The Great American Road Trip - 21 - Through Wyoming
We got up in Bozeman and headed on towards Billings. After getting a hat and pennant at the stadium of the Billings Mustangs of the short-season Pioneer League, we went to the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where General George Armstrong Custer and his forces were annihilated by Native American warriors defending their ancestral homeland. The battle - and the war that it was in - was prompted by the way the federal government handled the Black Hills, which were considered to be sacred. When gold was discovered in the hills - which were in Indian territory - Washington tried to appease the situation by buying the hills. The Indians didn't consider that to be a very nice move, but instead of forcing the white settlers off of the reservation, the United States realigned the reservation and ordered the Native Americans out of the Black Hills.
Custer's moves were rather idiotic, as he split his forces into three parts. His forces got intelligence from their scouts that there was a massive army of Indian warriors that would kill them if they tried to attack. Custer - perhaps sensing defeat and thus death - shaved his defining facial hair before the battle. The last of his forces were slaughtered near the top of a hill after Custer ordered them to kill their horses for breastworks. The Indians then pinned down one of the detached forces led by General Reno for around 30 hours in surrounding territory before they were relieved.
After walking around the battlefield, we went down to Gillette, Wyoming, where we ate at a taco place. The tacos were good but they messed up both my order and my dad's, giving us beef instead of chicken. Their milkshakes were rather good, though.
Our next stop was Devils Tower, a gigantic round stone monolith that rises up out of the flatness around it. It was originally the core of a volcano that solidified, and after eons, the rest of the volcano eroded away, leaving only the strange Tower behind. According to the best historical evidence, it was a mile taller than it is now, which is really something considering it's pretty tall as it stands. As we approached it, we drive through a field that had hundreds and hundreds of prairie dogs.
They are quite literally the cutest things ever. If you looked up "cute" in any dictionary, you'd likely find a picture of a prairie dog next to it. As soon as we pulled off to the side of the road and stopped the engine, scores popped up out of their holes and started scurrying around, either with their faces down to the ground to eat, upright and eating something with their paws, cuddling on each other, or looking at us warily. They'd just dart and scurry around, going back into their holes before coming back up a minute later. The baby ones were the cutest of all, as they'd scurry behind their mother down holes or out into the world to eat something.
But we couldn't stay and watch the prairie dogs forever, as we had the Tower to get to. It's really eerie from its base, looking straight up, but even more so looking around. Thousands of rocks, which were once part of the Tower's facade, broke off and tumbled down. Now they are stacked all around its base, one on top of the other on top of another, down into the ground, creating dark holes wherein snakes would probably enjoy living. I could easily have walked from rock to rock comfortably, but I did not.
After walking a little ways around the Tower, we noticed both the time of day and the storm in the distance, and while we would have liked to have walked the loop around the Tower, we decided not to. We headed further west, down towards Sundance (where Butch Cassidy's sidekick got his infamous nickname), then further along towards the South Dakota border. All along, we saw large deer and antelope, sometimes grazing alongside horses or cow. Wyoming, though famous for its sparse population, was no different than Montana or even the eastern section of Oregon. The difference with those states is that their population centers are larger.
Tomorrow: Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, and hopefully a buffalo herd or two.