Rangers, Troopers hold ninth annual reunion in Liberty County

More than 300 retired and active members of the Texas Department of Public Safety, including Texas Rangers and state troopers, gathered for their annual reunion on Tuesday in Cleveland.

A reunion of Texas Rangers and state troopers brought the past and present together on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office gun range in Cleveland. This year marks the ninth year that this illustrious group of law personnel has gathered for the reunion, which has affectionately become known as the Ol’ Farts Fish Fry and Retiree Shoot.

Organized in recent years by Texas Ranger Brandon Bess, assigned to Liberty County and the Texas Rangers’ unsolved crimes investigation program, retired Pct. 6 Constable Royce Wheeler (who now manages the range for the sheriff’s office, and a host of other volunteers, the annual reunion was founded in 2013 by Capt. Dan North and Lt. Kevin Pullen of the Texas Rangers, and Constable Wheeler. Since that time, the reunion has been held every year except for 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s important to get everyone together. The brotherhood we share in law enforcement is unlike any other profession, in my opinion,” said Bess. “When you work with someone for 5-6 days a week, they become an extension of your family. When you retire, you don’t get to see them any more. We know the retired guys miss it. When they come to the reunion, they get to visit with the new highway patrol troopers and Rangers, and their old friends. It’s important for them to know they are still a big part of our family.”

Texas Rangers aren’t just great at solving crimes; they can cook. Preparing fish fillets at the Ol’ Farts Fish Fry and Retiree Shoot are (left to right) Texas Ranger Tom Northsworthy (Angleton, Texas), Ranger Joseph Dreadon (Beaumont, Texas), Ranger Joshua Benson (Liberty, Texas) and Ranger Christopher Cash (Huntsville, Texas).
Liberty County Court at Law No. 2 Bailiff and retired Dayton Police Capt. John Coleman has volunteered for years to prepare food for the Ol’ Farts Fish Fry and Retiree Shoot.
Ranger Christopher Cash and Sgt. Judd Russell with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office drop fish fillets in the fryer at the Ol’ Farts Fish Fry and Retiree Shoot on Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Cleveland. Russell has volunteered for the event for several years.

Over the last decade, the reunion in Cleveland has grown significantly. This year more than 300 retired and current state troopers and Rangers, along with law enforcement personnel from other agencies and honored guests, attended the event, making it the highest-attended gathering so far. Bess said attendance appears to grow every year as more retired personnel learn about the event through their peers in law enforcement.

During the luncheon, retired DPS Lt. Jim Fife was honored for his 55 years of service to the agency. The award was presented by Major Grover “Frank” Huff of Company A, who previously was assigned to Liberty County and still lives in the area, and Texas Rangers Chief Jason Taylor.

Retired State Trooper James Lee Fife (right) is presented with a plaque recognizing 55 years of service to DPS by Major Grover “Frank” Huff of Texas Rangers Company A (left) and Texas Rangers Chief Jason Taylor (center).

A retired trooper who set the standard for drug interdiction was among the guests at the luncheon. Ben Lamar “Butch” Bean, a native of Dayton, spent 28 years patrolling Texas highways before being elected as Chambers County Pct. 4 constable, a position he has held for the last 16 years.

Bean’s exceptional work in drug interdiction for Texas DPS earned him three director citations over the course of his career, a distinction that puts him in an elite group of law enforcement personnel.

“I don’t know if there are even five members of the department who have three director citations. It’s a very prestigious award from the DPS colonel for exceptional work, and Butch has three of them,” Bess said. “He made super good cases and is excellent in testifying in court cases. He is the guy that, when he was in court, the younger troopers would go watch him testify just to learn how to do it right.”

Bean’s largest drug interdiction case, at least the one he can remember most vividly, involved a tractor-trailer carrying thousands of pounds of marijuana. Drug cases have changed over the years as the drug of choice has migrated from marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines, to harder substances like fentanyl and opioids.

Bean comes from a law enforcement family. His father is the late Dayton Police Chief Buddy Bean and his brother, Gordon, is a Liberty County sheriff’s deputy. Gordon’s son, Kelby, also is a LCSO deputy. Bean’s sister was once a peace officer and another brother, who was killed in a car accident, was an undercover agent.

The food for the Ol’ Farts Fish Fry and Retiree Shoot was sponsored by Texas Department of Public Safety Foundation. Door prizes were sponsored by the American Association of State Troopers, Texas State Troopers Association, PPI Security and William Hall, a reserve deputy for Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. Desserts were provided by Liberty County District Attorney Jennifer Bergman Harkness.

Ammunition used for the range qualification was provided by DPS majors, regional directors and chiefs.

Chambers County Pct. 4 Constable Butch Bean and Ranger Brandon Bess visit with each other at the Ol’ Farts Fish Fry and Retiree Shoot on Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Cleveland.

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