Little Big Horn

ivingston, Montana Mileage: 1597.68 miles Altitude: 4656 ft

Yesterday, we surveyed the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Nothing but rolling grasslands, wildflowers, hills empty of buffalo, and a couple of cemeteries. Tourists walk soberly without being instructed to do so. Sorrow and waste define the endless horizon. I  hear the pulsating hoof beats. The Seventh Cavalry riding to their doom. A hundred arrows twang; gunfire pops. A deluge of Indians flood Custer’s troops.  The soldiers, given the order, shoot their horses. Pile them deep for a last ditch attempt to create a defensive barrier.  The nomadic way of life ends for the Arapahoe, Lakota, Cheyenne and Sioux. Eloquent and true–Sitting Bull describes the finish of his world:

When I was a boy, the Sioux owned the world. The sun rose and set on their land; they sent ten thousand men to battle. Where are the warriors today? Who slew them? Where are our lands? Who owns them?

Today, the quiet runs deep. Waste and wonder fill the basin.

Later in the day, we visit the pictograph caves in Butte Montana. Warnings for rattlesnakes all around. Light scribbles, barely discernable, scratch the surface of the interior cave-rock. When conditions are right, the ranger tells us,  90% of the pictographs can be seen—the stain runs deep.

Things not written about:

From the road–a bull, swabbed white with brown, grapples to erect his great girth to a standing position amid a pool of black cows on green grass. My one-room cabin opens to a pancake pavilion. Tables cheerful with flowered tablecloths. Yellow-shirted staff, coffee urns, and batter wait expectantly for morning campers. Molly beams over a monument of maple-syruped pancakes, big as her plate. A frame and grand wood beams—twinkling, strung with white lights.

Seeing fathers, younger than I ever imagined, carry sleeping children, loft them to squealing heights in swimming pools, listen to the Hey-dads! of children delight in their fathers’ presence. My panic attack over the heights of a drive up to a fall. Molly awestruck over bison, one with a black tongue and pink center, licking his lips. Soggy carrots, mildewed hummus, The stars through the eye of trees at 3 am. Arsenic water. An iron bull twenty feet over the plains, in the middle of nowhere. Such non-monumental moments punctuate our road trip

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