Misses His Friends

Young men and war. How glorious it is. Sitting around the campfire, hearing the elders talk about battles they had when they were young warriors. Riding out across the prairie with a comrade and speaking of brave deeds you would do if given a chance. Scalps you would take, coup you would count, enemies dying on your lance or from your arrows. The excitement, the stories to bring back to the lodge of your prowess in battle, the admiring glances of the young maidens. All this and more if you can only get into the next fight. How agonizing not to have participated yet and be a respected warrior.

Then it happens. You get your opportunity to wage war with your sworn enemy. In this case it is the blue coats that have been relentlessly entering your land, running off the game, killing anyone they see. They’re coming and it will be a big battle, the biggest anyone has ever seen. The biggest in the memory of even the oldest old man in the village. Bigger even than the old mans grandfather could have remembered were you able to ask him. All the tribes are joining together to take part in this exciting, exhilarating, awful, incredible magnificent event. The medicine men have been singing of visions they have had where the Greasy grass is covered with the dead, the women going from body to body making sure no one is alive. Guns, rifles, and pistols laying about for the taking. Reputations made, brave acts to sing about for generations. And you and your friends will play a part. You will  be the relentless, merciless warrior and be victorious in this battle just as you have dreamed of since you  were a child.

And then after a time filled with smoke and war cries, violence and death it is over. The Greasy grass is indeed covered with the dead just as foreseen by the visionaries and the spoils of war have been collected and it’s time for feasts and celebrations, and dancing and story telling, and a time to come down from that glorious battle high and look around you for your friends. That’s when you find that several of them are not at the celebration and never will be again. They’re among the dead laying in the Greasy grass. Killed by the enemy you were victorious over.

Suddenly in the aftermath of what was your greatest adventure you see that those friends that you rode with and boasted with and fought alongside of are no more. They are the same as the enemy now, lifeless and scattered across the land waiting for loved ones to come gather them for preparation to spend eternity in that other world where the dead reside. Songs will be sung about them that will live in the hearts of some for a while but the truth is they are gone forever now and will not share anything with you ever again. This death today is permanent. There will be more conquests and defeats for you to come, very likely more  of the latter than the former but those boyhood friends will not be a part of them. Now you think and mourn, the shine has gone off the day and in reflection you find that there is a high price to pay for glory. Perhaps too high but that’s something to think about later. His name tonight is Misses His Friends.

 

Hostiles!

click to enlarge

In our ongoing work of researching events that have taken place here in the West we have discovered a little known fact relating to the Battle of the Little Bighorn and it is nothing short of amazing. Although thousands of hours of research and numerous books have been devoted to the climatic events of June 1876 where General George Armstrong Custer led the valiant men of the 7th Cavalry into one of the greatest defeats in American history at the hands of the largest assemblage of Indians ever gathered, they missed one amazing fact.

That fact was there was an unknown photographer attached to the regiment to record the anticipated victory of the General in the expected upcoming battles with the various tribes. His name is unrecorded in the rolls of the members of the expedition so it is surmised that he must have volunteered to accompany them after the orders were cut for the forth coming action by Custer and the 7th. It is more probable that Custer met him and hired him out of his own pocket to immortalize his place in history, which would account for him not being on the official records. We are diligently working to learn more about this photographer but have been stymied by the lack of information we can make up.

We were researching the early records of the battle in a dim musty room in the basement of the Bighorn county courthouse in Hardin Montana for a project of our own, when a decrepit old file folder fell out from behind a desk we were moving and split open. Inside was a treasure trove of faded pictures, handwritten notes, folded maps, a few letters from some of the enlisted men they had given the photographer to be mailed when they got back to civilization and other odds and ends.

As far as can be determined these items were placed in the courthouse around 1915 two years after the Courthouse was built, and were destined to be held there until a proper museum could be built where they were then to be put on display for all to see. Evidentially the folder containing all of the items had slipped down behind the desk and were forgotten until we happened across them.

As we sorted through the hundreds of pictures of the daily lives of the men of the 7th cavalry, including various depictions of actions that took place along the way of men on horseback, wagons filled with the supplies needed to support a mission of this size  pulled by mules, the Officers leading the troop, even the General himself, and remarkably even some of the hostiles, the image above came to our attention.

Images printed on paper from fragile pixels, as opposed to those images done on glass plates, or the even older method used by Daguerreotypes, were just coming into favor at this time and this one was beautifully hand-tinted with the utmost care taken to recreate the colors as they must have been when the picture was recorded. Each print had been carefully noted with the men’s names, the date of the image, the location, etc. in pencil on the back of each print. Unfortunately in this case of this image the names and some of the other information had been disfigured and faded due to the image getting wet at some point.

We were able to make out the name of the river, “Little Bighorn”, the date “something illegible – 1876”, and mysteriously the phrase “Hostile’s!”. Whether this pertained to Indians in pursuit of what appear to be two scouts returning, or some other event related to Indian activity we cannot ascertain at this point. Perhaps more information will turn up as we study this material further.

We are incredibly fortunate to have discovered this invaluable material and are busy sifting through it gleaning whatever new information might be hidden within its faded remains. We will be passing on anything we find that sheds new light on this important time in our history, and perhaps more about this unknown photographer.

Notch Watches A Bush

If you’ve ever spent any time with a moose you may have noticed that they have the average I.Q. of an avocado. That’s not to say that they can’t carry on a conversation or do simple sums it means that as far as being an ungulates’ version of a genius is concerned they rank right up there with a two slice toaster.

Notch here is a prime example of moose intellect. His name was given to him by Mrs. Mom after a pack of coyotes tried to drag the young, not yet named Notch, into the bushes to have lunch with them. Notch was reluctant so they tried to convince him by leading him off by his right ear. By the time Mom got into it and reduced the pack by two and bent up the other three, Notch had the shredded ear that would be a constant reminder never to trust a bush again.

Now even though he stands nearly 7′ tall at the shoulder and weighs about the same as a Mazda Miata he still can not let a bush get by without giving it a thorough going over. Moose are slow to give up a tested theory, which in Notch’s case means “all bushes bad until proven otherwise” which is his first and guiding precept.

Why didn’t he learn through the years that bushes in general are harmless enough if unprovoked and go about his life? The only answer we can come up with and we must state at this point this is an untested theory, is the fact that those enormous, but giant antlers grow at an alarming rate and they possibly grow inward as well as outward. We know this seems unlikely but to date we have not seen hard evidence to contradict this possibility. This of course would cause a deflection of the brain pan and a pressing on the frontal lobe of his brain, compressing it and reducing it if not mashing it flat, which would interfere with some cognizant behavior. Which would cause the average observer to conclude that Notch was as dumb as a box of rocks.

Recently on a moose observation workshop and image making field trip we found Notch and to our surprise found him at hard at work staring at this bush. We came and went from this bush laden area several times during the day and found Notch still steadily at work assessing this bush. We saw that he had his work cut out for him as the entire meadow of many, many acres was entirely covered by bushes and this was the first one he had approached.

We are bringing you this news in case you are a frustrated moose watcher or photographer. One who, try as you might just can’t find a moose, developly challenged or not, to observe. Head on up to Long Draw on the way to Cameron pass and you should be able to spot Notch still at his task. I wouldn’t break any speed limits getting here. There’s lots of bushes left.

It’s The Little Things

It’s the little things in life that make each day special. Things like going to see friends. Or finding a quarter on the ground so you can pay for your Starbucks with the rest of the change in your pocket without breaking a twenty. Discovering a new good thing about somebody you really care for. Hearing that voice on the phone when you’re about to go into a major meltdown. How do they know you needed that. And just at that time too.

Everybody waits for that big huge something that’s going to make your life so much better. Winning the lotto. Finally getting that new car that makes you feel like you’ve made it. Whatever success that will make your life turn around and be magnificent. Those things might do for awhile, but they don’t last, they don’t have legs. They can’t be sustained.

You need the little things, those constants that make you smile or give you that warm and fuzzy just when you need it. That’s what makes life worthwhile. Small little joyful moments that keep you smiling long after they’re over. And sometimes it’s just finding that mouse in the grass when you least expected it.

The Scout

It was a common practice during the Indian wars for the Army to hire scouts as they entered unfamiliar areas of the country where they might encounter hostiles. These had to be men that were completely familiar with the country and tribes that lived there. Mostly they were white men who had grown up in this country and knew it like the back of their hands. Some had actually lived with the various tribes and spoke their language. Occasionally the Army hired Indians from opposing tribes to scout for them but this was usually done for specific campaigns.

Scouts were tough men, they had to be in they were to survive in this harsh land. They were independent and didn’t suffer fools easily. Their lives and the lives of the men  they were scouting for depended on their ability to travel fast, locate the enemy without being seen and get back to the Army with the information. They were like the special forces of their day.

This man was attached as a scout to Brigadier General George Crook’s column of ten companies (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, I, L, and M) of the 3rd cavalry out of Ft. Fetterman in Wyoming territory and as such did not get to the area of the Little Bighorn until well after the battle was over. As we know now this very probably saved his life and the lives of those men who accompanied him.

It was hard dangerous times in the 1870’s and so were the men who served in the military then. But most at risk were the scouts as they did the most dangerous job of all. To head out alone and survive by their own wits and courage. Mistakes usually meant he didn’t come back, so he tried very hard not to make any. History relates there were not many old scouts. Those that made it to a ripe old age were exceptional men, and a little bit lucky.

Lost Our Lease

We lost our lease. That’s right, we woke up the other morning and there was a Cease and Desist, Immediate Evacuation of Premises, Get the Hell Out notice scotch taped to the front gate of The Institute, right where everybody could see it. We thought it was a joke at first. I mean who serves one of those on bright yellow legal pad paper written in black magic marker to an organization (**The Institute) of our stature. They didn’t even use a lot of Scotch tape. One little measly piece stuck to the flange of our *front gate padlock, the second largest in the world by the way, we’d a got the first largest but it was simply too big and the freight to have it airlifted here was out of our budget, we could have watched one full year of DIRECTV (Total package including HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, the works) for what it cost to send just the key.

A couple of our interns from the Pavlovo Arts College No. 23, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia made it for us in exchange for The Institute allowing them to work here under assumed names to escape being sent to some gulag way the hell north where the sun not only doesn’t shine, but draws heat away from the earth in a particularly commie way. Since our padlock alone weighs 916lbs. and is 56.8 in. × 41.3 in. × 10.2 in. including the key we thought we were safe from any process servers, errant bondsmen, Amway sales persons, ex’s, those who deliver religious pamphlets to your door under the guise of saying they like you, census takers, unwanted visitors, some wanted visitors that we’re not real happy with right now, lawyers except ours, rabbis, priests, clergy from unaffiliated churches with really weird names, people who just want to come in and have a glass of water, those who are not pure of heart, puppy haters and general riff-raff.

But noooo, the notice was sent by our government, that’s right, the one that we cheerfully and with full malice a forethought voted in last time. We mean you must have because we sure as hell didn’t. We had what should be an ironclad lease made with Teddy Roosevelt himself back in the days when a Presidents word meant something.

The lease said and I quote ” These guys who forthwith and in perpetuity, hereinafter known as The Institute shall have and hold for the next millennium the right to hold a huge giant p-pot of land there in the mountains with any buildings, corals, parking garages, intern camps, The Big House, helipads, farm implements of unusual design, and anything else their clever little minds can come up with for as long as the sun may shine and the grass may grow and people can walk free upon the land without interference of any cheesy government body. So help us, and I mean really, Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, President of the United States and any other place we can get using that new Manifest Destiny thing.”

So you can see how we were confused not to mention vexed as to why we were being summarily kicked off our property. I mean we’re tax payers, sort of. We got rights. We called our attorney who unfortunately was getting his nails done and hasn’t gotten back to us yet with a frantic plea to buy us some time. That was last Tuesday and now we’re heading into the holiday and I’m sure the whole darn office down at Acme Law firm and Tractor Repair is taking the next week off, so we had to get packing and hit the steps. We mean if Teddy Roosevelt’s word isn’t good anymore, what is, we ask you. In trying to contact the present administration to perhaps get some assistance, even our Russian friends sent an email but all we got back was a tweet saying “Did you vote for us? huh? Well, Didya? Hope you like that new refrigerator box.” “the ‘Loser'” being understood. So in the meantime we are sort of thankful for that refrigerator box and the space under the North College Ave. bridge we get to set it in.

There’s more to this story and we’ll be disclosing that information as soon as we figure out how to work this Sterno stove and refrigerator box warmer and get some wholesome cat food in our stomachs. That’s not even addressing the problem of how to hook-up our Wi-Fi. We are a little worried about our staff. Make that ex-staff. The last time we saw them they were milling around the pieces of our lock that had been cut off by the Sheriffs department down at the front gate. Things were pretty chaotic what with dozens of empty acetylene bottles from torching the padlock laying around and various organizations checking ID’s and chasing after those individuals racing off into the sagebrush and hiding under vehicles and so on. Small sad lines of not only unpaid but now unemployed interns shuffling off single file in various directions where towns and villages were known to exist. That was pretty pitiful we got to say.

But we’ve been in tough spots before. It hasn’t always been Peaches and Cream for the Institute. We’ve been kicked in the Fuon Bwey Bweys before and we’ve gotten up and staggered off into the bushes and puked our guts out. So that parts not new. The one thing we’ve got going for us is that you can not keep a good Institute down. And we’re the best damn Institute you’re going to find. To paraphrase Woody Guthrie who wrote a song for the Ladies Auxiliary one time and we adopted it and changed all the words so we wouldn’t have to pay royalties on it. Here’s our semi-non-official version

Here’s our version

Oh, The Institute
It’s a good Institute.
‘Bout the best damn Institute
That you ever did see.
If you need an Institute,
See the director’s Institute.
It’s the Director’s Institute.  (Pretty good, right?)

OK, Here we presented Woody’s version to show you how much we improved it

Oh, the Ladies’ Auxiliary
It’s a good auxiliary.
‘Bout the best auxiliary
That you ever did see.
If you need an auxiliary,
See the Ladies’ Auxiliary.
It’s the Ladies’ Auxiliary (Link to Woody’s version so you can hear how great it is) https://youtu.be/cvnxdLptWZA?list=RDcvnxdLptWZA

 

*Our front gate padlock before it was destroyed by bad government people trying to curb our ability to be as ridiculous as we want to be .

** Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

 

 

Spoils Of War

A day or two after the battle of the Greasy grass, or as we know it the Battle of the Little Bighorn, you could walk down between the lodges among the shadows of the cottonwoods that lined the river, and hear the women crying and keening as they continued to mourn their fallen loved ones. The wailing went on for an eternity as the knowledge that their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons were lost and gone forever.

Even at this cost it had been a great victory, the greatest victory against the pony soldiers that had ever occurred. Along with the deaths of the enemy soldiers there had been many things of great value that were taken that day. Scalps of course, but much more. Coups that were taken, guns and knives, clothing, blue jackets and belts and items like canteens and bullet pouches, sabers, small leather bags to keep things in and those curious pieces of paper with the picture of the Great Father on them that the soldiers seemed to value so much. Those were left behind as they were useless, but one of the real treasures to find were the wide brim hats that sparsely littered the field.

These hats were highly prized when gathered by the warriors who had killed the soldier wearing it and given a place of honor in the teepees when not being worn. This night one of them had been set on the corner of a backrest highlighted by the firelight seen against the wall of the lodge. The gold of the crossed sabers glimmering and glistening in the subdued light adding highlights to the worn patina of what must have been this soldiers proudest possession. Before long a wife would sew some handsome delicate beading on it and the warrior would add some coup feathers tied to the hat band to display his honors. This would turn an item taken from the battle into a treasured personal possession of the victor. Proof that the victory had taken place and now this piece of the spoils of war had a new owner.

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