by cheri sabraw
I hated to leave you hanging in my last post, but the sheer size of Montana and the hours it takes to drive from famous rivers (the Missouri, Yellowstone, Big Hole, and Gallatin) to a Western artist’s’ home to a battlefield to famous bars DO tend to set one’s tight schedule back a bit. From Charlie Russell’s studio in Great Falls to the site of Custer’s last stand 20 miles outside of Billings to a good ol mahogany bar in Bozeman (14 North), we have covered vast territory efficiently, like a couple of Great Plains grasshoppers.
For those of you who wondered if we did, in fact, revisit the site of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, I am pleased to report, “Yes.” If you remember, one of us had a hankering to go back, sure that it had changed. Funny. It looked the same to one of us as it did 30 years ago although the Indians’ point of view and sacrifices are now a part of the narrative and the monument, as they should have been in the first place.
I could have been dreaming but the same corny and over animated U.S. Government Park Ranger, let’s call him Marvin, gave the same talk he did thirty years ago about the logistics and personalities that clashed in 1876 on these dry Montana hills.
I erroneously reported in my last post that the site where Custer died was marked with a black headstone. Sorry. The headstone, in fact, is white but with a black shield to emphasize the white letters.
Satisfied to have seen the place where Sitting Bull’s warriors, for a brief moment in the late 19th century, rose upon their ponies with arrow and gun and successfully defended their way of life, we turned our mechanical pony south to Yellowstone, where I hoped to see the buffalo.
Poor Hizzoner, trying to keep his eye on the road while responding to my entreaties to find a place where I could see a buffalo other than through a pair of binoculars.
Here! Through those willowy cottonwood trees. Here! Cheri. See? There! See them? What a view? Doesn’t this scene look like the Serengeti?
Are those buffalo? I really cannot tell.
Then, to my ecstatic delight, these two creatures, representing in one sense, a lost time in Native American history, begin to approach our car.
And there he stands!
In order to steady my heart and draw me back from my thoughts about the heartbreaking devastation that was the Battle of the Little Big Horn, symbolic of Native American losses of land, spirit, and buffalo, I asked that we stop and gaze into the Yellowstone River.