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From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

I think most all of us remember our first encounter with a Texas game warden. I know I do. I was a boy sitting on the porch of my grandparents' house when the local game warden drove up to see my grandfather. It was a friendly visit, but he was there to talk business. My grandfather had a night hunting problem on his ranch, and he needed help from that Gonzales County warden.

I listened furtively to the conversation between the men, trying to remain invisible and hoping I wouldn't be sent inside to "go help your grandmother." I still remember vividly the khaki uniform, blue badge, pistol, signature Stetson hat, and the confidence projected by the lawman. I knew right then, I'd better behave in the outdoors with hook or bullet.

In the future, some of you may have a chance to meet the graduates from our newest class of Texas game wardens. There are 36 of them. They are women and men of strong character, intellect and appreciation for our state's natural resources and outdoor heritage. They hail from Texas towns, big and small, and are graduates from universities as diverse as Baylor, Sul Ross, Texas A&M, Sam Houston State and the Naval Academy. Among others, they are the sons and daughters of a Texas Ranger, a park superintendent, a fireman, a police chief, a game warden, DPS officers and a county investigator. Their law enforcement genes are good.

I am particularly proud of the fact that 13 members of the class formerly worked for the department before entering the Game Warden Academy. Eleven of those were interns, who learned the agency from the bottom up. Several transferred over to law enforcement after working in parks, communications and fisheries, thereby bringing knowledge and experience from other parts of our agency.

As a group, they are all now part of a team that has been proudly serving Texas and Texans since 1895 in the realm of conservation law enforcement. Working on the water and off the pavement, at all times of the day and night, they will be there to protect our fish and wildlife, our lands and waters, our environment, our property and, sometimes, our lives. When a community or landowner calls in the time of need, they will come.

Summer will be a busy time of year for our new wardens. They will ensure that our lakes and rivers are used responsibly, our commercial and recreational fishing regulations are upheld, and our boating safety laws are honored. At some point, they will undoubtedly have to deal with accidental drownings, serious boating accidents, environmental crimes, natural disasters, drug interdictions and many other challenges that come with conservation law enforcement on the water.

At all times, they will serve as ambassadors for Texas and for your Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. I hope you have a chance to meet one of them. You'll recognize them. They will be there with their new khaki uniforms, blue badges, pistols, signature Stetson hats and, above all, a helping hand.

Thank you for caring about Texas and for those of us who help take care of its wildlife and wild places.

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