Baseball, Crazy Horse and a Great Big Rock

7 Aug

I have returned from my ventures in Montana and can report that a great time was had by all. The best part was spending time with my dad, my brother and my nephews. We picked on each other, laughed and learned a few things along the way.

The trip began as we landed in Billings and found our way to the hotel. It was immediately apparent that my oldest nephew would be the navigator of the trip as we felt our way through the town. We had planned a journey through history, agriculture and different landscapes, but first we needed to do something for my youngest nephew. That meant going to a baseball game.

Good looking bunch, isn’t it?

We saw a Rookie League game between the Billings Mustangs and the Helena Brewers, and you could tell from the quality of play that this was about as low in professional baseball as someone could get. There were dropped balls, balks and wild pitches. However, the action is not what caught my attention. These guys were living the dream of playing pro ball and trying to move up through the ranks. Then, I realized that the Brewers are part of the same organization as Nashville’s AAA team. Those guys were working hard to get to Tennessee on their way to Milwaukee.

While living their dream, the players were offering entertainment for the community. The stands were filled with people of all ages, from the very old to the very young. The outfield fence was lined with people in lawn chairs. We found ourselves in a real community event, and that is one of the things I like about these kinds of trips. At times, you can avoid the typical tourist destinations and immerse yourself in another lifestyle.

We talked to the people around us and learned about life in and around Billings. We got free t-shirts for being among the first 500 fans. We paid reasonable prices for food and paid a dollar to enter the pitching cage. For one night, we were honorary citizens of Billings.

The next morning, our driving journey began as we headed down Interstate 90 toward the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. This is where George Custer and the 7th Cavalry was defeated by Sioux warriors led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. It is my favorite historic site and an event that I have read many volumes about. We drove to Last Stand Hill, where my nephew wanted to film me giving my lecture on the battle. I talked about the events that led to the fight. I talked about the battle as I looked over the land and pointed out where different stages took place. When I finished, I turned and discovered that about 20 people had gathered around to listen. Then, I spent time answering questions.

As a historian and a teacher, there is nothing better than being able to talk about an event where it took place. I wish I could beam my classes to different places as we cover them.

The site of two big events – Custer’s Last Stand and my lecture.

After a drive through the battlefield, we went across the street to KFC. Yes, the Sioux won the battle but the Colonel won the war. Unfortunately for the Kentuckians, the KFC didn’t open when the sign said it would, so we went to the Custer Battlefield Trading Post instead. I had fry bread stuffed with meat, cheese and beans. After that, I had fry bread covered with honey. It wasn’t as good as the sopapillas of New Mexico, but beggars can’t be choosy.

As we dined, a photograph of an imposing Native American looked down on us.

This is a Native American warrior – not a founder of a chain of strip clubs.

I didn’t pay much attention to the photo because images like this can be found in books and places throughout the West. Then, the owner of the trading post came by the table to see how we were. My brother told him that I was a historian of the West, and the guy asked:

“Do you know who that is?”

“I don’t think I do.”

“That’s Crazy Horse.”

Here’s the thing. Every book I have read and every teacher I have heard tell the same story. Crazy Horse refused to have his picture taken. Now, the owner of a tourist trap is telling me that I am looking at the image of Crazy Horse. After the meal, he took us to another room; pointed out the smaller original; said that the descendants told him privately that it is a photo of the warrior; and, gave me a free copy to put in my classroom. Is it really Crazy Horse? I don’t know, but I hope it is.

We left the trading post and got into the SUV. Unfortunately, our door hit a red truck parked next to us. The woman in the truck jumped on us pretty good, and we got out of there as fast as possible. George Custer could only wish that he had our instincts.

We drive north and hit a back road (interstates suck on these kinds of trips) toward Pompeys Pillar.

Did Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage make a movie about this place?

This rock was seen by William Clark on his return voyage with the Corps of Discovery. As Meriwether Lewis traveled on the Missouri River, Clark went down the Yellowstone River.

The Yellowstone River

Clark climbed the rock; named it Pompeys Tower in honor of Sacagawea’s son; and, carved his name on it. People say that it is the only permanent mark the Corps of Discovery made on the land they explored.

William Clark was here.

I’m not sure about that. They told the Native Americans that the land they lived on was owned by the United States. Over 70 years later and only a few miles away, the Battle of Little Bighorn would be one of the results of that statement.

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6 Responses to “Baseball, Crazy Horse and a Great Big Rock”

  1. John August 7, 2012 at 16:22 #

    Minor league baseball rocks!

    • surroundedbyimbeciles August 7, 2012 at 18:15 #

      It was cool. The fans knew the players on a first name basis.

  2. Madame Weebles August 9, 2012 at 17:02 #

    What a handsome bunch of gentlemen! Your vacation posts are making me want to read more about the history of the West. That’s one area of American history I am really clueless about. I didn’t know that about Crazy Horse, that he refused to have his picture taken. I guess there’s no way to know whether it’s really him in that photo, but it’s still a cool photo, whoever he is.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles August 9, 2012 at 19:54 #

      Tha American West is my area of study, so I was in my element. It’s an interesting part of history.

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