Sometimes in our lives, if we are lucky, we can metaphorically feel the hand of history on our shoulder. For me, when the legendary historian Robert M. Utley put his hand on my shoulder I literally had the hand of history on my shoulder! In that moment we had connected on 143 years of Western history. Here’s how: when Mr. Utley was 17, he interviewed the last surviving trooper of the Little Bighorn fight. That was in 1947 and here we were on December 11, 2019 and Robert was telling me, to my face, what went down on the day that Charlie told him what happened on June 25-26, 1876. That my friends, is two degrees of Custer and Crazy Horse.
My good fortune doesn’t end there. On my very first visit to the Little Bighorn Battlefield, way back in 2002, I had the privilege of getting a backward tour of the park. Rangers Jim Hatzell and Michael Donahue met me at the parking lot below Last Stand Hill and whisked me out of the park as we drove cattywampus across the valley to near the famous landmark, Crow’s Nest, where they then led me, step by step through the 7th Cavalry’s doomed march. “Can you see the village from here?” Michael would say. “No, I can’t,” I replied. “Custer couldn’t either.” By the time we made it to Last Stand Hill where Custer scribbled his note, “Bring packs. Be quick!” I had a solid perspective and understanding of the disaster that befell the troopers. And when you read this issue, so shall you. We’re all just passing it on.