lanky young ranger faced a tough choice, worse than life or death: Turn in his
badge or lose the woman he loved.
Unfortunately, he loved being a ranger
as deeply as he cared for his fiancee. He liked the freedom of scouting the frontier,
looking for hostile Indians and trigger-happy outlaws, making camp in one trouble
spot until things settled down and then moving on when all hell busted loose somewhere
else. He relished the camaraderie with the other boys in the company, as sturdy
a group of young men as he ever hoped to ride the river with. Beyond that, he
knew his work made Texas a safer place to live and work. And if he stayed in the
Rangers, he knew that before long, he would make captain. He had run cattle before
enlisting in the Frontier Battalion, but rangering suited him a lot better than
pushing a herd.
On the other hand, Luvenia Conway was the sweetest and
prettiest girl in Columbus.
The idea of giving up Luvenia left a heavier feeling in his stomach than the cook's
Sitting around the campfire at night, drinking coffee
and pondering his predicament as the other boys of Co. D told stories and pulled
pranks, the lieutenant had just about decided to quit.
commander Maj. John B. Jones rode into Co. D's camp that August day in 1875, he
also had a problem. He had heard that one of his best men planned to resign in
the name of matrimony. Well respected by his men and the law-abiding citizens
of Texas, Jones took the lieutenant aside. Marriage was no barrier to a promising
career, he said. He would approve a leave of absence for as long as the lieutenant
needed, and then he could bring his new bride back with him. She could stay in
Roberts took the deal. Even so, after his initial elation wore off,
the lieutenant started worrying again. He had cavalierly accepted Jones's offer
without consulting with his intended. What would his fiancee think about leaving
the comforts of home to camp beyond the edge of settlement, where Indians still
left arrow-studded bodies strewn around smouldering cabins and wagonbeds, and
where outlaws felt they could pretty much do as they pleased, so long as they
could shoot better and ride faster than anyone who disagreed?
the lieutenant saddled up and rode east to Columbus,
a town of elegant ante-bellum homes shaded by ancient oaks and sweet-smelling
magnolias, a place where Indians had not been a danger for decades. Meeting with
his beautiful fiancee, who had never even ridden a horse, Roberts outlined the
Luvenia had already told the ranger "yes" once, when he
asked her to marry him. She did not hesitate when she heard his second proposal.
"My friends thought that I was courageous; in fact, quite nervy to leave
civilization and go into Indian country," she later wrote. "But it did not require
either; I was much in love with my gallant captain and willing to share his fate
wherever it might be. Besides the romantic side of it appealed to me strongly.
I was thrilled with the idea of going to the frontier...."
The young couple
married on Sept. 13, 1875 in Columbus.
At the depot, the conductor held the Austin-bound train until the ceremonies ended
so the newlyweds could leave immediately on their honeymoon--a trip to Indian
and outlaw country.
the couple awaited the arrival of the rangers who would travel with them to Co.
Dís camp. Escorted by two rangers, the couple "set out on our bridal tour," she
would write. "I'm sure there was never a more delightful one, and there can never
be another just like it."
Though her surroundings were hardly what she
was accustomed to, Luvenia did not complain about having to live in a tent. At
least it had wooden flooring. Her husband, who indeed had promoted to captain,
taught her to shoot and fish. Often, while some of the men were in the field,
she stayed around camp with the other rangers, spending her time hunting and fishing.
She grew tolerably good at both.
The rangers brought her pets and otherwise
pampered her, and she in turn "mothered" them. Major Jones, ever the Southern
gentleman, occasionally sent her candy and fresh fruit, addressing the box to
"Assistant Commander, Company D."
For nearly six years, the couple traveled
across West and Southwest Texas as
the rangers of Co. D dealt with Indians, cattle thieves, fence cutters, vigilantes,
stagecoach robbers and killers. Finally, on Oct. 12, 1881, the captain left the
Rangers and the couple moved to New Mexico Territory.
They returned to Texas in 1914. After living for
a while in San Antonio and then Driftwood, in 1917 they moved to Austin.
A quiet and
unassuming man, Roberts died in Austin
on Feb. 6, 1935. Gov. James V. Allred ordered the Texas flag flown at half-staff
above the capitol and approved Robertsí burial in the State
One of only a handful of rangers who ever bothered to write
his memoir, in a way he lived on. His wife also wrote of her experiences on the
frontier. The captain's account, sprinkled with occasional humor, was a modest,
matter-of-fact summary of his state service. Luvenia's recollections were more
"It was with regret I parted from the Ranger camp where I had
spent so many happy days," she wrote. "Camp life afforded many pleasures, which,
coupled with duty and a determination to serve the people of Texas well and honestly,
have caused us to treasure the memory of those years."
Cox - February 6, 2013 column
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