The long blades of prairie grass rolled against the breeze coming from somewhere in the Bighorn Mountains. It rustled as it rolled, creating a faint swooshing sound. All other sounds had died away as I lay there. The sounds of battle, the cry of death, the tearing sound of a scalp as it was separated from a soldier nearby. The nerve shattering, shrill cry of an attacking brave. The deep pummel of horse hooves as they galloped by – some in flight, some in pursuit. It was over before it started. We were lost.
I was too tired to feel fear now. My wounds didn’t pain me despite hearing the sounds of others nearby crying out from both injury and fear. It was too late for that. Now was the time for peace as death walked this place, taking one victim at a time. It would soon consume us all, leaving nothing behind to mark what had happened here. We, the conquerors, with our bravado and set purpose – now left behind on the field of our foe’s victory. This was their place, their homeland…and we were not welcome.
At some point in the future they would come from the east, looking for us – the great cavalry that disappeared with nary a survivor to tell the tale. They would only find our bones, left where we fell, all flesh rotted away, food for the creatures of these great plains. Our bones, bleached white by the sunlight, laying scattered by the elements. Common soldier indistinguishable from our yellow haired leader. He was here too…somewhere nearby, hidden from view by these rolling green hills. I’d seen him fall, surrounded. All the promise and glory of this expedition fell with him.
This land and its inhabitants would not be so easily conquered, but although not easy, it would happen…eventually. This thought comforted me, along with the warmth of the sun on my face, as my body began to fail me. One breath, then another…and all was silent.
I was no more.
All photos by the author. The text was inspired by a visit to the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana, otherwise known as the site of Custer’s Last Stand.