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Monday, July 15, 2013

Days 11-12 - Great American Road Trip - Little Bighorn & Devils Tower

When I was in the 4th Grade we studied states and their capitols.  We also were assigned a state.  I had Montana.  It sounded like a very far away place from southern Illinois and I was sure I would never get there.  I was wrong.  Yesterday I saw the real Big Sky Country - rolling pastures and blue sky as far as the eye can see.  As we drove back into Wyoming, I saw more horses in pasture than cattle.  I love horses so that was very cool.

Little Big Horn National Battlefield was worth the trip even if it is a somber place.  We heard a rousing 50 minute talk from a park ranger (and former high school history teacher and coach) describing the battle in dramatic detail.  We won't forget him soon and my kids also won't forget the history of this place.  General George Custer made his Last Stand and the Plains Indians (mostly Lakota and Cheyenne) won a battle but lost a war to protect their way of life.

The site is so quiet and unassuming - a couple of hills on a prairie near the Little Bighorn River.  The battlefield is dotted with white markers in the locations where each soldier fell.

On the top of the hill is a larger memorial where Custer and most of his men died.  You can see the exact spot Custer fell on the white stone with a black face.

On the same ridge is a monument to the Native Americans who died that day.  It's sobering to think of all the people at this violent confrontation lying silently nearby over 100 years later.

From Little Bighorn we worked our way over to the KOA at Devils Tower.  We have enjoyed KOA campgrounds, and this one was unique.  It was about as close to Devils Tower as you can get.  This was taken from our campsite:

Notice that there is no apostrophe in "Devils Tower"?  When Congress designated it the first National Monument, it was left out of the name and never added.  The Lakota legend says that eight siblings were playing in the forest - seven girls and one boy.  The boy was pretending to be a bear and the girls were running away.  Suddenly, the boy became a real bear and his sisters ran screaming in terror.  They climbed on a tree stump that started rising into the air.  The bear tried to climb the stump, and left his claw marks in the side.  The stump continued to rise until the seven sisters became the seven stars of the Big Dipper.

We spent the morning hiking around the Tower and watching the crazy climbers going up.

I think we also took our Christmas picture.

On to Mount Rushmore!