In “What Would Elliot Think”, I wrote “when I started my law enforcement career it was illegal in Texas for an ordinary citizen to carry a firearm just because he thought he had a Constitutional right to do so.” That needs to be corrected and clarified. It was not accurate to say that it was illegal for citizens to carry firearms, rather, to be more precise, it was illegal to carry a handgun. Although, under the penal laws at the time I was writing of, it was legal to carry a rifle or shotgun around, the practicality of it seems to make the point moot.
Texas is a damn unique place. An independent country before becoming part of the United States, the home to cowboys and oilmen, it’s a place where you can hear phrases and sayings that you’ll never hear anyplace else. This past weekend I spent some time on a ranch somewhere near the Llano River on the Edwards Plateau and ran across the ranch foreman. Noticing that he was driving the four-wheeler that one of his assistants normally drove, I inquired about the boy.
Had to let him go. Boy thought too slow and his hands were too soft to be much use around here.
The translation being that the erstwhile ranch hand was too dim and too lazy for the demands of the job.
When I saw the story about Jeanne Assam taking out Matthew Murray as he entered the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, I was impressed by how her actions were described by an eyewitness. Larry Bourbonnais, according to the Denver Post, is a veteran of combat from the Vietnam War. A member of the church, he was on the campus when he heard gunfire. Larry ran toward the sound of the guns and ran into the shooter and two armed church members who volunteer as security. The two men were pointing their weapons at Murray but were not firing.
Bourbonnais said he pleaded with the armed guard to give him his weapon.
“Give me your handgun. I’ve been in combat, and I’m going to take this guy out,” Bourbonnais recalled telling the guard. “He kept yelling, ‘Get behind me! Get behind me!’ He wouldn’t hand me his weapon, but he wouldn’t do anything.”
Bourbonnais yelled at the gunman to draw his attention, he said. “First, I called him ‘Coward’ then I called him ‘S—head’ ” Bourbonnais said. “I probably shouldn’t have been saying that in church.” That’s when the shooter pointed one of his guns at Bourbonnais and fired, he said.
Bourbonnais ducked behind a pillar but was wounded by fragments from bullets and plaster from the pillar.
At about that moment, Assam turned a corner with a drawn handgun, walked toward the gunman and yelled “Surrender!” Bourbonnais said.
The gunman pointed a handgun at Assam and fired three shots, Bourbonnais said. She returned fire and just kept walking toward the gunman pressing off round after round.
I was reminded of an old Texas saying that dates back to the earliest day of the Republic and the State. Back when lawmen and cowhands who worked along the Rio Grande found it to be a damn dangerous place. The land, the river and the denizens along either shore were all dangerous and it took a cool hand to work there and survive. Those with soft hands and slow thinking did not last long. The desired companero for such a dangerous place and times was a fellow who was a quick thinking man of action with a cool head when the bullets were flying. It has long been a high compliment to say of someone….
He’ll do to ride the river with.
Jeanne Assam coolly dispatched Matthew Murray before he got too far. According to Colorado Springs Police, Murray had two handguns, an assault rifle, and over a thousand rounds of ammunition. With 7,000 people still on the church campus at the time of the shootings, the grounds would have run red with the blood before he ran dry. Praying to God for strength, Jeanne started walking toward Murray as they fired at each other. So, Jeanne Assam will do…she’ll do to ride the river with.
*Texas Ranger Captain William Jesse McDonald’s personal motto was “No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that’s in the right and keeps on a-comin'”.