* The Squad of One

THE SQUAD OF ONE

Sergeant Blue of the Mounted Police was a so-so kind of guy;
He swore a bit, and he lied a bit, and he boozed a bit on the sly;
But he held the post at Snake Creek Bend in the good old British way,
And a grateful country paid him about sixty cents a day.

Now the life of the North-West Mounted Police breeds an all-round kind of man;
A man who can finish whatever he starts, and no matter how it began;
A man who can wrestle a drunken bum, or break up a range stampede –
Such are the men of the Mounted Police, and such are the men they breed.

The snow lay deep at the Snake Creek post and deep to east and west,
And the Sergeant had made his ten-league beat and settled down to rest
In his two-by-four that they called a “post”, where the flag flew overhead,
And he took a look at his monthly mail, and this is the note he read:

“To Sergeant Blue, of the Mounted Police, at the post at Snake Creek Bend,
From U.S. Marshal of County Blank, greetings to you, my friend:
They’s a team of toughs give us the slip, though they shot up a couple of blokes,
And we reckon they’s hid in Snake Creek Gulch, and posin’ as farmer folks.

“Of all the toughs I ever saw I reckon these the worst,
So shoot to kill if you shoot at all, and be sure you do it first,
And send out your strongest squad of men and round them up if you can,
For dead or alive we want them here. Yours truly, Jack McMann.”

And Sergeant Blue sat back and smiled, and his heart was glad and free,
And he said, “If I round these beggars up it’s another stripe for me;
And promotion don’t come easy to one of us Mounty chaps,
So I’ll scout around tomorrow and I’ll bring them in – perhaps.”

Next morning Sergeant Blue, arrayed in farmer smock and jeans,
In a jumper sleigh he had made himself set out for the evergreens
That grow on the bank of Snake Creek Gulch by a homestead shack he knew,
And a smoke curled up from the chimney-pipe to welcome Sergeant Blue.

“Aha!” said Blue, “and who are you? Behold, the chimney smokes,
But the boy that owns this homestead shack is up at Okotoks;
And he wasn’t expecting callers, for he left his key with me,
So I’ll just drop in for an interview and we’ll see what we shall see !”

So he drove his horse to the shanty door and hollered a loud “Good day,”
And a couple of men with fighting-irons came out beside the sleigh;
And the Sergeant said, “I’m a stranger here and I’ve driven a weary mile,
If you don’t object I’ll just sit down by the stove in the shack a while.”

Then the Sergeant sat and smoked and talked of the home he had left down East,
And the cold and the snow, and the price of land, and the life of man and beast,
But all of a sudden he broke it off with, “Neighbours, take a nip?
There’s a horn of the best you’ll find out there in my jumper, in the grip.”

So one of the two went out for it, and as soon as he closed the door
The Sergeant tickled the other one’s ribs with the nose of his forty-four;
“Now, fellow,” he said, “you’re a man of sense, and you know when you’re on the rocks,
And a noise as loud as a mouse from you and they’ll take you home in a box.”

And he fastened the bracelets to his wrists, and his legs with a halter-shank,
And he took his knife and he took his gun and he made him safe as the bank,
And then he mustered Number Two in an Indian file parade,
And he gave some brief directions – and Number Two obeyed.

And when he had coupled them each to each and set them down on the bed,
“It’s a frosty day and we’d better eat before we go,” he said.
So he fried some pork and he warmed some beans, and he set out the best he saw,
And he noted the price for the man of the house, according to British law.

That night in the post sat Sergeant Blue, with paper and pen in hand,
And this is the word he wrote and signed and mailed to a foreign land:
“To U.S. Marshal of County Blank, greetings I give to you;
My squad has just brought in your men, and the squad was Sergeant Blue.”

There are things unguessed, there are tales untold, in the life of the great lone land,
But here is a fact that the prairie-bred alone may understand,
That a thousand miles in the fastnesses the fear of the law obtains,
And the pioneers of justice were the “Riders of the Plains”.

ROBERT STEAD

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