By Sean Crose
You look down into the valley and see that the 7th Cavalry has carried out its instructions. Bodies are strewn across the earth, baking in the hot sun, women and children among the numbers.
It’s not the carnage that alarms you, however. Rather, it’s the sight of Sioux warriors you find troubling. Armed and on horseback, they have come to gather their dead.
You spot Gall atop his horse. He stares down at several bodies. They belong to his children. Custer and his men have killed his family, just as he and his Sioux warriors once killed yours.
Gall weeps, but you know he will not weep for long. Soon he will lead the enraged Sioux in pursuit of the 7th Cavalry – in pursuit of you. Mounting your horse, you ride off to inform the general.
George Armstrong Custer greets you with a smile, as he always does. He treats you, an Indian Scout, well (much better than the Sioux treated you when you were young). Because of the general, you are able to provide for your wife and children. You are able to hold your head up high.
You inform the general that there are too many warriors – far, far too many warriors – for the 7th Cavalry to battle successfully. The general listens intently to you, as he always does. Then he does something strange. He tells you to go home to your family.
At first you are insulted. He tells you not to be. You have a family, after all. You tell him he has a family, too. He tells you to mind your business and save your life while you still can.
You stare at the general for a moment. When you were young, Gall and Sitting Bull gave you nothing but abuse for being half Arikara. The general, on the other hand, has given you pay raises and gifts, even though you’re not white. He’s treated you better than he has many of his own people.
Now he is giving you the opportunity to ride off – to survive. You refuse.
Some of the dead are still down in the valley when the fighting resumes an hour later. You go about the business of war thinking of them. Gall, your enemy, was their hero. Custer, your hero, was their enemy.
You start to wonder what is more telling of a man – the fact that he is a hero or the fact that he is an enemy. Then you hear a sharp crack inside your head.
And then you wonder no more.
Sean Crose is a lover of both literature and history. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Jen, and Cody, the world’s greatest cat.