John R. Sweet


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.

Author’s Note: This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s written permission.