Ranching is a way of life that hasn’t been forgotten in North Texas. Outside Bowie, Joe Stout has spent 30 years raising cattle.
For ranchers like Stout, there is a team of elite investigators with a unique skill set to protect him and his property.
They’re Special Rangers with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. They investigate cattle and agricultural crimes, some of which can seem impossible to solve.
“I’ve gotten calls six months later and people say, ‘my cattle are missing,’” said Special Ranger John Bradshaw. “‘Well, when’s the last time you knew they were there?’ ‘Six months ago.’ So that makes it tough, because we’re dealing with the environment out here with rain, sleet and snow and evidence gets washed away.”
Stolen cattle can sometimes show up at livestock auctions like the one in Decatur.
“We’re selling around 1,350 today,” said Mickey Scarborough, regarding how many head of cattle were going through the auction on that particular Monday.
He said the Decatur Livestock Market has also been a victim of cattle theft.
“I called John [Special Ranger Bradshaw] and told him the scenario of what had happened and right away he put the word out to the other Rangers and we immediately found them being sold at Hubbard,” Scarborough said. “So we were able to get our cattle back, the funds back right away.”
He said if it wasn’t for Special Ranger Bradshaw tracking down the thieves, it’s likely, no one else would.
“I don’t know of anybody else that will actually do this,” Scarborough said. “Our local law enforcement—they’ll help to a degree, but they don’t have the expertise or knowledge in the cattle business and the cattle industry of how to get it done.”
For Stout, it was Special Ranger Bradshaw who solved his case as well, before Stout even knew three cattle had been stolen.
“It was news to us!” Stout said. “‘Hey, you got three black cows up in Oklahoma City that are at the sale barn here and they belong to you.’”
Stout said at the time, they were worth a thousand dollars each.
These successes are thanks to experts in their field who have a passion to help.
“It’s important to me because it’s how I grew up,” said Special Ranger Bradshaw. “The people that are victims of these type of cases, you know, they’re honest, hardworking people that are just trying to make a living in the cattle industry.”
TSCRA Special Rangers are commissioned by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Their paychecks come from ranchers who are members of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
In Texas, stealing just one calf can lead to 10 years in jail.