Stand Where They Stood… at their battle
Often standing where they stood is quite humbling and is cause for reverence. It happens to me in a place where my written word is merely comment and could never capture the true immensity of the time, place, or event. In southeastern Montana, on the Crow Reservation lies a battlefield. Three days of fighting, intensity, and dying across grassy knolls and ravines near the Little Bighorn River. The Lakota call it The Battle of the Greasy Grass; many historians call it The Battle of the Little Bighorn…or Custer’s Last Stand.
Read a passing mention of it in a history book referencing the turbulent times in the West; see the signs in passing along Interstate 90; maybe turn off the highway and glance over at the white headstones to say, “that’s where it happened.” Or, if you get the chance to stop and see it… look out over the land, the rolling grass toward Wyoming, rolling grass toward the Bighorn mountains southward, and more rolling grass over your shoulder toward the Dakotas. Your gaze will extend across the battlefield, down its ravines, and along a dirt path down below into it.
I walked down the path along through the tall grasses as they whispered in the wind, watching the waves roll through the swathes of tall stalks. I stood down in the ravine, surrounded by the small hills, modern civilization shut out, and considered the thousands of Lakota warriors, the Cheyenne, and the hundreds of US Army soldiers from the 7th cavalry. They stood here. Just near my feet, a warrior fell. There, a soldier fell. And there, a horse. The warriors defending their way of life and their lives; the cavalry following their general’s directions and trying to stay alive amidst the carnage and chaos. Sad to imagine them standing on the very same ground 143 years ago, one hundred and forty-three winters and seasons of grass ago, so long ago.
I looked up into the wide, wide blue sky, toward the warming sun, trying to be conscious and reverent of this other time. My July afternoon weather not too different than the June 25, 26, and 27th days of fighting in 1876. Then, something strange happened. The silence was broken by the low rumble of two approaching US Army Chinook helicopters. They came from the northeast, above the hill where a tall white teepee stood. At that moment past and present were there all at once.
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