Custer, Custer, Custer. No one will ever know what was going on in the mind of that man as he stood on the hills overlooking the valley where the Native American encampment was located. In some ways it is disheartening to learn how callous our forebears were, greedily sucking up the land between the coasts, regardless of what treaties were cobbled with disparate tribes, none granting any other the power to agree to life and life style changing demands. For some reason or other, our tradition of Imperialism is assumed to be shared by the rest of the world. We only recognize other entities in geographic or population terms that make sense to us, and not those on whom we impose them. Black Elk surely had the right idea: “Know the power that is peace.” Sadly, history will only reflect the power that is mantled by war.
To say that Custer’s orders from the powers that be were unreasonable is an understatement. To understand how hopeless they were, you only need to stand where he stood, and wonder how he deluded himself into action. His command of less than 500 men was divided into four segments. Their intent was to surround a Native American gathering of 8,000 people, including over 1,500 warriors. The Tribes had more horses alone than Custer had troops. You can read the back story and blow by blow at the official website.
The land is beautiful and peaceful, but sad. The Custer monument is stark in its surroundings – a more recent Indian monument has been built on the adjacent hill and points to the factual versus perceived circumstances of the Native American tribes that gathered in the valley. Individual graves mark where Cavalry (white stones) and Native American (red stones) fell during battle. The red stones have fresh flowers and remembrances placed by current tribe members – much of the land is now cared for by the Native Americans, who own it.
After touring through the park, we shook out the mood and made our way to Pompeys Pillar. Quite truthfully, I had no clue who Pompey was, never mind why he had a pillar! It’s a pretty neat place to visit – but you should be forewarned to bring bug spray.
As legend has it, this is the only location where Lewis and Clark the one surviving relic from their famous expedition. William Clark joined the myriads of visitors who have left a rock signature half way up the pillar.
Pompey means “little chief” in Shoshone. Clark used this nickname for Sacagawea’s son, Baptiste Charbonneau. For those of us who may or may not remember, Sacagawea was the female Shoshoni guide who accompanied Lewis and Clark’s expedition and helped make it so successful. Speaking of expeditions, ours was nearing its end, as clouds, thunder and lightening continually threatened to catch up with us. It was a nice short hike and a lot of steps at the Pillar. The views are indeed incredible. After a quick stop in the visitor center we hit the trail and made for downtown Billings and some grub.
One thing that is great about Billings – there is no shortage of dining options. It’s just a matter of timing it right. Dinner was at the Uberbrew Taproom, located on the historic Montana Avenue downtown. They brew their own – Hi-Line Porter was great with Denny’s meat loaf, and Split Window Amber went well with the outstanding schnitzel I had. I think it added about 2 inches to my waistline. Their quinoa cakes are a signature item, but they had run out before we got there. Bummer. After dinner the rain finally caught up with us – fortunately we were back at the hotel before the torrents fell, chilling out after a full day and a great meal..
Sunday was the day for the parting of our ways – Christianne and company heading west to Seattle and Portland; Denny and I hanging out in Billings for another day before heading to Wyoming.
On the Google top ten list of things to see, DanWalt Gardens was a very relaxing and meticulously planned house and garden. It’s set up for private parties, weddings, showers, and just plain walking around. Live chickens and roosters and chicks roam around the grounds. I loved the architecture of so many interesting flowers. What a great venue for a party! During our visit, Dan of Dan and Walt came out and we had quite the conversation about the property’s history and Dan’s history on how it all came about.
Next stop, and also on the list, was the Moss house. It is in a well manicured neighborhood with wide streets and towering leafy trees. A docent tour provided an in-depth history of the family – Moss is basically credited with the development and prosperity of Billings. There was a definite arts and crafts influence (my favorite). The woodwork, detail and layout were well preserved, and looked very livable. Of course we found the sundial on the grounds!
We really needed to get a good walk in – Denny had read about Sword Park Black Otter Trail. We’re still not sure how it got its name, but it runs across the top of the Rimrocks with fantastic views of the town. Super windy while hiking along the rim – but there were quite a lot of people hanging out, enjoying their lunch or constitutional. Needless to say, the view was incredible.
We were able to pinpoint where Dehler ballpark is located. The American Legion teams (young men 17-18 years old) play. Today the Great Falls Chargers challenged the Billings Royals, and we saw the Royals win the first game of double header with a score of 1-6.
Since we were right in downtown, we headed back to the beer alley part of town and on 28th Street we moseyed to the Montana Brewing Company for dinner. Denny ordered Custer’s Last Stout with his fish and chips, I paired Chocolate Love Child with the Greek gyro. We couldn’t resist ordering Custer’s Last Stout ice cream for dessert.Denny finished off with Doreen’s downtown brown. Couldn’t have asked for better, all around! It really hit the spot.
Long day, and it was time for a round of laundry and the telecast of the Pirates-St Louis game. It went to extra innings, but to Denny’s delight the Pirates held on with a 6-5 victory. Yellowstone tomorrow!!!!!!!
Gateway to Yellowstone (forward)
The Road to Montana (back)