By Steve Ramirez
My six-guns were strapped down as I squared off with Cactus Jack. Their shinny chrome triggers and pearly grips barely showed above the double holsters. As I stepped forward I could hear the cha-ching, cha-ching, of my spurs. Cactus Jack was the name I had given my little sister’s teddy bear. He had been giving me the evil eye for days and I’d had enough. Now it was time to settle the score. I drew, I fired… he didn’t even blink. Even back then, I always knew that I was a cowboy and a lawman at heart.
I used to spend hours reading an old tattered book that my father had in an old tattered box. It was entitled, “Great Lawmen and Outlaws
of the Old West.” I carefully turned each yellow page and lived the adventure of hunting the wolves of the west. From Waco to Tucson
and along the high desert mountains I rode without even leaving the house. I hunted outlaws and rode long trails always keeping a wary
eye for the distant silhouette of a lurking predator-native or not. When I returned from my military time serving in distant lands I found that my
father had thrown this book out and with it so many precious memories of a young boy, alone, dreaming of adventure. I asked him why. He replied, “It was old, you were gone.” No matter I told myself…I was stepping forward to live my own adventures now. In truth, it did matter, and I have always regretted his action and my failure to protect this fragile thread that connected me to those magical boyhood moments.
Growing up, all of my very few friends had ranches. They lived the life I wanted, and on weekends I would stay out at my friend Rick’s ranch just to have a taste of that life. Before sunrise I was cleaning stalls and feeding horses. It was cold sweaty work but I felt alive. The smell of hay and horse seemed as inviting to me as that of his grandmother’s bacon and pancake breakfast that would be waiting for us when the work was done. His ranch was not very big and often we would move the few head of cattle through the thick brush from one pasture to the next just by walking behind them and tossing the occasional dirt clod onto an immovable bovine backside. Other times, he would saddle his horses and walk them carefully between the trees and along the grassy trails. Truth be known, I never spent enough time in the saddle to get very good at it…but I still loved the sound of the leather creaking beneath me and the rhythm of the horse stepping over root and rock. It felt western. It felt like adventure.
Later, I found myself by force of will strapping on my spurs and chaps and climbing into the bucking shoot. There is something unnatural about sitting on top of a two thousand pound bull, sliding up to the rope, and giving the nod for the shoot boss to open the gate. I decided to ride bulls not because I was very brave but rather because while watching it one day my friend asked me if I thought I could do that. I felt a twinge of fear in the center of my chest as I considered the question, and it was then that I knew that I no choice but to conquer the fear.
There came a day when I raised my right hand and swore and oath to protect and defend the Constitution and the citizens of the great state of Texas. I strapped on my pistol, pinned on my badge and set out to save the world from itself. I was…and to this day remain: a lawman. From my childhood images I have walked in the footsteps of the legendary men, those “rough men” who stand guard in the night so that others may sleep safely in their beds. Some of these legends I have been fortunate enough to call my friends; men like Ranger Joaquin Jackson who I once asked to speak to one of the graduating classes of the police academy I once lead. He not only came all the way from his home in Alpine to do so, but he insisted on speaking individually to every soon–to-be Texas Peace Officer before he would even consider meeting the other dignitaries or step on that stage. I have had the pleasure of working beside and becoming friends with other great Texas Lawmen, some known and some unknown to the world: in every case, they were humble, courageous, servant leaders. The badge I currently carry each day is embolden with the words: Deputy Constable, Kendall County – Precinct 1. Once while discussing the life of a Texas Lawmen with my Constable he said, “Steve, we are in this business for the same reason: we don’t like bullies.” I have never heard anyone more eloquently describe the essence of being a Peace Officer.
When I was a kid reading those cowboy and lawmen stories, I was very shy. For a while I was bullied by the young wolves that would later grow up to victimize others. I would find myself surrounded by several cowards who sought out any weakness they could use to their collective advantage and my quite nature was seen to be just that sort of opportunity. In time I made a decision that I would no longer accept their bullying me or anyone else. Too often I saw other kids standing placidly by- watching as I took the beating by a group of thugs. I made a choice to begin working out and learning how to fight back. I turned anger into skill and in time the jackals learned to give me a wide birth. By the time I joined the Marines I began to pity any bully
who attempted their cowardly craft in my presence. I found that I was born to be a sheepdog that would protect the sheep from the wolves.
Being a Lawman: male or female- means placing your personal safety at risk to protect those who cannot or will not protect themselves. Being a
lawman has little to do with riding off into the sunset and always getting the girl. In fact, more often than not you will ride away alone hearing
only the distain of those who you have sworn to protect. Being a true Lawman: male or female – means being a warrior.
I believe that to be a true warrior, you must love others and love an ideal of a life where people are kind, safe, and do not suffer the pain of the wolf’s teeth and you must love all this more that you love yourself: more than you love your own life. To be a warrior you must see yourself as if you have already died…not in defeat, but rather at the end of a life worth living: a life of vigilance and service. You do not wish for death-you want to live. You train with an open heart to defend those who cannot defend themselves. You know inside your soul that every human life ends in one way…and may live forever in another. To be a warrior is to do battle within your lesser self, and to rise to the occasion – to get up as you fall down, to always seek to be the powerful spirit you were born to be.
The boy who did battle so long ago with an imaginary foe has since done so many times in reality and drawn his weapon many times to protect innocent life. He has seen the wolves of the world commit terrible acts upon the innocent sheep, and has hunted those wolves down without remorse. As a boy he may have thought that the toughest thing of being a Lawman might be the danger, but it is not. The toughest thing is being able to face the worst of humanity every day and still remain intact as a decent human being. Being able to see the good in the world and understands that evil will always be among us, is the key to remaining…undefeated.