Thursday, June 26, 2014

Custer's Last Stand: Twice Upon a Time

Thriller Guy has been given a few days off. He’s working on his latest rant. Meanwhile, Allen Appel noticed that yesterday was the anniversary of Custer’s Last Stand, now known as The Battle of the Little Bighorn. (And known by the Lakota tribes as Lakota Victory Day.) Actually, although Custer was killed on the 25th the battle with the rest of his command took place on the 26th as well. I have written elsewhere on this blog about doing the research for the Custer book, Twice Upon a Time. Besides Custer, I got to read about many other fascinating characters (including Mark Twain) and events of the period. But I aimed the entire book at that last battle from the very beginning. My trip out west to the battle site remains one of my most chilling experiences. Wikipedia has an excellent article on the battle and the Evan Connell book, Son of the Morning Star remains a riveting read.

Here is a section from the final pages of Twice Upon a Time. Readers who wish to learn how Alex Balfour arrived in the Black Hills at the battle can read the book, available here.  

             Custer. Buckskin pants with long fringe, blue-gray shirt now dusted a dull dirty yellow. Hair cut short, his ragged whiskered face flushed, broad white hat pinned up on the right side to allow him to sight his rifle while he rode. Custer saw him, wheeled his horse around, and rode toward him. He reined to a stop and pointed at his stirrup. Alex stuck a Nike in the stirrup and swung up behind the saddle. They rode back the way Alex had come, over the ridge and down onto the far side where there were no Indians, no soldiers, no dust, only an odd, almost unworldly, quiet. Custer pushed him off onto the ground.
             "Get away!" Custer yelled. "Run! You've got a chance if you run!" His horse danced around Alex.
             "Call it off," Alex shouted. "It's not too late."
             "You're the writer," Custer said, distracted for a moment. The horse would not be calmed. Its eyes were wild. Custer wrestled with the reins until the animal was pointed back at Alex. "From back at the exposition. Did you steal my Indians?" Alex just stared at him. "No matter. Too late now." Custer stood up in the stirrups and looked back up the hill. "Tell the world what we did here, writer. Tell them about Custer and his brave men."
 "You can get away," Alex shouted. "If you run you can escape, at least some of you will get away. If you stay you'll die. You'll all die."
             Custer's horse reared and pawed at the sky, twisting as he came down. Custer laughed, his eyes seemed as blue and as bright as the sky. "Yes!" he shouted as he reined the horse around. "Yes!" He turned in the saddle and raised his hand to Alex. "Glorious, isn't it'?" He laughed again and raked the horse with his spurs and galloped away, back up the hill, to his men. Alex watched him disappear, trying to decide if he should follow. And then he saw the Indian.
             The Indian sat on his horse on the brow of the hill, watching.
             Alex held his breath as the Indian made his decision and kicked his horse into motion.
             Alex ran.

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