Remembering the events of my seventh-grade year at Ben Milam School at Biggs Air Force Base in El Paso, Texas inspired this poem. On the six o’clock evening news one night the announcer did a story that the actor Johnny Crawford from the hit television show “The Rifleman” had been drafted. He had reported to Fort Bliss, Texas for United States Army Basic Training. The events in the poem took place a few weeks later when our physical education class was on the playground, and basic trainees were marching down the dirt road adjacent. I still remember this event like it was yesterday.
Is Johnny Crawford from “The Rifleman” in Your Company?
We pressed our faces up against the chain linked fence.
We were supposed to be playing soccer during physical education class.
But we ran toward the chained linked fence that separated our schoolyard from the dirt road.
We stared at the young soldiers marching to training.
They looked so army soldier in their fatigues, helmets and carried their rifles at right shoulder arms.
They appeared like a scene out of “Combat” that we watched each week on our televisions.
While barely just four or five years older than us, they looked all grown up.
A cute seventh-grade girl got up he courage and yelled,
“Is Johnny Crawford from “The Rifleman” in your company?”
There had been a news story of Johnny Crawford’s arrival at Fort Bliss for his basic training.
A kind three stripe sergeant responded,
“No miss, he’s in a different training company.”
“You boys are going to Viet-Nam after basic?” asked the P.E. coach who had walked over and joined us.
“Maybe so, but first we got to survive this!” said a smiling boyish faced trainee.
“Quiet in the ranks!” screamed the drill sergeant.
The dust was getting thicker as the soldiers continued marching.
Most of the seventeen and eighteen-year-old troopers looked at the beautiful thirteen years old blonde girl.
Some were thinking of their younger sisters back home,
Some were thinking the thoughts seventeen and eighteen years old young men have when seeing a cute, young teenage girl, and
Some were wondering if they would live long enough to fall in love, marry, and ever have a daughter of their own.
Written by Jimmie Aaron Kepler
Originally published in www.johnnycrawford.com, February 2008.
Top photo: Photo of Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain and Johnny Crawford as his son, Mark, from the television program The Rifleman. This work is in the public domain in that it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 and without a copyright notice.
Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of The Liberator Series. The Rebuilder – Book 1 is available for pre-order on Amazon. It will be released October 1, 2015. The Mission – Book Two will be available Spring 2016, The Traveller – Book 3 will be available Summer 2016, and The Seer – Book 4 will be available Fall 2016.
Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection
by Jimmie Aaron Kepler
Available on Amazon