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Cattle Q&A with Larry Gray, Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association special ranger

Published on 24 May 2018
Larry Gray with special rangers

Larry Gray will retire from the Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers on May 31 as executive director of law enforcement and theft prevention services. He was director of law enforcement for the past 23 years and spent 37 years at the association.

Progressive Cattleman Editor David Cooper spoke with him at the TSCRA convention in Fort Worth.

Larry GrayQ: What brought you to the TSCRA rangers?

A: GRAY: I was a Fort Worth police officer and raised on a ranch in Aledo. A job came open in the Fort Worth area; I knew the gentleman who held the position. He said he was transferring, and I applied for the job. And that was in 1981.

Q: What was the most unique thing that appealed to you about joining the rangers?

A: GRAY: It was the best of both worlds; being ranch-raised, I had a love for the cattle industry and the livestock industry in general. Plus being involved in law enforcement, so it was really the best of both worlds.

Q: Would you say among law enforcement the TSCRA rangers have a unique role of anybody in the state?

A: GRAY: We really do. We’re very unique in that we specialize in agricultural thefts; we’re a sheriff’s office that hires investigators.

No other agency does that in Texas or Oklahoma.

Q: Do you recall the biggest case you were called in for?

A: GRAY: I think the most memorable one, we had a gentleman stealing cattle off of interstate highways in Texas all the way up into Iowa. He was just eating us up on thefts. We finally got him to talk. He was selling those cattle in East St. Louis, Illinois, at the National Stock Growers. When we got him to talk, we spent like two weeks in St. Louis gathering records; that was a real neat case that he was hauling those cattle that far.

Q: Was there a dollar value on how much he took?

A: GRAY: I can’t remember; it was in the mid-’80s, pretty early in my career.

Q: Does it surprise, how much cattle rustling and thefts are continuing today in this day and age?

A: GRAY: Yeah, just like our ability to investigate these thefts, cattle thieves have become more sophisticated too. Cellphones have a lot to do with it, being able to communicate. And all the databases we have available to use to investigate suspects.

Q: It seems like prosecutors and district attorneys from this region, and really the nation, have a good working relationship with the TSCRA.

A: GRAY: Yes, we do; in the more rural counties, prosecutors are more receptive to livestock cases because maybe they were raised in the industry. And so they realize the importance and the damage it does to a cattle producer to lose those cattle.

Larger metropolitan areas like Fort Worth metroplex, the greater Houston area, Dallas – those prosecutors aren’t always as receptive to prosecute those cases. A lot of times, in those urban areas, we have to almost educate those prosecutors about the industry and how cattle travel through commerce. It’s challenging.

Q: Any suggestion you can give to producers, maybe not just in the Southwest but anywhere, that’s an ID method or security method, that works best for protecting the cattle you have?

A: GRAY: Branding. Even as old a method as that is, hot-iron branding is still the best way to identify cattle or horses. Because they can’t be removed, it can be seen from a distance; yes, it can be altered and changed, but we can tell when that happens.

Eartags are a great secondary identification, but the first thing the cattle thieves will do is tear those eartags out of those ears. Branding is still the best means of identification.

Q: Has there ever been a case that was so peculiar or odd you’ll tell the grandkids?

A: GRAY: I think I was working up by Decatur (Texas) area, we had a widow lady who had a bunch of cattle that were pets. A guy from down the road ended up stealing them. They weren’t marked or branded or anything. We knew he took them to the Decatur Livestock Auction, and I told her, “How are we going to identify these cattle?” She said, “Oh, they know their names.”

Sure enough, I took her to the Decatur Livestock Auction, got up on the cat walk, and she started hollering out to those cattle and those cattle names, and those cattle started answering and bawling back to her.

That’s how we got those cattle identified. We went right to the pen, and she said, “Those are my cattle right there.”

Q: What’s going to mean the most for you at this stage? What’s going to be the fondest memory you carry away from this?

A: GRAY: Just the men I’ve been able to work with through the years, present and past; in 37 years I’ve seen a lot of people retired prior to me and still stayed in contact with the majority of those. There’s just a lot of camaraderie; it’s a small group, just 30 of us counting me in Texas and Oklahoma. We’re a pretty tight-knit group as far as sticking together. So I’ll probably miss that.  end mark

PHOTO 1: Larry Gray, third from the left, with special rangers of the Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

PHOTO 2: Larry Gray. Photos courtesy of TSCRA 

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