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 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 http://www.johnnycrawford.com, 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 http://www.jimmiekepler.com.