at Beautiful Cheyenne,
Intimations of Legend
Ride the Western Wind.
August 26, 2002
The most beautiful place on Earth is anywhere a man chooses to see it. Little Cheyenne on the grassy prairie must be one of them.
A most beautiful place arises from the imaginative union of landscape with the inner harmony of being, at a moment when grandeur and peace merge to lift the spirit and soothe the beast.
Cheyenne town sits atop and alongside one of the high places in a countryside of soft hills and shallow valleys, of windmills and wildflowers and winding streams, where the cattle graze on sweet bluestem grasses, and intimations of legend and promise ride on each new gust of the western wind.
This evening near sunset I walked in delicious solitude along the wide trail to a place where Black Kettle, peacemaker and chief of Cheyenne, died on a cold November morn, 1868. The site of his last day on Mother Earth is a protected place now. It bears a name, the Washita Battlefield, and it has a story, which is written in stone on high ground above the cold stream where blood flowed hot with surprise and courage in the roar of mortal combat.
Washita is an emerging symbol of the nation's quest to come to terms with its Indian War. It is the antipode of Little Big Horn and the place where George Armstrong Custer brought a curse upon his heart.
Each step of the way on my quiet and thoughtful walk, the dry grasshoppers hopped low into the sharp wind and rode briefly alongside me. Hot red ants dashed in and out of their colonial doorways in the hard-packed red clay of the walking trail. Stands of sumac, shinre, and plum bush arose from the browning grasses to hide the wild creatures waiting for the night.
I strolled maybe two miles in a meandering circle, first down into the little river valley, where I entered an enclosed place of subtle mystery, a cacoon of tall fronds and walnut trees, of cottonwood and cattails and boulders, then back up the lumbering south hill into the open grasses, where the setting sun cast its red glow upon the clouds. I pondered the past and how it might illuminate the waning day. I thought I understood why Custer ambushed Black Kettle, and why the fates would exact full and final payment for the soldier's military sin eight years later at the last stand in the mountains of northern Wyoming. I wondered why Black Kettle had come to the cold Washita with hopes of peace and faith in the USA's promise of protection.
Tomorrow I shall ask about it. Someone here might know. Tonight I must stop and prepare to file this dispatch the old-fashioned way. Were the methods of high technology better suited to such faraway places as Cheyenne on the Washita River, I could write until midnight and post my tale to the Internet via cell phone and laptop. Alas, the promises of Motorola and Cingular Wireless, Dell and Ma Bell, have failed me in the field. The vaunted technology just doesn't work when the cellular infrastructure is a step behind the promises. I'll have to telephone the webmistress and dictate to her.... word-by-word.
The dispatches are backing up, but I'm working on them -- and what does a day or two matter in the Age of Dissolution? I rue the Sunday wasted on computer transmission issues, but to rue is human I suppose, and I'm over it now. I expect to complete my report about the Chisholm Trail and the muse of Waurika in a day or so, then download the file to diskette and post it via U.S. mail. I'm working on a Cricket Song about the Choctaw cultural renaissance and a dispatch about the Talimena Scenic Drive between Queen Wilhelmina Lodge and the western foot of Winding Stair Mountain. They'll get to corndancer.com headquarters soon enough by Cricket Standard Time.
Other dispatches remain hot on the table. I'll write them as time allows and keep my eyes peeled for the next Pony Express rider to pass this way.