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  • Red Nichols, Holstorian

Father of the Buscadero

Updated: Jan 19

Captain J.R. Hughes is the most influential Texas Ranger for gunleather development and his service with the Rangers didn't much outlast that period that was 1907. Hughes was ordered to shift his company to Austin in that year and there to have them 'dismounted' (so, foot patrol) and was tasked with 'disarming' them; i.e., concealing their weaponry. He accomplished that with his offsider Doc White: the two of them submitted Doc's King Ranch holster to N.J. Rabensburg, a saddler in a nearby town of LaGrange (one word then) who shrank the oversized K.R. into what we know as the Brill today and then called a Sunday holster (according to Ranger Captain Sterling).


Again, images you've seen or even missed, and are usually misdated on the 'net. In 1893 he was promoted to Captain and this image commemorated that; as you can see it was given to Sam Myres who was not yet 'Tio' and wouldn't be until WWII:


Colorized, an image for 1894:


Hughes did not marry and this letter is on that subject:



Rangers were not permanently enlisted; they reenlisted periodically and this is all 5' 11" of him (very tall for the era) doing so in 1911. In 1915 his reenlistment was refused by the governor of Texas.



In which year, 1911, he looked like this:



The caption has given you a clue: just as we know that an image of S.D. Myres looking like Uncle Sam won't be prior to the outset of WW2, so do we know that one of Hughes with his beard isn't before 1915 .


A clip from a big article in Popular Mechanics of all places, in 1931:



These images can now be understood as being publicity images from the Texas celebration of the Rangers being made a part of the Department of Public Safety as was the Hiway Patrol; in mid-1935. This image in particular is normally misdated on the 'net as being much earlier on the 'net and perhaps because he and Doc White are in uniform; but they are no longer young men. White in particular appears in this very outfit in 1950, hat and all!



Seeing this image reminds, that it's a curious tale that Captain Hughes thought of the buscadero belt as a support for his having been made a leftie in a gunfight (quite similar to the reason for the invention of the Sam Browne belt). Yet, it was an arrow from an Indian that caused the loss of his right arm; and the incident that was the only time he was ever wounded, was in 1872! Surely he didn't wait a half century for Sam Myres to introduce his version (and they are indeed different) in 1930; he had been put out to pasture 15 years by then. But that's the way the Myres company told it:



Not just 'a holster', that's a Myres 'Tom Threepersons Style' holster Model 614 as made popular by the F.B.I. beginning also in 1935.


Anyway, all these images including the one above with Sam Myres (notice Sam has no beard) were intended by the Rangers' publicity people to contrast the old with the new in 1935; so a young man on a motorcycle and Hughes on his horse:



It could be the same young man, and Hughes with the new (to him) Thompson sub:



Below, Hughes is wearing the several badges of his career and only one is Rangers; I recall that the one over his right pocket is his marshal's badge and the lowermost pair I haven't tried to identify. Notice the rifle (more about it in a moment):



The cover of Myres' 1938 gunleather catalog (there was a saddlery catalog for that year, too):



Captain Hughes, very old by then, killed himself with his revolver in 1947; so just three years before I was born in '50:



I mentioned Hughes rifle? Several things, then, in common with Ranger Nat Jones' image: same rifle, both are retired Rangers at their deaths, both their deaths by suicide with their guns. Jones used his rifle:



Yes, this image being very close to his death in '28, that's an early Brill he's wearing backwards (to suit the photographer) that also tells us he, too, was a leftie. Given the date it's a Brill by one of the Kluge brothers for A.W. Brill who did not himself work with leather, as opposed to the Brill holsters made for A.W. from 1932 onwards by its inventor N.J. Rabensburg. Who changed major details of the holster's styling and construction so that they, today, are easily told apart:


Early (P.S. have a Brill-marked belt from either era? Worth more than the holster because few have survived into the present day); many 'markers' tell us this but for now, notice the straight welted seam (FYI, only a single welt inside):



Late; you're noticing the bulged welted seam w/out being able to see that there are minimum two welts inside it and often there are three:



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