Is Johnny Crawford from “The Rifleman” in Your Company?

chuck_connors_johnny_crawford_the_rifleman_1960Remembering 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 United States Army basic trainees were marching down the adjacent dirt road. 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 her 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 Vietnam 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 lovely 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 pretty, 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 on, February 2008. Photo credits: 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 is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at

K7JYX – My Mother’s First FCC Amateur Radio License Call Sign

201 Maco Terrace Greenville SC
201 Maco Terrace Greenville, SC

The earliest memory of this military brat has my Dad stationed at Donaldson Air Force Base. Our family lived in a small, wooden framed house located at 201 Maco Terrace in Greenville, South Carolina.

Our across the street neighbors were Don and Doris Bedford. Don was a propane route salesman. Doris was a homemaker, part-time school crossing guard, and sometime honky-tonk girl guitar player and singer. They have three children. The oldest two were daughters Donna and Cheryl. The youngest was son Dee.

Doris Bedford considerably influenced my family and me. She sang like Kitty Wells and played an electric guitar. She frequently worked at area honky-tonks performing to earn the extra dollars her family needed. She would become my Mother and I’s first guitar teacher. That is a story for another time.

Doris also held an FCC Extra Class FCC Amateur Radio license – K4AOH. She was a HAM. She had learned Morse code and obtained her license as a teenager during World War Two while working for the US government.

Me and my brother – 1957

Mother became enamored with the possibility of talking around the world via code or voice on a radio. My father already held an Amateur Radio license earned through his primary military job specialty as a radar technician and secondary specialty as a radio technician. When Doris suggested Mother get her license, Dad encouraged her as well.

About this time my Dad reenlisted in the USAF, We moved to Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona. My parents were buying the house at 201 Maco Terrace in Greenville and decided to keep it. Their thought in 1958 was to move back to South Carolina in 1967 when Dad retired from the USAF.

The transfer to Arizona motivated my mother to study harder and faster. No, she didn’t pass the tests and get her license before we left Greenville.

After we arrived and got settled in our rented house in Glendale, Arizona, Mother continued studying in hot pursuit of her HAM license. Doris Bedford introduced Mother to Ken and Gertrude Pond. They were an older couple who lived in Phoenix and both held their FCC license.

Me in front of 2420 Navajo, Luke AFB, Arizona. The year was 1960.

I still remember mother buying 78 RPM records that had the familiar dit dah of Morse code as she studied her radio theory and Morse code. I helped mother study playing the records for her and sometimes sending the code for her to practice using an old military surplus Morse code key. I was proud of how she learned the code. I also learned the code, but at five years old I couldn’t send or receive it as fast as was required to pass the license. I eventually would.

I remember how excited we were when mother passed her Novice Class license. She was given the call sign KN7JYX. The N meant she held a Novice class license. It meant she could only be on the airwaves using code. She would have to pass the General Class exams before she could use voice communication. The General Class license required sending and receiving Morse code at 25 words per minute, as well as additional electronic theory. She passed the exam and her call sign dropped the N, becoming K7JYX.

We built the first HAM radio from military surplus parts. I still remember the first antenna. It was an inverted V. It had a center conductor and wires going down from each it, one on each side. I helped put up the antenna. The first time we tested it under a radio frequency load we took a Florissant light bulb outside and held it near the antenna. With a good foot between the glass tube and the wires, the antenna light up like a spotlight!

With her license, Mother was able to talk to Doris back in South Carolina. Mother would remain active in Amateur Radio until her death. She went on to earn Amateur Advanced and Extra Class license. Her Morse Code speed was over 75 words a minute for the Extra Class license.

She was proud as I went on to earn the HAM radio and Morse Code merit badges as a Boy Scout. I also passed the exams for the Novice Class, Technician Class, and General Class FCC license. My call sign is N5FRJ.

Over the years, I have run a two-meter repeater from the Skywarnsteeple of one church I served and had my HAM rig in my office at three churches I served. For years, actually decades, I was also a National Weather Service Skywarn Certified Weather Spotter – a storm chaser.

One of the fun things of being a military brat was all the interesting people and lifelong friends you meet and make. The Bedford’s were friends until Don and Doris died.

When we moved to Texas in 1963 Mother had her HAM call sign changed for Texas and became W5MWO. HAM radio was so important to my parents that their call signs are on their tombstone. It was wonderful sharing a lifelong interest with my Mother.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a writer of speculative fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and reviews books. He’s written for Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine, Thinking About, Author Culture,, The Baseball History Podcast, Writing After Fifty, Sunday School Leadership, Church Leadership, Motivators For Sunday School Workers, The Deacon, Preschool Leadership, Sunday School Leader, and The Baptist Program. For sixteen years, he wrote a weekly newspaper column. He has written five fiction and poetry books. All are available on His blog “Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews” was named a 100 Best Blogs for History Buffs and has had over 750,000 visitors.

Meet the Poets: Sylvia Plath – 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Mad Girl’s Love Song

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)”

by Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963) was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College, Cambridge before receiving acclaim as a professional poet and writer. She married fellow poet Ted Hughes in 1956 and they lived together first in the United States and then England, having two children together: Frieda and Nicholas. Following a long struggle with depression and a marital separation, Plath committed suicide in 1963. Controversy continues to surround the events of her life and death, as well as her writing and legacy.

Plath is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry and is best known for her two published collections: The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel. In 1982, she became the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously, for The Collected Poems. She also wrote The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel published shortly before her death.

For more information about Sylvia Plath:

Thanksgiving Magic

Thanksgiving Magic

Thanksgiving is a magical time
With miracles often ignored
Families and friends somehow
Find a way to meet, mingle and eat
Often with more food leftover
Than when they began.
Now the preparation is the amazing feat
Sometimes the magic is passed down
From grandmother to daughter to granddaughter
And sometimes the spells come out of book
That give the formulas on how to cook
With a pinch of this and a sprinkle of that
As the hand waves adding a dash of love
Leftover cornbread and muffins
Amazingly get changed to stuffing
How does she turn the cranberries to sauce?
Have you ever noticed how grandma and mother
Turn a pumpkin into a pie?
A pale turkey transformed into a glowing bronzed treat
Candied yams mysteriously get the marshmallows to melt
And somehow mother mixes gingerbread
and out comes a humanoid shape
With stubby feet and no fingers
But with a vanilla icing smiley face
And icing hair, shirt cuffs, and shoes
With shirt buttons of
Gum drops, icing, or raisins.
Yes the wizards of Thanksgiving
Are the magical mothers who cook.

Jimmie A. Kepler

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Little Squirrel

Little Squirrel

Little squirrel,
In the tree.
I see you,
Looking at me.

Your color is red,
In your furry coat,
You look at me,
Sitting in the boat.

You’re eating the acorns,
Found in the tree,
A smile on your face,
Dropping the shells on me!

© 2009 Jimmie A. Kepler

Originally published in:
May 2011

The poem is included in the book “Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection” available on Kindle from Amazon.

Travelin’ Man

1958 Pontiac Catalina
1958 Pontiac Catalina

The spring of 1964 found this military brat living at 803 Jefferson Avenue in Sequin, Texas. Mother had just celebrated her thirty-first birthday that February. My father was in South Vietnam on a one-year tour of duty with the United States Air Force. At ten, I was the man of the house.

My brother was a third-grader at Jefferson Avenue Elementary School. I was a fifth-grader at the same school. My teacher was Mrs. Englebrock.

One of the neatest things that year was my house ‘s location. It was right across the street from the school. I could see the house and driveway with our 1958 black and white Pontiac Catalina out my class’s window. It allowed me to keep an eye on mother like dad asked me to do.

My school had an open campus. That means I was able to go across the street and eat lunch with my mother. While my younger brother took his peanut and jelly sandwich where he could eat with his third-grade classmates in the cafeteria, I liked to go check on my mother.

As winter turned into spring that year music became a major focus in the USA. The British once again had invaded the America.

Jefferson Avenue Elementary School jumped on the musical bandwagon. The principal decided the school would have a musical talent contest. No lip singing was allowed. The contestants were required to sing, play a musical instrument or both – sing and accompany yourself on an guitar, for example.

I had been trying to learn to play the guitar since I was around five years old. My fingers were finally getting long enough for me to play several chords like G, C, and D.

I decided to sign up for the contest. We did a fundraiser for the March of Dimes and Easter Seals I think. I remember the contest was somewhere around Easter. The entry fee was twenty-five cents. I mowed a neighbor’s yard to raise the money.

Spring of 1964 found my mother’s brother Vernon living with us and attending Seguin High School. One of the items, he brought with him were 33 1/3 RPM long play record albums. A favorite album he played was Ricky Nelson’s Travelin’ Man. I decided I would play and sing Travelin’ Man in the talent contest.

Travelin' Man 45 RPM - Ricky Nelson
Travelin’ Man 45 RPM – Ricky Nelson

I remember mother wasn’t so sure I should do it. She knew my singing voice wasn’t solo quality. She didn’t know if I had the poise to do it. She feared I would embarrass the family and myself.

My fearlessness confused her. She couldn’t understand how I could be so calm.

Well, the big day arrived. Mother was nervous. My brother just said I better not shame the family or him. He never mentioned me. I promised I wouldn’t. Neither one was so sure.

I had my six-string acoustic 1958 Gibson Hummingbird Guitar. I placed the capo on the second fret and fingered a C chord. I strummed it a time or two in the ready room trying to find the right pitch.

Then it was my turn. I loved hearing my name over the loudspeaker. I walked out on stage. I stood in front of the microphone.

Gibson Hummingbird Guitar
Gibson Hummingbird Guitar


I played the song on my guitar without any problems. I remembered the lyrics and sang flawlessly. I wish I could say that. Oh, my guitar playing was beautiful. My pitchy voice did the best it could. I didn’t win, but the applause warmed my heart.

What surprised me was how my efforts, while flawed, had the girls oohing and awing over me. I became one of the most popular guys in my grade.

The spring of 1964 showed me that the joy wasn’t in a perfect performance, but in the journey and the effort. It didn’t hurt that the girls suddenly wanted to be with me and be seen with me.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About, 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 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 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.

Black Eye Cap Hill, Denver, Colorado

denver-black-eye-coffee-shop-01Black Eye Cap Hill is one of my favorite shops in Denver and the USA. You take one part of just plain cool add inviting and then a seriousness about coffee, and you have the Black Eye Cap Hill. It is unique.

The furnishings, character, and atmosphere were enough to make me glad I was there. It has a dreamlike air about it. I could imagine it used as a movie set or backdrop. It just felt cool to pull up to a table, take out my laptop, and write. It has the feel of a world-class coffee shop that changes into a gorgeous bar at night.

A strange twist about the coffee house is the bathrooms have audio books playing in them. In a weird kind of way, that’s rather cool.

The coffee was great. If your hungry or just need a snack The Black Eye offers a delight menu that is moderately priced.

The next time I’m in Denver, I’ll be back. The coffee was great, the service above average, and the atmosphere world-class.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, award-winning short story writer, and coffee house aficionado. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination, The Dead Mule School for Southern Literature, Poetry & Prose Magazine, and vox poetica. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his literary habit working as an IT application support engineer. He is a former Captain in the US Army. Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs.