State Historic Site

Trail End

TWENTY-ONE YEAR old Nebraska-born cowboy Bruce Douglas Brockett joined the United States Marine Corps on June 1, 1918, in Billings, Montana. He was then sent to Mare Island, California, for basic training. In November 1918, just as Brockett was preparing to go to France, the armistice was signed and his dreams of battlefield glory ended.

How do we know all this? Because Brockett was a poet who set his experiences down in verse. Two of the three Brockett poems published in The Sheridan Daily Enterprise (reprinted here) pretty much sum up his career with the Marines: enlistment, basic training, stateside duty, discharge. 

After the war, Brockett returned to the Sheridan area for awhile; he worked as a cowboy for the Kendrick Cattle Company. By 1930, he was operating a dude ranch in Yavapai County, Arizona, where he lived until his death in 1971. He released at least two collections of his "cowboy" poetry, one in 1930 and another in 1948. 

(From Bruce Brockett's Poems, 1930)

Letters Home - Bruce Douglas Brockett

Published in The Sheridan Daily Enterprise on September 9, 1918

I left my home in the month of May, when the grass was getting green;

And enlisted down in Billings with the United States Marines.

They put me on a train and handed me my fare;

Then said, "Down in Missoula, a man will meet you there."

They weighed me and they tried my wind, then measured up my height;

They tested eyes, and ears and nose and said I was all right.

Then I caught the train again and headed for the coast;

In just six days I landed on Mare Island at the coast.

There were lots of men in khaki, in blue and white and green;

It was the biggest bunch of men that I had ever seen.

They put me in some barracks with lots of men like me;

Still in civilian clothing, but anxious not to be.

And finally in about five days, they up and swore me in;

And dressed me up in khaki and my soldier life began.

Then they taught me how to march squads right and to the rear;

And said I'd make a good soldier if they trained me for a year.

In about five days I got my belt, my bayonet and guns;

Then learned to do the manual and how to slaughter Huns.

They're still a-learnin' things to me, I learn more every day;

But soon I'll be a soldier for the good old U. S. A.

And of all the men that scare the Dutch, the dirty German hogs;

The ones they are afraid of most are the U. S. Devil Dogs.

They want no trouble with 'em, 'cause they know they'll all be wrecked,

If they dare to stand and battle with Uncle Sammy's leathernecks.

Published in The Sheridan Daily Enterprise on February 7, 1919

When I enlisted with the leathernecks just one year ago,

I thought by now I'd surely be in Europe on the go.

I had my own idea that I'd get there on the run;

And be among the heroes that wiped away the Hun.

So I learned to use the bayonet, hand grenades and all;

And dreamed about the days to come when I could watch the Germans fall.

But when my company shoved across the deep and rolling sea,

Someone of the higher-ups made a home-guard out of me.

Months and months I stood it, but I always asked to go;

Til finally one day the major said, "You're bound for Quantico."

I jumped and hollered like a kid, I thought it all so great,

But when I got to Quantico, I found I was too late.

The Kaiser had already quit, the Marines had got his goat.

His royal banner crumpled, never more on high to float.

I felt pretty bad for quite a while, with my dreams of war all crushed,

But when I thought it over, my discontentment hushed.

'Cause now I'm going back to the best place on earth,

Where the law's kept in a scabbard and you don't tell what you're worth.

Where a good hoss is a common thing; they're not all stiff and lame;

And a man's a man because he's there, and things are not so tame.

Where the air is pure as a mountain stream, and a herd of beef means work,

And not a member of the crew knows what it is to shirk.

Where you go on guard at night time, on the hoss you like the most,

And you'll never get court-martialed for sleeping at the post.

Yes, I'm going back to that old state, Montana is the name,

It's the home of men and real men, and the one from which I came.

I'm going back and settle down with ten head in my string,

And once I get located, I won't move for anything.

Unless of course the Kaiser should decide he wants some more.

Then I'd come a runnin' back to Uncle Sam's Marine Corps.