Thursday, March 12, 2009

Custer and His Last Stand

There is just no place like the Black Hills for cruising and admiring the sights.  There are some great stops along the way though.  

We lit out in the morning with The Coyote hell bent on spending some time in Custer’s Battlefield National Park, which was conveniently right along our route.  You see he wanted to visit there a couple years earlier when we were on our Sturgis trip, but we (read “I”) failed to properly consult a map and took the wrong highway.

We got there and had a very impressive visit.  I was most intrigued by the grave markers of Custer and his troops.  They are all confined to a fairly small, say 50’ by 50’ area on a very gentle, grassy slope.  The sandstone markers are uniformly tan except for Custer’s, which is black.  It is impressive how you seem to be able to see so far from the hill where the battlefield lies. 

You wonder how Custer and his men could have been caught there.  But as you listen to the guides and read the reference material you begin to realize that the rolling terrain can easily conceal all but the closest horses and men. In fact you could crawl to within 100 feet of the graveyard and remain concealed even in daylight. 

We listened for some time to a Native American guide and artist, Patrick Hill, as he described the setting and the battle.  Mr. Hill is an extremely articulate historian who peppers his presentation with irony and humor.  I was taken by his grasp of the events and the way he immersed himself in them, moving his arms from point to point on the horizon and across the battlefield to point out significant landmarks.

Patrick wore a national park service uniform and was Native American through and through.  He looked that way, he talked that way and he moved that way. You could tell he was proud of the battlefield victory that day but sad that it had to take place to begin with.  I would like to go back and hear him again. (Mr. Hill is shown in the photo that accompanys this entry.) 

In fact I think I will go back and hear him again.  You see later in the day Al was checking out the pictures he took there with his digital camera.  He takes pictures the way he collects T-shirts, that is to say a hell of a lot of them. Yes this is the “Law of Large Numbers” at work once again. Anyway he was fiddling with his camera after we got to Butch’s place in Rapid City and accidentally deleted the entire shoot.

Al was pretty devastated there for a while and was threatening to ride the entire 250 or so miles to the battlefield, retake the pictures and ride back the same day.  Finally he figured the way to do it was return one day with his wife so she could see and experience the place.  Then he could retake the entire lot and more.  I also consoled him a little by offering to share copies of the pitiful few photos I took that day.  So here is the proverbial bottom line– if Al rides there again, I will want to ride with him.

(Excerpt from "Badass, The Harley Davidson Experience", www.badassbook.com)

5 comments:

Annie King said...

Hi Tom,

I just visited your site for the first time, and I'll definitely be back. I enjoyed reading your stories!

TomC said...

Why thank you for the compliment Annie. Your words warm my heart. Great to have you visit!

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