Markers

On this June morning at the Little Big Horn National Monument, Montana, a light breeze moves the seed heads of tall grass. The prairie hills roll like waves on an open sea. Our guide paints a picture with his gently rolling voice taking us down in the valley, past trees flowing along the banks of the Little Big Horn to a stretch of tepees ranging over three miles long. The women wake, prepare breakfast, while children play and 2000 warriors sleep. In the background, 20,000 horses graze on plentiful grass, nicker their satisfaction until the morning quiet is broken by gunfire, screams and shouts. Warriors dash from their teepees, grab their weapons, run for their horses, and ride out to meet a small skirmish force sent by Custer to draw the warriors away from the women and children.

At the top of Last Stand Hill, Custer calls his men to join him. Mounted warriors chase his men, felling them with arrows, bullets and clubs. Some soldiers rise to fight on foot, back to back in pairs, with pistols and the butts of their empty rifles, only to perish out in the fields. Those who reach the hill top, dismount, shoot their horses to form a barrier, await the charge. Overwhelmed by vast numbers, all two hundred and sixty men die.

markers for the dead
scattered in the grass
a drifting meadowlark call

Around the world, there have been many wars since. Thinking of this devastation, Iím reminded how lucky Iíve been, living in a country and time of peace.

thousands of names
on memorial walls
my name not there

     

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