Sounds like possibly bad shift rails(if you have those in that vintage of ranger). I pulled mine out by taking off the top inspection cover which contains the rails, and i lubed them up...made them all smooth. I don't exactly know what trans style you have...but on my M5OD-R1HD, when i picked it up from the junkyard, it was stuck in 4th gear or 2nd. I pull off the inspection plate/shift rail holder from the top of the trans. I then put all the sincros in neutral, put the shifter in almost neutral, then put the plate back on and bolted it up. Did the charm..perfect. Of course.....the trans was out of the truck when the work was done to it.
Also....sounds like you were forcing the stick into gears...very bad...............when shifting clutchless, you much match the engine rpm to the drive train rpm...it's VERY easy to do if you know how to do it....can even downshift and everything. That's how i made my slave cyl last one more week....lol.
'01 XLT disguised as a '03 Fx4 Level II
Big. Loud. Slow. Bright.