So You Want to Be a Cattle Rustling Ranger?

Here at Modern Farmer HQ, we get a little goofy about cattle rustling.

It’s a crime from the frontier days, evoking visions of scoundrels and lawmen locked in eternal battle. Sure, rustling in 2013 is a bit different than it was back in the day (more meth, better technology), but romantic visions remain.

So when we stumbled on this job opening for a cattle rustling Special Ranger in West Texas, we thought it might be time for a career change. Surely a journalist from a New England college town (who, to his credit, has visited Austin) has what it takes to hunt rustlers on the Texas plains. We called Special Ranger Max Hartmann, the most gracious Texas gentleman to ever suffer a reporter’s questions, to find out if we qualify.

Modern Farmer: I have no experience catching rustlers, or even ranching. Is that a problem?

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Max Hartmann: Most Special Rangers have 10 to 20 years of law enforcement experience. They also know agriculture. It’s not good enough to be a city policeman; you have to know which end of a horse gets up first.

MF: Aren’t the same skills used to catch cattle thieves as, say, car thieves?

MH: In this job, you talk to farmers and ranchers every day. Most of our rangers grew up in small Texas ranching towns; they speak the same language. I live in a town with two churches, one school, one store, and a whole lot of ranching. It would be hard for a guy in New York to understand that.

MF: Is it about trust?

MH: It absolutely is.

MF: I have a college degree. How far will that get me?

MH: Not that far. Most of our rangers have at least a year or two of college, but its 50/50 on how many graduated. A lot of our guys have military backgrounds. All of them have common sense.

MF: Does the job require horse riding?

MH: Less than it used to. I’d say all of us have some equestrian experience, but sometimes you need a fast car to catch a thief.

MF: Does the job require a lot of gunplay?

MH: We aren’t first responders, so we don’t interrupt many crimes-in-progress. It sure does happen sometimes, but not that much.

MF: But you carry a gun at all times?

MH: I’ve packed a pistol for 47 years. Well, it’ll be 47 in February.

MF: Are you required to wear a hat?

MH: Yessir. When you come from a ranching background, it’s hard to remember a time when you didn’t wear a hat. It’s an emblem, just part of being from Texas.

MF: Should I wear a tie to the interview?

MH: Oh, absolutely! We’re very professional here. We know the right times to wear a tie and sports coat. It’s not all blue jeans and hats.

MF: We noticed there are no female Special Rangers. Why is that?

MH: We’d be happy to hire a woman, but we don’t get many applicants. I’ve worked with plenty of smart women in law enforcement, but not many with agriculture experience.

MF: I notice the position has been open for awhile. Why is that?

MH: It’s getting harder to find qualified candidates. Lots of the experienced law enforcement guys are getting hired by oil companies, starting somewhere around $100,000.

MF: What does this job pay?

MH: We don’t disclose that, but I can tell you it’s nowhere near $100,000. We can’t compete with that.

MF: I’ve got a bad feeling here. You aren’t going to hire me, are you?

MH: (Laughs) Oh well, the statutes in New York are very different than in Texas. It would be real tough to pass our exam if you weren’t familiar with our laws.

MF: You’re just letting me down easy, aren’t you?

MH: Maybe I am.

Up top: Ten Texas Special Rangers. Can you pick out Max Hartmann?

So You Want to Be a Cattle Rustling Ranger?