Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Archaeology, travel & a kiss or two
No, this is not a painting of George Armstrong Custer at the Little Big Horn. Until the time of the Custer battle, the destruction of Captain William Fetterman and eighty other cavalry troopers, infantrymen and civilian scouts at the hands of two thousand Lakota Sioux warriors near Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming had been the single-most greatest defeat by the U.S. Army during the Plains Indian Wars. This painting, "The Fetterman Fight," by Montana artist J.K. Ralston, illustrates the battle which took place 147 years ago -- on December 21, 1866. A couple of points: The painting is very accurate in a topographical sense + I like to sleep on old battlefields = I spent a night in 2001 sleeping on the pinnacle of the rise at left center in the painting. This is the location where Captain Fetterman's body was found and where a monument stands today. If you wish to know what this has to do with New Year's Resolutions, you must read on a bit further. Ah, yes-s-s-s, the music. I have been known to say Grace Slick is my favorite female rock voice .... but, I also have been known to say it is the voice of Ann Wilson or of Stevie Nicks or, in a sentimental sense, the all-round performance of Jan Kuehnemund (RIP). No matter which has the edge (and, there might be others, too), I enjoy all of them and have Stevie on stage with this end of the year post.
I solemnly do pledge
I cannot recall the last time I made a New Year's Resolution. I recall thinking about them; I do not recall making them. This, probably, is because, as happens with most people, I know I will forget them in a matter of days.
On occasion, none associated with the arrival of a new year, I have made up my mind to make a change in my life and done it. One such change was to quit smoking. One day, I woke up in the morning a man who smoked three-plus packs a day, as well as a cigar or two daily, and an occasional pipe load in the evening. That night, I went to bed a non-smoker.
I am going to try a few resolutions this year. Nothing fancy, nothing major, nothing really permanent .... mostly for fun, I suppose, to see how long I last. So, in no particular order, here are a few resolutions I intend to make and hope to keep for and during 2014:
As noted in the "cutlines" for the painting/illustration, I spent a night sleeping on the site of the Fetterman fight. I also had spent most of a day there, and the only other visitors were a boy, his father and his grandfather, on one of those "generational trips," who stayed no longer than fifteen minutes. It was literally a dream for someone like me to have a rather significant battlefield all to myself for a day -- walking and wandering the entire length and breadth of it .... absorbing it and becoming part of it, listening to the voices of those who had fought and had died there.
A few years later, I returned there for a couple of weeks as an amateur volunteer during an archaeological survey of the battlefield. A few years before that, I had done the same thing at the site of an ancient Native American encampment in Michigan. So, this is one resolution, a rather simple one: I will find another archaeological project which accepts amateur volunteers and spend a couple of weeks walking or crawling, as the case may be, searching for the past. I think I would prefer a location outside the U.S. I want to touch the past again, rather than simply read about it.
A similar resolution is to return to Poland again, to spend a week or two in Warsaw, then to travel on to a town in Germany. Some of you might recall a post I wrote on February 24, 2013, and some follow-up information in an April 13, 2013, post about a Browning Model 1922 pistol that had been carried by a German airman during World War II. This is what I wrote April 13:
"I have identified the original 'owner' of the pistol. I know he was in the German Luftwaffe. I know his name, when and where he was born, and when and where he died. I know a few other things as well, but the only other one I will mention is this. He died in March 1945, less than six weeks before the war ended."
So, I wish to go -- and, I resolve to go -- to the town in Germany in which there is a memorial bearing the name of the man who carried the pistol I now have, as well as the names of others from this town who lost their lives during World War II. Just to add a bit of mystery for future revelation, I will not post the name of the town until I am there.
Another resolution is to kiss a woman I have never kissed before .... maybe, two ....
As usual, what I write gets longer and longer .... I think I will break this into two parts .... to be continued .... Happy New Year ....