The other night, we watched a Discovery Channel hour about the Texas Rangers and their battles … literally … with Mexican drug runners. It was a very interesting story. Rangers didn’t always win but they prevailed most of the time. And the bullets … a lot of bullets … were real.

I can’t remember the exact location. But it was a small, narrow stretch of the Rio Grande River where the distance from shore to shore is about 80 yards. The Mexican crooks like the spot because they can smuggle drugs … or people … across with minimum exposure. And, because the water is deep and fast-moving, it’s a good place for the drivers to dump a vehicle and swim home if the Rangers get close on their tail during a chase.

I hadn’t thought about Texas Rangers and their Stetson hats for a long time and it was unusual to watch them in action without the trademark headgear. These officers were in camouflage fatigues or army combat gear. Many had traditional helmets, bulletproof vests and other military accessories.

Some were armed with automatic rifles in addition to sidearms. They had specially equipped SUV’s, jet boats for river work, up-to-date ground surveillance equipment and about every military and law enforcement device imaginable.

Including several helicopters. Not one. Several. Just in this one operating location. New stuff with lots of add-ons. One accessory worthy of note was the FLIR equipment. That’s “Forward-Looking InfraRed.” When used with their state-of-the-art night vision goggles, flying Rangers could spot smugglers and illegals on the darkest nights. Even the snipers riding in the choppers had special night vision equipment and special high power scopes so they could do their job in pitch black conditions. All that night gear ain’t cheap!

Then there was their first-class operating base. It was a long semi-trailer, probably the 53-foot model. One side was a large slide-out like you’d see on an RV. Inside, a wall of TV monitors bringing in signals from all over the place. Satellite stuff. Armed Rangers were seated in front of almost every flat panel screen with armed supervisors standing behind. A real military “war room.” And the entire trailer combat center was sitting inside another very large building like a hangar.

Now this was just one location along the Texas-Mexico border. I’m sure there were others since that border is so long. This one well-armed, state-of-the-art complex couldn’t have been the only Ranger operational site. But let’s just imagine that it was.

I wondered what the cost of just that one very special Texas Ranger group might be. I did a little research. Well, equipment, armament and special clothing for these Rangers in the field came to more than $1,500 per man including weapons. I’d estimate we saw about two-dozen troopers. The SUV’s … and there were many in addition to the traditional patrol vehicles … about $30,000 each because of all the special gear. The boats … I saw three … about $25,000 each. Dive gear for a team … approximately another $8,000.

The trailer, with all it’s sophisticated equipment, could easily have cost $500,000. And those helicopters. The ones I looked up, which were the same or similar, were over $1 million a copy. We saw at least two. Again, in this one base.

So, totaling up equipment, throwing on the usual state employee salaries and benefits, you could easily reach several million dollars. Just what we saw in this one presentation. There are likely other bases, more Rangers and more equipment.

“So what, Rainey,” you ask? “Where are you going with this?”

Well, after we turned off the TV, I got to thinking about how long the State of Texas could pay this very expensive and ongoing bill. That’s when it hit me. I doubt the State of Texas is paying the freight for most of this.

No, for that you’d have to look to Washington, D.C. and the Dept. Of Homeland Security, probably Defense and possibly some other federal money pots. Which means you and I are likely the payers-of-last-resort and it’s our tax dollars picking up a lot of the Texas tab.

And we’re doing this in a state in which the Governor … Rick Perry … has loudly and repeatedly condemned the federal government for interfering in the affairs of his “sovereign state” and who has talked of secession as being a possibility if it continues. Talked of and threatened! And he’s been joined in his threats by members of his congressional delegation.

Given the $25+ billion debt in the Texas state budget this year, the discontinuance of the federal largesse could be quite a problem for Perry and his Rangers. Without you and me, those front line defenders would be out there in Speedos, on 10-speeds, carrying Daisy air rifles.

Give that a little thought, Mr. Governor, next time you pop off to your right wing base. You might want to treat those of us paying the bill with a little more respect. No, make that a lot more respect.

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