It started about 14 months ago. A group of Little Big
Horn battle buffs decided it was time to do it right.
The cast of characters were as follows -- Michael
"Fullsail" Olson, Michael "Max" Reeve, Fred Wagner, Phillip
"PJ" Solla, Frank "Bubbabod" Bodden, and yours truly Scott
"Treasuredude" Nelson. We came from all across this
great country for one purpose -- to study the Battle of the
Little Big Horn. Oh, yeah, and to drink beer.
Fullsail had beer shipped in for the occasion.
Now that's planning ahead. Home base was the
Super 8 in Hardin.
Through PJ Solla it was arranged to have a tour of the 7th
Cavalry's march to the Little Big Horn and the battlefield
itself with Dr. Richard and Dennis Fox. We were
treated to a most excellent BBQ at the Fox Ranch on Monday
evening. The tour encompassed 2 full days. We
started Tuesday morning in Busby, the site of the 7th's last
camp. Here we checked out the grave of Two Moons.
Then we followed Davis Creek to the Crow's Nest.
As it had rained the night before, there was a
question as to whether we would be able to actually get up
to the Crow's Nest. The Fox brothers 4x4's handled it
with ease. Standing at the Crow's Nest was special.
We came to the divide and saw the marker placed there to
mark the spot where Custer and his troops crossed into the
valley of the Little Big Horn River. It was also at
this spot that we ate lunch. Sandwiches never tasted
so good. We followed Reno Creek. We stopped at
the Morass and at the site of the Lone Tepee. From a
ridge across I-90 we were able to get a panoramic view of
the battlefield as well as the placement of Reno's attack
and skirmish line. We were able to get a clear view of
where the Indian village stood on June 25, 1876. A
stop at Medicine Tail Coulee provided a closeup view of the
Little Big Horn River which was running full due to recent
rains and heavy snowfall in the Bighorn Mountains.
Tuesday's leg of the tour ended with a wrap up at the
Custer Battlefield Trading Post.
Wednesday was battlefield day. We met at the
battlefield parking lot and drove down to the Reno-Benteen
Defense Site. A thorough walk around grounds and then
onto Weir Point. Lunch was served at the parking lot
under a shade tree. Back to the battle. Weir
Point - Medicine Tail Coulee - MT Ford - Deep Coulee -
Calhoun Hill - Keogh - Last Stand Hill - Deep Ravine.
You get the picture... it was a full and fascinating
day. Even though there were quite a few tourists,
there was not a more lonely sight than staring up at Last
Stand Hill from Deep Ravine. Again we "debriefed" at
Custer Battlefield Trading Post over pieces of pie.
Each night "important" topics were discussed over cold beers
courtesy of Fullsail. We didn't solve any of the
battle's mysteries but we had a lot of fun.
Thursday we slept in a bit. Then we headed back to the
battlefield. An experiment on Weir Point. Fred
and I climbed to the top while Michael and Max stood at
Calhoun. We were armed with walkie-talkies and
binoculars. A guidon thumbtacked to a broom handle was
waved. Waving the guidon, we were able to be seen by
the boys at Calhoun. We moved to the other peak at
Weir and they moved down to Last Stand Hill. Again the
guidon could be spotted. This was one of the trip
highlights for me. I joined the CBPC in 2001 but this
was the first time I had been on Weir Point.
After Weir, we hiked the Keogh sector and got some great
shots of the markers in that area. Checked out the
marker to Lame White Man and then to the Indian Memorial.
We wandered through the cemetery. It was then
time for one last stop at the bookstore. Off to
Wyoming. We were in three separate cars at this time
-- Frank and PJ, Michael and Max, and Fred and I. We
stopped at the Mint Bar in Sheridan for a couple cold ones.
Then onto Buffalo. Trudy at the Bighorn Hotel
treated us well. The buffalo steaks at the Occidental
were incredible (Frank had pork chops???). Most of us
headed back to the hotel. Fred decided to hang behind
and enjoy some live bluegrass music.
Friday started with breakfast at the Occidental where we ate
outdoors. This was followed by a visit to the Jim
Gatchell Museum. I have been to the museum twice
before but I never get bored. So much to see.
Adolf Metzger's smashed bugle from the Fetterman Fight
is worth it all by itself. We had a nice talk with
museum educator Bob Edwards. From here we drove north
to Ft. Phil Kearney. As it happened, Bozeman Trail
Days was starting. We stopped in the museum/bookstore
and checked things out. A few of us joined the Fort
Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Assn. After walking the
around the fort, we headed out to the site of the Wagon Box
Fight. Then it was time for lunch at the Waldorf A'
Story Deli. After getting outta the sun for a while,
we headed to the Fetterman Fight site. We started at
the monument and walked the field. It was great having
Frank along here. He knows a lot about the Wagonbox
and Fetterman fights as well as Bozeman Trail history in
After supper in Buffalo, we went back to the Occidental and
ended up playing poker under the stuffed heads of elk, deer,
and mountain goats. It was great.
On Saturday we went to breakfast at Grandma's Restaurant in
Buffalo. Then back to Fort Phil Kearny for some more
living history. Again, we saw Bob Edwards of the
Gatchell Museum. We all sampled hard tack (yuck!) and
washed it down with sarsaparilla. The high point was
the firing of a mountain Howitzer.
It was here that I bid farewell to my Custer buddies.
They went back north to Billings and the MBC
(Montana Brewing Company). I headed south towards the
Black Hills. When I got to Sturgis, I stopped at the
Black Hills National Cemetery and visited the grave of
Charles Windolph. I hit Arby's in Rapid City and got
back on the road. I arrived back in Pierre at around
7:30pm -- exhausted but happy. The boys had one more
night of beer on the town. Sunday, they all boarded
planes home. The trip of a lifetime was over.
Thanks to all the guys that made this trip memorable -- Max,
PJ, Michael, Fred, and Frank. Also thank you to
Richard and Dennis Fox for a great tour. Because of
them I have a much better understanding of the land and the
trail the 7th took to the battlefield. This gained
knowledge will come in handy the next time I'm reading a
book or spreading out a map on the table.
While at the Crow's Nest we re-enacted a H.L. Scott photo
L to R -- unidentified Indian bureau employee, White Man
Runs Him, General H.L. Scott, Colonel Tim McCoy