The 10th Annual Ol’ Farts Fish Fry and Firearms Qualification event took place on Wednesday, Oct. 25, hosted by the Texas Department of Public Safety at the Liberty County law enforcement firearms qualification range in Cleveland. It was a wonderful opportunity for more than 300 Texas DPS and Texas Ranger retirees to enjoy a fish dinner while catching up with each other and honing their firearms skills.
“It’s an honor for you guys to be here, and for us to have the opportunity to give back a little bit for all the service that you provided to the State and for the foundation of this great agency that you all built for us to stand on,” said Major Grover “Frank” Huff, who oversees Company A of the Texas Rangers, which is part of Texas DPS.
Huff, who worked as a Texas Ranger in Liberty County for many years, said that by the next reunion he will be part of the retirees, not the active DPS staff who organize the event. Huff plans to retire in January 2024.
Among the retirees in attendance was J.R. Allen, former regional director for the Southeast Texas Region for DPS, who has been a loyal participant at every reunion. With 30-plus years of dedicated service under his belt, Allen is a true inspiration to the younger generation.
Allen comes from a line of dedicated DPS officers – his late father, James Robert Allen Sr., was also a regional commander for Texas DPS’s Regional 6, and his brother is a retired state trooper. Additionally, his cousin Brian Hawthorne serves as the sheriff of Chambers County. Allen’s devotion to his work runs deep and is deeply ingrained in his family.
Allen, who has enjoyed DPS assignments in Midland, Beaumont, Garland, Woodville, El Campo, New Braunfels, Brenham and Victoria, spoke of his passion for being a highway patrolman, a career he was drawn to since childhood. Even after all these years, he says that if he had to do it all over again, he would still endeavor to be a lawman.
Over the years, the job has changed, not because of any changes in the DPS organization but due to societal changes. Allen believes the job has gotten harder for troopers, especially since they are frequently called to the border to handle the continuous flow of illegal immigrants coming into the United States, which prevents troopers assigned to counties from devoting their time to their own communities.
“They’re moving some of those positions to the border so you’ve got less coverage for the highway patrol in those counties,” Allen said. “But there ain’t a hell of a lot more they can do about it. They’ve got to have them on the border; they gotta have them to rotate.”
Law enforcement’s role has gotten harder also because many in the younger generations have not been taught to respect law enforcement and the rules of society. Still, even with those challenges, Allen contends that law enforcement is a noble profession and that Texas DPS is the best law enforcement organization around.
Today, Allen, 71, spends his retirement years tending to his late wife Brenda’s family farm – a 43-acre estate outside of Brenham. So far, he hasn’t missed a single reunion in the 10 years they have been held in the Cleveland area, except for 2020 when the event was canceled due to COVID. He looks forward to attending every year.
When asked if it makes him sad to not see the friends who passed in the year prior at each reunion, Allen said, “No, at my age, you expect to lose friends. At this age, people no longer feel invincible.”
Texas Ranger Brandon Bess, who organizes the luncheon every year, thanked the sponsors and donors who made this year’s event possible. The list of donors and sponsors includes Chief Tony Leal, The Hat Store, Superior Trophies, John and Amy Hebert, LWL Construction Baytown, PPI Security, County Court at Law No. 2 Judge Wes Hinch, Bluebonnet News, JLA Properties, Jimmie Bear Cullars, Texas State Troopers Association, American Association of State Troopers, Texas DPS Officers Association, Texas Municipal Police Association, Vanesa Brashier, John Coleman, Chad Fitzgerald and Ryan Fitzgerald of the Trux Store, John Hart, Jennifer Bergman Harkness, Texas DPS Foundation, DPS Citizens Academy Alumni, Liberty County Sheriff’s Chaplain Kenneth Smith, Texas Highway Patrol and Criminal Investigative Division staff and all the Company A Texas Rangers.