Redskins to end the season on a high note — it was reported that several people in Wuhan, China were treated for pneumonia after allegedly visiting a live animal market in the city.
On January 11, 2020, China indicated a 61-year old man who had been afflicted with pneumonia after going to the animal market died from the novel coronavirus.
By January 21, the United States had acquired its first case of COVID-19. The person was a 35-year old man from Washington state who had traveled to Wuhan.
The World Health Organization (WHO) proclaimed its sixth international public health emergency on January 30.
In February, WHO changed the name of the nascent disease from the novel coronavirus to COVID-19; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirmed the first local transmission case in the U.S., and America had its first death attributed to the novel coronavirus.
WHO classified the coronavirus-2019 a pandemic on March 11.
President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on March 13 and Gov. Greg Abbott followed suit announcing a statewide public health disaster.
On February 7, travelers were quarantined for two weeks at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
A North Texas man from Colin County tested positive on March 8 after returning from a trip to California. The first coronavirus-related fatality in Texas was reported on March 15. The victim was a man in his 90s and a resident of Bay City.
Gov. Abbott issued an executive order on March 19 prohibiting the gatherings of 10 or more people and closed schools, gyms, dine-in restaurants and bars. The initial order was in effect until April 3. He also created another executive order on March 26 requiring air travelers flying into Texas from Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and New Orleans to be quarantined for 14 days or the duration of their stay.
On March 31, the governor extended social distancing guidelines through April 30.
Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens issued a Declaration of Local Disaster for Public Health Emergency on March 16. He amended the declaration on March 23 ordering residents to shelter-in and remain six feet apart when encountering people during essential activities such as purchasing items at the grocery store.
The Texas Department of Health Services (DSHS) reported five cases in Val Verde County as of 12:30 p.m. on April 2.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Del Rio-
March 24: travel-related
March 26: travel-related
March 27: local transmission
March 27: travel-related
March 28: travel-related
(Resources for the story: ABC News; WFAA; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the city of Del Rio.)
In our age of climate change and depleting resources, many feel compelled to don the uniform of the environmental steward.
This includes Del Rio’s, Jason Kidd.
Kidd is a self-taught wood craftsman who employs a practical sustainable resource intelligence to his “professional” hobby.
“It was out of necessity,” he said. “Yes, the premise and the basis was sustainable resources but out of necessity. I was a stay-at-home dad.”
Kidd was motivated by a need to “make quality of life improvements in the home to make life easier.”
He primarily builds home decor — spice racks, hat racks, removable walls — but there is a pragmatic side to his business, Creative Pallet Designs by Kidd. Attaching wheels to his creations is a prime example, such as vegetable shelves.
“How many times do you go into your house and you’re like so frustrated that it’s difficult to move an object…now you can just easily roll it away,” he explained.
Or how about a hidden compartment in a mobile waterproof trash can made from a pallet?
“What do thieves go to when they first go in? Your vault and your drawers,” he said. “Name one criminal that goes to your trash can.”
A substantial amount of money can be saved by learning how to make home decor from reclaimed wood. Kidd made a triple bunk bed for less than $200.
“You find me anywhere in town where you’re going to find a triple bunk bed, solid wood, with a rustic wood burn for $168,” he remarked. “You’re not.”
Kidd makes a serious attempt at reducing his carbon footprint by turning old tables into American flags or utilizing discarded pallets or other reclaimed wood.
“Look at how many homes are built and if you ever drive by take a decent look at how much wood goes to waste and how many pallets are sitting there,” he commented.
He tells people to use the materials they have. He made one lady a baptismal desk from wood that came from an old church that had burned down. A literal piece of history.
“Some people have parents that have passed away. They bring me their license plates from their parents…and I make them little birdhouses with their parents’ license plate and they can have in their front yard,” he said.
But woodworking wasn’t always a passion for Kidd.
While living in Germany he took a class on sustainable resources compelling him to ask what is sustainable. He thought of sulfur. He thought of trees.
“And I looked around because I lived next to a beer factory…and they threw away thousands of pallets everyday….and then I was like we can make homes out of those for the homeless,” he said.
He self-taught himself the art of woodworking via YouTube and tested his craftsman skill set by constructing smaller scale items like wine racks with hand tools.
Kidd, who is employed as a military police officer at Laughlin Air Force Base, was once engaged in his labor of love full time. He was all in, teaching classes, hosting a radio program dedicated to do-it-yourself woodworking and, of course, building creative decor.
But the stability of a government position took him away from that.
However, he still operates his business on a part-time basis and does plan on opening up a storefront with a shop in the back. And with all of Kidd’s clever and unique ideas, success is almost certain.
“There’s so many things you can do with wood…it would blow your mind…that the average person doesn’t think about it,” he said.
Macaroons, the delicious cookies that were once hard to find in Del Rio, are now not so difficult to find in the River City. At least, for the time being.
But first, a brief history and description of macaroons for the uninformed.
The original macaroons were made from egg whites, sugar and almond paste (primary ingredient) exhibiting a crisp exterior and soft interior according to the webzine The Nibble. The etymology derives from maccarone, Italian for paste, which was born from the word ammaccare, that means to crush.
Today’s colorful and dynamic macaroons are more derivative of the ones French pastry chefs began developing (macarons) nearly six-hundred years ago.
Jennifer Orellana, a local creator and purveyor of macaroons/macarons — and cakes too — graciously answered a series of questions for the Texas Times about her tasty cookies.
TT: How did you become interested in creating macaroons and cakes?
JO: In college, I studied abroad in Paris, France and that’s where I fell in love with macarons. They were so luxurious and beautiful, but also expensive. So, I figured I would just try making them myself. I started with macarons and began experimenting with cakes and eventually, they both just came together.
TT: What is your background in baking/pastry?
JO: I’ve always loved baking since I was little. I’m a self-taught baker and really learned my way through YouTube. When I moved from San Diego, California to Del Rio, Texas, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen and my husband noticed that baking was a passion of mine and encouraged me to try selling my creations.
TT: How long have you lived in Del Rio and why did your family move here?
JO: I’ve lived in Del Rio for five years now and my husband has been here for seven years. My husband is an air traffic controller at Laughlin Air Force Base, and that’s what brought us to Del Rio. We started our newly wedded life here just the two of us and are now a family of four with two little boys (Makoa, 3 yo and Makena 1 yo).
TT: What has the response been in Del Rio to your creations?
JO: I was really discouraged at first and didn’t have a lot of confidence in my skills. My husband pushed me to promote myself and my creations and the response here in Del Rio has been amazing. I didn’t have high expectations, but the orders just kept coming and I was shocked. I did my first Del Rio market at the convention center and sold out of my 200+ macarons within hours.
TT: You all will be leaving Del Rio soon...what Del Rio experiences will you take with you?
JO: Coming from a big city to a small town like Del Rio, it took a lot to get use to... but I’ve learned over the years that big things come in small packages and Del Rio is just that. The community is really what makes Del Rio a great place to live and is what keeps the town thriving by supporting small businesses. I’m going to cherish every memory I’ve made here over the years and always appreciate the love and support of Del Rio.
To learn more or order macaroons/macarons from Jennifer, visit facebook.com/cakesnmacsbyjenn.
Del Rio’s Hector Coronado Jr. is a professional. For him, professional equals two gloves x one head squared.
The Houston-born Coronado Jr. recently signed a contract for management and promotional services with Las Vegas-based Prince Ranch Boxing and TMB & PRB Entertainment, respectively, allowing him to solely focus on his daily training and eliminating the DIY tasks that can sometimes compromise goals.
“They’ll take care of everything…they’ll make sure that I’m well equipped…I have everything to succeed…they take care of my bills. All that stuff. All I have to do is concentrate on boxing,” he said.
Coronado Jr. has racked up a professional fighting record of 5-0, four of those victories by knockout. His achievements are partially a product of his fighting style. His strategic combination of intelligence and pressure creates opportunities for knockouts.
“I’m a smart boxer…I’m a bit aggressive…I’m a pressure fighter…I do it smartly…I never go looking for the knockout. It just comes by itself, right? That’s what we always talk about,” he explained.
Coronado Jr. prefers to finish or drop his opponents as quickly as possible, working up from the body to the head. Once his opponents gas out they become vulnerable.
A 2015-graduate of Del Rio High School, the confident, yet humble, Coronado Jr. began boxing when he was seven years old forging a formidable career in the Mexican amateur ranks. Initially, the talented boxer had the coaching behind him but not the passion until he began attaining success on the national amateur level in Mexico.
“My dad taught me really, really well,” he said. “And I knew how to win the tournaments. I was just smart enough to win.”
Hector Coronado Sr., who trains his son at Del Rio’s K.O. Boxing Gym had his own professional aspirations in the sweet science Coronado Jr. said. “He had the dream, but no support.”
Coronado Jr. derives his inspiration to excel from his parents. “I see them waking up every morning…I want them to be able to stay at home…not have to work. That inspires me every morning to get up and…do what I have to do to succeed.”
His amateur triumphs evolved into an Olympic dream but representing Mexico wasn’t an option because he was an American citizen and didn’t possess dual citizenship. In the U.S., the powers that be painted a picture of a discouraging and difficult road to the Olympics. Despite that, Coronado, then 17, continued to pursue his dream winning his first USA Boxing Elite tournament.
He qualified for nationals but didn’t want to invest another year competing at the amateur level in the U.S. deciding he was ready to roll the prizefighting dice.
TMB & PRB Entertainment promoter Rick Morones contacted Coronado Sr. and said they were searching for a 147-fighter for a professional bout with emerging boxer George Ramos. (Ramos was recently murdered in San Antonio.) A contract was sent but Ramos declined to fight.
“George and I had already boxed before. I would beat him all the time we would fight…he was like the next big thing of San Antonio,” Coronado Jr. said.
He eventually went to San Antonio to spar for Morones and dominated his 12-0 sparring opponent. Shortly thereafter, he won a bout in San Antonio closing the deal.
Signed, sealed and determined to achieve, Coronado Jr.’s future is promising. Acquiring his autograph now would probably be a good idea…
As one century has rolled into the next, the rural economic dynamics of Val Verde County have changed. Yet, that hasn’t precluded the need for a county extension agent here - Harris County still has one too.
Texas A&M AgriLife county extension agent Emily Grant arrived in Del Rio during April of 2018 inclined to assist and guide. She immediately went to work.
Her undertakings include livestock guardian dog demonstrations for county ranchers, involvement in 4-H programs, such as wool and mohair education, the organization of the county stock show and attendance of out-of-town shows as a consultant to local youth.
“I really enjoy being with the extension service because it gives me the balance of working with producers, consumers and our youth. So I really get to a little bit of everything,” said Grant, the former Kinney County extension agent.
She explained that ag extension agents are tasked with using the research provided by Texas A&M and applying it to real-world practices in all 254 Lone Star State counties.
“Me, personally, being an ag and natural resources agent, I work with our livestock and ag and natural resource producers and stakeholders to help them get the information based upon science and research,” she said.
According to Grant, the A&M AgriLife Extension Service mission is to provide an apolitical, research-based service to every county. “Kind of a network for our farmers and ranchers to use.” She coordinates adult and youth programming as it relates to agriculture to better help county producers. In other words, the practical application of A&M scientific research that benefits Val Verde County ranchers and farmers.
What drew Grant to extension? A long and winding background in agriculture.
“I grew up on a farm and raised cattle and goats and so I grew up showing through 4-H sheep and goat program,” she said.
Grant matriculated to Aggieland with the intention of being a math teacher and basketball coach, “which is kind of not where I ended up.” Agricultural blood is thicker than career intentions. “I really wanted to stay in the agricultural field.”
Her father is the superintendent of the Fort Worth Stock Show which enabled her to volunteer there throughout high school and college fortifying and cementing her interest in agriculture. She soon decided that ag was her path. Grant received a bachelors degree in agricultural science and served an internship with the Texas Beef Council but obtained a teaching certificate in case an ag job proved to be too elusive.
Her desire was to educate the public about agriculture on a full-time basis. She said, “There are about five jobs like that in the entire state,” so she taught ag in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for three years - “and really, really enjoyed that job” - before joining the ranks of the A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Grant indicated that the ag service’s big push now is agritourism. They will be rolling out an initiative to help farmers and ranchers learn about other income opportunities that could be available to them in the form of tourism.
The Val Verde County A&M AgriLife Extension recently hosted a “Birding the Border” event and next year they’re hoping to do something on a larger scale. Grant couldn’t divulge what that was because it isn’t yet official but did say that it would allow the ag producers to directly benefit from agritourism events on their property.
This spring the film, “The Highwayman,” was released highlighting Frank Hamer’s exploits in the apprehension of super-outlaw couple Bonnie & Clyde, Kevin Costner portraying the 20th-century lawman. (Costner seems to have a penchant for playing men of the law: Wyatt Earp, Eliot Ness and Orleans Parish district attorney Jim Garrison.)
While the story is somewhat well-known and Hamer’s reputation familiar to many, what isn’t such common knowledge is that Hamer’s so-called luminous career in bringing justice to the people of Texas began in Del Rio.
The famous Texas Ranger, who also escorted Governor Coke Stevenson to view the box 13 tally sheets at the Texas State Bank in Alice, Texas during the infamous “Box 13” election scandal involving Lyndon B. Johnson, has been lauded and ordained as a law enforcement deity, the film adding buckshot to his legend.
The Hill Country born Hamer earned his badge with the Rangers in 1906. He was just 22 years old. Shortly thereafter, the seeds of a reputation were planted.
Del Rio in 1906 was a town of approximately 2,000 people and the cradle of sheep ranching. During the fall of that year two local sheepmen, John Ralston and Blake Cauthorn (the Cauthorn name a familiar one in Del Rio) disappeared. The Rangers soon commenced an investigation and focused on a man named Ed Putnam who had sold a flock of sheep to Cauthorn for $4,500 (equivalent to $130,000 in 2019).
The Ranger group who embarked to Del Rio included Hamer. According to author John Boessenecker, while searching for Putnam they received word that Cauthorn had been found shot dead in his buggy. Subsequently, they learned Ralston had vanished after completing a sheep deal with Putnam. Boessenecker wrote in True West magazine the citizens of Del Rio fell under a spell of tense animation and duly blamed Mexican bandits for the crimes.
Val Verde County Sheriff John R. Robinson received a tip that Putnam was sequestered at a bordello in Del Rio. On Dec. 1, 1906, the Rangers and Sheriff Robinson along with his deputies converged on the house. Robinson and his men covered the front, the Rangers positioned in the rear of the house. Robinson ordered the women to exit the bordello and then informed Putnam that he knew he was inside. Putnam remained silent.
Boessenecker wrote that as time went by a considerable mob had formed, some of them armed. Apparently, this lent a sense of urgency to the situation compelling Robinson to instruct his men to unleash a fury of rounds on the house.
Meanwhile, in the back, Hamer stood his Winchester carbine down waiting for the opportune time to take his shot. Reportedly, Hamer observed a six-gun barrel protrude from behind a curtain and saw his chance firing his carbine and striking Putnam in the face ending his earthly existence. Hamer, the hero.
Conversely, he was also involved in the racially-motivated Texas Ranger atrocities that occurred in South Texas. The Rangers intimidated, terrorized and even murdered several Hispanics during the World War I era.
According to the Texas educational nonprofit, Refusing To Forget, “In early 1919, State Representative José Tomás Canales, the
only Mexican-American legislator filed a bill intended to prevent a repeat of the Ranger
actions of the previous years by dramatically restructuring the force.”
Supporters of the Ranger force fiercely pushed back attempting to discredit Canales. Refusing To Forget stated Hamer stalked Canales in South Texas and Austin during the hearings. “Canales’ family feared that he would be assassinated.”
Not sure if Hamer, “the deadliest Texas Ranger of the 20th-century,” qualifies as an anti-hero but it appears he operated above, inside and below the layers of justice and it’s certain that he left a historical footprint, dubiously or triumphantly, in Del Rio.