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Texas | Columns | "Texas Tales"

Ranger Cookies

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox

The shooting began around 4 o'clock that October afternoon, peaked around 5:30 and then became intermittent until before just before sunset.

While it sounded like a gun battle, the occasion was an annual South Texas dove hunt that used to be put on by the Texas Rangers of Company D, then headquartered in San Antonio. Following the hunt, rangers, their families and guests partook of barbecue and trimmings, including goodies from a long table laden with desserts. Happily, the standing invitation list included my name.

Since the rangers and their families would be furnishing supper, I had offered to bring a dessert. On my way from Austin to Carrizo Springs, I stopped at a bakery in the Alsace Lorraine-flavored community of Castroville.

Inside, pondering all the delicious-looking if calorie-laden possibilities, I saw a tray of goods with a surprisingly appropriate label: Ranger cookies. Huh? I'd been a cookie monster long before Sesame Street, but I had never heard of such a cookie.

Thinking that several dozen Ranger cookies would be the perfect touch, I placed my order. Walking out, just to make sure I wouldn't be providing my fellow state workers, their families and friends with an inferior product, I ate one.

The cookie tasted great, but I had to be sure. So I sampled a second. And then a third. After all, reputations have been earned or lost on less than the quality of a dessert offering. The sweet, crunchy cookies had an arresting taste clearly leading to recidivism. Finally, having tested a half-dozen or more cookies, I felt reasonably satisfied that the Rangers would enjoy a big stack of cookies named in their honor.

But why would a killer cookie be named for the Rangers?

Long ago, did some dust-covered frontier Ranger captain say to his weary fellow lawmen: "Boys, we've had a hard time of it lately what with all them Indians we've been a-fighting. How's about some milk and cookies? Holster them guns, salt yer scalps, wipe the blood off your Bowie knives, and I'll cook us up a batch of Ranger cookies so good you'd slap your mama for just one."

In other words, Texas Rangers and baking cookies seem about as likely a pairing as say, roadrunners and rattlesnakes, ministers and bartenders or doctors and undertakers. This is not to infer that rangers can't be handy in the kitchen, or that the men and women who wear the distinctive silver cinco peso badge don't have a taste for sweets. Few folks can resist a homemade cookie or two or three or more, but that a horseback-era ranger would have time or inclination to come up with a distinctive cookie recipe seems unlikely.

So how did the name originate?

One answer comes from Boston, a city where you'd think no one knows baked beans about the Rangers, much less Ranger cookies. But a student at Harvard has rhapsodized in a blog for the Harvard Currant about the Ranger cookies served in the cafeteria at that venerable Ivy League school. Curious as to how the cookies became so named, the blogger checked with the university's head of food services and received an email saying: “Some claim that the cookie originated in Texas and was originally called the ‘Texas Ranger Cookie’ or ‘The Lone Ranger Cookie.’ The recipe is similar to the Cowboy cookie which has oats, chocolate chips and pecans.”

OK, fine. But that still begs the question: If the Ranger cookie indeed hails from the Lone Star State, which by all rights it should (it would be humiliating to learn that Ranger cookies trace to, say, Alaska, or worse yet, Oklahoma), who DID create the recipe?

The smoking gun has yet to be found, but the prime suspect is the Lone Ranger. Well, not the masked rider himself, but the sponsor that made it possible for millions of Baby Boomers (and their parents) to grow up enjoying the adventures of Kemosabe and Tonto -- General Mills. That venerable corporation, of course, manufactures cereal products, including corn flakes. It seems likely that at some point between 1941, when it began sponsoring the radio show and 1961, when the Lone Ranger TV show ended, the company developed a cookie recipe with corn flakes as an ingredient. Hence, Ranger cookies.

Etymology aside, one certainty is that no matter who named them, Ranger cookies, as the old Ranger expression goes in regard to a trusted partner, "would do to ride the river with."

Here's one recipe:

1 stick margarine
half-cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups oats
2 cups corn flakes
1 cup pecans
half-cup coconut
6 silver bullets (just kidding...)

Cream the margarine, shortening, sugars and eggs, then sift the flour, soda, baking powder and salt. Next slowly mix that with the creamed ingredients. Then add the vanilla, followed by folding in the oats, corn flakes, pecans and coconut. Roll a tablespoon of dough at a time into a ball and then flatten on a cookie sheet. Bake for eight minutes at 375 degrees.

Hi-Yo, Silver...bring on them Ranger cookies!

© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" - March 31, 2016 Column

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