contents SP R I N G /SUMME R 2019
columns out of the chute by Dennis Doty ...........................
6 beyond the trailhead by Chet Dixon ..................... 10 shortgrass countr y by John J. Dwyer ..................... 148 best of the west by R od Miller ................. ............ 154 heroes & outlaws by Velda Brotherton ....................
short fiction bluestone by Michael McLean ................................ white buffalo woman by Dennis Doty .................... major renoâ€™s romance by Susan Salzer .................. two days in june by R .L . A dare ........................... four wolves becomes a man by Marlon S. Hayes ......... the cowboy by Sharon Frame Gay ............................. william and the old indian by Gene L aViness ..........
17 25 39 51 123 135 139
poetry 12 by Michael Lee ................................ 142
dreaming of high countr y by Chet Dixon .............. a wild heart
features custer â€™s women by Terr y Alexander .................... ...... the other custer by Terr y Alexander ...................... ..... blood in the snow by John J. Dwyer .............. walking with ghosts on the greasy grass ................. bender, part VII by Michael & D.A . Frizell ............. women, custer & westward expansion by Doris McCraw.... comanche by Michael Koch ....................................
28 44 60 72 86 112 128
SUBMISSION GUIDELINES We are now taking submissions for our Autumn/Winter, 2019 issue. This issue is due out in late-December, 2019. DEADLINE IS AUGUST 1, 2019 Galway and Tiree Press are Oghma Creative Mediaâ€™s western and historical imprints, and Saddlebag Dispatches is our semi-annual flagship publication. We are looking for short stories, serial novels, poetry, and non-fiction articles about the west. These will have themes of open country, unforgiving nature, struggles to survive and settle the land, freedom from authority, cooperation with fellow adventurers, and other experiences that human beings encounter on the frontier. Traditional westerns are set west of the Mississippi River and between the end of the American Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century. But the western is not limited to that time. The essence, though, is openness and struggle. These are happening now as much as they were in the years gone by. QUERY LETTER: Put this in the e-mail message: In the first paragraph, give the title of the work, and specify whether it is fiction, poetry, or nonfiction. If the latter, give the subject. The second paragraph should be a biography between one hundred and two hundred words. MANUSCRIPT FORMATTING: All documents must be in Times New Roman,
twelve-point font, double spaced, with one-inch margins all around. Do not include extra space between paragraphs. Do not write in all caps, and avoid excessive use of italics, bold, and exclamation marks. Files must be in .doc, or docx format. Fiction manuscripts should be in standard manuscript format. For instructions and examples see https://www.shunn.net/format/story.html. Submit the entire and complete fiction or poetry manuscript. We will consider proposals for non-fiction articles. OTHER ATTACHMENTS: Please also submit a picture of yourself and any pic-
tures related to your manuscript. All photos must be high-resolution (at least 300 dpi) and include a photo caption and credit, if necessary. Manuscripts will be edited for grammar and spelling. Submit to firstname.lastname@example.org, with your name in the subject line.
RECENTLY READ AN article about an Asian American author who submitted a children’s book to each of the Big Five publishing houses. It was a fantasy story about a princess who was enslaved. The publishers were so excited about this story that it resulted in a bidding war and the author was given a six-figure advance. The book went through the usual publishing process and, eventually, was ready to release. Advance copies were sent out to reviewers and it garnered enthusiastic reviews. Then the comments and complaints started coming in. The basic complaint was one we hear more and more of these days, cultural appropriation. Even though the book was fantasy set in a separate world, people complained that the author had no right to write about slavery because she wasn’t black. I mention this because I and the other writers represented in Saddlebag Dispatches write about the West. The west was an incredibly diverse section of our American melting-pot. Fully twenty-five percent of the cowboys who made the long hard drives from Texas to the railheads were black. Many more were Hispanic or Native American. The Army that won the west included two regiments each of black cavalry and infantry. The west was a place where a man was judged by his actions and his word. So, should we not tell their stories? In preparing for this special Battle of Little Bighorn/Great Sioux War issue, I wanted to insure
the stories we published represented both sides of this pivotal moment in our history. To that end, I wrote to both Native American educators and tribal leaders suggesting that a story or article submission would be welcome and might be a great way to get their stories heard. The universal response was total silence. Not even so much as a single acknowledgement of my letters was received. So, the stories in this issue which represent the Native American view of the events were not written by Native Americans. That is extremely unfortunate, for a variety of reasons. But the stories selected to appear here were all written from respect and admiration, and as such, I believe that they are a fair sampling of all those stories yet untold. We would love to have more diversity among our writers, and actively solicit such. But until more writers of different backgrounds and viewpoints rally to the cause, so to speak, we will always do our very best to present a fair and complete representation of how the west was won. That’s a point of pride for us here at Saddlebag Dispatches, as we carry on the late, great Dusty Richards’s mission of bringing the West, in all its power, glory, and ugliness, to you through these pages. Until Next Time, Dennis Doty Managing Editor
HE KIMES BOYS—GEORGE, Matthew, and Roy—were known far and wide for their “outside the law” ways. Singer and composer Royal Kimes once told me something about his ancestors who rode the outlaw trail in Arkansas. While some people are reluctant to open the family closet and reveal a few skeletons, Royal is eager to talk about his distant kin. “George and Matthew Kimes once shot it out with the Sallisaw sheriff, killed him and got away. They were famous outlaws and very smart. They were men that wouldn't bend to the government and laws of the day.” He goes on to call them flamboyant, and adds, “If I was born back then, I might've done the same. I don't believe in compromise. I don't believe in giving up half of something to get something else.” He paused to gather his thoughts, then went on. “They had a mean streak in ‘em, but Uncle Roy was an awesome guy who'd do anything for you if he liked you. If he didn't, well….” A shrug finished the tale. “They were men and women living in tough times taking on tough ways. The Great Depression made them that way. But they respected lawmen and to a certain degree the law respected them.” Arkansas bred some other locally famous Great Depression outlaws, men of this breed who saw no other recourse except breaking the law to feed their families. After January 16, 1920, when the Volstead Act was enacted making the entire country "dry,"
the accepted money-making crop soon became moonshine. This occupation often turned these successful businessmen into outlaws in the eyes of the sheriff and his deputies. But it was a moneymaking proposition on both sides. The law would arrest them, lay on a big fine and break up their stills. Within a week or two, the boys were back in business with a new still in a new location. After a while, the law would raid them once more, smash the stills, drag them to court and the endless circle would continue. The Kimes Boys, Matt and George, actually began their crime sprees west of Arkansas in Oklahoma during this time. And bank robbing was in fashion during the Roaring Twenties. But they weren't alone, for it was the age of bootleggers, corrupt politicians and gangsters. Even cops and professional men like doctors and lawyers were corrupt. Morals were at an all-time low all over America. In the Ozarks, where poverty ran rampant, many young men turned into outlaws. Automobiles and machine guns made it possible to hit a bank, speed away, gunning down anyone who got in the way. It is written that the Kimes boys’ outlaw days began when they were young and they stole candy from a little country store in Arkansas. It seems Matthew was seven and George a bit older. Worse, the matter was settled by harried parents who offered the kindly storekeeper a case of eggs, and he gave each of the boys a package of gum. According to Michael Koch, author of The Kimes
Gang, available on Kindle, the boys were brought up to become outlaws. Their father ran a still, their mother grew corn. George shoveled mash and peddled white lightning for his dad. The boys went to school at the old “88” school and to church at Kenner Chapel near Rudy, Arkansas. They were both baptized by Rev. Ben Pixley. Obviously, taking to the waters didn't help. The family moved across the border into Oklahoma, where their wild ways continued. In his book, Koch doesn't mention Roy Kimes, who obviously came from another branch of this extensive family and remained in Arkansas where this derring-do continued. By 1926 Matthew and George were notorious outlaws in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and they were eventually sent off to prison for their dirty deeds. Matt died Dec 14, 1945, at the age of forty. George continued his life of crime until he went to prison. He was paroled from McAlester in May of 1957, claiming to be a changed man. He said his wife helped him find
religion and that changed his life. After one more scrape with the law for which he was found innocent, he died Jan. 3, 1970 in Carmichael, California. The Kimes family cemetery is located in Van Buren, Arkansas. It was nothing for local residents to protect these outlaws, from Jesse and Frank James and Belle Starr and her gang in the 1800s to the Kimes boys, Bonnie and Clyde and Pretty Boy Floyd during the Depression. All would eagerly be hidden out in someone's barn or a cave, or at the least, not spoken of out loud when the deputies were around. In return some of the loot was shared with locals who kept quiet. That was just the way it was in those days, in the Ozarks of Arkansas. —Velda Brotherton is an award-winning nonfiction author, novelist, and a founding partner of Saddlebag Dispatches. She lives on a mountainside in Winslow, Arkansas, where she writes everyday and talks at length with her cat.
HEN WE WERE YOUNG, my brother Alvin and I, went elk hunting together up the Valicito River in the San Juan National Forest of Southern Colorado. We hired an outfitter to pack us in to a campsite at the foot of Sheep Draw on Mount Emerson. We were camping at 9,000 feet elevation and planned to hunt up toward the timberline, which was at nearly 12,000 feet. After the packer dumped our gear and headed his pack horses back down the trail, we quickly searched for a place to erect our A-frame tent. It didnâ€™t take long because we wanted to scope the high meadows before dark. We knew that if elk could be spotted before dark they would be near there at daybreak. We spent a sleepless night because the flow of the Valicito was noisy and there were several wind squalls
we started up Sheep Draw. Alvin took the left side and I the right. Our next rendezvous was planned for late in the day or after dark at camp. At about 10,000 feet elevation, my path was blocked by a steep rock wall. To get over the barrier I climbed on top of one rock and reached for another to assist my climb. However, it was inches away from my reach. Just a small jump would help get me to the trail I needed only twenty yards away. Leap I did, which was a terrible decision. The ledge that was to hold me was a loose rock. In that instant, I realized it was one of the worst mistakes of my life. In the early darkness, I fell and began sliding down a very steep slope leading to a giant rock slide stretching far below. I could feel my slide gaining momentum as I tried to grab small trees and rocks but to no avail. Just ahead of me was a small clump of bushes on the edge of the rock slide. Beyond these bushes there was nothing to stop me from going over the rock slide. THE WILDERNESS WILL GREET YOU WITH ITS BEAUTY My only chance of survival was AND INDEPENDENCE. YOU ENTER ON ITS TERMS. IT to spread my legs wide to catch OFFERS YOU ADVENTURE AND DISCOVERY BUT NEVER as many bushes as possible. PROTECTION AND SYMPATHY. YOU ARE WELCOMED Suddenly my slide stopped in BUT NOT SOLICITED. the middle of the bushes. I lay very still not wanting to loosen anything holding me. I soon throughout the night. We also were anxious about our realized my hunting rifle had gone on down the rock slide and I could sense the vast open space near my feet. The early rise that would allow us to be near where we saw elk grazing a few hours earlier. So while it was still dark, few sprouts had probably saved my life.
I didn’t dare move. My breath was heavy. I felt bruised. My left shoulder was hurting. It took several minutes before I felt safe enough to roll over on one side and assess my dilemma. After carefully crawling away from the rock slide, I grabbed hold of a small tree and lay there getting my breath and trying to determine what to do next. Never in my life had I felt so alone and helpless. Yet I realized how lucky and blessed that a few small bushes on Mount Emerson had saved me from serious injuries or death. I had read many stories about hikers and hunters having accidents in wilderness areas and I realized the dangers involved. Many times the injured person becomes easy prey for mountain lions, bear and wolves. Just the thought piqued my awareness and made my adrenalin flow rise. Rather than cater to my aches and pains, safety became my priority. I stood up slowly and moved as close to the rock wall as possible and waited for sunrise to light my way back to camp. Throughout the day in camp, the realization of how close I had come to disaster allowed me to once again understand an important truth about people and the wilderness which is described in one of my books, Beyond the Trailhead, written years later. “The wilderness will greet you with its beauty and independence. You enter on its terms. It offers you adventure and discovery but never protection and sympathy. You are welcomed but not solicited.” “There are dangers, if you are careless. It is filled with surprises that bring alive every human sense. Sometimes it will test your ability to survive.” As the morning cleared and normal sights and sounds of the wilderness returned, I still felt the wilderness welcome. To this day, even though the physical and mental impact of my injuries still remain, the spiritual bond with that wilderness has not diminished. I believe that everyone who is able should experience the wildness, loneliness, beauty and panoply of moods and remote purity of America’s great wilderness treasures. What they give us is a destination to escape the rush of our daily life to refresh our mind, soul and spirit. I frequently dream of High Country areas of the West. It has become a lasting part of my writing that is obvious as you read my poem, Dreaming of High Country.
SA D D LEBAG poetry My nights are ﬁlled with High Country dreams, Mountain peaks, long rocky slides and Clouds ﬂoating below my feet. Trails never ending beckon Through yellow aspen groves, waving, Sharing their crackling music freely. Winding, never straight pathways, Where rock walls closely hover one side and Open space the other looming far out. Voices disappear when hoof-beats Drift out to open space and are lost forever. Thoughts are pulled back to safety. Riders know that up ahead, beyond menacing trails Lush grassy ﬁelds and water holes wait, Near secret lairs of hunter’s prey. Horses and men hoard their dreams and Anxiously travel on, their Known quest is waiting. Then tents go up and shadows move eastward, Day disappears, voices quieten and Heaven opens its door to beauty and sleep. Eyes grow heavy, ears still listen for Magic sounds drifting across slopes where Rival bulls face challenge and coyotes wail. Still unheard are silent prayers and thoughts Of creation and the spiritual connection Of personal dreams and this High Country invasion.
CREAMING, SHE GRABBED WILDLY at red dirt as the earth collapsed beneath her and the brilliant daylight of the desert sky abruptly faded to blackness. Slowly, she blinked and tried to focus on a mixture of rock and shrubs. Her eyes were dry, and the blazing sun above made her wince as pain came at her from different directions. A fierce ache in her left foot rivaled the pain along her hip and right ribs. Both were overshadowed by the pounding in her head. Two feet away, a pink cell phone lay in the dirt, black and missing a chunk, its face shattered. Totally useless. Gingerly, she pushed up on her right elbow. The world immediately swam out of focus and the darkness returned. Consciousness returned, and with it, first came the sense of smell. The sweet, smoky aroma of burning mesquite came to her and then a crackling sound she identified as flames licking wood. Motionless, she finally opened her eyes and looked about. A few feet away a small fire burned, surrounded by a few larger stones on the far side that reflected heat in her direction. There was light in the sky, but she
could tell the sun must be on the horizon and a cool breeze whispered through the arroyo. The warmth from the fire was reassuring but she wondered how it came to be. For a moment or two she thought she was hallucinating, but pain still flowed in waves from familiar places. An urge to move pulled at her, but she felt a strong presence that kept her still. On the other side of the fire, partially obscured by shadow, a man sat cross-legged as if frozen in the moment. His dark eyes flickered in the firelight as he watched her. Long, black shoulder-length hair framed a handsome yet rugged face. Shirtless, his torso was muscular. His skin was taut and four parallel scars stretched across his left shoulder, like wounds from the claws of a bear or mountain lion. The man wore strange trousers and what looked like moccasins. Perhaps she was hallucinating. Then he spoke. “You are awake,” he stated, his voice strong, yet gentle and strangely comforting. “That is good. It was not your time to pass. I think you have many, many seasons before you. Why are you here?” She thought about her answer before speaking. “I . . . I was taking pictures with my phone,” she stammered
as she nodded at the slab of broken pink plastic. “The edge of the arroyo collapsed and took me with it.” As if detecting a half-truth, the man responded. “I was more curious as to why you are out here, in this place. Only ranchers and a few hunters come out here. It is a place where the old ones also hunted. And, it is some distance from your people.” Your people, she pondered the term. “I was upset. I just kept driving, then had to walk. The desert
it. “Many would think it a weak name, but it is strong. A willow bends with the wind and snow while an oak often breaks. Are you strong, Willow?” “I try to be.” “That is all people can do, to try.” “That bending and breaking business sounded a lot like Eastern philosophy.” He looked puzzled. “I do not know what that means.” “Eastern philosophy . . . teachings of Chinese phi-
and I are old friends, my grandpa introduced us and taught me to respect it.” “The desert can be a good friend if one understands it, a harsh enemy if one does not. A sensible man, your grandfather. You are wise to have listened and learned. What are you called?” “Willow.” “Willow,” he spoke her name as if he were tasting
losophers, Lao Tzu for example. He wrote the Tao Te Ching a long time ago.” “He must have been a very wise man. I know of China. The ancient ones came from that direction, but it is much closer from here if one travels west. Eastern is confusing.” “What is your name?” Willow looked at him, forcing herself not to smile at his analysis of geography.
“I am Bluestone.” “Nice. Is that your first or last name?” “Just Bluestone.” Willow forced movement, wiggling her legs and immediately regretted it. Her left ankle shot pain up her leg. It felt heavy and she had difficulty moving it so didn’t even try. Raising her head, she struggled to look at the ankle. Straight sticks of wood ran from her heel to her calf. Her ankle and foot were bound
decided, what the hell. The warm liquid tasted terrible, like an old-fashioned medicine. “Why were you upset?” He doesn’t miss much, Willow thought, forcing down the remaining liquid. She paused, choosing her words. “I had a fight with the only person in the world that I truly care about. The one I want to spend my life with. It was stupid. I was stupid, and wrong.” She felt tears welling up in her eyes. “I should have
securely by leaves of green yucca, strong yet pliable. Willow looked back at Bluestone. In one smooth movement, he stood effortlessly. He moved to the fire and placed a few more sticks on it. From behind the yellow-orange flames he lifted a small bowl and moved to her. “Drink this. It will help the pain.” Taking the bowl, she looked up into his eyes and
bent like you said, but I didn’t, I wouldn’t back down. There should have been a hug and kiss, but instead there were harsh words . . . mine.” “So, you came here, to your friend the desert, to seek comfort. Perhaps your thoughts remained on this person and not on the desert around you.” Willow nodded in agreement. She had been angry at the situation and even more angry at herself.
In a single moment of inattention, here she was, broken. There were no photos and the selfish anger was gone replaced by a profound sadness. She gently shook her head, whatever he had put in the drink, the pains were dissipating and it was making her sleepy. The sun was down and despite the fire she was getting cold. Bluestone squatted in front of her as she fought sleep. “We are only given a very few special people in life to care about and even fewer who, in turn, care about us. If you find that very special person, be with them and be honest with one another. Many of the regrettable events of life, like you, Willow, can heal. It may take time, but there is healing. Then you may move forward, learning from the experience.” Willow watched as the strange man placed more wood on the fire. Bluestone then moved around behind her and she felt him move close to her body. Oh, God, not this. She tensed briefly, but then relaxed as soothing warmth surrounded her and sleep took her. A cacophony of sound engulfed her. Willow was instantly awake and alert. Glancing about she saw the fire was mostly out. Only a few thin tendrils of smoke rose out of the arroyo. There was no sign of Bluestone. The noise faded and then returned. Suddenly a helicopter passed overhead kicking up dust and sand. She closed her eyes against the flying grit, then it was gone, its sound retreating. Silence returned. As she attempted to move, the pain returned, but not as bad as before. Time passed and she waited. After what seemed like an eternity, sounds of motorcycles came to her, growing in intensity. The noise finally stopped and suddenly a face crowned with a western hat appeared over the edge of the arroyo twenty feet above. “Hello! Can you hear me?” Willow lifted her left arm and forced a feeble wave. “All right! We’ll have you out of there in just a bit. Hang on!” She wasn’t sure where or how she could go anywhere else, but she nodded in reply. Minutes passed and then she heard them approaching, coming up the dry arroyo streambed. Voices passed back and forth as they neared. Anoth-
er minute ticked by and she was encircled by four smiling yet concerned faces of a rescue team, three men and one woman . . . all helping. “Wow! How the hell did you splint yourself like that?” one of the men asked. “I . . .” she stopped. “Where’s Mr. Bluestone?” “Mr. Bluestone? There’s no one else here miss and it doesn’t look like there has been for a very long time. No footprints, nothing, just you and what’s left of this small fire. You’re lucky we found you down here. You are one tough and resourceful lady.” Confused, all she could do was force a weak smile their way. Willow remained still as they placed a precautionary C-collar around her neck, all the time answering their standard, “Who are you?” and “Where does it hurt?” questions. “We’re going to roll you onto your left side, slide a backboard under you, and roll you back onto it. Okay?” “Yes,” she answered. She was bewildered. Where was Bluestone? What was Bluestone? Once the medical team had finished packaging her on the backboard so she was completely immobilized, they began the trek out. The journey lasted for about twenty minutes as they moved downstream around rocks and brush then up through a shallow, dry side creek that came into the arroyo some three hundred feet from where she had fallen. An ATV, specially outfitted to transport a person in a stretcher, was parked on top, well away from the edge. Next to it another ATV was parked with two men leaning against it wearing the uniforms of the County Sheriff’s Department. Willow recognized the one that belonged to the western hat. “Sure glad you’re topside ma’am. That was a nasty fall. We found your pickup but it’s nearly two miles away. Good thing the sheriff was able to badger one of the oil companies to come up with a helicopter. The pilot spotted a wisp of smoke from the arroyo and then she spotted you.” “Thank you.” “Don’t you worry, we’ll get your truck back to town and once the medical people get you taken care of we can visit about this,” the older deputy smiled down at her in a fatherly way as the emergency team finished securing the stretcher to the ATV.
The hospital bed was comfortable but the room seemed stuffy. She wanted to be out in the fresh air. The IV had been removed and she was given medicine to ease the pain. Through the open door she could hear hospital sounds and the televisions of patients who would be staying longer. A new walking cast surrounding the fractured ankle was the object of her study when she detected movement at the door. The older deputy from the arroyo walked in with a notepad and a small brown paper bag. “I’m Deputy Monroe, and I need to ask you a few questions about your accident. Nurse tells me they’re going to get you out of here this afternoon. Said you’re doing fine, but they need the bed for people from the emergency room, bad car wreck. That probably doesn’t hurt your feelings too much though, I guess.” He smiled at her. “No. I’m ready to go,” Willow replied as the deputy sat down in a stuffed visitor’s chair. She was still confused about what had really happened. “Just tell me in your own words what took place and why, as you remember it,” Monroe said, opening the notepad and clicking a blue pen. Willow recounted everything. She told Deputy Monroe what she had told Bluestone and how he had helped her. When it was all over, she looked at the man and could feel streams of wetness upon her cheeks.
The deputy chewed on his lower lip and made notes. Finally, he looked up at her, a perplexed expression on his face. “I talked to the medical responders and examined the place where you fell. I walked up and down both sides of the top of the arroyo and up and down the streambed itself. There were your tracks just like you said, the medics’ tracks going to you and bringing you out, Deputy Ortega’s tracks where he stayed with the ATV, and my tracks. No other tracks at all, except lizards, rabbits and roadrunners. The medical folks told me that there was no way whatsoever that you could have splinted your ankle and made that little fire. Besides the ankle, you have two cracked ribs and a slight concussion. I’ve worked and explored around this desert for longer than you are old and have heard and seen things that I can’t start to explain. Life’s lesson to me is that there are indeed more things in heaven and on earth than we can ever know or understand. At one particular campsite of the ancient people, I know that I heard their voices in a wind that sprang to life from a dead still afternoon. I don’t think either of us is crazy or a liar.” He closed the notebook and put the pen away. Pushing himself out of the chair, he moved to the bed and placed the small bag next to her. He took her hands in his and their eyes locked. A tingle
of energy passed through her body. “I think your Mr. Bluestone may be what some might refer to as a spirit guide. His message held truth. Let all your wounds heal, both of body and heart. Those are your things from the desert,” he nodded at the paper bag and released her hands. Turning to go, he said, “I believe someone is coming to see you. Take care of yourself and those you care about.” Deputy Monroe’s words resonated within after he departed. Some kind of inexplicable bond now existed between them. For several minutes, she stared at the ceiling, focused on nothing. Finally, her eyes closed. The caress across her cheek was gentle as a warm breeze. “Willow?” It was the voice she loved to hear. Immediately her eyes were open and the face above lowered, their lips firmly merged with lovers’ passion. Willow felt her hair being stroked and lifting her arms, pulled the other into a tight embrace. After a very long moment, they separated. “You’re a mess, but the nurse said she would be here in a few minutes to wheel you out. What’s this bag?” “My stuff from the desert, the deputy said. Look and see what’s in it,” Willow suggested. Out came a fractured pink cell phone, then a small leather pouch. “That’s not mine.” “Must be if they found it with you.” Clutching the bag, Willow felt the softness of supple animal skin then carefully opened it. She shook the contents into her hand and gasped. They were two of the finest, matched pieces of turquoise she had ever seen. Immediately she understood their meaning. Native Americans believed the blue copper mineral brought healing and strength, there was one for each of them. A gift from the heart . . . from Mr. Bluestone.
Michael M C L ean
native of western Colorado's high country, Michael McLean has packed on horseback in Montana's high country wilderness, mined gold and silver thousands of feet below the earth's surface, fly-fished Yellowstone Park's blueribbon waters, and explored the deserts of the West. Through personal and professional experiences he has collected a wealth of information to develop story settings, plots, and characters. His work has been published in New Mexico Magazine, Rope and Wire, and The Penmen Review. His story “Backroads” was the winner of the 2012 Tony Hillerman Mystery Short Story Contest. McLean believes the less travelled and often lonely back roads of the West offer intimate access to the land, its people, and their stories. A mining engineer by profession, McLean also has technical publications to his credit. He now works in New Mexico's oil and potash-rich Permian Basin and lives in Carlsbad, New Mexico, with his wife, Sandie. “Bluestone” is his third short story to appear in Saddlebag Dispatches.
LAID AWAKE STARING AT the single star visible through the smoke-hole in our lodge. My belly ached and rumbled with hunger. Winter came early this year, and the promised beef allotment and blankets came not at all, but Black Kettle gave his word. He made his mark on the white chief â€™s paper. They gave him a flag to fly from the top of his lodge so that all would know he made his mark, and the soldiers would not attack us. So, we waited. The People stayed only a dayâ€™s pony ride from the white-man fort, as they told us to, growing leaner on empty promises of cattle and blankets that never came. Before we knew it, the hungry times came to us. I thanked the Great Spirit for my father, Tall Bearâ€”a brave warrior and a strong hunter who provided more for our lodge. He did not trust the white man, so he continued to hunt, and my mother, Morning Dancer, dried the meat and made the pemmican as always. The Dog Soldier Society considered my father an important man. The People gave him many gifts, but he always gave away more than he received. It was his way, and they loved him for it. Still, he
provided more for us than some lodges. The People feared that some of the very young and the very old would not see the green grass time. Our fears increased when the wolves we sent out to scout told us that the soldiers were preparing to move. I tried to turn my mind to happier thoughts, and away from this hard time on the Lodgepole River. A dog barked and my father stirred in his robes, throwing a protective arm across my mother. She made a little cooing sound and snuggled closer to him. Their love filled the lodge, and brought a smile to my face. Another dog barked and a bugle answered. Everyone awakened instantly. Father flung the robes away, grunting an order to my mother. Shots rang out as he grabbed his weapons and disappeared, naked, through the entrance flap. My heart pounded in my chest. Screams and shouts echoed through the village along with more shots and the screams of both the warriors and the wounded. Mother grabbed her parfleche and a buffalo robe and hustled me out of the lodge, turning to the river. Gunfire came from all directions. Suddenly, I heard
a dull thud. Mother’s hand slipped from mine. I turned to see what was wrong, and she stiffened and fell to her knees. I started to help her up. “Run,” she said. I ran. Chaos reigned among the lodges as women and children fled, and the warriors remained to fight a desperate hopeless fight to buy them time to escape. Men, women, and children fell everywhere as the soldier bullets tore into them. Already, the powder smoke made a thick fog in the village. I caught a glimpse of my father as I ran by. A large wound in his thigh pumped bright blood onto the trampled snow. Impervious to the snow and cold, he flung his challenge to those who attacked us. “Cowards. Women. I am Tall Bear. Will you fight me?” He dropped his empty rifle and drew his bow. I never saw him again. I ran faster than I ever ran before, dodging between lodges, and jumping over fallen bodies,
tangled robes, and dying ponies. The screams of the wounded women, children, and ponies broke my heart and continued to ring in my ears. The guns continued to boom. A soldier slashed at me with his long knife. I dodged and kept running. Suddenly, my leg collapsed. I looked down and saw a long bloody cut on my hip. Painfully, I got up and ran limping toward the river. I saw Blue Horse fall, shot in the back while he wrestled with a soldier. He had only a knife to fight the soldiers’ guns. They hacked at his fallen body with their long-knives. One of them picked up his severed arm and danced around waving it like a warclub. Prairie Dog Woman and her child fell, run down by a mounted soldier who swung his long-knife at them again and again and danced his horse across their bodies. Black Kettle’s flag waved in the morning breeze. I shut my eyes and ran barefoot on the frozen ground.
The ice tore at my cold, tingling feet. The wound throbbed and dripped blood down my leg, but the need to escape was my only priority. I reached the timber along the river, but turned away from the crossing. Some instinct told me it was a death trap. The trampled snow of others fleeing before me made my flight a little easier. I followed the flattened snow along the river. The bearberries tore at my legs, but I pushed on. I tasted the coppery smell of blood in the air. My hip felt like fire, but I gritted my teeth and ignored it. As I leapt over a fallen tree, a strange woman grabbed me and pulled me down. She threw a white buffalo robe over us, and held me to her breast. She smelled of sweet-grass and buffalo grease, and my fears vanished as she hugged me close. “Be very still and quiet.” “Who are you?” I whispered. “And why are we not running?” Before she could answer, a volley of shots rang out very near us in the direction I ran. “Be very still,” she breathed again. I nodded and allowed my body to settle against the fallen tree. The rough, icy bark scratched my back and bare legs. My chest heaved as I tried to catch my breath. Hers hardly moved as she held me close. I heard heavy footsteps close by. Soldiers! They did not know how to walk like people. They tramped loudly through the brush and snow making enough noise to scare all the game within many bowshots. Their shouts and laughter mingled with shots, followed by more laughter. The celebration continued for a long time while the cries and moans of The People faded. I listened as the soldiers shot the pony herd. The ponies neighed and screamed in terror. The soldiers laughed and continued to shoot. I was glad I could not understand what they said while they slaughtered the survivors. The screams of wounded ponies rang in my ears for many nights. Even under the thick robe, I could smell the greasy smoke of our burning lodges. I reached over the woman’s shoulder and pulled back a corner of the white robe when I heard a bugle in the village. The coppery smell of blood and
the stench of smoke and offal stung my nose. The sun was nearly midday. The shouting grew far away now and more subdued. The bugle sounded again. “We must go, now.” The woman cut a piece off her own skirt to bind my thigh. Her gentle soothing touch almost made the pain go away. She rose, throwing the robe across her shoulders and draping it around me along with her arm. Slowly, we moved toward the river. The snow showed the trampling of many boots and hooves. We came to an open space in the brush. Bodies littered the clearing. All bore the wounds of bullets and knives, and many showed mutilations. Children’s bodies lay scattered and freezing in the snow, while blood froze on their little scalped heads. A woman lay on her back with her dress pushed up to her waist and cut open down the front. I saw a bloody hollow where her breast should be. Her unseeing eyes stared at the overcast sky. I felt sick, but had no time to care for them. Hatred poured from my heart and sent its flaming fingers through my entire being. I would make the soldiers pay for this. I stood tall, and shook the woman’s arm off my shoulders. The time for being a child was passed. I took her hand and led her across the clearing to a ford of the river. We saw many more bodies and blood trails. The waters of the Lodgepole were icy, and I nearly cried out in shock, but I held tightly to the woman’s hand, and we forded the river. My teeth chattered, and my empty belly rumbled as we trudged along. My chest constricted with the thought that I might not find The People, but I was determined. We plodded our way along the steep hillsides and down the ravines, moving generally west. I felt certain that any survivors would go this way, and I hoped to find them somewhere ahead of us. The woman stopped, and I turned to see why. “I must go now.” She placed the white buffalo robe around my shoulders. “Tell The People that I am with them still.” Her white doeskin dress and bronze arms began to shimmer and glow. She smiled at me before she turned. Walking away, her image continued to shimmer and fade, then she vanished.
Thoughts tumbled and bounced in my mind. People don’t disappear. I felt fear again, and I missed the comfort I felt when she held me under the robe. Only a spirit or a powerful ghost could do what she did. But she was no ghost. Her presence warmed and comforted me. I was alone. I took a staggering step to follow her, then slumped to my knees at the overwhelming loss of my people. I forced the tangle of thoughts from my mind, and concentrated on the need to find The People. The trail would be hard, but I could do it. I found a branch for a staff to lean on, forced myself to my feet, and moved on, but I only walked a few more steps before I saw a small movement in the trees ahead. I hurried as fast as my injury allowed to the spot. When I approached, a familiar figure stepped out. It was my aunt, Matches Woman. Tears ran down her cheeks, and her face twisted with grief. She gave a soft cry of joy when she saw me. I looked around, and saw three hands-count of women and some children. “Is this all that remains of us?” I asked softly. “No, White Fool and the other warriors went back to protect us from the soldiers. It is good you have a warm robe. Many have nothing at all.” I told her of the woman who hid me under the white robe, and how we made our way back to The People. I told her how the woman vanished. “White Buffalo Woman,” she said. “You are
blessed. You will do a great thing for The People one day.” She was right. When the warriors returned without my father, they said nothing, but led the way north through the snow. Hunger followed us like a camp dog. We found little game and nothing to keep us going except our anger and fear. Of that, we found plenty. I ate handfuls of snow to keep my empty belly quiet. We found another camp of The People. These people did not make their mark on the white man’s paper, and the soldiers hunted them. They made no permanent camp. They shared what little they had with us, and welcomed us into their lodges. My aunt boiled some sinew and sewed my wound shut. She chewed some woundwort and spat it onto the wound, then wrapped it tight. We moved every few days, trying to make it hard for the soldiers to find us. Winter lasted a long time, and many more fell to the hunger and cold. I somehow survived with only a slight limp. When I grew old enough, I joined the Dog Soldier Society, and pledged to kill our enemies wherever I found them. No longer did we move south in the summers and hunt buffalo. We kept to the mountains where we found less game, but more safety for The People. Eight summers after the attack on Black Kettle’s
village, we met some of our Lakota cousins, and they invited us to stay with them in their great summer village on the Greasy Grass. It was the biggest gathering of The People and their friends I had ever seen. The village spread for more than twenty long bow-shots along the river. I was there, among my friends for two moons. One morning, I lay in the lodge of the Dog Soldier Society. Dawn broke the darkness to the east, and I stared out the smoke-hole at a bright star. I heard the bugles again, and felt fear. I did not fear the soldiers. I feared that I would not get there in time. I sprinted from the lodge and vaulted onto my pony. We rode hard to the sounds of fighting. The screams of the dying ponies in our Lodgepole village rang again in my head and my old wound throbbed. I kicked my pony harder, and put an arrow in my bow. The valley filled quickly with warriors and gun smoke. I saw Yellow Hair standing on a small hill with a few soldiers around him. A wound in his belly leaked blood on his shirt. I screamed at him. â€œYou will die by my hand. Do you hear me? You are mine to kill.â€? I turned my pony his way. He aimed his short gun at my friend, Black Bear, and fired. I put my arrow through his heart. He fell and moved no more. I refused to take his scalp. The hair of a child-killer held no power. I looked around, but found no more soldiers to fight. There was a small circle of dead soldiers on the hill and more bodies down below. Our women knew what happened to us at The Lodgepole. They took their revenge that day. They stripped the soldiers naked, and hacked at the bodies with knives and hatchets. No one tried to stop them. As I rode back to the village through the hundreds of celebrating warriors, I glimpsed a lone figure of a woman on a hill above the village. Her face and arms seemed to glow in the morning sunâ€”she smiled at me, then vanished.
ennis Doty, a Southern California native, has been writing fiction since 2004. His stories spring from a vivid imagination, but most have a basis in his many life experiences, including growing up in a small town, the decade he served in the Marine Corps, and a multitude of stories from two years riding on the old Southwest RCA rodeo circuit. Dennis presently lives in Appalachia, with his wife and their two dogs, where he divides his time between writing, swapping lies with the other old timers, and yelling at kids to get off his lawn. After submitting his first short story to Saddlebag Dispatches, Dennis so impressed Publisher Dusty Richards that The Ranch Boss invited him to join the magazine staff on a permanent basis. He now serves as Managing Editor of the magazine itself, and as Deputy Publishing Director of Galway Press's parent company, Oghma Creative Media. Dennis blogs on a regular basis on a multitude of subjects, not the least of which is quality in editing. You can learn more about Dennis and his writing at www.dennisdotywebsite.com
MAJOR GENERAL GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER, USA (LEFT, SEATED), POSES FOR FAMED PHOTOGRAPHER MATTHEW BRADY WITH HIS WIFE, ELIZABETH (RIGHT), AND YOUNGER BROTHER, LIEUTENANT THOMAS W. CUSTER (STANDING), FOLLOWING THE END OF THE CIVIL WAR IN 1865.
SA D D LEBAG F E AT U R E
CUSTER’S WOMEN Many are well aware of George Armstrong Custer’s marriage to his devoted wife Elizabeth, but far fewer know about the other woman who shared his life... and bed. Terry Alexander
EORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER. Perhaps no other name in western history stirs as much debate as the famous “Boy General.” Custer was born on December 5th, 1839 and died at the battle of the Greasy Grass on June 25th, 1876, in Montana. Elizabeth’s last glimpse of George Custer was in May 1876 as he rode through the gates of Fort Abraham Lincoln for the last time in pursuit of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. She didn’t receive word of her husband’s death for three weeks. The press, several army officers, and many government officials blamed Custer for the defeat. President Ulysses S. Grant publicly blamed Custer for the disaster. Fearing that her husband would be the scapegoat, Elizabeth Custer contacted Frederick Whittaker, and assisted him in writing George Custer’s Biography. The book praised George’s career and set the tone for future biographies. She was born Elizabeth Clift Bacon, nicknamed Libbie, on April 8th, 1842, in Monroe, Michigan. The daughter of Daniel Bacon, a well-respected circuit court judge and state senator. Her mother and siblings
had died before she turned thirteen. The judge vowed to his dead wife to protect his remaining daughter. Libbie met George Custer when he was on leave in late 1862. Daniel didn’t approve of the young Custer and thought his daughter could do better. Captain Custer was not allowed in their home and Libbie was forbidden to see him outside of it. His family was poor, and his father was a blacksmith. It wasn’t until his promotion to Brevet Brigadier General that he relented and allowed Libbie and George to see each other socially. They were married at the First Presbyterian Church on February 9th, 1864. Libbie was nearly destitute after her husband’s unfortunate demise and took a job in New York to survive. She petitioned congress to increase the benefits paid to the widows whose husbands were killed in battle. She got thirty dollars a month from the government. She became an outspoken advocate of George Custer’s legacy. She gave lectures about frontier life and their time at different postings. She wrote three books, Boots and Saddles published in 1885,
Tenting on the Plains published in 1887 and Following the Guidon published in 1890. Each book aimed at glorifying her husband’s memory. While each book is factually accurate, they are all slanted to present George Custer in a better light. She never remarried and remained devoted to her husband for the remainder of her life. She treasured a letter she received from Theodore Roosevelt which stated that ‘George was one of my boyhood heroes and a shining light to all the youth of America.’ She never visited the site of the battle. She sat in the stands behind President Taft as he dedicated the George Custer statue in Monroe, Michigan in 1910. Libbie Custer died on April 4th, 1933, in New York City, four days shy of her ninety-first birthday. She was interred next to her husband at the cemetery at West Point. George and Libbie were childless. In her later life she admitted to a reporter that she regretted not having a son to carry her husband’s name. THE OTHER WOMAN Mo-Nah-Se-Tah was born in 1850. She was the daughter of Cheyenne Chief Little Rock. In 1868, Custer was dispatched to the Indian Territories to find a band of hostiles. He found the village of Chief Black Kettle on the banks of the Washita River and attacked on November 28th, 1868. Little Rock as well as Black Kettle and his wife were among the casualties. MoNah-Se-Tah as well as fifty-three other women and children were taken prisoner. She gave birth to a child in January 1869. Custer appointed her as assistant to his camp keeper. Captain Frederick Benteen and Chief of Scouts Ben Clark have both stated that Custer had the young woman escorted to his tent at night for many months after the birth of the first child. In the eyes of the Cheyenne the pair were unofficially married. Mo-Nah-Se-Tah gave birth to a second child in late 1869. Many people believe the child to be the offspring of George Custer, but many historians believe that George was sterile due to contracting gonorrhea during his time at West Point and that his brother Tom was the child’s actual father. The boy was given the name of Yellow Bird. Mo-Nah-Se-Tah later returned to her tribe. After the battle, several Cheyenne women found Custer. A Sioux warrior was preparing to cut the body and the
LIBBIE NEVER REMARRIED AND REMAINED DEVOTED TO HER HUSBAND FOR THE REMAINDER OF HER LIFE.
Photo by Charles W. Hill, Monroe County Historical Museum Archives Collection.
women begged him not to, telling the warrior he was a relative. The women took their sewing awls and pierced Custer’s eardrums so he could hear them better in the other world. He had promised Stone Forehead that he would not make war on the Cheyenne again and the Cheyenne promised to kill him if he did.
He completed his final painting in 1942. He painted a total of 72 survivors. He served as technical advisor on the films Cheyenne Autumn and How the West was Won and the TV show Daniel Boone. Joseph White Cow Bull gave him the following interview at the Little Big Horn.
ONE OF THE FEW PHOTOGRAPHS OF GEORGE CUSTER’S MISTRESS AND “UNOFFICIAL WIFE,” MO-NAH-SE-TAH, DAUGHTER OF CHEYENNE CHIEF LITTLE ROCK.
Mo-Nah-Se-Tah died in 1922. Ptebloka Ska, which was mistranslated to White Cow Bull—he acquired his Indian name after he killed a stray longhorn bull with one arrow. He fancied MoNah-Se-Tah and wanted her for his own. In 1938 he accompanied David Humphreys Miller to the Little Bighorn battlefield. Miller was an American artist, author and film advisor, who specialized in the culture of the plains Indians. In 1935 he began painting the survivors of the Battle of Greasy Grass, His first portrait was of Chief Henry Oscar One Bull.
“I spent most of my time with the Cheyenne, since I knew their tongue and their ways almost as well as my own. I had never taken a wife although I had many women. One woman I wanted was a pretty young Cheyenne named Monahseetah.’ ‘She was in her mid-twenties but had never married any man in her tribe. She had a seven-year old son born out of wedlock and tribal law forbade her getting married—Actually, she should have had two children, she was pregnant when she was captured in 1858 and gave birth to the first child in January of 1869. The Cheyenne considered her and Custer to be married.
‘They said the boy’s father had been a white soldier, named Long Hair. He had killed her father in the Battle of the Washita. He took her to his tent and told her he wanted her for his second wife, and so he had her. After a while his first wife, a white woman found out about Monahseetah and forced him to send her away.’ When Humphreys asked if the child was at camp on the Little Big Horn River, White Cow Bull replied. “He was named Yellow Bird and had light streaks in his hair. He was always with his mother during the daytime. I tried to talk to her at night. I wanted to walk with her under the courting blanket. She would only talk to me through the teepee flap and never came outside.” Many of the survivors of the battle claimed they didn’t know that George Custer was at the Little Bighorn. Wooden Leg said, “No one could recognize anyone in the fight, with the dust and confusion it was impossible to find a single individual. Shave Elk stated, “We did not suspect we were fighting Custer, and did not recognize him either alive or dead.” Others claim to have known Custer was present and celebrated his death well into the wee morning hours. It will never be known who fired the fatal bullets that killed George Armstrong Custer. He was shot twice, once under the heart and once in the left temple, either wound would prove to be a mortal injury. Custer had cut his long hair prior to leaving Fort Abraham Lincoln. Major E. S. Godfrey stated that Custer rode Victory, shortened to Vic, on that fateful day in June, a sorrel with four white stockings, and a white blaze face. He wore a buckskin jacket with a whitish gray hat with a large brim and a low crown. He carried a Remington Sporting Rifle and two English Bulldog self cocking revolvers with white handles and a ring in the butt for a lanyard. Six to eight officers in the Seventh Cavalry also wore buckskin jackets, George Custer’s outfit and armaments distinguished him from others in his command.
JOHN YELLOWBIRD STEEL WAS RUMORED TO BE THE SON OF GEORGE CUSTER BY MO-NAH-SE-TAH. MOST HISTORIANS, HOWEVER, REGARD THIS AS UNLIKELY.
On the day of the battle, White Cow Bull stated the white cavalry was charging across the river at Medicine Tail Coulee. He and several other warriors were there trying to fight them back. He noticed a man in a buckskin jacket and a big hat, on a sorrel horse with four white stockings and moved his rifle to that man and fired. The man fell into the river and the charge stopped, while several soldiers dismounted and helped the man back on the horse. The soldiers turned and galloped away in a frenzied retreat. Some historians have given the account credence, saying that the undisciplined retreat and defense on the hillside tended to indicate that Custer was either dead or severely wounded. Several Indians at the battle have also stated that White Cow Bull was the one that killed Custer and that it happened early in the battle. Reno and Benteen stated that the last time they saw Custer alive that he had removed the jacket and wore only his regulation blouse. Custer’s body was found on Last Stand Hill, over a mile away. One report also stated that White Cow Bull found the body on the battlefield and remembering how close the soldier’s bullets came to killing him, drew his knife to take the soldier’s trigger finger. An old Cheyenne woman and Mo-Nah-See-Tah stopped him, the old woman said, “Stop he is our relative”. White Cow Bull stated he turned and began to search for bullets among the dead. He saw the old woman shove her sewing awl into Custer’s ears, stating “you will hear us better in the other world.” After that day he never saw MoNah-See-Tah again and never took a wife. Joseph White Cow bull died in 1942. Other accounts give White Cow Bull somewhat less credit for killing Custer. Brave Bear recounted a story of shooting a cavalry officer on a sorrel horse with white-stocking feet near the end of the battle. He Dog and Foolish Elk also witnessed an officer running from the battle on a sorrel with white stockings, who shot himself in the head when it appeared that the Indians would catch him. Buffalo Calf Road Woman was credited with knocking Custer from his horse with a war club prior to his death. Noisy Walking captured Custer’s horse— Vic—and took him to Canada with him when Sitting Bull fled the country.
The victorious Indians celebrated their victory for a short time, but then packed their teepee’s away and left the area within two days. The area couldn’t support so many people and horses. The scattered Indians feasted and celebrated their victory during July. After the celebrations ended, many returned to the reservations. The number of warriors quickly dropped to around 600. The country received word of the Custer massacre on the Fourth of July, the centennial anniversary of the founding of the United States. It was the beginning of the end of the Indian Wars. One historian called it “The Indians Last Stand.” The death of Custer and his command at the Little Bighorn galvanized the country and the government was forced to take action. Generals Crook and Terry remained immobile for seven weeks until they received an additional two thousand troops. They moved out in August to engage the Sioux and Cheyenne. General Nelson A. Miles took command in October 1876. Crazy Horse surrendered later at Fort Robinson, In September of 1877, he was killed while resisting imprisonment by a bayonet-wielding guard. In May 1877 Sitting Bull escaped into Canada. On May 7th the Great Sioux war ended with the defeat of the last remaining band of Miniconjou Sioux. Sitting Bull returned to the United States and surrendered to authorities on July 19, 1881. He was placed at the Standing Rock Reservation. On December 15, 1890, Sitting Bull was arrested and ordered to mount a horse. A crowd of Lakota had gathered around his home. The chief refused and the police attempted to force him. Catch-the-Bear shouldered his rifle and shot Lieutenant Henry Bullhead. Bullhead fired his revolver striking Sitting Bull in the chest. Police officer Red Tomahawk shot Sitting Bull in the head. He died between noon and one pm. Six police officers and seven Lakota were killed after Sitting Bull crashed to the ground. —Terry Alexander is a western, science fiction and horror writer with a vast number of publishing credits to his name. He's also a connoisseur of all things related to the Hollywood Western. He and his wife, Phyllis, live on a small farm near Porum, Oklahoma.
AS SHE SMILING AT him? At him, Major Marcus Reno? A hot wave of excitement coursed through him, a sensation he had not known for years. Before responding, he glanced quickly over his shoulder, to be sure that glorious smile was not meant for a handsome young officer standing behind him. Indeed, there was no mistake. Ella, beautiful Ella, belle of the garrison, was looking at him. At him, and no other. He inclined his head in a courtly manner and tightened his stomach muscles, keenly aware of the roll of fat that hung over his belt. He felt almost bashful, unsure of how to comport himself, because it had been such a long time since a woman fine as this one had shown him favor. There had been women--a man has needs after all--but none like Ella, with her slender figure, dark, luxuriant hair and luminous gray eyes. This flirtation, if that is what it was, was all the more wondrous as he was a man twice her age withâ€”the Major did not deceive himselfâ€”a reputation dark as his complexion. Their eyes held across the dance floor and Reno felt his heart thumping against his ribs like a bat in a
barrel. He scolded himself. Get a hold, man! Ask her for the next waltz, bring her a cup of punch. In the end, he did neither of these things. Her father, the colonel of the regiment, appeared at her side to say it was time to leave, so the major retired alone to his quarters where he poured himself a half-tumbler of whiskey and stretched out on the narrow bed. He was too excited to remove his boots, let alone sleep. Could it be the future still held promise for Major Marcus Reno after all? Was it possible that disastrous June day, the events that had poisoned his life every waking moment since, would not follow him into eternity like a malodorous ghost, tainting the very air he breathed and turning others from him before he had a chance to make known his true self? Might he, at last, be free? He fell asleep, tumbler in hand, and, for the first time in many nights, experienced a sweet and deeply satisfying erotic dream. The next day Reno went about his work with uncharacteristic cheer and vigor. He was cordial to colleagues, patient with the men. All the while his dark, protruding eyes searched the postâ€™s dusty streets and boardwalks for a glimpse of her. Finally, in the late
afternoon as he walked alone to the officers’ mess, he was rewarded. Ella happened by with her younger sister and dropped a small white glove in passing. Thrilled beyond measure, Reno bent to retrieve it. As he did so, the major audibly broke wind. He stood, his face hot with shame, but Ella took the glove with a dimpled smile and gave no sign of noticing. “Thank you, Major Reno,” she said. “You are kind.” “Not at all.” He returned her smile. Oh, she was lovely, her pale skin smooth and flawless as that of a Dresden shepherdess. “Mary,” Ella said to her sister, “run along and tell mother I’ll be home directly. There’s a good girl!” The child obeyed, leaving Reno and Ella alone. “Major,” she said, lowering her eyes, “I was wondering if tomorrow—if you are free—perhaps you might care to stop by the house?” She peered up at him most fetchingly. “I’ll make lemonade, or maybe you’d prefer something stronger.” He was delighted, almost beyond the power of speech. “Why, yes.” He cleared his throat. “That is, yes, I believe I am free.” “Splendid! Shall we say 2 o’clock?” That evening, in a celebratory mood, Major Reno rode the fifteen miles to Deadwood. The November night was cold and windy, and he soon regretted his decision though he pressed on. Once arrived, he went to the bar of the Welch Hotel where he met Lieutenant William Nicholson who promptly challenged him to a game of pool. Reno accepted. He planned to take no whiskey, wanting to be bright-eyed and fresh for his appointment the following day, but Nicholson was drinking, and Reno decided one would not hurt. Then he could see no harm in another and another. Before he knew it, he owed the bartender twenty-five dollars and Nicholson fifty. “Uh, say, Mr. Nicholson,” Reno was annoyed to find his tongue somewhat thickened. “I seem to be a bit short. Please allow me to pay you on account. I shall put it in writing if you wish.” Nicholson waved his hand dismissively. “No need for that, Major,” he said. “I’ll trust you for it.” An onlooker, a civilian friend of Nicholson’s, laughed loudly. “I don’t know about that, Bill,” he said. “I hear our friend the Major here ain’t exact-
ly a man of his word. Just ask George Custer, why don’t you?” He slapped his head in mock confusion. “Damn! I forgot--you can’t! Well, ask my old friend Myles Keogh then.” Another slap to the forehead. “Why, you can’t ask him neither! On account of they’re dead! They’re all dead, Custer, Keogh, all of ‘em, thanks to our brave man, Major Marcus Reno! Pride of the Seventh Cavalry!” Reno felt the familiar squid juice rise within him, black and inky. Nicholson turned on his friend. “Shut up, Frank! No one wants trouble!” He smiled at Reno. “Don’t mind him, sir. He’s drunk. Forget it.” The crowded room had gone quiet. Reno struggled to compose himself, aware of the eyes on him. “As a favor to you, Mister Nicholson, I will let this pass. Otherwise I would pound this wastrel’s head in!” He spun on his heel and quit the room, followed by the stinking ghost and Frank’s laughter. Halfway back to the post Reno became ill. Un-
able to dismount, he vomited from the saddle, soiling his right trouser leg and boot. He was disgusted with himself, but there was nothing for it but to continue. After what seemed an eternity, the lights of Fort Meade came into view. Reno hated the place. A backwater garrison if ever there was one, a blister on God’s green earth. Oh, it was a bitter pill to swallow, this billet. Bitter as quinine. Was he not a West Point graduate? Had he not comported himself with distinction during the late war, at Antietam, Cedar Creek and against John Mosby’s guerillas and elsewhere? Had he not been brevetted brigadier for meritorious service? Yes, he deserved better—would have better—if not for that wretched June day three years before on the banks of the Little Bighorn. The horror of that day and the day that followed—a perfect hell, sulfurous, burning, conjured by the devil—was not of his making. It was in no way his fault, yet he, and only he, had been persecuted for it. The injustice! In his mind’s eye he again saw the civilian’s sneering face
and heard his contemptuous words. Unfair! He, Marcus Reno, brevet brigadier, had been vindicated by a court of inquiry. Yet, still he was maligned, forced to suffer for the failings of another. Reno continued toward the post, trying to redirect his thoughts, but, like a horse to its stable, they returned to the foul, familiar place. It was all down to Custer, the rooster, the charlatan, the vainglorious butcher! It was Custer, the cinnamon-scented, tooth-brushing, hand-washing dandy, who failed that day, not Marcus Reno. Had Custer not vowed to support Reno’s attack on the Indian village with the full force of the regiment? When Custer failed to do so, Reno had no choice but to order a retreat. Otherwise, they would all have been butchered, to a man. This would be clear to everyone by now if not for Custer’s widow, a shrill harridan whose heart would get lost in a thimble. It was funny, really. Custer was unfaithful to her, betraying his wife with squaws and Negresses at every opportunity, yet she lionized him. The Coward of the Regiment, that’s what the harridan called him, thereby branding him in the eyes of the world. Reno waved his hand before his face, trying to dispel the unwelcome images as if they were flies, but the faces of the dead rose up to meet him. More than three years gone and still the horror of that day, June 25, 1876, wrapped him like a shroud. Even the smells stayed with him: ripe and rotting flesh, blood and brain matter, fear and excrement. — THAT NIGHT SLEEP ELUDED him. He stared at the moon, white as bleached bone, in the single window. It was early November and already cold enough to form a thick crust of ice on the water bucket overnight. This was the month the Sioux called Deer Rutting Moon. The savages had names for every time of year; December was Moon When the Deer Shed their Horns, January was Moon of Strong Cold. June was Moon When the Green Grass is Up. As a young man he had loved that sweet time of year. Now he doubted if he would ever experience a soft summer evening without seeing the white bodies of his fellow soldiers bloating in the sun.
The image of his dead wife, Mary Hannah, came to him. How it would pain her to see him so maligned and mistreated! How she enjoyed the verse he wrote for her in the evening, rhyming lines rich with emotion, he would read aloud over glasses of wine. “Oh, Marcus,” she would say, with shining eyes, “you are such a sensitive man.” Even now he composed for her, letters and poems he later destroyed, though the act itself gave him release. If Mary Hannah had lived, things would be different. Her passing had worsened his dependence on drink. It had separated him from their only child, a son he seldom saw. He woke with a throbbing head and a mouth tasting of vomit. In the shaving mirror he saw a swollen forty-year-old man with dark-rimmed, bulging eyes and sallow skin. What did Ella Sturgis see in him? Why did she want him to call? He dreaded the day that lay before him. But as the hours passed, some of his spirit returned. Today was a new day. She asked him to call and call he would. After all, he was still a man and not too old to start anew. Despite the injustice done to him, he was still capable of love. Perhaps even another child? Why not? At last the appointed hour arrived. Just before he was due, Ella sent word through the family’s serving woman that he was not to send a carte de visite, as was custom, but come straight-away to the door. He obeyed. Despite the bitter cold of the Dakota plains, he was sweating. Before knocking he wiped his palms on his blue serge trousers. “Hello, Major Reno.” Ella opened the door to him herself, beautiful in a dress of Nile green silk. As he entered he looked about for the Colonel and Mrs. Sturgis but did not see them. Nor was there any sign of young Sam or Mary. “Father is riding and Mother and the others are calling on Mrs. Fanshawe,” she said. “Come into the parlor. Sit there.” She indicated an upholstered settee. He perched on the edge of it, unsure if it would take his weight, as she poured lemonade. After handing him a glass, she took a chair by the window. They chatted about this and that, little things, then she said, “You know, major, I often sit here in the evenings, reading, doing handwork. I see you passing by.”
“Do you?” He was pleased to learn she observed him on his pensive moonlight strolls. Perhaps she sensed in him the very qualities, the sensitivity, Mary Hannah once admired. “Yes, I quite enjoy that time,” he said. “It nourishes the soul and clears the mind.” In a thrust of boldness, he added, “Perhaps one night you might care to join me?” She smiled. “Why, yes, Major, I would. Very much. Of course, we would have to be discreet, at least at first.” She added hastily, “Only because you are, well, older. Mother and father hold you blameless in that awful business of Jack’s …” Ella turned her head, the sentence unfinished. Reno felt a flicking snake tongue of fear. Her brother, Lieutenant Jack Sturgis, rode with Custer that terrible day. His body was never found though a pair of bloody underdrawers bearing Sturgis’s name and a pot containing a boiled human skull were found in the village after the Indians abandoned it. The cavalry dug a grave and marked it with a cairn in Sturgis’s name, but this was done only for the sake
of the grieving mother. Most believed young Sturgis had been captured and tortured by the savages, every man’s darkest fear. “Let’s not speak of it,” he said firmly. “Let’s never speak of it.” “Indeed,” she replied. “Let’s not.” She rose to refill his glass and as she poured, Reno detected a slight tremor in her hand. But her light mood soon returned. They conversed about various things, and Reno quite lost track of time. Finally, however, he perceived it was time to go. Walking him to the door, Ella touched him lightly on the arm. “Major, I would like to walk out with you next Tuesday evening, but, as I said, we must be discreet. Come by the house, won’t you? Say, half past 10? Don’t send your man, don’t come to the door, simply tap on the window, just there by my chair. I’ll be waiting for you.” “Well, Miss Sturgis, I don’t ….” She leaned in close enough for him to smell her delicate scent. “Please, call me Ella. May I call you... Marcus?”
He reddened with pleasure. “Of course.” “Please, Marcus, do as I ask. It will be easier that way. Mother and Father go to bed early. I’ll just slip out. I so look forward to it!” And so he agreed. He felt light on his feet, as if he had just drunk half a bottle of Madame Cliquot. But on his way out the door he met Colonel Sturgis, who appeared not pleased to see him. “Reno! What the hell are you doing here?” Ella spoke quickly. “He came to see you, father. I told him you were out. He was just leaving.” Sturgis glared at him. “Well, Major? What is it? What did you want?” Reno’s brain raced. “I, uh, I came by to discuss today’s sick call. We have a number of malingerers.” “Is that all?” Sturgis made a sound of impatience. “Take it up with the officer of the day.” “Yes. Of course. Surely.” Reno saluted and beat a hasty retreat, still walking on air. On a whim, he decided to stop by the Officer’s Club for a quick game of pool. He played badly and, after too many drinks and one particularly foul shot, picked up a chair and, to his own surprise, hurled it through a glass window. Immediately remorseful, he apologized and promised to recompense the barkeep, but the man would not be appeased. Reno was arrested and confined to post. Though embarrassed, he was not unduly troubled. Such incidents were not uncommon, and the charges were minor. Still, there was a problem: regulations forbade an officer facing charges from calling at his commanding officer’s quarters without an invitation. Of course, Reno did have an invitation—from Ella— but the Colonel did not know of it. Reno found himself on the horns of a dilemma. He did not want to visit additional hardship upon himself, but Ella, his lovely angel, expected to walk out with him Tuesday evening and she must not be disappointed. He spent happy hours imagining the progression of their romance; walking, riding together, sharing meals, a life as man and wife. He would read to her, as he used to read to Mary Hannah. Ella would look at him with shining eyes, admiring his skillfully crafted verses, his sensitivity. Perhaps another child, a girl this time. She was a young woman and he was fully capable. Tuesday arrived, clear and cold. At ten o’clock
Reno shaved and dressed his hair with a scented Macassar purchased earlier that day, at ridiculous expense, at the sutler’s mercantile. He hummed a tune as he strolled along the darkened gravel walkway, passing several fellow officers with whom he exchanged nods and greetings. At ten twenty he stood on the parade near a cottonwood tree and fixed his eyes on the parlor window. At exactly half past ten she appeared, wearing a stylish gray poplin with leg o’ mutton sleeves. Reno was pleased to see she had dressed for him. Such things mattered. He waited until no one was about before approaching the window. It was higher than Reno expected, and he had to stand on tiptoe to see over the ledge. As instructed, he tapped lightly on the glass, once, then again. Ella rushed to the window. Clearly, she, too, was eager for their rendezvous. To his surprise, she threw open the sash and leaned out until her face was just inches from his. Something was wrong. He saw that at once. Something was very wrong. “You pig!” Spittle flew from her lips as she said the words and her eyes gleamed as if a furnace burned behind them. “You filthy, farting pig! Did you really think I could care for you—a fat, drunken coward like you?” Reno rocked back on his heels, but she leaned out even further as if in pursuit. Her head seemed to flatten and elongate and her voice was not that of his angel but the hiss of a venomous snake. “Now at last you will pay for the death of my brother. You’ll pay for Jack’s death and George Armstrong Custer’s and every other fine man who died that day because of your shameful behavior. You’ll be cashiered and drummed from the service as you should have been three years ago. Not one more man will die because of your vile, disgusting cowardice.” She threw back her head with its shining curls and unleashed a scream more blood-chilling than that of any Sioux warrior. “Father! Father! Come quick—it’s Major Reno! He’s looking in at me! He’s peering in my window!” Reno staggered and fell back, landing on his buttocks on the frozen ground. He felt as if he had been shot through the chest. For several seconds he remained motionless, his legs splayed before him. Then, as Ella’s screams continued, he got clumsily to his feet and fled to
his quarters. As he ran he heard shouts and the sounds of men rushing to Sturgis’s home. Soon, he knew, they would come for him. He was done for. Finished. She had pulled him in like a wolf to a bit of poisoned meat. When they came, they found Reno at his desk with a nearly empty bottle of whiskey, writing a poem for the dead Mary Hannah.
Susan K . Salzer
— IN 1880, MAJOR MARCUS Reno, infamous for his actions at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army for conduct unbecoming an officer. Among the charges against him was the allegation that on the evening of Nov. 10, 1879, he peered in the library window of his commanding officer’s quarters at Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis’s twenty-one-year-old daughter, Ella. Thus ended Reno’s twenty-two years of military service. Impoverished, alcoholic and alone, Marcus Reno, age fiftyfour, died of tongue cancer in Washington DC on March 30, 1889, and was buried there in an unmarked grave. In 1967, at the request of Reno’s great-nephew, the Army Correction Board reversed the 1880 action and ordered the official record be corrected to show Reno’s discharge as honorable and at the grade of major. His remains were reinterred in Custer Battlefield National Cemetery in 1967.
usan K. Salzer is an erstwhile print journalist and University of Missouri editor turned fictioneer. She is the author of short stories and four novels of historical fiction, including the FRONTIER trilogy published by Kensington in 2016 and 2017. Her short story, “Cornflower Blue,” won a 2009 Spur Award from Western Writers of America. The FRONTIER novels and “The Saint of Pox Island,” a story for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, were finalists in that competition. Her current project is a contemporary thriller set in the fictional town of Fair Play, Wyoming, where no one plays, and nothing is fair. Someday, she hopes to publish a collection of stories, all in the Western noir tradition. She lives in Columbia, Missouri, with her husband, Bill, and two demanding, highly opinionated dogs. “Major Reno’s Romance” is her first short story to be published in Saddlebag Dispatches.
SA D D LEBAG f e at u r e
THE OTHER CUSTER While George Armstrong Custer may have stolen the lion’s share of headlines in his day, his younger brother Thomas was the real soldier in the family. Terry Alexander
HOMAS WARD CUSTER WAS born in two-time Medal of Honor winner, winning the first New Rumley, Ohio on March 15th, 1845, the at the Battle of Namozine Church on April 3rd, 1865, third son of Emanuel and Marie Custer. Six when he captured the regimental battle flag of the 2nd North Carolina Cavalry. The second came on years the junior of his older brother, George. When the Civil war broke out, he hurried to the enlistment April 6th, 1865, at the Battle of Saylers Creek, when he captured the battle flag of General Richard Ewell’s office to join, even though he was only fifteen—the legal age to enlist in the military, at that time, was Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, from the sixteen. His father promptly stopped his plans to join Second Virginia Reserve Battalion. He was shot in the the army, but when he turned sixteen, he was again face at close range by the flagbearer and suffered soft at the same office ready to take the oath. He joined tissue damage to his cheek, extending to his right ear. After the war he was commissioned as a 1st the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry and served with Lieutenant of the 7th Cavalry, in November 1867, he distinction at the Battle of Stones River on December 31st, 1862, The Battle of Chickamauga from September was posted at Fort Riley, Kansas. During his time in 18th to 20th, 1863, and the Battle of Chattanooga from Kansas, he was posted at Fort Hays, Fort Wallace and Fort Harker. Tom didn’t believe in civilian authority, November 23rd to 25th, 1863. He was mustered out as a Corporal in October 1864, and later commissioned as a 2nd THOMAS WARD CUSTER WAS AMERICA’S FIRST TWO-TIME Lieutenant in Company B of the WINNER OF THE MEDAL OF HONOR, EARNING BOTH IN 6th Michigan Cavalry, serving JUST THREE DAYS DURING THE CLOSING DAYS OF THE with his brother, George. He was the nation’s first CIVIL WAR IN APRIL, 1865.
the head. Other reports had Tom Custer shooting the animal before being pistol whipped by Wild Bill and being hauled off to jail. Tom was fined one hundred dollars and sent back to the fort. On November 27, 1868, the 7th Cavalry attacked the southern camp of Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle on the Washita River. The Chief and his wife, Medicine Woman were killed in the attack, while trying to escape the carnage. Accounts varied on the number of Cheyenne warriors killed in the battle. George Custer reported that over 100 warriors were killed in the battle. The surviving Cheyenne placed the number at 50. Tom Custer was wounded in the hand at the Battle of the Washita. Fifty-three Cheyenne women were taken prisoner and taken back to Camp Supply in Oklahoma Territory. Among them were Mo-Nah-Se-tah. Many historians claim that George Custer had an ongoing relationship with her that resulted in the birth of a child with light hair. A constant rumor stated George contracted gonorrhea while at West Point which rendered him sterile. Several people stated that Tom Custer was the babyâ€™s father. The Seventh was reassigned to Fort Dakota in 1873. Tom participated in the Yellowstone Expedition later that year and fought in the Battle of Honsinger Bluff. He was also a part of the Black Hills Expedition of 1874. In 1875, Tom was appointed a Captain and given command RAIN-IN-THE-FACE WAS A SIOUX CHIEF CONVICTED OF THE of Company C of the 7th MURDER OF AN ARMY VETERINARIAN IN 1875. WHILE IN Cavalry. That same year he CONFINEMENT, HE WAS ALLEGED TO HAVE BEEN TORTURED participated in the arrest of Chief Rain-in-the-Face at the AND ABUSED BY TOM CUSTER AND OTHER MEMBERS OF Standing Rock Agency Trading THE 7TH CAVALRY REGIMENT. Post for the murder of Army veterinarian, John Honsinger. During his confinement, it was alleged that Chief Rain-in-the-Face was mistreated to prod his mount into jumping on a pool table. Wild and abused by Tom Custer and other members of the Bill came into the billiard parlor and ordered Tom to Seventh Cavalry. One report stated Tom ordered his leave. Tom made a final attempt to get his horse to men to hold the chief while he beat him with his fists jump on the pool table, and Wild Bill shot the animal in which caused problems with Wild Bill Hickok, who, at the time, was the Marshal of Hays City, Kansas. He would come to town with his men on liberty. They would drink and carouse as soldiers often do. After being warned by Wild Bill to rein in his activities, Tom returned to Hays City on liberty ready to tear the town apart. He rode his horse into a billiard parlor and tried
during the first attack on the camp. Moving Robe and when he would drop to the floor, Tom would kick Woman said she braided her hair, painted her face him savagely. The mistreatment continued during the crimson, and rode into battle carrying her brother’s trial where the Chief was found guilty and sentenced to weapons. Fast Eagle, a Sioux warrior, claimed to have hang. He managed to escape before the sentence could held George Custer’s arms while she stabbed him in be carried out—a rumor circulated that the Chief was the back. None of the official reports documented knife released by someone sympathetic to his plight. He later wounds on Custer’s body. rejoined his band. He took a vow to kill Tom Custer and eat his heart for the suffering he made him endure. Chief Rain-in-the-Face was born in 1835 near the forks of the Cheyenne River. He died on September 15th, 1905 at the Standing Rock Reservation. In 1875, the Seventh Calvary was posted at Fort Lincoln. Tom served as an aide de camp to his brother, George, during the 1876 Little Bighorn Campaign. He met his end with his brothers, George and Boston, brother-in-law Lieutenant James Baldwin and nephew Harry A. Reed along with two hundred and sixty-eight men of the Seventh Cavalry on June 25th, 1876 in what became known as Custer’s Last Stand. Tom’s body was badly mutilated. He was scalped, his head crushed and beaten to less than an inch thick. He was disemboweled, and some rumors stated his eyes were gouged out, tongue ripped from his mouth and castrated. Tom was only recognizable by the tattoos on his forearms, an American Flag with the initials T.W.C. on one and an eagle on the other. When interviewed about the battle years later, Chief Rain-in-theFace denied that he personally mutilated Tom Custer’s body or CAPTAIN TOM CUSTER DIED ON LAST STAND HILL IN THE that he cut open his chest and ate COMPANY OF HIS BROTHERS GEORGE AND BOSTON, HIS his heart. Tom was originally BROTHER-IN-LAW JAMES BALDWIN, AND HIS NEPHEW, buried on the battlefield along HARRY A. REED, AT THE TIME OF THE BATTLE, HE WAS with the rest of the men. COMMANDER OF THE REGIMENT’S COMPANY “C.” His body, and several others were exhumed the following year. He was reburied in Fort —Terry Alexander is a western, science fiction and Leavenworth National Cemetery. A stone memorial horror writer with a vast number of publishing credits to marks the place where his body was found and buried. his name. He’s also a connoisseur of all things related to the Moving Robe Woman, a Cheyenne woman, Hollywood Western. He and his wife, Phyllis, live on a small claimed to have been the one who killed George Custer farm near Porum, Oklahoma. during the battle. Her brother, One Eagle, was killed
JUNE 24, 1876
HE WARRIOR FELL BACK against the rocks. His face bore a slash across his brow which bled freely. His chest and arms were covered in scratches, some shallow and only oozing blood, a couple deeper with blood flowing. At only fourteen summers, his face glowed with satisfaction. He paid no heed to his injuries. A smile turned up the corners of his mouth as he looked to the object in his hands. It was the pinion feather from the she-eagle. Perhaps now he would no longer be known as Broken Wing. His eyes scanned the dry prairie. To the west stretched the plains and the dust raised by the buffalo herds. His eyes followed up the riverbed of the Tšėške’kȯsáeo’hé’e, The Little Bighorn River. There was a dust cloud there too, a big one. Shading his eyes, he saw men on horses there and the sun glint off weapons aligned in two columns crossing over the ridge from the Rosebud. He looked down. The sixty-foot drop daunted him. Climbing up here to the eagle aerie three days
ago was a lot simpler than going down would be. He had been up here for three days with only water, and he felt weak. There was nothing to be done for it but to start. He tied the eagle feather into his long black hair and began his descent. “Useless thing.” He cursed his wasted right leg as he descended the cliff, but the strength of his arms and left leg got him down with only a sharp scrape to the chest when he dislodged a foothold and hung by his fingertips. He looked again to the north and could no longer see the column of men, only the dust cloud that accompanied their progress. At the bottom, he picked up his walking stick and worked down the coulee to where his pony was hobbled. The crutch was polished and smooth where it lodged under his arm, scarred where it met the ground. He swung along smoothly upon it with years of practice. His pony snuffled his hand and shook her buckskin hide to drive off the flies. He buried his face in her neck. “Oh, my sweet girl.” She blew air through her nose onto his stroking hand. Broken Wing took some dried bison from his
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“I couldn’t see the end of the column, but I did see ten hands of hands of them, maybe as many as days in the year. As many as the Cheyenne warriors here at least. I saw only mounted men and no cannon, and I saw a troop riding white horses, maybe ten hands.” “The white horse troop rides with the Long Hair. So at least two hundred-fifty. We must inform the war council. We will go first to the Cheyenne chiefs Two Moons and Wooden Leg.”
it may be too short. He is still a youngling and barely has any hair on him.” Broken Wing gave the two of them a hard look. The joking irritated him, but it made him proud as well. Hawk’s Flight and Flint were both older than he, one and two summers, and already respected warriors. Flint, at sixteen summers, owned three ponies. Now that he was a man recognized, he would take a warrior’s prerogatives and responsibilities. And then there was Late Bloom.
As they walked to Two Moons’ tipi, two of Broken Wings’ friends walked near him. “Aha, Hawk’s Flight, look at friend Broken Wing. He wears new plumage. Perhaps Late Bloom will pay attention to him now.” Hawk’s Flight laughed. “Do you think she will allow his spear to penetrate her thick thatch? I think
“Get on with you, Hawk’s Flight. I have more important duties right now.” Taken aback by his seriousness, Hawk’s Flight stepped away. “Duties, is it?” He turned to Flint.” Do you think it was my comment about Late Bloom’s blooming bush?” “Get away with you.”
As they walked away, Flint turned back. “Broken Wing?” “Yes.” His tone expressed his exasperation. “Your quest. The eagle pinion looks fine. Very good.” Flint turned away and caught up with Hawk’s Flight. — THEY FOUND WOODEN LEG sitting in front of his tipi with Two Moons. Broken Wing allowed his father to speak for him, answering only when questioned. Wooden Leg was a member of the Elkhorn Scrapers warrior’s guild since the early age of fourteen summers. Though Wooden Leg was only twenty-eight summers now, Broken Wing found his steely gaze intimidating. Chief Two Moons, though older, was more congenial and easier to talk to. Both had fought at the Battle of the Rosebud only a week before. When he had finished the report of his sighting of the Long Knives, there was some discussion among the adults. “We will take this information to the other chiefs among the Cheyenne. Mayhap, they will send out scouts to the south. Thank you, young man. And congratulations upon your quest and eagle’s pinion. It is a fine one.” Walking away, Broken Wing turned to his father. “Do you think they heard what I saw, father?” “It is not for me to say they did not, but I suspect not. Perhaps the scouts will support you.” “Do you believe me? Will we be prepared to fight them?” Crooked Nose stopped and looked hard at his son with his dark eyes. He gripped his son by the shoulders. “You have always seen and told true. I believe you. Perhaps Wooden Leg and Two Moons do not. You are young. We will be prepared. But tonight, we will celebrate the success of your vision quest.” He stroked the eagle’s pinion. “This must have been quite a struggle?” Broken Wing shrugged but he felt a surge of pride within at his father’s compliment. “It was. She didn’t want to give it up.” Crooked Nose wrinkled his nose and sniffed.
“Go to the river and bathe. Your mother won’t allow you in the tipi otherwise.” — BROKEN WING FINISHED THE last piece of bison tongue he could possibly eat and shook his head when Quiet Walk offered him more. “Have some more bison hump or tongue, son.” “No, mother, please.” He patted his bulging stomach. “Already I will be dragging my belly on the ground.” “I will wrap some of the tongue up for you to eat later.” She picked up a scrap of clean bison skin from a basket and cut a generous slice. She handed it to him, and he put it into his parfleche. “Thank you, mother.” His mother beamed at him and stroked the eagle pinion woven into his hair. “I am so proud of you, my warrior son.” Broken Wing felt the wave of pride and, also, a residue of shame as he levered himself up on his stick. His problem with his leg wasn’t her fault. As far as he knew it wasn’t anyone’s fault. It just was. It was something that always reminded him, tortured him in small ways. He stroked his belly. “Thank you for the meal, mother. I think I will walk a bit.” He bent down and kissed her on top of her graying head. Crooked Nose stood up as well. “I will join you, warrior son.” He smiled at Quiet Walk. Outside the tipi, Crooked Nose walked toward the gentle curves of the river. “Go on with your friends now. Be sure that they are prepared. If the Long Knives march where you said, they will not attack until the day after tomorrow, probably at dawn. We shall be ready.” — “AH, HERE IS THE serious one.” Flint poked Hawk’s Flight in the side. “It is the great warrior Broken Wing.” “Too great a man now to speak with the likes of us I am sure.”
“There is a reason I am serious, unlike the two of you.” “Aha, perhaps he has noticed the beautiful Late Bloom and the flowers that bloom so profusely upon her bush.” Broken Leg put his weight on his good left leg and spun, crashing his stick against Hawk’s Flight’s shins. “What was that for?” Hawk’s Flight rubbed his legs and feigned innocence. “Hawk’s Flight, that jest is getting old. I am serious because I have seen the soldiers coming, many of them.” Flint and Hawk’s Flight quit their jesting and paid attention now. “I saw them from the eagle’s aerie. Many soldiers with their horses. The white horses which ride with the Long Hair.” “The Long Hair, the Sioux, call him. The one we Tsistahe call the Creeping-Panther-that-Attacks-atthe-Morning-Star.” “The same. Though I did not see who led, only the long column following our back trail from the Rosebud. I have told Wooden Leg and Two Moons.” “Then you have told the elders. We don’t have anything to worry about.” “My father does not know if my report will be considered. I think perhaps not. I say we should be ready to fight.” Flint thought a moment and nodded. “That is good thinking. Let us tell our fathers and our friends. If we are wrong, we are just foolish young warriors eager for battle, practicing war games.” Broken Wing nodded in agreement. “Tomorrow we can paint ourselves and scout.” —
JUNE 25, 1876 THE NEXT DAY AT mid-morning, Broken Wing painted his face black to symbolize his injured leg. Then he painted a long white stripe for the eagle’s pinion. Little Black Elk brought his pony from the herds, and he adjusted the cinch.
Flint, Hawk’s Flight and two others galloped up and slid off their ponies. They were painted as well. “We have Fire Brush and Yellow Dust here,” Hawk’s Flight said. “We have told them of your sighting and our fathers as well.” “Do any of you have friends among the Sioux?” asked Broken Wing. “I do. I will ride down there and warn all I can.” Yellow Dust mounted his pony and sat him backward. “I as well.” Fire Brush leaped on his pony and stood on his back. “We will tell we are of the Band of the Lone Eagle’s Pinion.” He smiled and signaled his pony to move. “We will ride, as well.” Broken Wing mounted and cinched in his right leg. He hated that leg but had lived with it so long it was only an afterthought. “My father will be ready if the Long Knives come.” “My father believes you as well.” Hawk’s Flight slid onto his pony. Flint mounted his own pony. “My father says it is better to be ready. I do not know if he believes you, but he will be prepared.” Together they cantered toward the river.
“Let us ride out.” Broken Wing held out his crutch to pull Hawk’s Flight up. They patrolled the river and surrounding coulees until near mid-afternoon. “Do you think the Long Knives will attack this late in the day?” Flint asked. “Let us make one more pass along the coulee. If we see nothing, we will begin at dawn, agreed?” They rode down the valley following the twisting path of the lazy river. Near the junction of the creek and the broad ford, a noise stopped Broken Wing. It could be an animal or just the wind, but the sound was out of place. Flint pointed. There was a puff of dust rising from the brush along the coulee. The three boys dismounted and led their ponies across the ford into the brush along the creek. The sound came again, this time a quiet creak of leather, then again, a few minutes later a clink of metal on metal. The boy warriors backed further into the brush. “Ride to the fathers. It is the Long Knives. Do it quietly,” Broken Wing said to Flint. “The attack comes now.” Flint withdrew from the thicket and rode off.
THEY RODE TOWARD THE looping river of the Greasy Grass. It was a peaceful morning, as quiet, or at least as undisturbed as any Broken Wing could remember. Children played at various games, the young watched over by mothers engaged at cooking, or washing in the river. Several warriors bathed lazily in the river, looking askance at Broken Wing and his painted band, then turning away to laugh. Broken Wing continually scanned the bluff across the river for a glint of sun on metal or a puff of dust that was out of place. There was nothing. At mid-day, they stopped to water the ponies and squatted to eat a bit of dried meat. “Ah, I love your mother’s tongue. It is the best.” Hawk’s Flight chewed in an exaggerated fashion, licking his lips. Broken Wing whipped his crutch up and pushed Hawk’s Flight down in a puff of yellow dust. “Now, what was that for?”
BROKEN WING HEARD THE popping sounds of gunfire drifting up from up-river. He glanced toward the river and saw his father, Crooked Nose, and his friend Flint as well as Flint’s and Hawk’s Flight’s fathers. They hid together in the brush. “It comes now,” Broken Wing said. His father nodded. “I hear them, those that attack the Sioux and these that sneak up along the coulee.” The soldiers filed past the brush line where Broken Wing and his half a dozen followers waited. He looked toward the Tsistahe camp but could only see the smoke rising. The camp was not visible. Through the leaves and brush, he could see the cavalry mounting up quietly. Crooked Nose put his hand on Broken Wing’s arm cautioning silence. Of a sudden, a bugle sounded, and the Long Knives rode at a disciplined trot from the coulee toward the ford. Certainly, they did not expect resistance. There were probably ten hands of hands of
them although the end of the column could not be seen. It was far up the coulee still. He rose up above the brush line to view the river and the camp. Men were rushing from the tipis. The Long Knives charge stopped suddenly, as if unsure. The beginning of the column dismounted and formed a skirmish line with every fourth trooper taking the reins of the other three back behind the lines. More men rushed from the camp to the river. Just among the Tsistahe, there were soon at least twice as many as the Long Knives. The cavalrymen fired, and a woman pulling her child from the river collapsed into the water. More Cheyenne fired their weapons. Four or five hands of them crept up into the brush line behind Broken Wing. Another volley came from the skirmish line. The massed Cheyenne across the water cried out in anger and began crossing the river, stopping momentarily to fire their weapons. The skirmish line faltered in its exchange as if unsure as the men still mounted turned north and began working out of the cramped coulee. Behind Broken Wing, a cry began, “Aieee. Aieee. Kill them.” Arrows flew high, though short, and gunshots resounded, cutting through the brush. The enemy line broke, and the men began to retreat up the hill, pursued by the Cheyenne in the brush line as well as those who had now crossed the river. Broken Wing mounted Windspinner and followed the Long Knives’ retreat. He was frustrated that he could not reach them no matter how hard he pulled the bow. The Long Knives mounted a defense at the top of a small hill. Some killed their horses for protection. Their courage did not break, and they fired back fusillade after fusillade of bullets. Many of the Cheyenne had repeating rifles which, though not as accurate at long range, were much superior to the weapons the Long Knives carried at the shorter range of this battle. But in no case could Broken Wing bring his bow to bear. He saw a warrior break loose from a pack of bowmen. Riding fast and low, protected by his pony, he crossed the field, rising at the last to loose his ar-
row. He ducked low, his body protected by his pony and rode back to the victorious howls of his group of bowmen. He felt his father’s hand upon his shoulder. “Hold, son. Hold.” Broken Wing’s vision tightened down until all he could see was a narrow band surrounding one Long Knife. He held his position until he could bear it no longer. With a howl of fury, he kicked Windspinner into a gallop. He lay low on his pony’s back, hanging from the cinch. Closer, and closer still. His vision zeroed in, and he rose up at the last moment to loose an arrow. The Long Knife was turning toward him and took the arrow in the shoulder. A look of shock passed over his face as he reached for the shaft of the arrow. Broken Wing loosed a second arrow which took him in the throat. Broken Wing cried out in exultation, “Aieee,” as he ducked low down below the shoulder of Windspinner and rode away. She took three galloping steps and fell, shot from behind. Broken Wing, because of the cinch, could not jump free and his pony fell upon him. The pain as his pony fell upon his good leg was not immediately apparent, so great was his moment of triumph, but as she rolled, the bones in his leg broke with an audible snap. He lay low below his pony. It seemed to Broken Wing that the bullets flew like locusts through the summer grasses, or like the drops of rain that fell so hard and closely that they bounced from the rocks they fell upon. Windspinner tried to rise and was hit by another ball. Broken Wing pulled out his knife. With tears in his eyes, he reached around and cut her throat. “Oh, my dear Windspinner, you are the one to make the final sacrifice. I am so proud and so sorry.” — THE FIGHT, THOUGH INTENSE, did not last beyond a hand of the sun. Late in the battle, Broken Wing saw Tȟašúŋke Witkó ride across the field and plunge his lance into a Long Knife. It was over. Women from the village walked through the crowded dead of the Long Knives, kill-
ing all with a club who were not dead and taking battle souvenirs. Cheyenne and some Sioux fired captured weapons into the air and called out their victory. Broken Wing lay back and watched the clear blue sky. He woke from his daze to his friends, Hawk’s Flight and Flint loosening the cinch on his foot and lifting the pony from his leg. Crooked Nose pulled his body from beneath the pony and lay him upon a travois. Broken Wing looked down and saw bone sticking through his skin, then up into his father’s sad eyes. Another figure came into his view. It was a lightskinned Oglala Sioux, lithe on his feet. Broken Wing lifted his upper body to meet Tȟašúŋke Witkó. Tȟašúŋke Witkó looked down at Broken Wing’s shattered leg. “You have made a great sacrifice, boy.” “I am boy no longer. I killed a Long Knife right up there. I shot him in the shoulder and neck with an arrow. Did I win my gun from that act?” Tȟašúŋke Witkó signaled to Hawk’s Flight to look. He trotted up the hill and lifted the dead body. “Bring the rifle.” Tȟašúŋke Witkó asked, “Are you the one who brought us the warning of the Long Knives?” “I am, yesterday, on my vision quest.” “I name you Long Sight.” Tȟašúŋke Witkó pressed his thumb into the red soil zigzag painted from the crown of his forehead to his chin and pushed the print onto Broken Wing’s forehead. He gave the proffered rifle into Broken Wing’s hands. Broken Wing fell back onto the travois. “Was it a great victory then?” “Yes, a great victory.” Tȟašúŋke Witkó said the words, but his eyes looked sad through the anger. “Thank you, Tȟašúŋke Witkó. I am satisfied.” “A great victory.” Tȟašúŋke Witkó repeated the words as he turned away. The pony leading the travois started down the hill.
R .L . Adare
. L. has been writing since he was a teenager. Taking a major in linguistics at university, his interest in anthropology and language development has frequently played a part in his writing. While studying linguistics he also took a minor in German, so he could read Hesse in the original as well as a teaching credential. He has taught for ten years as well as been an accountant for thirty-five. Along the way he and his wife owned a kite shop on the Oregon coast for ten years and lived on a thirty-six foot sailboat for ten years which they sailed down the coast from Seattle to Monterey. Among his favorite thousand authors are Zane Grey, Herman Hesse, D. H. Lawrence, C. J. Cherryh, Lawrence Durrell, Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Kurt Vonnegut, Jacqueline Cleary and Diana Gabaldon. He has been published in Wings, Pass the Hemlock, The Whale Song Quarterly, Ariel Chart, and The Wyrd. His first novel, Two Blankets: A Novel of the West, will be published by Oghma Creative in July of 2019. R. L. Adare lives with his wife of 35 years and their manx cat, Pixie, in South-western Oregon.
Hatred and a long train of atro cities between white American settlers and Plains Indians multiplied following the War Between the States.
n 1867, a distressed Congress, with its post-war army concentrated across the Great Plains, called for another summit with the nomadic tribes of that vast, rugged region. This one took place just north of the Indian Territory line in Medicine Creek Lodge, Kansas. It took the savvy diplomacy of famed half-breeds Jesse Chisholm and Black Beaver, as well as peacemaking Army officer Edward Wynkoop, to bring in the winter-hibernating Natives. They came, finally, in astonishing numbersâ€” seven thousand Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, and Kiowa. And they came grim and suspicious. A government feast cheered them, but then they grew sullen and threatening. Sensing violence and perhaps a fresh massacre afoot, U. S. commanders formed their men into a hollow square around the peace commissioners. They aimed a Gatling gun at the Indians. The immediate threat melted away. Soon, however, the Indians learned that the federals intended for them to remain on their western Indian Territory reservations, and that those reservations now shrank. Rarely has the historical record preserved more
eloquent lamentations from such fierce warriors. Charismatic Kiowa chief Satanta, still fearsome after a half-century of life, told the vast assemblage: I love to roam over the wild prairie, and when I do it I feel free and happy, but when we settle down, we grow pale and die. . . . A long time ago this land belonged to our fathers, but when I go up the river I see a camp of soldiers, and they are cutting my wood down or killing my buffalo. . . . When I see it my heart feels like bursting with sorrow. Battle-hardened Yamparika Comanche chief Ten Bears, immortalized in Forrest Carterâ€™s novel Gone to Texas and the classic Clint Eastwood film The Outlaw Josey Wales that it spawned, declared, I was born upon the prairies, where the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures and where everything drew a free breath. I want to die there, and not within walls.
T H E R ISE OF C UST E R
LT. COLONEL GEORGE A CUSTER
ALL THE TREATY OF Medicine Lodge seemed to accomplish was to provide the Plains tribes with enough food to energize their young (and sometimes not-so-young) warriors to mount and ride anew the vengeance trails to Kansas and especially Texas. In Texas lived the people so hated by these tribes that they considered them a separate, inferior, and more brutally violent species from other Americans. These acts of vengeance exhausted the patience of William Tecumseh Sherman, famed Union Civil War champion now in military command of all territories west of Missouri. He ordered Major General Philip Sheridan, the decorated wartime Yankee cavalry chieftain and new head of the Department of Missouri, to launch a military campaign into Indian Territory. Sheridanâ€™s mission: force the Plains tribes onto their reservations and out of the path of westward American migration to the north and south. In late 1868, the fiery little Irishman built
PRESIDENT ULYSSES S. GRANT
Camp Supply, a fort in the present-day northwest Oklahoma county of Woodward, between Kansas and the reservations. He then sent fellow Union horse soldier legend George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry after Sand Creek massacre survivor Black Kettle and the Southern Cheyenne, who were indeed off their reservation. Of all the larger-than-life characters who emerged from the War Between the States and the nineteenth-century American West, few have eclipsed George Armstrong Custer as an enduring icon. The changing perceptions of him have in many ways reflected the shifting societal views of the American public. Was he the gallant and selfless hero whom Errol Flynn unforgettably portrayed in the 1941 film classic They Died with Their Boots On? Or the silly prima donna played by Richard Mulligan in the 1971 movie Little Big Man? Or the brave but arrogant fool embodied by Gary Cole in the 1990 motion picture, Son of the Morning Star? Or some of each?
Charles Schreyvogel captured the larger-than-life bravado, courage, and arrogance of General George Armstrong Custer in Custer’s Demand, his epic painting of the U. S. Army-Kiowa confrontation in present-day Oklahoma. Legendary artist Frederic Remington, despising the rise of Schreyvogel, humble son of German immigrants, who rivaled his own greatness, criticized the supposed inaccuracy of this work. Yet Custer’s wife, Libbie, his officers, and even President Theodore Roosevelt defended Schreyvogel’s research and authenticity. Courtesy Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, Tulsa.
Indeed, Custer was, to the end of his life, a fearsome and manly warrior. He was endowed with formidable talents, including a battlefield persona that, if not fearless, appeared to be so. He also possessed a remarkable capacity to lead men well in the midst of chaos and danger. He fought in all but one significant Civil War cavalry action of the Federal Army of the Potomac and Army of the Shenandoah. Already famous during that war as the “Boy General,” youngest in either army, with the gaudy uniforms and flaxen ringlets falling about his shoulders, the Michigan native’s status as a
national hero grew as he became the point man in the U.S. government’s desperate postwar campaign of total war with the Plains Indians. Thus, the Indian Wars coupled him with the same military command team that had won the War Between the States: President U. S. Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan. They also revealed more clearly the characteristics that have not worn as well in American history annals—his ambition, glory-seeking, and brutality. Custer often dispensed savage discipline against his own troops. He was court-martialed and sent home for nearly a year after one such incident.
T H E BAT T LE (S)
THE RUGGED, COCKSURE CUSTER drove his men relentlessly through the bitter late-1868 winter cold and sprawling drifts of snow toward Black Kettle and the Cheyenne. He found them encamped along the Washita River, near the present-day northwestern Oklahoma town and Roger Mills County seat of Cheyenne. Tragically, Osage Indian scouts, themselves at war with the Cheyenne and other Plains tribes,
reported to Custer that the Natives’ trail led back to devastated American pioneers’ homes. What followed became another piteous example in the Plains Indian wars of a (at least temporarily) peaceful Native band paying the price with their own blood of other Indians’ slaughter of white settlers. That said, some in Black Kettle’s camp, likely had engaged in recent raiding. In what Edward Everett Dale, dean of Oklahoma
NOV EM BE R 2 7 , 18 6 8
TH E WA SH ITA R I V E R
BAT T LE OF
George Armstrong Custerâ€™s 7th Cavalry defeating the Cheyenne in the pivotal battle of the Plains Indian Wars in present-day Oklahoma. The Battle of the Washita, as classically illustrated by Charles Schreyvogel. Courtesy Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, Tulsa.
historians, called “the most important conflict between soldiers and Plains Indians ever fought in Oklahoma,” Custer caught the Natives sleeping at dawn, November 27, 1868. He unleashed a blazing slaughter on them. Dozens of Cheyenne—
CHIEF BLACK KETTLE
warriors, as well as women and children—died in the desperate fight, as did twenty soldiers. The latter included Major Joel Elliott, as well as Captain Louis Hamilton, grandson of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. The Battle of the Washita, like many mortal confrontations in American history, spawned enduring controversy. From the beginning, some within the army and the broader American society criticized it, particularly for the killing of Cheyenne women and children. The Native casualty count has ranged from a couple dozen to in the hundreds, depending on the source. The reality was that a tough column of what American general and historian S. L. A. Marshall called a “battled-seasoned” and “rowdy” army marched through an Indian country blizzard that would have killed most men. They found what they thought were not only off-reservation Indians, but
brutal raiders, and did what their Native opponents would have done to them—attacked. While sensitive critics could rightly criticize the killing of probably forty women and children, they tend to overlook the following considerations:
MAJOR JOEL H. ELLIOT
• Like most large shootouts, it was a fast-moving melee, on unfamiliar terrain for the troopers, in freezing, snow-blanketed, early dawn light. • Some of the Native women apparently defended themselves with guns. • Custer had no idea who all was in the camp or nearby—indeed, thousands of other Indians were encamped in the area along the Washita River. • A throng of Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Arapaho from other camps overran and massacred a nearby detachment of Custer’s men in a separate fight. • Custer took over fifty women and children alive as prisoners. In addition, it is very likely that only Custer’s shrewd inclusion of those prisoners in his column as it returned to Camp Supply prevented the swarming Native hosts from the neighboring camps from wiping out his entire command.
His stunning decimation of Black Kettle’s camp, meanwhile, including its lodges and nearly a thousand precious Cheyenne ponies, severely crippled the tribe’s ability to conduct war on the Southern Plains. Distinguished historian Paul Andrew Hutton offered perhaps the most learnedly objective and succinct post-mortem of the Battle of the Washita River: Although the fight on the Washita was most assuredly one-sided, it was not a massacre.
Black Kettle’s Cheyenne were not unarmed innocents living under the impression that they were not at war. Several of Black Kettle’s warriors had recently fought the soldiers, and the chief had been informed by (American officials) that there could be no peace until he surrendered to Sheridan. The soldiers were not under orders to kill everyone, for Custer personally stopped the slaying of noncombatants, and fifty-three prisoners were taken by the troops.
C LA SH OF T ITA NS THE BATTLE(S) OF THE Washita deepened the enmity of the Plains tribes toward the U.S. government and army. The relentless campaign ramrodded by Sheridan and Custer, however, forced most Natives on the Southern Plains onto their reservations—whether temporarily or permanently—by 1870. Most of them went only by compulsion, and scattered, unvanquished bands such as Quanah Parker and his Quahada Comanche remained at large. History, that silent, observant sentinel, would disapprove of many violent and cruel acts committed by the United States against the aboriginal tribes of North America. In the same manner, it would recognize that the fierce Plains tribes had stolen, kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered their own way to preeminence across the American West. They had done so over the dead and mutilated bodies of weaker tribes, as well as whites, blacks, and Mexicans. Some of those other Natives shed few tears over the conquest of the warrior tribes. Some, as well as the aforementioned Osage, aided the American army and settlers with that conquest. The Plains Indian wars cast a giant shadow of
legend and lore over American history, in part because they pitted two determined juggernauts of willful and violent martial power—the Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, and Kiowa, and the United States military and armed frontier citizenry—against one another. Such formidable hosts, including during their actions at the fights along the Washita River, form both parent and child for much of the distinctive American character and its history. These relentless adversaries displayed, on a sprawling canvas, across decades of national life, all the courage, sacrifice, loyalty, initiative, passion, great-heartedness, and valor we Americans so yearn to claim as our own. And they evidenced the vanity, greed, pettiness, brutality, cruelty, arrogance, and small-mindedness we disclaim, even while struggling not to practice these sins in our own lives. —John J. Dwyer has taught history at Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma City since 2006. He is the author of numerous books, including the Will Rogers Medallion-winning The Oklahomans: The Story of Oklahoma and Its People, Vol. 1. He is a regular contributor to Saddlebag Dispatches.
hen I stepped onto the grounds where one of the most famous battles in history took place, a stillness came over me. Looking out over the beautiful landscape, my gaze fell across the gravestones placed to represent those who had fallen, and my heart wept for those lost. So many lives sacrificed in such a short time. Archeological finds and accounts from survivors have answered many of our questions but so much has been left unsaid. We’ll probably never know exactly what happened that fateful day. It isn’t hard to imagine thundering hooves and bursts of gunfire turning the battlefield into an amber cloud where the sky is indistinguishable from the earth. Or the echoes of battle cries mixed with screams of pain, carrying on the wind. —Venessa Cerasale
f you listen carefully, you can still hear the gunfire echoing across the ravines, mixed with sounds of bugle calls and the cries of anguish and terror of the men of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Found days after the battle atop Last Stand Hill were the bodies of Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer (top left), his brother Captain Thomas Custer (top center), Captain Myles Keogh (top right), and Custerâ€™s brother-in-law, Lieutenant James Calhoun (bottom left). Captain Frederick Benteen (bottom center) and Major Marcus Reno (bottom right) survived the battle itself, but were forever after hounded with questions about their actions that fateful day.
reading in the footsteps of hallowed history like this, one question always comes to mind. Would I have done things differently? In Custer’s boots, could I have avoided his ultimate fate upon Last Stand Hill? What other options could I have pursued? Might the better choice have been to avoid a fight altogether? The truth is, even blessed with the favor of hindsight, no armchair general of the TwentyFirst Century can ever really know how, in the heat of the moment that sweltering day in June, 1876, we might have reacted. We might have made the same decisions as Custer and suffered the same end... or not. Gazing down at the point where Major Marcus Reno’s battalion forded the river in headlong retreat, though... feeling the energy that still resides atop this beautiful, windswept hill, one cannot help but wonder. —Casey W. Cowan
nly in recent years have the roles of the Native American combatants of the Little Big Horn been examined in as much detail as that of Custer and the 7th Cavalry. While history will never come to know the names of all the Indians who fought and died that day on the slopes of the Greasy Grass, a few stand out. Of particular fame is Crazy Horse, the Lakota War leader of the Oglala band (top left), and Sitting Bull (top left middle), the Hunkpapa Chief who foresaw the great battle in a vision weeks beforehand. Also present was Chief Gall (top left right), another Hunkpapa leader.
hile there is some disagreement as to whether she was Cheyenne or Arapaho, Pretty Nose (top left) was a noted woman war chief who fought in the battle. Rain-inthe-Face (top middle), another Lakota warrior and chief, had a violent history with Captain Thomas Custer. Buffalo Calf Road Woman (top right), a Northern Cheyenne who saved her wounded brother, Chief Comes in Sight, and helped rally the tribe to victory at the Battle of the Rosebud just weeks before, she would go on to fight beside her husband at the Little Bighorn, and be credited with knocking George Custer from his horse to his death.
**O,(+'*7#'".$*//'#2%/%'1,(&I'8)",(/'&*##%&'1,#2'12,#%'"(&'$%&'4"$O%$/L'/*4%'1,#2' ("4%/'"(&'/*4%')%-#'0)"(OL'I*7'-%%)'#2%'8",('1"/2'*J%$'I*7'".$*//'#2%'&%."&%/]*-' #2*/%')*/#'2%$%'"4,&/#'#2%'2,))/L'*-'#2%'-"4,),%/'12*'4*7$(%&'#2%,$'4,//,(+')*J%&'*(%/L' *-'#2%'&%"#2'*-'#2%',(&%8%(&%(.%L'/8,$,#L'"(&'.7)#7$%'*-'#2%'5)",(/'>$,0%/'#2"#'#2%'0"##)%'2%$%' 7)#,4"#%)I'0$*7+2#'"0*7#<'6('#2%'%(&L'I*7M$%')%-#'1,#2'(*#2,(+'07#'/"&(%//'-*$'/*'4"(IL'07$,%&' 2%$%'"(&'".$*//'#2%'9%/#'1,#2*7#'$%.*+(,#,*(L'*()I'/".$,-,.%<' ]Venessa Cerasale
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
—Sun Tzu, The Art of War
SA D D LEBAG f e at u r e
WOMEN, CUSTER, AND WESTWARD EXPANSION A look at the history of the West and its conflicts from the perspective of two women who lived during the time: Elizabeth Bacon Custer and Helen Hunt Jackson Doris A. McCraw
HE WEST, AS WE know it. has had its share US Army Corps of Engineers. While Custer was distinguishing himself on the battlefields, Hunt as of conflict between the incumbent residents and the new arrivals. As we are near the time the engineer, would have worked on bridges, etc. He also worked on an invention of what some call an of the Battle of Little Big Horn, it seems appropriate early submarine and the explosive device that would to take a look at some of those conflicts from the shoot rockets from this ship to the shore. Hunt was perspective of two women who lived during that time. Both Elizabeth Custer (born 1842 & died 1933) also the author of books and papers, which include, Modern Warfare: It’s Science and Art, Engineer Notes and Helen Jackson (born 1830 & died 1885), lived and and Queries: submitted to the Officers of the US Corps of wrote about events that occurred prior to and after the Engineers, and Union foundations: a study of American battle at the Little Big Horn. nationality as a fact of science. Both women were born east of the Mississippi. While Edward Hunt died in 1863 as a result of Helen in Massachusetts in 1830 and Elizabeth in Michigan in 1842. Both were married to men who his being overcome by fumes in the hold of the ship were graduates of West Point. Edward Hunt, Helen’s where he was testing his explosive device, George Custer survived the battlefields of the Civil War first husband, graduated in 1845, second in his class. George Custer, Elizabeth’s husband, graduated in 1861. HELEN HUNT JACKSON WAS THE WIFE OF U.S. ARMY ENGINEER Both men served in EDWARD HUNT, WHO DIED IN 1963 DURING THE CIVIL WAR. the Army during the SHE LATER REMARRIED BUSINESSMAN WILLIAM JACKSON Civil War. Custer on the battlefields and Hunt the OF COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO.
further south to meet up with the young chief Cuerno Verde, who had taken his father’s name after his death at the hands of the Spanish at Ojo Caliente. The exact location of the younger man’s death is still unknown, but many believe it is the area around Rye, Colorado which is south and west of Pueblo. As a result of the conflict Cuerno Verde and many of his warriors were killed in the 1777 battle. By 1778 a treaty between the Spanish and the Comanche was set in place. There are a number of books on de Anza and his exploits for those who wish to further their research. Among those are Juan Bautista de Anza: The Kings Governor in New Mexico, by Carlos R. Herrera and Juan Bautista de Anza: Basque Explorer in the New World, by Donald T Garate would be good starts. On the Westward expansion of the United States, we can look to such conflicts as the Black Hawk war of 1832. These skirmishes occurred near the Mississippi river in areas around Western Illinois and Wisconsin. It primarily occurred between followers of Black Hawk, the Army and frontier militia. This is also the conflict the future president, Abraham Lincoln, was a part of. Although a treaty between the government and the tribes of this region allowed for the settlement by newcomers, Black Hawk wanted to remain in the area of his birth. He led a group of his followers back to the area after the treaty, near what is present day Rock Island, Illinois. Ultimately his efforts proved unsuccessful. The 1862 Sioux uprising in Minnesota is said to have come about because of the failure to honor the treaties made with the Sioux in that area. As a result, the Sioux banded together to strike back. Reports say that one hundred settlers were killed within the first week. The conflict lasted approximately one month with reports saying that five hundred settlers and sixty Indians died in that conflict. Of course, a major action in Colorado may also have played into the events that culminated at the Little Bighorn. The Sand Creek Massacre, as it’s known, took place in 1864, twelve years prior to the Little WIDOWED BY HER BELOVED AUDIE AT THE LITTLE BIGHORN, Bighorn. The reason this event ELIZABETH BACON CUSTER SPENT THE REST OF HER may have contributed to the problem was the slaughter of DAYS DEVOTED TO THE MEMORY AND LEGACY OF HER the Arapaho and Cheyenne near LATE HUSBAND. and continued on with his military career, until the decisions at the Little Big Horn ended his life in 1876. Before continuing on, a bit of background for those who may not be familiar with some of the past intersections of cultures, focusing on the West. When the Spanish moved into the Southwest, they believed it was their right to all the thousands of miles of land in the new country. In the early 1700s the Jesuits created missions in what is Baja California. In the revolt of 1734-1736 two of the priests lost their lives. In 1768 Father Junipero Serra, who was later made a saint, arrived in the region to convert the indigenous people. Serra’s efforts to bring about conversion of the natives was not without casualties on both sides. This is also the area that Jackson focused on when she wrote about the Mission Indians in the 1880s. For those who would like to know more, Jackson’s book, Glimpses of Three Coasts contains a reprint of the report she made to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In what is now New Mexico and Colorado another conflict erupted between the Spanish and the Comanche in the region. Juan Bautista de Anza, the man known for opening an overland route from Mexico to California and helping to establish the settlement in San Francisco, also made his mark in another cultural conflict. In Colorado his pursuit of Comanche chief, Cuerno Verde, along the front Range in the 1700s, helped to ease the settlement of the upper New Mexico/Southern Colorado area. The Comanche had been making raids on the settlers in the region mentioned above. Many times, the Spanish set out in pursuit, but the Comanche would see them coming and disappear until the Spanish returned home. De Anza decided to try another tactic and went north, up behind Pike’s Peak to the west and came down what became known as Ute pass, thereby coming in behind the Comanche raiders. He met up with some of the band south of the confluence of Fountain and Monument Creeks but had to travel
VALLEY OF THE FOUNTAIN IN COLORADO WHERE JUAN BAUTISTA DE ANZA PURSUED COMANCHE CHIEF CUERNO VERDE ALONG THE FRONT RANGE IN THE 1700S. HIS ACTIONS HELPED TO EASE THE SETTLEMENT OF THE UPPER NEW MEXICO/SOUTHERN COLORADO AREA.
what is now Fort Lyon, Colorado. This particular event remained in the public’s eye not only because of the atrocities, but because of the reports and testimonies of the people involved. The story played out in publications with conflicting stories. Although it was the Northern Cheyenne along with the Arapaho who were involved in the Little Bighorn battle, the events of Sand Creek would still be fresh in the minds of both tribes. Of course, not all cultural intersects ended in violence. Mary ‘Queen’ Palmer, wife of one of Colorado Springs’ founders had local Indians come into her home after 1872, allegedly while she was sleeping. Because an uncle had been scalped and killed in Montana during the 1860s, this ‘invasion’ would have been frightening to her. However, there was no violence at her home.
History says, they were just curious at who was living in the house in the area they visited. Lucy Maggard, of Denver and Colorado City boarding house owner fame, had a run in with Indians as she made her way to Colorado via wagon. The family story goes that when the Indians were thought to be preparing to attack, Lucy told everyone to leave it to her. She then proceeded to bang her pots and pans and push her false teeth in an out. This was supposed to have driven the combatants away. Finally, Elizabeth McAllister, wife of another Colorado Springs founder, was fond of making pies and bread. She would put her baking out on the window for the local Indians to take. They in turn, according to the stories, would leave gifts for Mrs. McAllister.
So where do Elizabeth Custer and Helen Jackson fit in the events and their aftermath? Elizabeth Bacon was the daughter of a Monroe, Wisconsin judge who was, because of investments, etc. a wealthy man. Elizabeth was the only child of the judge’s children to reach adulthood. By the age of thirteen she had lost her siblings and her mother. It is said that her father doted upon her, and had hoped she would make an advantageous marriage, but Elizabeth prevailed and married George Custer. Elizabeth was around twenty-two years of age at the time. Elizabeth, unlike some of the other military officer’s wives, followed her husband to his various postings. That the two were devoted to each other is what many people have said based upon, not only their correspondence, but Elizabeth’s efforts on behalf of her husband after his death. Helen Jackson’s father was a college professor in
Amherst, Massachusetts. Similar to Elizabeth Custer, Helen had lost her mother by the age of fourteen. There, also, had been two sons born to the Fiske family that died shortly after their birth. Unlike Elizabeth, Helen lost her father three years later, around the age of seventeen. Helen and her younger sister, Ann, were separated and sent to live with friends and relatives. It was while she was continuing her education and staying with the Palmer family in New York that Helen met her first husband, Edward, brother of Washington Hunt, the then governor of New York. Unlike Elizabeth, who remained single, Helen remarried later in life to Colorado Springs banker/ businessman, William Sharpless Jackson. Also, Helen had two children from her first marriage to Hunt. Both boys died young. Murray, at eleven months and Warren, at age nine, two years after Edward’s death. Both Elizabeth and Helen, as a product of their
time, probably had the accepted beliefs of the majority of people about the Indians. Both women also wrote, those writings being part of how we remember and perceive them today.
nut, silken as silk, sweet, happy, innocent, confiding, as if it were babe of a royal line, borne in royal state. All below its head was helpless mummy, —body, legs, arms; feet bandaged tight, swathed in a solid roll, strapped to a flat board, and swung by a ELIZABETH, UNLIKE MOST OF THE OTHER MILITARY OFFICER’S leathern band, WIVES, FOLLOWED HER HUSBAND TO HIS VARIOUS POSTINGS. going around t he mot her’s breast. Its great, soft, black eyes looked fearlessly at everybody. It Helen began writing after the death of her second was as genuine and blessed a baby as any woman son, and became well known for her poetry, essays, ever bore. Idle and thoughtless passengers jeered and fiction writing. These writings, because of her the squaw, saying: “Sell us the pappoose.” “Give you popularity, helped support her prior to her marriage greenbacks for the pappoose.” Then, and not till then, to Jackson. Even in those writings, although rarely I saw a human look in the India-rubber face. The mentioned, Helen did not have many positive things eyes could flash, and the mouth could show scorn, to say about the Indians as she traveled the country as well as animal greed. The expression was almost for her health. It was while on the trip from Chicago malignant, but it bettered the face; for it made it the to Ogden in the 1870s that Helen described seeing an face of a woman, of a mother. Indian woman. Below is her description from the essay ‘From Chicago to Ogden’ in her book, Bits of Travel at It is interesting to note that the description of the Home, published in 1878. baby is in such stark contrast to that of the mother. This contrast, I believe, shows Helen’s regard for and Toward night of this day, we saw our first Indian the sense of loss she felt for her own children. woman. We were told it was a woman. It was, apElizabeth, in her book Boots and Saddles, published parently, made of old India-rubber, much soaked, in 1885, shows her reaction to being invited to a seamed, and torn. It was thatched at top with a heavy ‘friendly’ Sioux camp with her husband. roof of black hair, which hung down from a ridgelike line in the middle. It had sails of dingy-brown At twilight my husband and I walked over. The canvas, furled loosely around it, confined and caught village was a collection of tepees of all sizes, the here and there irregularly, fluttering and falling largest being what is called the Medicine Lodge, open wherever a rag of a different color could be where the councils are held. It was formed of tanned shown underneath. It moved about on brown, bony, buffalo – hides, sewed together with buckskin thongs, stalking members, for which no experience furnishes and stretched over a collection of thirty-six poles. name; it mopped, and mowed, and gibbered, and These poles are of great value to the Indians, for reached out through the air with more brown, bony, in a sparsely timbered country like Dakota it is clutching members; from which one shrank as from difficult to find suit able trees. It is necessary to the claws of a bear. “Muckee! muckee!” it cried, opengo a great distance to procure the kind of sapling ing wide a mouth toothless, but red. It was the most that is light and pliable and yet sufficiently strong abject, loathly living thing I ever saw. I shut my eyes for the purpose. The poles are lashed together at and turned away. Presently, I looked again. It had the tops and radiate in a circle below. The smoke passed on; and I saw on its back, gleaming out from was pouring out of the opening above, and the only under a ragged calash-like arch of basket-work, a entrance to the tepee was a round aperture near the smooth, shining, soft baby face, brown as a brown
ground, sufficiently large to allow a person to- crawl in. Around the lodge were poles from which were suspended rags; in these were tied their medicines of roots and herbs, supposed to be a charm to keep off evil spirits. The sound of music came from within; I crept tremblingly in after the general, not entirely quieted by his keeping my hand in his and whispering something to calm my fears as I sat on the buffalo robe beside him. In the first place, I knew how resolute the Indians were in never admitting one of their own women to council, and their curious eyes and forbidding expressions towards me did not add to my comfort. The dust, smoke, and noise in the fading light were not reassuring.
When Standing Bear and his followers left that reservation in January of 1879, the traveled back to their ancestral land, arriving about two months later. Standing Bear buried his son’s bones, but the army gathered them and took them to Fort Omaha, with the intent of returning them to the reservation in Indian Territory. Instead a court case was begun on their behalf, on the legality of the detention, via a writ of habeas corpus. (the definition of habeas corpus is, a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention). The government disputed the right of Standing Bear to obtain such a writ as ‘an Indian was not a person under the meaning of the law.’ The case came before the judge in the U. S. District Court in Omaha on May 1, 1879. By May 12, the judge ruled that Standing Bear and his followers were indeed ‘persons’ under the law. This allowed them the rights of any other person in the land. The government appealed the decision, but the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. This allowed Standing Bear and the rest of the Ponca’s in his band to be considered free in the eyes of the law. Although Standing Bear had won the initial case, he began traveling the country to help offset the court cost and to plead his case before the public. It was on one of these trips that Helen heard him speak. From
I find it interesting the way the two write about their experiences with the Indians. Although both are writing after the events of June 1876, they both are vivid in details. Elizabeth would continue to write and lecture about her husband and his legacy. Helen rarely lectured, instead spending her time writing. Things would change Helen’s view of the Indians after she heard Chief Standing Bear speak, when she decided to take up the cause of the Indians. From that point on, most of her writing efforts were for that cause. She wrote to a friend saying she had become the person she swore she would never be, ‘a person with a hobby.’ Some background on Standing Bear and the reason THINGS WOULD CHANGE HELEN’S VIEW OF INDIANS AFTER SHE for his travel and HEARD CHIEF STANDING BEAR SPEAK, WHEN SHE DECIDED TO speaking. Standing Bear of the Ponca TAKE UP THE CAUSE OF THE INDIANS. tribe took his case to the courts. He wanted to return to that point on Helen’s efforts would be to help raise the land he had been born on. He also wished to bury his sixteen-year-old son, who had died on the reser- funds for these court cases, and to study and make the plight of the Indians known to the general public. For vation they had been forced onto, in the land of his birth. His sons dying wish was that he be buried in his a more complete story of Standing Bear the books I homeland, not a foreign land where his spirit would Am a Man by Joe Sarita and The Ponca Chief by Thomas forever roam. The tribe had been removed from their Henry Tibble are useful books to start with. Both Elizabeth and Helen would spend a lot of their ancestral lands and placed on the reservation in what later years pleading for the causes that were near and is now Oklahoma.
dear to their hearts. For Elizabeth, that was restoring her husband’s good name. For Helen, it was the Indians. Of all of Helen’s writings after this point, perhaps the ones that were the most well-known and possibly damning were A Century of Dishonor and Ramona. Although Helen had spent a great deal of effort and even took the Secretary of the Interior to task, she did not live to see the outcome of her efforts. In the case of Elizabeth, she wrote three books about her time with her husband as they traveled from deployment to deployment. Her first book, published in 1885, the year Helen died, was Boots and Saddles. The other books are, Tenting on the Plains, Following the Guidon, and The Boy General, Story of the Life of MajorGeneral George A. Custer. It is in the last book that Elizabeth makes the statement: ‘...I hardly remember the time during the twelve years... when I was not in fear of some immediate peril, or in dread of some danger that threatened.’ It was also in Following the Guidon that she gives a glimpse of Custer upon his appointment to the 7th Calvary. It is a description of a man who loved life and career, a man who looked for advancement in his chosen profession.
not begin to think Fort Garland a sort of earthly paradise. The sober colors in this vivid picture meant a small, obscure post, several hundred miles from any railroad, not much more than a handful of men to command, the most complete isolation, and no prospect of an active campaign, as it was far from the range of the warlike Indians. But Fort Garland soon faded from our view, in the excitement and interest over Fort Riley, as soon as our orders were changed to that post. We had no difficulty in finding it on the map, as it was comparatively an old post, and the Kansas Pacific Railroad was within ten miles of the Government reservation.
Custer’s connection to Colorado was in the killing of Black Kettle and his wife, survivors of the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864, at the Washita. In her book, A Century of Dishonor, Helen takes the government to task for their treatment of the Indians. Essentially, Helen made a study of all the treaties the US government had made with the Indians. She also followed up with the outcomes of those treaties; how the government did or did not honor the details of those treaties. In the discussion of Black Kettle and his followers, after Sand Creek, she had this to say: IN HER BOOK, A CENTURY OF DISHONOR, HELEN TAKES THE GOVERNMENT TO TASK FOR THEIR TREATMENT OF THE INDIANS.
In the autumn the appointment to the Seventh Cavalry came, with orders to go to Fort Garland. One would have imagined, by the jubilant manner in which this official document was unfolded and read to me, that it was the inheritance of a principality. Out of our camp-luggage a map was produced, and Fort Garland was discovered, after long prowling about with the first finger, in the space given to the Rocky Mountains. Then the General launched into visions of what unspeakable pleasure he would have, fishing for mountain trout and hunting deer. It would have been a stolid soul indeed that did
In 1868 “the country bounded east by the State of Arkansas, south by Texas, north by Kansas, and west by the hundredth meridian of longitude, was set apart for the exclusive use of the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, and Comanches, and such other bands as might be located there by proper authority;” and the whole was declared to constitute “a military district,” under command of Major-general Hazen, U.S.A. In October of the same year Major Wynkoop, who had been the faithful friend of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes ever since the days of Sand Creek, published his last protest in their behalf, in a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He says that the failure of the Government to fulfill treaty provisions in the matter
At the end of her life, Helen, just prior to her death, of supplies forced them to resort to hunting again; wrote to President Grover Cleveland asking him and then the refusal of the Government to give them to read Century of Dishonor and said she would die the arms and ammunition promised in the treaty, happier on the belief that after reading he would do left them without any means of securing the game; much to redress the wrongs against the Indian race. hence the depredations. The chiefs had promised In the case of Elizabeth Custer, she felt it importto deliver up the guilty ones to Major Wynkoop, ant that her husband’s legacy of service to his country “ but before sufficient time had elapsed for them to fulfill their promises the troops were in the field, IN THE CASE OF ELIZABETH, SHE FELT IT IMPORTANT THAT HER and the Indians HUSBAND’S LEGACY OF SERVICE TO HIS COUNTRY AND HIS HIS in flight.*** Even CAREER BE UPHELD. after the majority of the Cheyennes had been forced to and his career be upheld. She took umbrage at the take the war-path, in consequence of the bad acts of negative response to his handling of the events that some of their nation, several bands of the Cheyennes, led to his demise. It is interesting that the publication and the whole Arapahoe tribe, could have been kept of her first book of ‘memories’ was published the year at peace had proper action been taken at the time; of Helen Jackson’s death. To Elizabeth, her husband but now all the Indians of the Upper Arkansas are and his troops were there to keep safe the American engaged in the struggle.”(1)In 1869 many Arapahoes people from harm. It was to this end that she told and Cheyennes had made their way to Montana, and her story, both in written form and in lectures. Alwere living with the Gros Ventres; most of those who though her writings and speeches may not have been remained at the south were quiet, and seemed to be received with complete acceptance, she herself was disposed to observe the provisions of the treaty, but looked upon kindly. It was said in her later age, she were earnestly imploring to be moved farther to the regretted not having a son to carry on her husband’s north, where they might hunt buffalo. great legacy. (1) On October 27th of this year Black Kettle Both women had been shaped by the world they’d and his entire band were killed by Gen. Custer’s been born into. That their words and actions would command at Antelope Hills, on the Wichita River. influence future generations is a testament to their I’ve used the words of both women to give a better efforts. Regardless of how you feel about Custer, Indians, and the history of the intersection of cultures, feel for the use of language. As you can see, both women these women and many others offer us the chance to were passionate about their respective goals. study and learn of the history of the Westward exHelen felt it important that she do what she could pansion and its impact on the world we live in today for the Indians. She gave a majority of the remaining for a different perspective. years of her life to that goal. She had corresponded with Hiram Price, Federal Indian Commissioner, to study the conditions of the Mission Indians in Southern —Doris A. McCraw is an Author, Speaker, and California. She’d had contentious correspondence Historian-specializing in Colorado and Women’s History. with Carl Schurz, head of the Department of the She is a member of National League of American Pen Interior, about his handling of the Ponca affair. Her Women, Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, Western Fictioneers and the Pikes Peak Posse series of editorials with William Byers, former editor of the Westerners. She also writes fiction under the pen of the Rocky Mountain News, in the New York papers name, Angela Raines. about Sand Creek, make for very interesting reading.
TEALING A HORSE FROM or running off the herd of an enemy, is both honorable and brave, traits to which all the Lakota aspire. From the earliest days I can remember, my father told me of the brave deeds and exploits of warriors, inspiring me to be diligent in all of my lessons, so when I finally became a man, I would do nothing to dishonor my father or my tribe. I was taught to fight and live with honor, making me wary and disdainful of cowards, liars, and thieves. Paha Sapa—The Black Hills—is the center of the world, as far as we are concerned. When I was a little boy, the white men invaded our sacred mountains, and the Lakota united as one in beating them back, chasing them out of Paha Sapa. We continued to punish the bluecoat soldiers until the government of the United States signed a treaty forbidding any white person from entering, mining, or attempting to settle in Paha Sapa. The treaty gave Paha Sapa to the Lakota forever. It was a lesson in infinity however, because forever only lasted a few years. Paha Sapa had become personal to me last summer when I went to find my spirit animal, which would
become my name as an adult male in my tribe, the Oglala Lakota. I’d been called Smiling Racoon since I was born, and my time had come to become a man. I went into Paha Sapa with my knife, a bow and arrows, and the clothes I had on. The medicine man had blessed me and given me my instructions. I did what every male adult of my tribe had done since the beginning of memory—a boy goes out into the wilderness alone and returns to the tribe as a man. It should have been a glorious and important occasion for me, but instead it was overshadowed by the doings of a thief. General Custer was known to us as Pahuska—Long Hair—and he was a proven thief, liar, and coward, traits which were despised by the Lakota. He’d led an expedition into Paha Sapa and reported to his government “there’s gold from the grass roots down.” He’d cut a road into Paha Sapa, which was known as The Thief’s Road and seekers of gold and riches soon inundated our sacred mountains, forcing us to fight when we could, and retreat when we couldn’t. I came to be a man at the wrong time. When I went off by myself, I ate only enough to survive, concentrating more on communing with
nature. I immersed myself in the spiritual world by meditating, fasting, and chanting. One night, I had the dream I’d been waiting for. It was so realistic it didn’t seem like a dream at all. I lay in a circle and four wolves approached me, one from each direction. Each one licked my hand, then they turned their backs on me, growling into the darkness at whatever unseen foes may have been out there. I woke up smiling because I would no longer be Smiling Racoon. When I returned to where we were camped, I told the medicine man my dream in full detail. He confirmed my spirit animal was the wolf, and I would forever and always, from that moment, be known as Four Wolves. I thought having an adult name would make a huge difference in my place in the tribe, but it didn’t. Not right away, at least. If there were a raiding party, I might go to take care of the horses and observe. How could I prove my worth, honor, and bravery if all they’d let me do was hush the horses? I could shoot a bow, count coup, ride a horse in multiple positions, and I wasn’t afraid. At least, I told myself I wasn’t afraid. We were camped in the Valley of the Greasy Grass, and it was the largest encampment of the Lakota I’d ever seen. There were so many tipis in the encampment that they stretched as far as the eye could see and were impossible to count. The Hunkpapa were camped at the far end, because
that was the meaning of their name. There were Cheyenne, Arapaho, and many divisions of Lakota. It was such a huge encampment because we were once again at war with the United States, all because of Pahuska and the greed of white men. We’d beaten them at the Rosebud a week ago, but once again, I had been relegated to watching horses and staying with the women and children. There had been dances and celebrations daily, with little worry about Pahuska or the bluecoats, because there were too many of us, and only a fool would attempt to attack us. It was a beautiful morning, the kind of day meant for relaxing and doing whatever one wanted. My father hadn’t given me anything to do, and my mother and sisters were digging for wild onions. The cool water of the river beckoned to me, and I went swimming with others near my sixteen summers of age. We splashed and played, and for a little while, I enjoyed being a child, with nothing to worry about. It had all the signs of being a lazy day. “The chargers are coming! The chargers are coming! They are charging!” a crier shouted out. Our massive encampment was being attacked, and the soldiers were charging the far end of the camp, where the Hunkpapa were. I scrambled out of the river and ran towards my father’s lodge for my weapons. I stuck a hatchet in my belt, slung my bow and arrows over my shoulder, and grabbed my spear.
I ran into my father as I was exiting, and waited for him to tell me to check the horses or help the women and children. I waited the few seconds for him to grab his weapons, so he could tell me what I must do. “Follow me,” he said. We ran toward the Hunkpapas, women and children fleeing past us in an effort to escape the gunfire. By the time we got there, the attack had been thwarted and beaten back, and the soldiers had been driven into the woods. I exhaled, because I thought it was over, and the fear of failure inside me abated. Then I heard a bugle playing. The bluecoats were trying to attack at the other end of the encampment. “It is Pahuska!” someone yelled. We ran toward the other end of the encampment. Since the first attackers had been turned back, there were hundreds of warriors rallying to this new attack point. Warriors were in the river and the ravine, and I was still following my father when Pahuska and his men came charging down the hill,
unaware they were surrounded. I released an arrow as we ran and felt a tiny bit of satisfaction as one of the bluecoats fell off his horse because of my arrow. I didn’t get a chance to release another, because the warriors descended on the bluecoats like a tornado. I kept running forward, but it was no use. The warriors were like a snake tightening its coils, as they pressed forward against the encircled soldiers. There was dust, and smoke, horses running by riderless, and the soldiers dismounted, hoping to use their horses as shields, but the horses ran away. The shouts were bloodcurdling, but the screams will be with me forever. It was over in a few minutes. Most of the Bluecoats were down, and I saw a white man with golden hair on all fours, with blood coming out of his mouth. It was Pahuska, looking dazed, confused, and doomed. My glimpse may have lasted all of two seconds, because the gap closed, filled by Lakota, Arapaho, and Cheyenne. The thief who had brought this trouble to us, was no more. I thought of all the
stories I’d heard of the things Pahuska had done, such as the massacre of Cheyenne at the Washita, or cutting a road into Paha Sapa. Thieves have no honor, thus, they get what they deserve. My stomach was churning, and I, at first, attributed it to my nervousness. The smell of blood and gore was in the air, and that’s why I was nauseous. I leaned against a tree, closed my eyes, and willed myself not to embarrass myself by vomiting. The brave tales and bloody stories I’d enjoyed hearing as a boy did not talk about the smells and sounds of men dying. I thought I’d been prepared, but I wasn’t. I opened my eyes to see my father staring at me. “I watched you today,” he said. “As the guns were blazing, and men were dying, you did not flinch or hesitate. In the heat of battle, a Lakota man does what is needed for the people. It is only afterwards, when the blood has soaked the earth, the meaning of everything becomes clear. What did you learn today, my son?” I closed my eyes, reflecting on everything which I’d witnessed. The sounds of men dying, the smell of blood, and the reasons why we had to fight. We weren’t fighting just to fight. We were fighting for Paha Sapa, for the Lakota, and for our way of life. I knew there were women, children, and warriors killed, plus a lot of soldiers who had sisters, fathers, and mothers who would grieve for them. I opened my eyes “I learned that life is precious, Father,” I said, looking into his solemn eyes. “We breathe the air, laugh, love, feast, dance, but it only takes seconds for all of that to be gone. The men who died today will never swim or love or do anything again. It is over for them.” My father put his hand upon my shoulder. “You are a man now, Four Wolves. Not because you shot an arrow or took part in a battle, but because you saw how important each life is. I am proud of you.” I looked up at the blue sky, watching the birds circle overhead. My father had proclaimed me a man in his eyes, something for which I’d always wished. It had been foolish of me, because now, more than ever, I wished I could go back to being a boy, swimming in a river with no cares. Those days were over…
Marlon S. Hayes
arlon S. Hayes is a writer, blogger, author, and poet from Chicago, Illinois. He has written six books, been featured in five anthologies, and written for two magazines. His current project is a prequel to his novel, Eleven Fifty Nine, which is to be released by Oghma Creative Media in 2020. He can be followed at Marlon's Writings on Facebook, marlonhayes.wixsite.com/author, and on Amazon. For 2018, his goal was to submit his writings to one hundred publishers. He achieved his goal with seven days to spare. In addition to his journey and evolution as a writer, Marlon is a grillmaster and chef with daydreams of opening a restaurant. He also has a severe case of ‘Wanderlust' and is at his happiest when he's on a trip to someplace new. He's on a quest to visit all fifty states, and his tally is currently at forty-seven, needing Montana, North Dakota, and Alaska. The allure of foreign climates have been beckoning, causing him to download translation apps to his phone, study currency exchange rates, and plan visits to six foreign countries in the next year. He follows the mantra that ‘Life is a banquet’ and he plans on constantly eating.
CAPTAIN MYLES KEOGH WAS COMMANDER OF I COMPANY ON THE DAY THE 7TH CAVALRY REGIMENT RODE INTO THE VALLEY OF THE LITTLE BIGHORN TO MEET ITS FATE. HE DID NOT SURVIVE, BUT HIS HORSE—A CHARGER NAMED COMANCHE—DID.
SA D D LEBAG f e at u r e
COMANCHE The Heroic Warhorse Who Survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn Michael Koch
INCE 1876 WRITERS HAVE mistakenly penned accounts of a noble horse whom they’ve described as the last U. S. Army survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn, more commonly called “Custer’s Last Stand.” They’ve also claimed this horse was George A. Custer’s mount. Now after one hundred and forty-three years of scholastic research it’s seems apparent this horse, later named “Comanche,” wasn’t the celebrated horse claimed to be the “sole survivor” of the historic battle in 1876. Nor was he ridden by George Custer. Several afficionados of the battle agree that many U. S. Army horses survived Custer’s Last Stand, near the Little Bighorn River in the Montana Territory. Some were eventually recovered by Native Americans, while others just ran off. Other wounded steeds were destroyed on the battlefield by the remaining men of the Seventh Cavalry after they arrived a couple of days after the fight. One reporter wrote: “There were any number of horses found on or near the battlefield. All horses found alive were wounded
so badly that the Indians left them for dead. With the exception of Comanche, all were mercifully shot by the cavalrymen… All usable horses were taken by the Indians and former Seventh Cavalry mounts were noted in various Indian Agencies in future years.” Although there have been many myths of survivors of the battle, most historians now “agree that, of the U. S. Army soldiers trapped with Custer at the beginning of the battle, none survived.” The mixed-breed gelding horse, later known as Comanche, was likely born in 1862, on what was once called “the Great Horse Desert of Texas, which was a vast region that was once the home to thousands of mustangs.” Comanche bore the makings of the early Spanish horses—the “bay or claybank horse” (though sometimes referred to as dun or buckskin in many accounts). This apparently meant a shade of chestnut. Although there was reportedly a lot of plundering of these broncos during this time period, no one can say when Comanche was taken off the range. Many horses were rounded up by cowboys for cattle drives,
AFTER RECOVERING FROM SEVEN SEPARATE GUNSHOT WOUNDS INCURRED DURING THE BATTLE, COMMANCHE WAS PRESENTED AS THE LONE SURVIVOR OF THE MASSACRE ON LAST STAND HILL, AND TURNED INTO THE TREASURED MASCOT OF THE 7TH CAVALRY REGIMENT.
personal use, profit or any combination thereof, but many were sold to the army. These round-ups were frequently cruel towards the yearlings. The cowboys used a method of “creasing,” in which they fired a bullet into the upper area of the horse’s neck, causing temporary paralysis due to striking a nerve. If their aim was poor, “the shot would fatally wound the mustang, or injure the creature permanently, and they were left to wander the desert until bleeding to death or attacked by a predator.” Luckily, Comanche survived to be sold to the U. S. Army in April 1868, in St. Louis, Missouri, for $90.00. A week later, Comanche and an unknown number of geldings were loaded onto railroad cars and transported to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Each were “branded with the letters US on the left shoulder, the regiment number on the left thigh and the letter C for cavalry.” Custer’s 7th Cavalry unit lost a number of mustangs that spring. So, Custer sent his brother, First Lieutenant Tom, to purchase remounts. Tom searched the mounts housed in the corrals, and bought forty-one, including Comanche. Each was loaded onto a train and shipped to Hays City, Kansas, where Custer and his troops were encamped. Captain Myles Walter Keogh of the 7th Cavalry must have taken an interest in this one particular charger, which he would later name Comanche, as he purchased him for his personal mount. Keogh has been described as a “dashing Irishman” and “a noblehearted gentleman.” By all accounts, his “favorable character extended to treatment of his horses.” While in Atlanta during the Civil War, he wrote a “letter
COMANCHE CURRENTLY RESIDES AT THE KANSAS UNIVERSITY NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, WHERE HE STANDS PERMANENT WATCH OVER THE LANDS HE ONCE PATROLLED. HE REMAINS ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS AND CELEBRATED MILITARY HORSES IN HISTORY.
to his sister about the loss of an old horse that had carried him through many charges.” Keogh had an “affinity for alcohol, as did many prairie solders. There the similarities stopped—many enlisted men were criminals, fugitives, or seekers looking for a free trip out West, with few skills. Keogh, on the other hand, was a war veteran.” On June 25, 1868, Keogh rode his newly acquired equine into a battle with Comanche Native Americans on the Cimarron River near Fort Dodge, Kansas. Here, Comanche received its first wound from an arrow but continued to carry Keogh into battle. One account has it that “Keogh caressed his wounded steed’s head while a farrier dislodged the arrow that had broken off in his right hindquarter.” Keogh soon named his horse “Comanche” to honor his bravery.
Comanche recovered quickly and resumed his duties. Comanche received another wound in 1870, this time as a result of a bullet wound in its right leg during a skirmish in Kansas. He was lame for several weeks, but once again rallied to resume his duties. In 1871, Comanche’s unit, Troop I, was transferred to Kentucky, where the army had been “dealing with post-Civil War problems such as the Ku Klux Klan, carpetbaggers, and moonshiners.” It was while the army was taking on a crowd at an illegal distillery, said an observer, that the horse known as Comanche received “a slight flesh wound in the right shoulder, but as usual he quickly recovered.” In 1873, Troop I received orders to return to Ft. Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory, to rejoin Custer in the campaign against Native Americans.
On June 25, 1876, Captain Keogh rode his celebrated equine at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer. The detachment was completely decimated when their surprise attack met a force of Arapaho, Lakota and Cheyenne Native Americans who outnumbered Custer’s men by several hundred. US Soldiers from the remaining companies of the 7th Cavalry found the carnage, two days later. Lt. Col. George A. Custer and 210 men lay dead. Also discovered was the body of Capt. Myles Keogh, who was clinging to the reigns of Comanche, who had somehow survived despite suffering seven separate gunshot wounds during the course of the battle. Comanche was transported to Fort Abraham Lincoln, where he was slowly nursed back to health. Afterward, he received the honorary title of “secondin-command” of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, and was retired to become the unit’s mascot. In April 1878, Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis issued the following order: Headquarters Seventh United States Cavalry, Fort A. Lincoln, D. T., April 10th, 1878. General Orders No. 7. (1) The horse known as ‘Comanche,’ being the only living representative of the bloody tragedy of the Little Bighorn, June 25, 1876, his kind treatment and comfort shall be a matter of special pride and solicitude on the part of every member of the Seventh Cavalry to the end that his life be preserved to the utmost limit. Wounded and scarred as he is, his very existence speaks in terms more eloquent than words, of the desperate struggle against overwhelming numbers, of hopeless conflict, and the heroic manner in which all went down on that fatal day. (2) The commanding officer of Company I will see that a special and comfortable stable is fitted up for him, and he will not be ridden by any person whatsoever, under any circumstances, nor will he be put to any kind of work. (3) Hereafter, upon all occasions of ceremony of mounted regimental formation, ‘Comanche,’ saddled, bridled, and draped in mourning, and led
by a mounted trooper of Company I, will be paraded with the regiment. By command of Col. Sturgis, E. A. Garlington, First Lieutenant and Adjutant, Seventh Cavalry. In this order Comanche was presented as the sole survivor of the Battle of Little Big Horn. This was an error, which has been repeated over and over for many years. Comanche had the run of the post grounds and soon became the favorite mascot to many soldiers. He allegedly acquired a taste for beer due to many toasts made to his heroism and valor in battle. On November 7, 1891, Comanche passed away from colic. The gallant horse was thought to be twenty-nine at the time of his passing. Comanche became one of three horses in the history of the United States to receive full military honors at death. His body was mounted by Lewis Dyche, a well-known Kansas taxidermist, and was then exhibited at the World’s Fair of 1893, in Chicago. Currently, Comanche resides at Kansas University Natural History Museum, where he stands on display. The myths that Comanche was George A. Custer’s mount as well as the last surviving horse at the Battle at the Little Big Horn are now two dispelled misconceptions. Comanche, the gallant charger of many battles, still lives on and remains one of the most celebrated military horses of the Old West. —Michael Koch has penned two nonfictional books. He’s a member of The Tulsa NightWriters, Ozark Writers League, Ozark Creative Writers, and the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. His short stories have been published in Echoes of the Ozarks, Mysteries of the Ozarks, Frontier Tales, Wicked East Press, and the Southeast Missouri State University Press. Mike has also written several short stories for anthologies in Full Moon Books and Static Movement. His latest short story was published in a Tulsa NightWriters anthology called A River of Stories. He lives in Coweta, Oklahoma and is a regular contibutor to Saddlebag Dispatches.
’M GAZING AT THE stars sprinkled through the darkness, and wonder if anyone’s staring back at me. Scientists claim there’s no life up there. The stars burn out long before we ever see them. They tell us we’re looking at the past when peering at heaven, and I guess I’m living in the past too, instead of the future. A long day on the trail, eating dust and smelling cow shit has loosened my bones until they slip into the bedroll like water, my head nestled in the wellworn saddle on the ground. I hear the stomping and blowing of the horses, the low moans from the cattle, other men shifting around in their sleep, a lullaby here in Wyoming. From far off, there’s the howl of a coyote, wishin’ he was fierce enough to penetrate the herd, gnaw off a good piece of Hereford for dinner. Maybe he’ll try, if enough of them answer his call. I find the pistol, run my fingers over the steel, spin the cylinder. I’m a real Cowboy, though truth be told, I drifted here over forty years ago from the city of St. Louis. I was no good at school but couldn’t keep my nose out of those books about the wild west, the Indians and
the law of the land. There wouldn’t be many more chances to see the great west the way it was in the books, so at sixteen I left home and found my way here to the Sweet Water Ranch. I’m a seasoned cattleman now, a range boss, paid my share like everyone else, getting thrown off horses, kicked by bulls, and hustled by the others in the bunk house. I lost my dignity, a tooth or two, and wages in their poker games for quite a while until, one day, they all ignored me and picked on somebody else. That’s when I knew I’d made it. That I was one of them. Times are changing. People are heading west in droves, the cowboy way’s shrinking like a watering hole in August. There once were covered wagons, then trains, and now cars on the newly chiseled roads, crisscrossing the country like the lines on my face. The trains haul the cattle back east to market. We don’t cover much land on our drives these days, bringing cattle down to holding pens, or keeping them safe and fed on the ranch until we herd them out of the hills and close to the railroad.
Cars make their way across country on dirt roads, children peering out the dusty windows with wide eyes, boys in their coonskin caps, little girls with their braids flying, as the car hits first one rut, then another. One of those cars stopped me a year or so back,
I leaned down and whispered, “My real name’s Malcolm,” and winked. She winked back, looking up with a sweet smile. “Thank you so much, Mr. Frasier,” she said, and lightly patted my knee with her hand. I felt a jolt of loneliness run right up my thigh
and folks asked if they could take my picture. They brought out a boxy camera on a big tripod and set it up right there in the middle of the cattle herd. I obliged them, sat my gelding and even swung a lasso for the kids. The mother brought her little boy over, asked if he could pet my horse. “What’s your name, Mister?” the boy asked. “Luke Frasier.” The young mother peered up at me. “Luke Frasier” she said. “That’s a fitting name.”
into my heart. For a moment, I pictured a family, supper on the stove, kids around the fire at the end of the evening. I nodded, and swung my horse back towards the cattle. After they drove away in a cloud of Wyoming dust, it punched me square in the jaw that my way of life was fading as fast as they were, cranking over the horizon. I have to tell you it hit me so hard I got off my horse and stood there, staring at them until there was
nothing to see, nothing to hear, but the lowing of the cattle and the soft breeze rustling the grass. We’re in the middle of the 1920’s now. People moving west. Going to Hollywood and making moving pictures, of all things. Trains are chugging across the plains loaded to the gills with new pioneers. Some of the roads are paved over as far as my eye can see. It fills me with fear and an even greater sadness. I’m afraid, because I don’t want this life to end. A life so close to the earth, every day I hear her breathing. I fear that the sky might close around itself and not let those stars poke through at night. And I’m scared that I might be put out to pasture like an aging bull, with no book learning or temperament for any other job but this one. What if this land gets chopped into pieces, thrown into the skillet of progress and served up in a way so different that my cows can no longer graze off the rolling hills, and the cowboy way of life fades away forever? A shiver crosses my spine, like somebody walked over my grave. I shut one eye, then the other, checking if the stars are still there, wheeling through the sky on their way to yesterday. Far off, that coyote sings out again. I want to raise my own sorry head and howl into the darkness, hoping to find other souls who are mourning the end of something that was once such a part of this great country, now fading just like the stars. I pray for this land, for the cattle, for the soft soughing of the wind and look up at the sky one more time, hoping there might be room for me somewhere when my soul sets out across the universe, looking for another cattle drive. Then, I settle my hat over my face, breathe in the sweat, the dust, the familiar scents of a lonesome Wyoming night, and try to sleep a bit until daybreak.
Sharon Frame Gay
haron Frame Gay lives in Washington State with her little dog, Henry Goodheart. She grew up a child of the highway, playing by the side of the road, and spent a lot of those years in Montana, Arizona, Nevada, North Dakota and Oregon. Interested in everything Western, and in horses in particular, she bought her first horse when she was twelve. Although she is a multi-genre author, she has a special fondness for writing Westerns. Her Westerns can be found on Fiction On The Web, Rope And Wire, Frontier Tales, Typehouse Magazine, and will soon be appearing with Five Star Publishing in an upcoming Western anthology.She is also published in many anthologies and literary magazines, including Chicken Soup For The Soul, Crannog Magazine, Lowestoft Chronicle, Thrice Fiction, Literally Stories, Literary Orphans, Adelaide, Scarlet Leaf Review, Indiana Voice Journal and others. She has won awards at The Writing District, Owl Hollow Press, Women on Writing, and has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. You can find more of her work on Amazon, or as "Sharon Frame Gay-Writer" on Facebook, and Twitter as sharonframegay.
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eat either, if it’ll make you feel better.” Then she said, a little louder, “And I’ll bet you tomorrow’s ration, your husband took a full water jug this morning.” She walked over and handed me the canteen. “Go, William, and be careful.” I tracked the ox until the wind began to blow hard. So much dust and sand pelted my face, I couldn’t see. Sally got a little spooked, so I got off and pointed her butt to the wind. I sat on the ground with a handkerchief over my face and held Sally’s reins for what seemed like hours. When the wind stopped and I pulled the rag from my eyes, it was almost dark. Lumps of muddy sand covered Sally’s eyes, so I used half the water in my canteen to wash her face and give her a much needed drink. She was still skittish, so I rubbed her neck and talked to her. “You’re going to be okay. I won’t let anything happen to you.” I chuckled a little, thinking of Grace. I liked her a lot and she always wanted to be around me, except when I was taking care of Sally. One time, she got all mad and said I loved Sally more than her. I’m sure it seemed that way. I wouldn’t take a pile of coins for my Sally, and I knew how to take care of her. Grace was a different matter. I wouldn’t take a pile of coins for her either, but I hadn’t been around girls much, and Pa told me to keep my hands to myself or I’d get the strap. After Sally calmed down, we walked in the direction I thought we had come from. A couple of hours later, I stopped for the night. It was already hot when I woke the next morning. Lifting the canteen to my mouth, I remembered Sally. Without her, I would have no chance, so I carefully poured some of the water into my hand and gave her a small drink. I was parched, but thought I should save what little water we had. We walked for hours on what I’m sure was the hottest day known to man. I took enough water to wet my mouth and gave the rest to Sally. Later, it was so hot I couldn’t sweat. I stopped and sat on a large rock, waiting until it cooled down a little. When the sun sank toward the wrong horizon, I knew I had messed up. No telling how far out of the way we had gone. I stood up on my shaky legs and the world spun,
causing me to stumble into Sally. She gave me a friendly nudge back. I had walked all day, so I thought if I rode, I could make it back to where we started that morning, then rest a while. Possibly by the next evening, I would be there to give Ma a hug. After struggling a bit, I climbed onto Sally, then headed her back the way we came. Later, I woke with a hard thud. I had fallen out of the saddle and was sick to my stomach, but there wasn’t anything to come up. Every time my gut wrenched, a sharp pain ripped through my head. When I woke up later, Sally was gone and an old Indian sat beside me, singing. I shivered with a chill and my head still throbbed, but at least the torturous pain had stopped. I asked the Indian his name and if he knew what happened to my horse. He answered me in a strange voice, but somehow I understood what he said. “I was Running Buffalo. Now, I am with the hot breath of the day and the cold whisper of night. I told your horse where to drink and she left.” I must have hit my head. “You did not hit your head. I speak to you because I saw you wash your horse’s eyes and not your own. You gave drink to your horse and took little. I was there when you stepped around the spider, instead of smashing him. I see your spirit. My people have reverence for what Mother Earth has provided and so do you. After a pause, the old Indian spoke again. “They do not listen to me anymore. They say I am the wind blowing through the rocks. The Faithful Sun has allowed you to hear my words.” The Indian faded, then spoke on the other side of me. I rolled over and saw him sitting by a cactus. He said, “The horse will come back before the moon sleeps.” Then he pointed beside me as I sat up and he said, “Take the stone from my hand.” I was confused. He pointed with his hand, instead of holding it out for me to take a stone. He drew his hand back a little and gestured again. The wind blew as I looked next to me and fear seized me momentarily. The dirt had blown away, leaving the bones of a hand with a small blue rock on top. Standing over me, the Indian said, “Take it.”
I shook so bad I could hardly pick it up. The old Indian spit on me. I looked up at him, wondering why he would do such a thing. Then he spit on me several times. I shielded my head with my hands. Finally, I realized raindrops were landing on my legs and the ground. I looked up again and large drops struck my face. At first, the cool water felt wonderful on my burnt skin, but I quickly became chilled. The rain passed and within a couple of hours the stars and moon filled the sky. Running Buffalo walked past me and sat by the cactus again. I apologized for lying on his bones. “In death my bones joined Mother Earth. They do not lift me up nor bring me pain,” he replied. I stood and tried to walk, but stumbled and fell. “Crazy Legs, you should rest,” he said, then vanished, again. I laid there and drifted off. Running Buffalo woke me as the sky began to lighten. “It is time to leave. Do you not hear the women at your camp weeping for you?” I listened for a minute. The wind seemed to be wailing. The eerie sound made me wonder if more spooks were about to appear. “It is their cries riding the wind. Follow it back to them.” As Sally came to my side, the old Indian said, “Tomorrow, say to your horse, ‘Show us where to drink,’ and she will. Do not stay in this land. You must follow the bright star and lead your people from here, or they will join me with the hot breath of the day and the cold whisper of night. Now go, Crazy Legs.” As I climbed up onto Sally, the ox walked up behind us. We headed into the wind. The sun was well into the sky by the time I spotted the wagons. I wondered what I would tell my parents and had about convinced myself it was all a bunch of weird dreams because of the heat. Then I felt the stone in my pocket. I looked at it and knew Running Buffalo had saved us.
Gene L a Viness
hile growing up in Oklahoma, Gene enjoyed fishing and playing football. As an adult, he has worked in the machining industry and spent almost three decades as a sports official. After raising his family, Gene found himself building custom pool cues, specializing in masse’ cues for artistic pool players. He is a member of the International Cuemakers Association and has sponsored some of the world’s top trick shot artists and many large and small pool tournaments across the United States. Currently, he likes to play tag, fly kites, or just have lunch with his grandchildren. Although Gene has written snippets of nonfiction in the past, a fictional muse recently invaded his life, and writing has become his latest passion. “William and the Old Indian” was the grandprize winner of the Dusty and Pat Richards Memorial Oxbow Prize for Short Western Fiction at the 2018 Ozarks Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Fans may connect with Gene through his website at www.cgenerun.com/author or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Author.GeneLaViness.
He was all legs, a heap on the ground, struggling to breathe his first breath. Panting, he looked around this new place where he had just been dropped. A nose nuzzled his neck and nickered, urging him up. Galloping up in a cloud of dust and rocks, skidding to a stop in front of him, the lead Stallion eyed him with suspicion and pushed him with his nose and ran off as if to say, “This is how you do it. Follow me.” His legs wouldn’t work yet, and he fell. He fell again and again but then he walked, finding his mother’s strength and nourishment. He walked some more and fell again. He went to sleep. Soon, he was leaping about the green fields, always moving, always moving. From beneath his mother’s flank he gained strength, he watched, he learned. He grew in the wild of the mountains, traveling from water to grass from desert to lush meadow. He knew no man, no rope or fence. His herd was his family, his life. The stallion took on all comers, from wildcats to usurpers to his herd, grew old. New leaders came and fought to lead the herd, always the strongest, smartest won. The young one felt the urges and challenged when he was ready but lost. Each year he challenged again, until he won and led the way from old haunts, learned from older leaders and Stallions. His herd grew. His wild heart never knew rope or saddle or man. It was his time to goad the new ones to stand and follow. He was the Stallion. “Come with me. This is how you run and set your heart wild and free.”
SA D D LEBAG poetry
S TWO CIVILIZATIONS BRUTALLY fought for control of this harshly beautiful American West, the body count of men, women, children, and even buffalo—especially buffalo—multiplied. By 1874, the U.S. Army had mostly muscled the fierce plains tribes onto reservations in present-day western Oklahoma. Defiant factions
among these Natives, however, often using western Indian Territory and even their own reservations as both staging grounds and places of refuge, proceeded to unleash enough firepower that the Southern Plains grew more, rather than less, violent for American settlers—and the railroads. On June 27 of that year, several hundred Comanches, Cheyenne, and Kiowa thundered into the buffalo hunting operation at Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle. They included legendary Comanche Chief Quanah Parker and Kiowa Chief Lone Wolf—the elder— who both hailed from modern-day Oklahoma. At the same site as an 1864 battle between Kit Carson’s Union troops and Plains Indians, these Natives shot it out with a small but wellarmed band of tough white frontiersmen that included future FRONTIERSMAN BILLY DIXON, WHOSE LEGENDARY legendary Dodge City RIFLE SHOT WON THE SECOND BATTLE OF ADOBE Sheriff Bat Masterson WALLS FOR THE AMERICAN HUNTERS.
and some of the most accomplished buffalo hunters in the United States at the time. It was a sight as fearsome as it was unparalleled: hundreds of the toughest warriors ever to ride, from the most dangerous tribes, uniting in a concerted campaign to wrest control of the Southern Plains from the “white man.” Scout and buffalo hunter, Billy Dixon, recalled that during the fury of the early fighting, the Indians forced their massively outnumbered enemies into the sod structures of Adobe Walls and “bullets poured in like hail and made us hug the sod walls like a gophers when an owl is swooping past.” He expanded on the scene in his autobiography: There was never a more splendidly barbaric sight. In after years I was glad that I had seen it. Hundreds of warriors, the flower of the fighting men of the southwestern Plains Tribes, mounted upon their finest horses, armed with guns and lances, and carrying heavy shields of thick buffalo hide, were coming like the wind. Over all was splashed the rich colors of red, vermillion and ochre, on the bodies of the men, on the bodies of the running horses. Scalps dangled
from bridles, gorgeous war-bonnets fluttered their plumes, bright feathers dangled from the tails and manes of the horses, and the bronzed, half-naked bodies of the riders glittered with ornaments of silver and brass. Behind this headlong charging host stretched the Plains, on whose horizon the rising sun was lifting its morning fires. The warriors seemed to emerge from this glowing background. Quanah, through J. A. Dickson, remembered: We at once surrounded the place and began to fire on it. The hunters got in the houses and shot through the cracks and holes in the wall. Fight lasted about two hours. We tried to storm the place several times but the hunters shot so well we would have to retreat. At one time I picked up five braves and we crawled along a little ravine to their corral, which was only a few yards from the house. Then we picked our chance and made a run for the house before they could shoot us, and we tried to break the door in but it was too strong and being afraid to stay long, we went back the way we had come.
KIOWA CHIEF LONE WOLF THE ELDER, A LEGENDARY LEADER OF THAT FAMOUS TRIBE.
In a stunning—and historic—checking of the Native juggernaut, the defenders and their .50-caliber buffalo guns stacked up numerous Indian corpses, wounded scores more—including Quanah—and the shattered attackers scattered across the north Texas plains. It was a singular feat by one of the frontiersmen that finally sent the Natives packing after three days of determined assaults and siege. That man was the afore-mentioned Billy Dixon, who lived the last many years of his life on Cimarron County land in the Oklahoma Panhandle, and was one of eight civilians ever honored with the Medal of Honor. At Adobe Walls, he used a Sharps .50-90 rifle to fire the most famous shot in the history of the American West. It killed a mounted Comanche on a rise nearly one mile away. The enraged, heartsick Indians exploded in a summer-long rampage of vengeance. They robbed, raped, murdered, and tortured from southern Colorado to the Rio Grande. Nearly two hundred white men, women, and children perished. Buffalo hunting, stagecoach travel, railroad expansion, westward settlement itself, were imperiled. At long last, the U. S. government, corporate America, and the American people alike, clear to the Atlantic, reached their breaking point. Civil War general and President, U. S. Grant, himself unleashed the armed might of the nation’s western armies against the remaining hostile Indians. Within months the final Southern Plains holdouts surrendered. —John J. Dwyer has taught history at Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma City since 2006. He is the author of numerous books, including the Will Rogers Medallion-winning The Oklahomans: The Story of Oklahoma and Its People, Vol. 1. He is a regular contributor to Saddlebag Dispatches.
COMANCHE CHIEF QUANAH PARKER, PERHAPS THE GREATEST WARRIOR—ON ANY SIDE—IN THE HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN WEST.
UT HERE IN THE West, there’s no shortage of cowboy entertainment. Neither time nor distance separate you much from cowboy poets by the dozens who hold audiences enthralled with rhyming verse, or scores of songsters who enchant crowds with mesmerizing melodies. By any measure, Brenn Hill and Andy Nelson are numbered among the best Western entertainers. Individually, they hold honors aplenty recognizing their skill as writers and performers. But they offer something unusual, perhaps unique: a stage-show that combines the duo’s talents in carefully orchestrated duets of song and poetry. Beyond taking turns at the microphone to share song, then poem, then song, and so on—a common technique in cowboy entertainment—Brenn and Andy arrange their compositions in complementary pairings that blend verse and stanza; each song interlaced with a poem to double down on an idea, an emotion, or a laugh. CowboyPoetry.com describes Andy Nelson as “a modern-day cowboy with a somewhat twisted funny bone…. His extraordinary original writings, combined with his unusual facial expressions and body language, leave audiences holding their sides and trying to catch their collective breath.” In a word, Andy is funny. His poetry and stories expose the ofttimes insanity of Western life. Among his numerous honors, the Western Music Association has named Andy “Male Poet of the Year” on several occasions. Brenn Hill is likewise accomplished as a solo per-
former. For more than two decades, he has stood under a cowboy hat and behind a microphone on countless stages entertaining audiences, blending his voice with bending guitar strings in a performance style all his own. The songs he sings are, also, mostly his own, earning Brenn recognition as one of the premier musical chroniclers of cowboy life. Western Horseman magazine called Brenn “one of the most talented singer-songwriters in the contemporary cowboy music scene.” The recently released Rocky Mountain Drifter is his fourteenth album, taking its place on a list of critically acclaimed releases that are an integral part of the canon of cowboy music. ONE-OF-A-KIND, TIMES TWO As remarkable as they are individually, as a duo on stage their talents mingle and multiply, resulting in a show that will make you laugh (a lot), make you think, cause a lump in your throat, and send you away wanting more. When the house lights go down, the big screens light up. The show is accompanied by a colorful backdrop of ever-changing photographs of stunning western landscapes, cattle on the range, horseback cowboys at work, and other images of the West. Always popular, when Brenn performs, is his rollicking “Buckaroo Tattoo,” a song about a tough-asnails, top-hand cowgirl reputed to be secretly adorned with body art. Brenn sings,
ANDY NELSON, “...A MODERN-DAY COWBOY WITH A SOMEWHAT TWISTED FUNNY BONE.”
BRENN HILL, “...ONE OF THE MOST TALENTED SINGER-SONGWRITERS IN THE CONTEMPORARY COWBOY MUSIC SCENE.”
AS REMARKABLE AS ANDY AND BRENN ARE INDIVIDUALLY, AS A DUO ON STAGE THEIR TALENTS MINGLE AND MULTIPLY.
She can rope and ride A little better than me. She sure is a sight For a cowboy to see. And she don’t come down Until the hard work’s through— But take it from me, don’t ask to see The buckaroo tattoo.
Andy recites those lines and more from his poem, “The Whole Man,” trading time at the microphone with Brenn’s song, “Ridin’ Job.”
With the audience enthralled and clapping in time, Brenn plays along as Andy steps up to microphone and serves up a helping of “Branding Pen Barbie”:
And so, goes the show, with Andy and Brenn weaving together songs and recitations strengthened by the combination. Audiences take away the enjoyment of being entertained by one of the West’s best cowboy poets and a cowboy singer at the top of his game. But by braiding song and story together, the result is a sum greater than its parts—one plus one equals three, or four, or ten. Or, even, the cowboy version of “these go to eleven.” That’s why, when you see Brenn Hill and Andy Nelson on stage together, you definitely get the Best of the West.
Her designer jeans were painted-on tight, They were dry-cleaned, steam-pressed, and new; Her gaping blouse showed her black camisole …and a couple of other things too. The tributes to cowgirl distractions continues, verse to stanza, turning the crowd unruly with hilarity. But the show features thoughtful, introspective moments as well. The hours I spend upon a steed Are hours suspended in time, That fill my void and every need And grant rhythm to my rhyme.
We rode the Glory Trail my friend That leads right straight to God; Still searchin’ everywhere west To find a ridin’ job.
—Rod Miller is a four-time winner and six-time finalist for the Western Writers of America Spur Award. He is also winner and finalist for the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award. Information about his fiction, nonfiction, and poetry can be found at www.writerRodMiller.com.