Here are three stories that may say something about life in Texas this year:
People just stood by and watched as Mrs. J. C. Allen and her two daughters, 6 and 7, were dragged off by three attackers who tried to force them into a car at a rest area on Interstate 20 east of Dallas.
Mrs. Allen screamed for help, but the eight or 10 bystanders just looked. Not Dick Cockrell, a Kroger truck driver, as he rolled into the rest area in his 18-wheeler. And when Mrs. Allen looked at him and pleaded, "Please help me! They're going to rape me!" something just clicked inside the 33-year-old ex-Marine.
So in the dark Texas night, Dick Cockrell took on the three assailants.
One, he said, had a knife and was dragging Mrs. Allen.
One had collared the children.
And one stood there, "lookin' mean."
As Cockrell approached, the man with the knife ordered him to "get your m----- f---- a-- back in the truck."
But before he could close his mouth, Cockrell put a right cross into the man's left jaw. "I felt the bone give," Cockrell recalled. "I heard a poppin' sound." His jaw broken, the man was on the ground, but he still had his knife.
The second man came at Cockrell, threw a punch and caught the truck-driver on the left side of the face. No harm done. He swung again, and Cockrell just grabbed his left arm and with a quick move broke it at the elbow. "I heard that one," says Cockrell. I felt it go. A man don't scream like that unless he's hurtin' real bad."
The man on the ground with the flapping jaw and the knife tried again, getting the blade a fraction of an inch into Cockrell's left knee. Cockrell grabbed the knife, put the blade between his foot and the ground and snapped it in two.
By this time, the third assailant was only halfway interested but nevertheless came at Cockrell, dancing with his legs apart like some savvy boxer.
"I put the foot into his groin," Cockrell recalled, "and lifted him six or eight inches in the air. He came down screamin' in a high-pitched voice."
Then Mrs. Allen screamed that the man with the broken arm was headed for the getaway car. He got only half way to the door before Cockrell punched him to the ground.
Cockrell threw their car keys away, told Mrs. Allen to get in her car with the children and follow him. He ordered the three men and the bystanders to stay at the rest stop, and then pulled out in his truck. "I watched the mirror. Nobody left."
On his CB, Cockrell radioed other truckers to look for Mrs. Allen's husband driving up ahead in a U-Haul. He had not seen his wife pull off the freeway behind him and kept going. The truckers spotted Allen and the family was reunited.
Dick Cockrell never called the cops. "What the hell," he said, "the bad guys got hurt and that's the way it's supposed to be. Some judge would just let them off with a hand spanking and tell them not to do it again. So you might as well whip their asses before you send them to court."
Cockrell escorted the family through Dallas.
"The little girls hugged me goodbye and that was it."
It is two in the morning on Sunday, Jan. 27. Hector Rincon, a 23-year-old Pasadena man out with a friend, is pumping gas into his pickup at a Sigmoor self-service station in Houston.
Behind him in line is a station wagon, perhaps a '74 Plymouth, with two men inside. They are impatient.
One complains to Rincon that he is taking too much time, far too much time, to fill his truck.
The man is angry. He orders Rincon to make up for his slowness by waiting on them. They tell him to pump gas into their station wagon.
Rincon tells them he is not an attendant. They can fill their own car.
Suddenly, a 9mm pistol appears.
Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam!
The two men in the station wagon are gone. Rincon is dead.
Three men were riding in the car on Interstate 10, the Katey Freeway, just outside Houston in north west Harris County. It was broad daylight, 2:30 on a Wesnesday afternoon.
Two in the car were hitchhikers, Dallas Duane Riley, 24, and Jerry Hudnall, 30. They were thumbing their way from New Orleans to El Paso, and had gotten a ride on the west edge of Houston.
Trouble was, the man driving the '73 Dodge station wagon they got into was Samuel Scyrus, 28. Five days earlier he had been released from a Texas prison where he served six years for aggravated robbery.
And with him on that Wednesday afternoon was a .22 caliber carbine.
The three drove west for only a few minutes, when, according to Harris County sheriff's detectives, K. B. Hendricks, Scyrus pulled to the shoulder of the road, took out his .22 and started shooting at some birds in a field.
Then the men drove some more, but the Dodge wagon broke down. Hudnall and Riley decided to seek alternative transportation; they gathered their belongings and walked on down the road.
Scyrus got his wagon going again and overtook them, pulled to the shoulder again, and as the two hitchhikers walked past, Detective Hendricks said, the .22 rifle came out again.
A shot. Riley fell into a ditch, wounded in the back.
From a feeder road, Ben (CB handle "Gentle Ben" Rush, 23, thought Riley had been hit by a car. He turned his 18-wheel bulk cement tank truck onto an overpass above Interstate 10, just off the hood of Scyrus' car.
As he left his truck to help, a crowd had begun gathering and some people shouted that a man was shooting. Indeed, Rush was fired at twice. He retrieved his .357 magnum from his rig; the CBs were crackling with the news of the highway gunfire. Others started arriving on the scene like a citizens' cavalry and, true to Texas, some were heavily armed.
Scyrus shot at Rush three more times. There are conflicting accounts as to how many others returned fire, but one who definitely did was "Gentle Ben" Rush. Scyrus took cover in his car. Once more he tried to get out, but from the overpass above, looking right down the barrel of his .357 magnum at Scyrus' chest, Rush shouted, "If you get out, the next one will count."
Scyrus stayed put.
The authorities who had been summoned by CB arrived, but the armed citizenry -- except for Rush -- had disappeared. No sense challenging Texas gun laws, however soft they are by many states' standards.
Dallas Duane Riley was taken to the hospital, where he remains paralyzed from the waist down, a bullet still lodged in his spine.
"I couldn't see the man gettin' shot at again after he had been shot once," says Rush. "The Lord was tellin' me to do it."
Later when the Lord fell silent, Ben Rush would hit himself in the head after thinking over exactly what he had done.