In May 1886 he set out to find a band of men who had stolen horses from his and neighboring ranches, and after trailing them for several months he killed some of the thieves and captured the rest in New Mexico; he returned the horses to his neighbors. This exploit gained the attention of the Texas Rangers. Hughes was persuaded to enlist in the rangers at Georgetown, sworn in on August 10, 1887, and assigned to Company D, Frontier Battalion, at Camp Wood. He served mainly along the border between Texas and Mexico. In 1893 Hughes was a sergeant in charge of a ranger detachment at Alpine. After Texas Ranger Capt. Frank Jones was killed that year, Hughes was made captain in command of Company D in El Paso. He was later appointed senior captain, with headquarters in Austin, and on January 31, 1915, having served as a captain and ranger longer than any other man, he retired from the force. Zane Grey's novel The Lone Star Ranger (1914) is dedicated to Hughes and his Texas Rangers.
Hughes never married. He spent his later years prospecting and traveling by automobile. He became chairman of the board of directors and largest single stockholder of the Citizens Industrial Bank of Austin but maintained his residence in El Paso. In 1940 he was selected the first recipient of the Certificate of Valor, an award inaugurated to call attention to the bravery of peace officers of the nation. Hughes moved to Austin to live with a niece, and on June 3, 1947, at the age of ninety-two, he took his own life. He was buried in the State Cemetery.
30° 15.939, -097° 43.636
Texas State Cemetery