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Palmer Lake, Colorado
About John Sweet



The Trooper

The trooper had been raised a cowboy
On a dozen western ranches,
But he come of age and joined the Army
Ready to take his chances.

He wasn’t the first to make that choice
In his gnarled family tree,
Which had produced a number of troopers
For the frontier cavalry.

Nobody’d ever told him
But one old-timer had fought the Sioux,
Another had chased Geronimo.
Heck, Grandma was half-Ute.

You could say it was his destiny,
It had dealt the cards to him.
He was a cowboy and a hunter
Like so many western men.

The burning sun was setting orange
through a dusty desert sky,
and the trooper brushed his rifle off
and brushed away the flies.

He’d hunted the Rocky Mountains
In Arizona’s deserts too.
He’d bagged some elk and mule deer,
And cougars, he’d chased a few.

But this kind of huntin’ was different,
Though the basics were the same,
Cause this was a different country
And a different type of game.

This hunt weren’t no holiday,
No break from school or chores,
And the trooper wasn’t relaxin’
Cause basically, this was war.

He had some good men with him,
though some might call them boys.
(They didn’t have to do much shavin’
and they loved their noisy toys!)

They were city guys, mostly,
though a few came from the land.
The el-tee’s name was Yellowhorse,
his sergeant was from Cheyenne.

They were far from home together.
Like brothers, you might say.
Troopers didn’t think of color or birth,
and that’s the Cowboy Way.

Like the old-time trooper on the old frontier,
(the ones who’d fought the Sioux)
they’d learned respect for “Hadji.”
But to them he was “The Muj.”

The Muj weren’t no hand at shootin’
with those old Kalashnikovs
but just let him get his paws on you
and he’d lop your head right off.

If the Comanches caught a trooper, he
got tortured awful, don’t you know.
But Muj will do you just the same
And get it all on video.

The Muj don’t use no Winchesters,
Or wickiups or tepees.
But they know the land and know just where
To plant some IEDs.

So the trooper minds his business
cause it’s instinct from his birth.
And the eyes that glassed for antler tines
look for wires and fresh earth.

Sometimes they catch ol’ Hadji
and then they “light him up.”
They call-in Apaches or Kiowas
then Blackhawks to get the PUCs.

And sometimes the fight goes the other way
and the trooper’s friends get hit.
Then each guy handles it alone.
They might cry a little bit.

Cause the Tigris sure ain’t the Gunnison,
(though it looked like Yuma, out west)
When he thinks of fall without aspens
he feels hollow in the chest.

The trooper dreams of going home.
(Heck, who would want to stay?)
But first he wants to finish the fight,
cause that’s the Cowboy Way.

© 2007, John R. Sweet
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Muj: Short for Mujahadeen, radical Islamic fighters. A more PC-term than Hadji. Pronounced “mooj.”

IED: Improvised Explosive Device, the landmine of the Iraq War and the cause of most of the casualties.

Kiowa: AH-64 Apache attach helicopters or OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopters are great assets and “combat multipliers” for those soldiers lucky enough to have them on-station during a firefight.

PUC: UH-60 Blackhawk cargo helicopters are the aerial trucks of the Iraq War, used for moving troops, detainees or casualties from both sides. PUCs are “Persons Under Control”, usually captured enemy insurgents.






I know there were cowboys in Bible-times, though that notion will make some of you laugh,
‘Cause who else would be so darned foolish as to fall down and worship some calf.

And even though that calf was all golden and must’ve been something to see,
You think they could’ve paid attention when the Good Lord set fire to that tree.

And why couldn’t they quit fixating on livestock when old Moses came down from the mount,
And busted those tablets and started to stammer and spit and to shout?

So there must’ve been cowboys in those lands, to carry on so over a cow.
But they must’ve cleared out since the Bible times, cause there sure ain’t any livin’ there now.

See, I recently saw the old Bible country, courtesy of our Uncle Sam.
And from Ur, to Babylon, to Nineveh, I got a good look at the land.

This was old Abraham’s range; I remember that from my Sunday school.
And it has good pasture (with irrigation), cause them Babylonians sure weren’t no fools.

Hell, it might be another California, as rich as the broad San Joaquin.
But despite fifty centuries of breeding, they’ve got the sorriest cows that I’ve seen.

Now I don’t claim to be a rancher (‘cause my grandpa lost the spread years ago),
But I think with good land and water, even I can get good hay to grow.

So it isn’t their feed, it’s the livestock-- all weak and spindly and small.
These descendants of the gold calf look like Holsteins, ‘cept they’re only ‘bout one-half as tall.

It’s true that there are rustlers and outlaws all over that country today.
But you’d think with a few head of Herefords, those folks could sure make the land pay.

Every day our boys rode the range in their up-armored trucks (well, Humvees),
And rolled through the adobe villages, ‘long the ditches, past the fields and palm trees.

And their leader was a sharp-eyed young red-leg, hard as nails, named Sergeant Castro.
And he’d lived in Oklahoma and Texas, but he’d growed-up just outside Fresno.

It was a slow day in Mesopotamia, with no car-bombs or snipers you know,
So Castro looked over some cattle, lookin’ for one he could throw.

‘Cause it wasn’t mischief or cussedness that prompted this Iraqi rodeo.

There was a likely critter, a white and black-spotted old cow,
And the locals wandered over wondering what the infidels were gonna do now.

So Castro looked over his critter, and that wiry little cow looked at him.
And the gunners kept one eye out for bad guys, but the other eyes watched both of them.

Sergeant Castro came from vaqueros, a line that went back years and years,
But he weren’t no Mahan or Jim Shoulders, and he’d never wrassled no steers.

That critter stared at Castro all cow-eyed, juked right, then made a lunge to the left,
But the artilleryman was right there with him, and got his big arm round his neck.

And that’s how they stayed for ten minutes; the cow dug its hooves in and stood.
And the big sergeant twisted and pushed, but he just couldn’t do any good.

The soldiers were whoopin’ and hollerin’, and the Arabs were enjoyin’ the show.
And everyone liked the diversion—this pick-up Iraqi rodeo.

But that little cow wouldn’t go over, and eight seconds had long since gone by.
Sergeant Castro could see it was pointless, though he could’ve held it till one of them died.

So he called it a draw and let go, and that skinny cow bolted for home.
It’d never give much meat or milk, ‘cause it was stubborn clear through to the bone!

Castro brushed himself off and thought over why he hadn’t had any luck—
There just weren’t “timed-events” in Bible lands, he decided as he climbed into the truck.

Across five thousand years of old history (through the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Koran)
These people and their critters had been living in the old Bible lands.

Fifty centuries is a whole lot of years; too many to spend watching a clock.
But whatever these folks had been learning, it sure wasn’t about breeding livestock.

© 2007, John R. Sweet
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




About John Sweet:

June, 2007:

John Sweet is an educator, historian, and outdoorsman who will be returning soon to the open spaces of the American West. He joined the Colorado Army National Guard in November, 2001 at age 35, and he is currently serving in Iraq as a Field Artillery officer. It was during a slow night in his unit's operations center that this poem was composed. When he's not deployed he lives in Palmer Lake, Colorado with his son Caleb and daughter Sheridan.





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