The toughest room in Texas today was a plain white conference room in Garland along Interstate 30, down the hallway in the Texas Department of Safety's regional office. That's where Governor Rick Perry joined about three dozen officers, friends and family members to welcome Chuck and Aaron Norris into the ranks, more or less, of the Texas Rangers.
When we first got wind of the Norris Brothers' honorary Rangerdom back in October, we wondered, among other things, why DPS was doing all this so quietly. Whatever their reasons for bestowing the honor now (nobody I reached seemed too sure), it seemed like a waste of a perfectly good photo op.
Today, though, with just the tiniest hint of production value added, the whole thing turned real -- framed declarations, actual Rangers lined up for a cowboy hat backdrop and a handful of top Texas lawmen.
"We created heroes on film and television, but the real heroes are right here," Aaron Norris said. The brief ceremony this afternoon was a gleeful three-way of platitudes, as Perry, the Norrises and DPS officials took turns at the mic talking about how great the others are. Nobody bothered explaining exactly why it was happening at all.
"People whisper about his superpowers, but let me tell you, the greatest power of Chuck Norris is his integrity," Perry offered at one point. Before the elder Norris's proclamation was read aloud, Perry addressed both brothers: "Thank you for being citizens of our state, that we can point our children to and say, 'Grow up like that.'"
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Before he introduced the Norrises, Perry spoke at length and in general terms about public safety across Texas and especially on the border. "Texas is a law and order state. As long as I have anything to say about it, it's gonna stay that way," he said. He said the Norris brothers deserved this honor not strictly for their roles in mythologizing the Texas Rangers, but for "what they've done for America, working with the military, with youth."
Each Norris got a hearty hug from the governor and a glass star with their name on it. It was a quick, casual sort of ceremony. In a few minutes set aside for questions, Aaron Norris, a longtime stuntman and producer who worked with his brother throughout Walker, Texas Ranger's eight-year run, said he was working on a new show, for Lifetime, about women in the Texas Rangers. Chuck said there's no chance he'd reprise his role for a Dallas-style remake of Walker.
Perry never did come up with an answer for what prompted the state to honor the Norrises now -- the best he did was suggest it was all because of the DPS board's vote back in October. When The Dallas Morning News's Jeff Weiss pushed him about the timing -- "It's been off the air for 10 years," Weiss pointed out -- Aaron deftly maneuvered away. "It still shows three times a day," he said, and we all had a good chuckle and forgot about it.
"I'm taking Aaron with me to all my press conferences," Perry laughed.