A Ranger Christmas, Part 1
I’ll admit right up front that I’m no expert on Walker, Texas Ranger. Sure, I’m well familiar with the whole Chuck Norris meme…
and I’ve even been to the Barrens.
Recently, however, I’ve had occasion to actually watch some actual episodes of the actual show. It’s about what I expected, based on rumors: corniness and cheesiness abound, and absolutely everything is played completely straight, sappiness notwithstanding: cherubic orphans find homes, kids learn to stay off drugs and out of street gangs, and petty criminals think the best solution to any problem is to try to punch the Ranger trying to arrest them.
For more info, I would advise folks to check out TV Tropes, of course!
And for the purposes of a Heathen Wintermas celebration, Christian themes play a big role in WTR episodes. Those cherubic orphans who found a home, they prayed for it, and thanked God when they found it. Walker and his good buddy Hulk Hogan thank God for keeping kids out of gangs in this episode, etc.
For an amusing spectrum of opinion on the Christianity of WTR, you can check out Christian Answers.
Speaking of orphans, in our Wintermas episode, Walker and the gang are hosting a Christmas party for the local orphanage. As we open, they’re handing out presents to the kids.
By the way, the kids just sit there for the entire episode/story with their presents in their laps. (Indeed, the kids hold the presents pretty carefully, almost as though they know they’re wrapped empty boxes that need to stay nice so they can be used on the set of Touched by an Angel after this shoot.) I would submit that children that age being able to wait that long to open presents that are in their hands is the most unbelievable aspect of this whole tale. (Almost, but not quite, as unbelievable as a college professor sitting around her office on Black Friday during a blizzard just in case a student dropped by for guidance.)
Anyway, the kids beg a story off Walker “like last year.” Only one boy objects (oh yeah, it’s always the gingers spoiling everything, isn’t it?) on the grounds that “Christmas ain’t real.” This seems a slightly unusual way of phrasing a Christmas objection (it’s not “Santa Claus isn’t real,” or a 34th-Street objection like that). Instead, it’s more a Charlie Brown complaint: “it’s just a bunch of hype for selling toys and making money and stuff like that.”
But this idea gets conflated into “Is the Christmas spirit real?” for purposes of this story. Kinda weird.
Anyway, Trivet has one of his few lines in this episode, sarcastically muttering that a Christmas story for kids will be really exciting. Dude, you’re the one who volunteered to host a Christmas party for kids, so deal with it. Whiner.
Alex tells him not to be “a bah-humbug.”
So Walker starts to tell the tale of an Old West Texas Ranger named Hayes Cooper. The saga of Hayes Cooper was told through several different episodes of WTR…and I’ve actually seen one of them! It was the origin story of Cooper: he was a bounty hunter who was persuaded to become a Ranger after outlaws murdered a ranching family, and at the end of the origin story, Cooper realized that being a Ranger meant he couldn’t marry the woman he loved.
In other words: yeah, it made absolutely no sense.
Oh, and the Hayes Cooper stories are told in flashback…and Hayes Cooper is played by Chuck Norris in a bad wig.
So this story takes place after Cooper becomes a Ranger. He has to escort a guy named Will Stanton to prison. Stanton was local farmer and the apparent patsy to a bank robbery: he held the banker at gunpoint until the other robbers could get away, then turned himself in and didn’t say a word in his own defense at trial.
He’s played by William Sanderson, and most people probably remember him best as:
But I thought he was marvelous in Deadwood as the always-slimy E.B. Farnum:
He’s sorta-kinda our Bob Cratchit stand-in, for reasons which will become clear. On the long trail to the prison, Stanton engages Cooper in Christmas-talk, mostly so he (Stanton) can whine about how he won’t be spending Christmas with his kids, and begin the preaching process with Cooper, Christmas being “a true celebration of our Lord’s birthday.”
And on top of all the God-talk, there’s a Comanche named Red Bear tracking them, because he’s “made a sacred promise to take the Ranger’s scalp.”
After the commercial break, we cut back to the party. Retired Ranger C.D. Parker clues us in on how spellbound we should be, just in case we aren’t into the story enough yet:
“A prisoner to escort and a wild Comanche on your tail.”
Yup, that’s our story so far. Christmas!
Oh, and every time we cut between the Hayes Cooper story and the kids at the party, we fade out from the Wild West with this old-timey artsy look:
That’s the wild Comanche.