The Montana Mayhem crew at Clear Creek Brewing Company in Buffalo, Wyoming.
Left to right: Scott Nelson, Gary Lemery, Fred Wagner, Frank Bodden, Michael Olson, Michael "Max" Reeve.


The latest Montana Mayhem outing was one of our biggest yet.  It was ten days and many hundreds of miles.  Montana and Wyoming will never be the same.

Montana Mayhem Roster (alphabetically):
Frank Bodden - California
Gary Lemery - Wisconsin
Scott Nelson - South Dakota
Michael Olson - Washington
Michael "Max" Reeve - California
Frederic C. Wagner III - New York


Trip Diary - Day 1 - Tuesday, June 18, 2013:  Everyone began the assault on Billings.  I drove in from Pierre, South Dakota. I actually left after work on Monday, June 17th.  I drove as far as Belle Fourche, SD, and spent the night at the Ace Motel.  I awoke early and was on the road (Highway 212) to Billings.  Michael Olson also started out early, arriving in Billings on the night of the 17th.  Michael took the hotel shuttle to the airport to meet the incoming travelers.  When I pulled into Billings I met Michael, Fred, and Gary in a restaurant at the airport.  We had a couple of beers and ate lunch while waiting for Max and Frank to arrive.  Once everyone was accounted for we headed to the hotel, the Best Western Clock Tower Inn, and checked in.  While we were waiting for our rooms to be ready, I had Fred inscribe my copy of his book on the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  After everyone was situated we walked over to the MBC (Montana Brewing Company).  One of the reasons we stay at the Clock Tower is its proximity to the MBC and other local breweries.  Most of the breweries in Billings are within walking distance.  At MBC we met up with Lorne Langley, Terry Craft, Carolyn Fleming, and Steve Andrews. We ate and enjoyed some cold beers.  We then walked back to the hotel and sat around poolside to discuss the Custer battle, history, and anything else that came to mind.  Great way to close out the first day.

   
Everyone at the Montana Brewing Company and a roundtable discussion poolside at the ClockTower Inn.

Trip Diary - Day 2 - Wednesday, June 19, 2013:  The day started with breakfast at Stella's.  You will not leave there hungry.  We then made a quick stop at Big Bear Sport Center so that Fred and Max could pick up new shoes.  When the shopping was finished we hit the road for the Little Bighorn Battlefield.  At the battlefield we ran into fellow Little Bighorn enthusiasts Tim Bumb, Father Vince Heier, Bob Snelson, and Gerry Schultz.  We wandered around the bookstore and met up again with Steve Andrews and Lorne Langley.  Gerry Schultz, who is a cavalry reenactor, invited us to check out the Cavalry School they had setup at Medicine Tail Coulee.  Each year there is a reenactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn on the Realbird property which is located at Medicine Tail Coulee on the battlefield.  The Cavalry School is a living history part of that reenactment.  Here we met up with Steve Alexander who portrays General Custer at the reenactment as well as in several television shows and documentaries.  If you've watched a program about Custer on the History Channel, you've seen Steve.  Steve asked Lorne if he would like to participate in the reenactment, portraying Captain Myles Keogh.  Lorne jumped at the chance and signed up for the duty.  Gerry showed us around the area and also some of his equipment.  He also showed us a bugle he had found which he believes came from the 1873 Yellowstone Expedition.  Cool stuff.  Gerry Schultz, Steve Andrews, and Lorne Langley joined us for a late lunch at the Custer Battlefield Trading Post.  Steve, who had been in the area for a week or more, left us after eating to make his way home.  The Montana Mayhem group headed to Billings and the Clock Tower Inn.  Lorne picked up his buckskin outfit and met us later at the MBC.  End of day number 2.

Trip Diary - Day 3 - Thursday, June 20, 2013: The day started with breakfast.  Frank, Fred, Gary, and I ate at Stella's, while Michael and Max had breakfast at McCormick Cafe.  We then took off for another visit to the Little Bighorn battlefield.  After some examination, discussion, and photo taking, we set off south for Sheridan, Wyoming.  We have a tradition of stopping and having a beer or two at the Mint Bar.  This trip was no exception.  After the Mint we walked over to the Black Tooth Brewing Company for another cold brew.  We then kept moving south toward Buffalo.  This year we decided to finally stay at the Occidental Hotel.  The Occidental is an old, and some say haunted, hotel.  We have been there many times but this is the first time we spent the night.  Every Thursday night in the bar they have live bluegrass music.  This has also become a tradition for us.  We first had our evening meal at the Virginian, the restaurant inside the Occidental.  When it was time for the music we found that the bar was packed.  We decided to walk up the street to Clear Creek Brewing Company for a couple of beers while the crowd eased up at the Occidental.  If you are traveling near Buffalo, Wyoming, and you're in need of something to quench your thirst, this brewery is HIGHLY recommended.  After a couple of beers we eventually worked our way back to the Occidental and their live bluegrass.  Do not miss this if you're in Buffalo on a Thursday night.  After the music we talked to the Occidental's owner who told us some of the hotel's ghost stories.  One of the ghosts, a 7-year-old girl name Emily, apparently gets scared and crawls into bed with guests.  Thankfully none of us experienced anything supernatural.  A spooky end to day number 3.

               
The Montana Mayhem boys at the Mint Bar in Sheridan, Wyoming and a business card from the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo.


They must have heard we were coming.
                                                         
Trip Diary - Day 4 - Friday, June 21, 2013: No ghosts for us.  We all made it through the night.  Breakfast was at the Busy Bee Cafe.  Today was the big tour at Little Bighorn Battlefield, sponsored by the Friends of the Little Bighorn, featuring Dr. Douglas Scott who has conducted archaeology research at the Little Bighorn as well as other historical locations.  So we began the trek northward.  We made a pit stop at Fort Phil Kearny. After checking out the visitor center we drove down to the end of Massacre Ridge to see if we could locate the Wheatley-Fisher rocks from the road.  Multiple sets of binoculars and we weren't sure if we could see them or not.  Once we arrived in Hardin we stopped to check out the CBHMA bookroom.  Sandy Barnard was there with his nice selection of books, maps, pamphlets, etc.  After leaving some of our money with Sandy we stopped at Taco John's for lunch.  We then took off for the battlefield where we met Bob Reece of the Friends of the Little Bighorn.  We were also able to meet Dr. Douglas Scott, who would be leading that night's tour, and get copies of his book, Uncovering History, signed.  While standing outside the visitor center we ran into Melani Van Petten, Dale Kosman, and Rick and Cindy Martin.  We walked around the battlefield and snapped photos while waiting for the Friends tour to start.  We also ran into author Jim Donovan, who wrote one of the best general overviews of the battle, A Terrible Glory.  The Scott tour began with being shuttled down to the cattle guard near Greasy Grass Ridge.  We were able to walk the actual battlefield from Greasy Grass Ridge, through Calhoun Coulee, and down into and across Deep Ravine.  We stopped at various points along the way where Dr. Scott talked to us about the archaeological work that was done on the battlefield.  Wow!  What an experience. One of the stops we made was at marker 128.  This is the location of Trooper Mike (so dubbed because his remains were found within research grid square M).  His skeleton was the most complete found during the archaeological digs at Little Bighorn Battlefield.  He was cut off from his bunkies and was alone.  What a moving story.  It was great being able to walk where visitors are not normally allowed.   Seeing the battlefield from that perspective was unbelievable.  After the tour we drove into Hardin for a quick supper at Dairy Queen where we talked to Tim Bumb, Bob Snelson, and Father Vincent Heier.  After eating we piled into the rented Suburban and drove northeast to Forsyth, Montana, where we rented a guesthouse from PR Country Comforts.  We were able to wash clothes and enjoy sitting around a house as opposed to a cramped hotel room.  It was a long and eventful day.  Time for bed.

           
    Two views of Deep Ravine - Max climbing his way out and Michael standing in the bottom.

           
The Montana Mayhem gang with "A Terrible Glory" author Jim Donovan (5th from left) and the excavation of Trooper Mike.

Trip Diary - Day 5 - Saturday, June 22, 2013: On this day we met Justin Schwend who Fred arranged a tour with of the Yellowstone and Rosebud valleys and the Tullock's Creek area.  The day started at Fitzgerald's for breakfast in Forsyth.  The breakfasts we had at Fitzgerald's were probably the best of the entire trip.  As we were eating breakfast it began to rain.  And rain, and rain, and rain.  We started the tour at Justin's house where he showed us some of his relic finds.  We then traveled to points on his property to check out the different sights.  We stopped along the Yellowstone River and saw where Rosebud Creek empties into it.  We saw the spot where Lt. Bradley spotted the Indian village in the Rosebud valley.  We also saw one of Custer's campsites near Rosebud, Montana.  We then drove down Rosebud Creek road to Lame Deer stopping at a Custer campsite along the way.  The Suburban took some serious abuse and was filthy by the end of the trip.  After filling up with gas in Lame Deer, we drove back to Forsyth.  Along the way we stopped to check out Deer Medicine Rocks.  The CBHMA was having their field trip and you could see people surrounding the rocks which dwarfed them.  Because of the weather we had to skip the Tullock's Creek area.  Oh well, that leaves something for another Montana Mayhem trip.  Once we were back at the house, we were treated to a great steak dinner by Justin and his wife Cass.  I don't know what she put in those potatoes, but damn they were good.  Our hosts at the house, Phil and Renee Steinberger, also stopped over.  The rest of the night was spent visiting and drinking beer.  End of day 5.

           
Our filthy rental and the guesthouse in Forsyth.

Trip Diary - Day 6 - Sunday, June 23, 2013: This day started early and would be a long travel day.  We once again had breakfast at Fitzgerald's and once again it did not disappoint.  We stopped back at the guesthouse to get packed up and ready to hit the road.  By studying maps the night before and conferring with Justin, we had mapped out a route that would eventually get us to Douglas, Wyoming.  Our first stop was the Range Riders Museum in Miles City.  This was an interesting place that warrants more time to explore than we had.  The museum contains several relics from the Custer battle as well as the Rosebud fight and other skirmishes.  The museum was built on the site of the Fort Keogh Cantonment so there was much information and photos from the fort.  A large diorama of Fort Keogh showed that it was much larger and more spread out than I had imagined.  From Miles City we drove southeast through Alzada, where 7th trooper Peter Thompson later homesteaded.  We eventually found our way to Devil's Tower.  It's an impressive sight and the weather on this day was perfect for a visit.  After a stop at the trading post located near the exit, we hit the road again.  In Gillette, we stopped to fuel up and ran into Steve Alexander who was on his way back to Michigan from the Realbird reenactment.  Steve was dressed in full Custer gear and was pumping gas into his car.  Unfortunately, none of us took a photo of that.  We eventually arrived in Douglas, Wyoming, and checked into the Super 8.  We all agreed that this was the worst Super 8 that we had ever stayed in.  There are several other hotel choices in Douglas so avoid this one if at all possible.  We decided on a Mexican restaurant that was across the street from the hotel, La Costa.  This was excellent.  The chips and salsa are incredible.  After quick stops at a grocery store and liquor shop, it was back to the hotel for visiting and bed.  End of day 6.

            
Fred in a rare quiet moment and Devil's Tower National Monument.
                                                              
Trip Diary - Day 7 - Monday, June 24, 2013: This day started at The Koop for breakfast.  Then it was on to Fort Fetterman.  This is one barren post.  The museum and visitor center was closed so we wandered around the grounds.  We checked out the fort and were able to see where General Crook camped before he headed out on the Sioux campaign of 1876.  We also saw the spot of the Hog Ranch.  The Hog Ranch was an establishment where women, booze, and gambling were all combined in one convenient location.  There is also a small cemetery just outside the fort.  After Fort Fetterman, we headed towards the town of Guernsey, Wyoming.  Here we explored the Oregon Trail ruts and also stopped at Register Cliff.  Then it was back into Guernsey for a quick lunch at Crazy Tony's.  After lunch we drove down to Fort Laramie.  This was an impressive site.  Fort Laramie has been partially restored and has one of the best stocked bookstores I have ever seen.  We spent the afternoon walking around the grounds and had a group photo taken on the porch of Old Bedlam.  After a stop at the sutler's store for some sarsaparilla, we drove back to Douglas and continued on through to Casper.  After the Super 8 the night before in Douglas, the Best Western Ramkota in Casper was a welcome sight.  We got cleaned up and relaxed for a bit before heading out to the Wonder Bar for supper. Here we found good beer and good food.  Fred and I split a pizza special - a multi-topping pizza and two beers for $10.00.  How can you beat that?  Lots of tall tales on this night.  Back to the hotel.  End of day 7.

               
Yours truly, standing in an Oregon Trail rut and a group photo on the porch of Old Bedlam at Fort Laramie.

Trip Diary - Day 8 - Tuesday, June 25, 2013: Today was the 137th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  Ironically, we wouldn't visit the battlefield this day.  We started out with breakfast at Remington's Restaurant in the hotel.  We then headed over to Fort Caspar.  There is a decent visitor center and museum as well as several outlying buildings to visit here.  We saw the site of the old Platte Bridge as well as learned about the Platte Bridge Fight of July 26, 1865 and also the Battle of Red Buttes, in which Lt. Caspar Collins was killed..  After Fort Caspar we headed back north towards our final destination for the evening - Hardin, Montana.  Everyone dozed on the trip north, except Max who was driving.  Maybe he slept too.  We'll never know.  We made a quick stop in Buffalo for ice cream at Lickity Split. With the sugar fix out of the way we made good time to Hardin.  We debated about stopping at the Little Bighorn Battlefield on our way to Hardin but decided to keep moving and get to Hardin where we could eat and get some laundry done.  We checked into the Super 8.  Unlike Douglas, Wyoming, the Super 8 in Hardin is superb.  We were able to get suites for roughly the same price we paid for the sub-par rooms in Douglas.  We have stayed there numerous times and it is always clean and the service is great.  For supper we walked over to the Pizza Hut and got some pies to go.  Back at the motel we all congregated in Frank's and my room.  We ate pizza, drank beer, and watched "How the West Was Won" on television.  End of day 8.

Trip Diary - Day 9 - Wednesday, June 26, 2013: Our last full day together began with the continental breakfast at the hotel.  We then loaded up and took off for the battlefield.  We stopped at the Custer Battlefield Trading Post where we bumped into Gerry Schultz and Britt Colle.  They were going on a horseback ride around the battlefield so had little time to visit.  We also met and talked with Putt Thompson who runs the trading post.  He gave each of us a printout of a story about the controversial photo of Crazy Horse.  We eventually made our way to the battlefield and spent some time on Last Stand Hill photographing the markers and the monument.  We then drove to the Reno-Benteen portion of the battlefield.  Michael was working on a photo survey of the Indian markers at the battlefield and went off to pursue that.  The rest of us walked the sidewalk trail around Reno-Benteen where we again ran into Gerry Schultz and Melani Van Petten.  They joined us for a group photo at the Reno-Benteen monument and came with us to our next stop - Weir Point.  Since Weir Point is on Custer Battlefield Preservation Committee land, we stopped and climbed to the top.  You get a unique view of the battlefield from atop Weir Point.  I took the opportunity to use my smartphone to take a panoramic photo from the top of Weir Point. 


The view from the top of Weir Point.

When we came down off Weir Point we said good-bye to Gerry and Melani and left for Billings and the last night of Montana Mayhem IV.  Once we arrived in Billings we checked back into the Best Western ClockTower Inn.  Frank found a brewery map in the lobby and once we all got checked in we walked to a number of breweries in the area including: UberBrew, Carter's, Angry Hank's, Himmelberger, and of course, Montana Brewing Company.  Frank, who opted out of the brewery walk, joined us at the MBC.  We had our last beers of the trip and also some well needed food.  We stopped into Pug Mahon's Irish Pub and then it was back to the motel.  With the exception of Gary, who had a very early flight, we sat around outside by the pool for one last roundtable discussion. Then it was off to bed.  End of day 9.

           
The gang minus Frank at Angry Hank's Brewery and something is apparently wrong with Gary.


Fred and Frank before flying home.

Trip Diary - Day 10 - Thursday, June 27, 2013: Final day of Montana Mayhem IV.  We had done all the damage we could do.  Gary was up and out of Billings before the rest of us were even awake.  Breakfast today was at McCormick Cafe.  It was now time for Fred to leave us.  We checked out of the hotel and gave the Suburban a much needed wash.  The guys drove to the airport and I followed to have one last visit.  We sat in a restaurant at the airport and had coffee or soda.  Eventually, Max and Frank went to check in for their flight.  Michael and I sat around for another half hour or so and then it was time for me to leave.  Michael would finally get his opportunity to fly home and I set off on my drive.  On my way I stopped off in Sheridan at the Holiday Inn where the Little Bighorn Associates were having their annual conference.  I talked to Tim Bumb, Lorne Langley, and Sandy Barnard before getting back in the car and hitting the road again.  I made another stop to see the Fetterman Monument, Portugee Phillips monument, and the Fort Phil Kearny bookstore.  I stopped again in Gillette and spent some time with friends while the rest of the guys all arrived home that night.  I would finally pull into Pierre on Saturday afternoon.  Montana Mayhem IV was over. 

The two year countdown has already started for Montana Mayhem V.

Franks Photos from Montana Mayhem IV - MMIV - PR Country Comforts - Ft. Fetterman - Ft. Caspar - Ft. Laramie/Oregon Trail Ruts - Occidental Hotel

Scott's Photos from Montana Mayhem IV






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