Roy Exum: A Clear Case Of Frontier Law

  • Saturday, June 16, 2012
  • Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Last Saturday afternoon, a young family in Texas had laid aside the endless chores of running a working ranch and, with more family and friends gathered, they were preparing a barbecue when a small girl’s screams pierced the peaceful afternoon. The child’s father, knowing his five-year-old daughter was tossing cracked corn to the chickens down by the horse barns, raced towards the noise and saw an unthinkable sight he will never fathom.

A 47-year-old Mexican, who the young father had hired to help with the horses, was found trying to sexually assault the rancher’s young daughter and the child’s daddy promptly attacked the loathsome horseman much like any father who you can name would have done in any part of the world.

But – get this -- as others who rushed to the macabre scene will attest, the young father hit the Mexican so hard with his fists that the blows actually killed the child’s assailant.

Now, which way do you want to go? Should we talk about the long-gone fathers who weren’t around when Penn State’s fabled Jerry Sandusky allegedly violated young boys for years? Do you want to bring up Trayvon Martin because – let’s face it – here’s a Hispanic who has just been killed by a man guarding his ground?

No, the better story is that maybe here is a case where frontier justice will probably be brought back into play. Darn near everybody in Shiner, Tex., located about 150 miles west of Houston, who knows the young rancher says he’s been “good as gold” his whole life, the lone flaw on his name being that he says “Yessir”” and “No ma’am” so much it sometimes makes other young adults in town look tawdry.

Because news media shies away from naming victims of sexual assault, the child’s father has not been identified publicly, but the sheriff of Lavaca County, Micah Harmon, said the young man called 911 himself to report the lifeless body on his ranch “and we have no reason to believe other than what he has told us.”

The sheriff said the young father was remorseful and anguished as he took his young daughter to the hospital for treatment and the child’s grandfather, who pulled his son off the unconscious Mexican as fast as he could, told deputies he didn’t know if the perpetrator was dead or alive after he was finally able to calm his son. The sheriff said the young girl was “OK, besides the obvious mental trauma.

”Up until now the only claim to fame in Shiner, Tex., is the “Shiner Bock” beer that is produced in the sleepy ranch town. According to the sheriff, there have been only six murder investigations in the eight years he’s been in office and folks in Lavaca County are God-fearing, hard-working and neighborly. “We never have anything like this.”

Efforts to locate anyone kin to the deceased Mexican have been futile and why he would have ever attacked the young girl with her family so close nearby, or after the young rancher had befriended him and given him a job, is even more puzzling. But every witness at the barbecue, some tearful, say the death that occurred was nothing more than the result of an enraged father protecting his young.

When the sheriff was asked by CNN reporters if the state of Texas would press charges, Sheriff Harmon was unsure. “You have a right to defend your daughter. He acted in defense of his third person. Once the investigation is completed, we will submit it to the district attorney, who then submits it to the grand jury, who will decide if they will indict him."

But nobody who lives in Shiner thinks there will be charges. “He’s not a violent person – just an honest, hard-working kid,” said a neighbor. “I can’t think of any father who wouldn’t have reacted in the exact same way. Nothing ever happens. There's never any murders here. Everybody knows everybody and gets along with everybody. This is a real big shock."

There is an old saying, ‘Don’t mess with Texas.’ Here’s another: Don’t mess with a Texas rancher’s child.

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