Saturday, June 25, 2011

To spin the wheel of fate

Every June 25, my thoughts drift to the most significant fight in the forty-year history of the American Plains Indian Wars: The battle between the U.S. Army Seventh Calvary under the command of George Armstrong Custer and a band of mostly Sioux Indians whose leaders included Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. The event generally is referred to as Custer's Last Stand, since the five troops (a troop being the cavalry equivalent of an infantry company) under his immediate command were destroyed to the last trooper. The photograph shows Custer and his officers and the ladies of the Seventh Calvary during their days of wine and roses, on a picnic near Fort Abraham Lincoln in North Dakota a year before the battle. Custer, wearing a buckskin jacket, is standing at the center of the photo. His wife, Elizabeth (Libby), is to his right. Ten of the fourteen men in this photo were killed at the Little Big Horn, including two of Custer's brothers  and his brother-in-law. A nephew, not present for this photo, also was killed there.

Once upon a time in the West

Have you ever wished you could have been somewhere even if it probably would have been the end of you?

At the risk of being ridiculed for these words (and I have been in the past), I wish I could have been among those riding with the ill-fated expedition of George A. Custer one-hundred-thirty-five years ago today.

Without going into detail about this event, suffice to say not a single one among all those troopers who were under the direct command of Custer lived to see the sunset on June 25, 1876. Neither am I going to turn this into a post about Custer, his life, his demise and all manner of data about the Plains Indian Wars, which lasted from the early 1850s until the battle/massacre at Wounded Knee in South Dakota on December 29, 1890.

For the most part, I respect and admire Custer, and, with exception of the events at the Little Big Horn River in Montana on June 25, I envy the charmed life he led until the very last day of his life. And, I firmly believe that under the circumstances, he made sound judgments that day, too, with one or two exceptions, which may or may not have sealed his fate.

Critics will say his battlefield tactics resulted in a rout and the annihilation of his immediate command. Having studied both the battlefield in person and cavalry tactics of the era via the written word, my own opinion is that, in most instances, his officers and troopers acted appropriately and according to textbook procedures.

His primary mistake was not to run his own Crow Indian scouts far enough ahead of the main body and not to heed the advice for caution given by these scouts, whose eyes and knowledge of the country were superior to Custer's own. How can a few hundred stand against a few thousand and hope to survive -- much less to win? But, fate in many forms converged on the grassy plains of Montana that day, and if any one of a half-dozen elements had varied only slightly, history would have been written differently.

Not having my reference material, which remains packed away in a storage unit, I can only paraphrase the events, and this is one of my favorite recollections of the aftermath. Following the defeat, a court-martial was held to determine if the deceased Custer had disobeyed orders. During the proceedings, a soldier from among those not under Custer's immediate command was asked if "the general" was good at passing information along to the men under his command. The soldier responded to this effect: "No sir. All we generally knew was that somewhere along the line the bugler would blow the order to charge."

That is what Custer did on June 25, and more than two hundred men died as a result of that last charge. Custer's luck ran out.

In any case, I would like to have been there. This is not because I have a death wish, but, rather, because I like to think that while all others perished, that barring just plain bad luck, I would have made it out as the only survivor. Oh, how I would love to have been there and to have spun the wheel of fate.

Most choose to perch, some to fly

A few days ago, I wrote these words in a note to another, and I thought I would post them here to see what, if any, reaction they might draw:

I do not know if you recall, but when I was writing posts in 2009 and sometimes in 2010, too, I would refer to the "incarnations" of my life. For instance, when I was in the Marine Corps, this was an incarnation; when I worked as a journalist, it was an incarnation; when I worked in prison corrections, this was still another incarnation.

Some people say they have a "role in life to fulfill" or a "calling" or a "career they love," or use phrases similar to those to describe how they have found a place in the world to call their own.

Well, I never have found a single place. I have worked at many jobs in many locations; had many varied interests in books and activities and hobbies; have been married twice; and have found temporary happiness and affection in many places and through doing many things.

Sometimes, I am sad because I have no lasting place in the world and no lasting love in my life. But, more often, I am glad that I have had the opportunity to experience so much of what life has to offer, rather than to perch on one branch doing the same work in the midst of the same people for years and years and years. I hope to experience more yet.

Maybe, that is the manner of life that awaits you, too -- a life of many experiences, a life of many "incarnations" -- rather than a single niche, a solitary role.


Kaya said...

Hello Fram,

You promised to reappear around June 25th and you did. I like people who are keeping their promises. I have respect for them.

I think this post is actual writing... There are so many things to absorb and so many questions to ask yourself and try to find answers after reading your post. GREAT POST!!!!

First of all I learned about A.G. Custer. And yes, I wished so many times that I would be somewhere and live to the fullest even it will be the end of me.

Yes, sometimes a luck can run out like it happened to Custer.

Fram, I don't have a role to fullfil in my life and I don't have a calling. I just live and try to do my best to be kind and caring. That's it, very simple.

You wrote that you don't have any lasting place in your life and any lasting love. I am not sure that we all belong to places where we live. I mean we would like to change them but can't or don't want for many reasons.

I agree completely that life is many incarnations. I think these incarnations are our ways to find what we are. Some incarnations are brought to us by life and some we make for ourselves hoping that we will be more content and happy.

I enjoyed also the song in the first video. Nice words and melody and performance.

Fram, I enjoyed reading this post very much. Great!!!

Greetings from Kaya.

Anonymous said...

Nice post Fram!!

I see you areinto war times too..myself iam into second world war..i dont know why.but war in general is in my mind .

Custer.A man with many good sides and bad sides.Remeber me of the movie Soldier Blue.That was agreat one..

About incarnations.Of course!!And people we meet are the same ones we had somthing going on with..bad or nice..we try to fix it right..over and over again ..until we learn...

well still i have not much to say..i did some blogging to day if you care to look at...think i have got the travel feber..Lokking forward to monday and the plane take warmer weather..we have only rain and the nights are getting soem months winther time is here again..

ok..see you around as always!!

kiyoteekisser said...

Hi Fran,

I will be visiting the Custer Battlefield this August and will think of you. Taking the grand-kids and stopping at the Crow Fair for a few days.

Glad to see you writing again.

Fram Actual said...

There are a few times during the year I surface for one reason or another, Kaya, and June 25 is among them. So, I knew I would be here. I probably will be in and out for the next week or so. After that, it is possible I will disappear again for a while.

The Plains Indian Wars are one area where I have a continuing interest and like to think I have a fair amount of expertise. As I have mentioned in previous posts, this interest probably began because I have an ancestor who was killed by a Sioux/Cheyenne war party in Kansas in 1867. He was among members of a cavalry patrol, whose remains were discovered by George Custer and the Seventh Cavalry.

I think most people like to believe they have a purpose or a role in life. I know that I like to think it, but, I feel it is more realistic to believe I will die with a curse on my lips for running a race and never having been able/allowed to finish it.

Kaya writes: "I agree completely that life is many incarnations ...."

Fram replies: Yes, and I agree with your entire paragraph here, and I think your observations reflect considerable wisdom about how we control parts of our lives, while also being at the mercy of the "fates." So much of life depends on where we are and who we are with at a given time, and these things have as much to do with random chance as they do with deliberate planning and thought.

To end on a pleasant note, so many songs from the Nineteenth Century, such as "Aura Lea," mirror the sweetest sentiments and the most elemental emotions. I enjoy listening to them when I am reading literature or history of the period. Mood music, so to speak.

Thank you, for your visit and your remarks, Kaya. It is enjoyable for me to learn the thoughts others have regarding what I post here. Your thoughts reveal not only the "inner you," but help me to learn about myself.

Fram Actual said...

I suppose I am always into the study war in one way or another, Anita, probably because it is fascinating to explore it from any number of approaches.

It often brings out the best in some people and the worst in other people. It creates atrocity and gives birth to art. In many ways, war is the epitome of human existence, and could well be the end of human existence as weapons technology grows.

The problem with films such as "Soldier Blue" is that while they depict actual events, they usually exaggerate them and tell only one side of these events.

For instance, the white men who committed the atrocities at Sand Creek in Colorado (the subject of "Soldier Blue") were not U.S. Army Cavalry troops, as most who see the film believe, but civilian, so-called militiamen. Some were there for money and hope of fame; others were crazed enough to kill any Indian they found simply because they had experienced having their own families and friends massacred by Indians.

Factually, both sides in any war are guilty of atrocities, and film makers usually are more concerned with money and causes than with portraying actual history.

By the way, I did visit your blog, but it would not accept my comments. This is part of what I wrote at your last post: "The work is exquisite, Anita. You made a fine choice in selecting what to post."

I hope your journey to Cyprus is tranquil and your days there are filled with sunshine and warm breezes and carefree hours. I hope you are able to post a few photographs from your island excursion. Travel safely.

Fram Actual said...

I envy you your trip, Sheryl. The last time I was there was in 2004. Sooner or later, I will make it again.

My only complaint about the Custer site is the fact that people are not allowed to wander anywhere and everywhere without having made application and obtained permission. I guess that is the price of "Custer mania" and the vast number of people his name still draws to it well over a century later.

My favorite battlefield is a bit south of you -- that of the William Fetterman Massacre in Wyoming. I love it mostly because I have had it to myself when I have been there. I even have slept overnight on the open ground there twice. Unfortunately (??), I never encountered a single ghost.

Thank you, for the thought. And, you should be writing more often, too.

Anonymous said...

thank you!!

I in some days i will post photoes..meanwhile the header on my blog is where iam staying..kind of quiet place..but I like it!!If I want to have fun i take a taxi to Agia Napa..the party town..

Well lets see if I am showing up in a bikini like those two girls..Voila!!

Hope you post something too.Regards and hugs from your blog admirer anita :)

Anonymous said...

i like the cavalary march!!!Yippy Yohhhhh..!!))

Fram Actual said...

Once again, the hotel looks like quite a place to vacation, Anita. I hope you enjoy yourself, and return to Norway refreshed and well rested.

Yes, the Seventh Cavalry march is quite stirring. It is not difficult to visualize flags waving and horses prancing when you hear this music.

Take care, while on your journey.

Kaya said...

Fram, I always wanted to ask you a question but didn't have a chance.

Have you ever wanted to turn the clock back? I do and I try even knowing that it's impossible. And... I fail.

You wrote once "I do have a habit, though, of returning to my former haunts". What did you mean by that?

Anyway, I hope that you will stay for while in the blogs' world. And if you are going to disappear don't do it for a long time. Ok?

Greetings from me to you, the Wolf, and your White Bear!!!!

I do have a habit, though, of returning to my former haunts,

Kaya said...

It's me again. How good that you didn't write the answer. I came backto explain what I meant by turning the clock back. I just wanted to say that I always wanted to return back the time when you were writing your posts and we all had discussions about them. It was a really good time, Fram. I miss Anita and Kelly a lot! And I miss our discussions.

That is it. Very simple.

Kaya said...

And I miss your writing!!!!!!!

Fram Actual said...

Actually, Kaya, I had started writing a response, mostly in my mind, but since you have clarified your question I will discard my initial thoughts and respond only in the sense that you mentioned in your second note.

Yes, these discussions were enjoyable and educational (for me, at least), but they were then and this is now. In fact, the time frame when my blog was the most active in terms of comments was way back during the spring and summer of 2009, but it never has attracted many who comment with regularity. So, I am uncertain what else to say about your question at the moment.

Yes, I enjoy returning to former haunts. By that I mean going to places where I once lived or to specific locations that have some sort of significance to me, particularly to places in the outdoors -- to climb a tree I climbed as a boy or to look down a road and remember/visualize someone from the past walking there alongside me as had once been reality.

The past never dies as long as one memory of it survives, I believe, and, for me, I often feel I can reach out and actually touch the past almost at will. Someday, perhaps I will fall into the past entirely and be swallowed up by it.

I will be in and out of here for a while. You probably are not aware, but I am in the midst of another of my "sort of" moves. In another night or two, I will be sleeping in the Twin Cities and be "hanging out" there for a while. Consequently, I am able to spare only brief minutes here and there at the computer.

As always, thank you, for your kind thoughts and remarks, Kaya.

Something special ....