Posted by: Oklahoma Sun | January 8, 2010

Sergeant Noonan Explains.

Sergeant Noonan Explains.

Joseph Mills Hanson. Frontier Ballads, 1910.


“JAMES NOONAN, private, ‘B’ Troop, made sergeant on the field
For leading charge on hostiles, compelling them to yield.”
That’s the way the record reads, but, sure, it isn’t so;
Ye mind, I’m Sergeant Noonan and I guess I ought to know!

I’ll tell ye how it happened, dead straight, without no frills.
We’d tracked a Cheyenne war-band clean through the Blacksnake Hills,
Till, on the march one mornin’, they jumped us from the right,
Three hundred bucks in war-paint, well armed and full of fight.

We’d fifty men in column—no time to close a rank—
We yanked our horses sideways and fired by the flank,
But, though we volleyed through ‘em and dropped the foremost ones,
The rest came on like devils, right up against our guns.

Now half our boys were rookies who’d never smelt a fight;
The yappin’ Cheyenne war-whoop just turned ‘em blue with fright.
They started breakin’ column and first we veterans knew,
The troop had gone to blazes and let the redskins through.

The sergeants clubbed their carbines, the Captain prayed and swore;
It didn’t stop the rookies; they wouldn’t stand for more.
Then a bullet caught my mustang and ploughed him underneath
And he bolted toward the hostiles with the bit between his teeth.

Thinks I, “Here’s good-bye, Jimmie; but I’ll make these heathen grunt,”
So I grabbed my Colt and opened as we sailed into their front.
But they cleared a passage for me and I couldn’t trust my eyes
When their outfit broke and scattered, scootin’ back across the rise.

Then I turned and, there behind me, all strung out along my trail,
Came the boys of “B” Troop, ridin’ like a sizzin’ comet’s tail,
With their horses at the gallop and revolvers poppin’ gay
For they thought I’d led a rally when my mustang ran away!

So that’s the way it happened, in brief, without no frills,
That day the Cheyennes jumped us among the Blacksnake Hills,
Which is why I claim the chevrons that I’m sportin’ on my sleeve
Was won by my old mustang and dead against my leave.