Frosty Walker, Chief Information Security Officer for the Secretary of State of Texas has a particularly intriguing secret identity; he is also known as Captain Walker, an 1880s Texas Ranger. Walker is part of the Virginia City, Nevada, Living Legends program where he is a trained docent in the community acting as an ambassador to visitors and tourists in the area.
Walker, a Texas native and resident, first visited the Virginia City area about 12 years ago with his wife Debbie. She and her sister Mindy used to pass through the region often with her parents on family trips from Kansas City to California. The sister’s parents enjoyed visiting the celebrated mining town where Debbie and Mindy would play on the wooden sidewalks as their father would enjoy the rich history while their mom gambled.
I first met Walker while attending an event in the close-knit community not far from Reno, in the early spring of this year. He and Debbie, Mindy and her husband, Bob, and a few of their other close friends, were staying at the St. Mary’s Regional Art Center. They allowed me to take a room with them and crash their party within a party.
This group, known collectively as “The Texans” treated me like family, ensuring I had rides to the events, making certain I had breakfast with the group, and even helping me with my corset when we all dressed in period clothing for the occasion.
As I spoke (sometimes even listening) to the group throughout the weekend, I learned there was something special and unique about this group of people; I knew I wanted to include Frosty Walker in my series of stories about “Everybody has a story, everyone is worth knowing.”
When I approached Walker about doing an interview, he did not hesitate; what I learned after spending time with him was that it was not about getting his story out there, it was about sharing his joyful experiences in life, particularly in Virginia City, that he wanted to share. He allowed me to monopolize some of his vacation with his lovely wife of 17 years; even introducing me to the most significant people he could while I was with him.
Walker is a kind, gentle, and serious man; he is quick to smile, and even quicker to sweep his wife into a dance while they are spending a well-deserved break at the Bucket of Blood Saloon on a Saturday afternoon in Virginia City. Walker comes to the area, visiting Reno and Lake Tahoe as well, with his wife, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law approximately 6 – 8 times a year.
However, if it were up to him, he would live steeped in the ways of the old west on a daily basis.
Walker grew up in the West Texas panhandle, in Lubbock. Both of his grandparents were pioneers; his maternal grandfather was a blacksmith. He reminisces about him making slingshots for all of the kids out of his pair of chaps, “If only I had that pair of chaps today,” he says, thinking about his grandfather, “That would be something else.”
One of Walker’s earliest memories is of riding in his first cattle drive when he was a mere 5-years-old; for 30 miles and 2 days. For Walker, he was a big help. “What a great opportunity it was, to be on a horse,” he recalls, “I was on a horse named Charcoal. I found out later he was 27-years-old; but it was as great as it gets.”
Being a child was playing cowboys and Indians; growing up seeing it on the big screen made Walker want to be a cowboy even more. As the song goes, his heroes have always been cowboys as well; Roy Rogers and John Wayne were champions to the young man, and not far from where he lived, Dan Blocker, “Hoss” of television’s Bonanza lived only 30 miles away.
Those western and cowboy experiences helped to mold Walker into the kind gentlemen he is today. He is the perfect amalgamation of Texas charm, old time manners that are often missed by some today, wisdom, and something hiding behind his smile that he may be too polite to share in mixed company. He recalls working hard growing up, “I think that made me who I am today,” he says, “I am a blend of everything I did: being on a ranch, being a part of Texas.”
Today, Walker gets to play a cowboy as part of Virginia City’s Living Legends program. The program is a Chautauqua type program that encourages participants to select a historical character that would have either lived in the area or passed through. Members can study historically accurate characters, or create one of their own, developing them to their best ability.
Living Legends then serve as goodwill ambassadors to tourists and guests; they have been known to greet certain groups at the airport in Reno, attend events in Reno such as the annual Reno Rodeo, and participate in the local parades.
Walker’s character is Captain Walker, an 1880s Texas Ranger who is in Virginia City to chase outlaws who robbed banks and killed some people in Texas. He has been part of the program for approximately 8 years, along with his wife.
The program has been enjoyable for both; they are often asked by people walking along the streets of the town where to find tickets for a certain attraction, or event, or simply if they can have their picture taken with them. It has been an opportunity for them to meet people from all over the world.
The more the Walkers came to Virginia City, the more it became a second home to them; about five years ago, they had breakfast with the late Annabelle Shelley, former executive director of St. Mary’s Regional Art Center. After they served 30 – 40 people in Shelley’s home, Shelley had the idea that they should perhaps serve it at the Center the following year.
Now, a New Year’s tradition has followed, and “The Texans” have served a fundraising breakfast to the community every year since. People come and make donations of food or money; the fun event typically raises anywhere between $700 – $1000 for the Center, a cause that has become near and dear to the hearts of the group. To keep things fun, the women serve breakfast in bloomers, while the men wear long red “union” underwear with boots and spurs, while carrying guns.
Walker seems to have endless time and energy, especially when it comes to all things charitable, western, the Comstock, and Virginia City. He is also part of the 601 Vigilance Committee, a charitable organization dedicated to preserving the Comstock heritage traditions and the cowboy way. He is one of the group’s “Deadly Dozen”, the original 12 lifetime members.
The 601 Vigilance Committee will be holding a fundraising event in Virginia City on July 4 called Shoot-Out on the Hill; proceeds will be donated to local charities funding children. The event features real guns with real bullets and allows participants to get the chance to shoot like a real cowboy. There will also be a demonstration by the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) California champion, “Bobcat Tyler” (Tyler Renville).
Walker also has a character involved in the SASS competitions, Flat Water Frosty. Most recently, he was in Bakersfield, California, a few months ago at a competition.
Besides his time as Captain Walker in Virginia City, Walker and his wife are part of a hot air balloon crew; they travel approximately three times a year to participate in events. He also enjoys events in his home state of Texas such as the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, and the World Champion Chicken Fried Steak Birth Place Cook-off.
There is another side to Walker that is not related to Captain Walker, Texas Ranger, not on the surface anyway. Walker, Chief Information Security Officer, takes his job as keeper of the personal data of the citizens in his state very seriously. “People entrust data to the State of Texas, and it should be protected like any other resource,” he explains, “I try to establish policies and procedures that protect it. People would like to gain access to it; organized crime has figured out that there is a great deal of profit in the sale of that information.”
Walker goes on to opine, “It is always a challenge,” he explains, “They think the state may have some information others would want so it puts a target on it. Like most businesses, the states have limited resources so trying to stay one step ahead is a challenge. Anything a citizen shares has to be protected.”
Walker has worked for the state of Texas for eight years, and while it may not be the most exciting job, he enjoys it and finds it fulfilling. He is serious about his commitment to protect the citizens.
Previously, Walker worked with the music scene in Austin; working with a several billion-dollar budget, he helped to promote superstars like Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Ringo Starr, and Al Greene. Working on the contracts and merchandising side, he worked on worked on the festival that eventually became Austin City Limits and ultimately Austin Music Festival.
As a music enthusiast, Walker’s current favorite band is right here in Virginia City, David John and the Comstock Cowboys. In fact, almost everything he enjoys can be found in this area, “If you are an outdoors enthusiast, whatever you like to do, you can find it in this area,” he says. “Part of the attraction of Virginia City is the diversity; Lake Tahoe is gorgeous, the valley is beautiful, you have everything.”
Going through my notes, I realized I had one unanswered question from this gentle man, “Why ‘Frosty’?” However, as I transcribed my notes and I thought about the answers to his questions and all I learned about him, I decided it was unimportant. To me, it fits him; I have no need to know. He will always be, Frosty Walker, Texas Ranger.
This has been the second in a series of interviews about regular people with interesting lives, fascinating stories, and something to share. Everybody has a story, and everyone is worth knowing.
The first story was about Reno radio personality Chris Payne, and can be read here: Chris Payne Article
By Dawn Cranfield
US News Special Correspondent