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“I’ve Done My Bit on the Border”

by James J. Verhoeks

Below is a poem by a bugler in the 32nd Michigan Infantry, which served on the US-Mexico border in 1916, during General Pershing’s expedition to punish the Mexican General Francisco “Pancho” Villa for his raid on Columbus, New Mexico. The poem expresses the boredom many soldiers felt and was reproduced on thousands of postcards.

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I’ve done my bit on the border
I wish I was in God’s country again
I’ve had my fill of the border
Of Greasers and border men
I’ve eaten the dirt of Texas
I’ve drank of the Rio Grande
I’ve grubbed mesquite in the cursed heat
(The Lord never made the land)
I’ve seen all there is on the border
I’ve felt all there is to feel
I’ve done my time in a sea of slime
I’ve lost all they didn’t steal.

I’ve carried a pack in a jungle
Till it cut me down to the blood
I’ve sweltered and lay like a thing of clay
In a slithering swamp of mud
I’ve risen at five in the morning
At the sound of a reveille
I’ve slaved all day for newsboy’s pay
Till the night would set me free
I’ve lived the life of a soldier
No chance to “beat it” or shirk
And the life of a soldier, believe me,
Is little but damned hard work.

I’ve done my bit on the border
At El Paso and the Mesa sands
I’ve hiked and sweat in the heat and wet
From Las Cruces to the end of the land
I’ve done the camps at Cotton
At Stewart and Pershing
I’ve lain in the dust and gnawed a crust
At Bell’s judgment seat
I’ve eaten meals with reptiles
I’ve quartered with bugs galore
In a land where things are all made with strings
From the trees to the rugs on the floor
I’ve dug in the blasted trenches
The air was a hundred hells—
I’ve charged in the jungle cactus
To the music of rebel yells.

I’ve eaten the food of a soldier
Hardtack and Mulligan stew
Bacon and beans, and a touch of greens
But Lord, they were scarce and few.
I’ve followed the flag of my country
In kahki and plain O.D.
And up to date I am standing straight
In a way that is good to see
I’ve done my bit on the border
I’ve had my fill of the same
But I wouldn’t trade the friends I’ve made
For all I’ve lost in the game.