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In the Shadow of a Montana Monolith

Serenity NOW!

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, June 05, 2002.

So, when you hear this, I'll be at the Little Bighorn in Montana. With luck, I'll be there before the arrival of the Custer Nuts and their Antithicals, the Native American Worshippers, who cluster every June 25th to celebrate in myriad ways the Battle of The Little Bighorn. I can say without any hesitation that both groups drive me bonkers, and that they have no idea what happened on that Sunday afternoon, and that virtually nobody does, and that regardless of what happened it doesn’t reflect particularly well on anyone, white or red, male or female, then or now. It was a bollox from start to end.

Attentive listeners have noticed the inclusion of that weasel word ‘virtually’ which puts me in such a bad humor unless it is I using it, when it is suddenly revealed as a clever aside.

Considering it is such a bloody place, and that the weather as I begin is so bad and rainy, you might be forgiving why I, of all people, would want to putter up to the site of Custer’s Last Stand for meditation. It is not entirely a metaphor alert, although that has been the case, nor is it entirely just a desire to get the hell out of Dodge, although that too has been the reason for flight to that desolate area.

For fifteen years up to the early 1980’s, when I had a band or worked for one, I crisscrossed the country a lot and for whatever reason, usually at dawn or evening, I found myself looking out the window and seeing the monument to the battlefield on the eastern side of the highway across the river. I didn’t know what it was for years until I figured it out, usually concurrent with staying away long enough to have seen the numerous road signs attending it. It is a desolate, desolate place in winter, and even in summer it sits in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by parched, brown and red land.

Still, I consider it one of the most beautiful spots in America, and in the evenings, in the mornings with the birds on the river, I think I come as close to spiritual moment as I can ever achieve. I’m not sure, frankly, that it has anything to do with Custer at all. The site was of interest to Sitting Bull and all the Sioux and Cheyenne for years previous, and as the location is indistinguishable from miles up and down the river, one wonders why the tribes gathered in that precise location every year. Perhaps because they felt a weird attraction as I do.

I have the spiritual depths of a quahog, so this sense of place to me is not a settling one, although it is very strong. I feel I have been here before, as in a previous life, which is another belief crèche to which I do not subscribe. I feel very comfortable at the Little Bighorn.

This can all be excused by the fact that I’ve been writing a book initiating with the battle for years, now, and perhaps the calm is acquired because I know the stories so well, and feel I knew the participants so well. I suppose in a sense I do, but not really of course.

I do not, as a rule, dream, or recall my dreams in the morning. But I have had one that repeats every few years. I am walking the path between Weir Point and Last Stand Hill and I descend the banks towards the river and I find an old medicine bundle bouncing on a stick set in the ground. It is Sitting Bull’s. I don’t know how I know what it is. But I know. And the dream ends. Every time I get to the location, I find myself walking that road and edging down to the river and hoping to find what could not be there. I have not a clue why this attracts me.

But while you hear this that’s where I’ll be, and I hope this day you might attain some of the rejuvenating serenity the shades of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and the Seventh ever grant me for reasons unknown. Peace. See you next week.