Friday, July 29, 2005

Montana

We are now in Billings, Montana. After a bit of a foul up by the campground last night we are setup. We called ahead and reserved a campsite at the KOA here in Billings. We pulled in and took care of the paperwork only to find a camper in our assigned site. We drove back to the office and the young lady went down and talked to the people in the site. It seems that the man was in the hospital due to a heart attack. He is fine now and his son lives here in Billings so they had family here also. They put us in a temporary site and gave us a 15 percent discount. We will have to move to another site today but that is ok.

Yesterday, we drove from Devil's Tower, Wyoming to Billings, Montana. It was a bit of a long drive for us. We usually do not like to do more than 250 miles a day but this was 300. That extra hour is a killer and makes the leg of the trip seem like a real push.

As we entered Montana the scenery changed from the choppy rolling hills we have been experiencing to very long and gentle climbs and descents. The views became even more vast allowing us to see very far over the treeless grassy hills. After driving for a while we were treated to the sight of snow capped mountains in the distance, the Big Horns. What a sight. We were pretty excited about seeing them for the first time. We made a gradual turn to the north but the Big Horns remained in view for a long time and we really enjoyed looking over to our left at those beautiful mountains. The Big Horns are the place where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hid out from the law at a place called the Hole in the Wall.

We took a very short side trip and visited the Custer Battleground Memorial. Our Golden Eagle Passport that lets us in any National Park or Memorial has more than paid for itself by now and we entered this special place with no charge. There is a small paved road that meanders through the battleground for many miles. Even though it is quite narrow and we had no idea if there was a turn around at the end we took it and we are glad we did. We were able to visit each key location of this famous event. There are clusters of grave markers in places where the soldiers fell. Many of them are marked with a simple, "US Soldier Fell Here." We also discovered that there is a National Cemetery at this location.

We read about the battle and read each sign at the key locations on the battleground. It seems that Custer had quite an ego and when he came up to the area from the south he spotted what he thought was a fairly good sized Sioux village down on the Greasy Grass Creek. In his typical style he made a quick decision to attack the village. He had attacked and burned a village a few years earlier even though the tribe led by Black Kettle had agreed to comply with the army's demands to lay down arms. He had slaughtered the entire village and burned it to the ground. The northern plains Indians were eager to get revenge on "Long Hair" as they called Custer. Click here for more info on that event.

From Custer's vantage point he was looking at only a small portion of the village since there was a large bluff by the creek that his the major portion of it. He may have only seen less than a third of it. Custer dispatched Major Reno to proceed to the south and attack from that side while he waved his hat and shouted, "Custer's Luck boys. We have found one of the biggest indian villages in Montana." Little did he know that the Sioux had gathered the entire Sioux Nation for a last ditch attack against the whites. When Custer rode over the bluff into the village he found that he had decided to attack the entire Sioux Nation led by the greatest war chiefs that they had. Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and several others.

Reno's attack from the other side of the village did not go well and his troops were wiped out rather quickly. This left Custer immersed in a battle of his own impestous origins with the entire Sioux Nation consisting of thousands of their greatest warriors. His troops of a couple of hundred or so did not stand a chance. The indians attacked ferociously, remember it was Custer who attacked their village first, and proceeded to wipe out Custer's attacking troops in less than half an hour. The entire slaughter of our boys was the result of George Custer's desire to elevate his status as an indian killer extraordinaire and his inflated ego. After reading the details of this famous event one can only say that the Sioux did what any group of people would do when attacked. They defended themselves. Their ferocity was just elevated by the fact that they had been attacked on all fronts by our army that had commited many atrocities against them. This is a dark stain on our history and the native american tribes are still paying a sad legacy for the way the white man treated them in the west. If you are interested in reading more there is a good account here.