Last week, this column missed a noteworthy passage about a stop at one of the most significant historic sites anywhere in the western United States. The trip that Jerry Ostensoe and I had taken into North Dakota and Montana was like two earlier ones, focused on history, and particularly on the many events that unfurled in the upper great plains during the nineteenth century and especially during the years 1863 through 1890.
Following our stop at Pompey’s Pillar, along William Clark’s return journey following the Yellowstone River, east of Billings, we turned south toward the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument, located where Interstate 90 parts ways with U.S. Highway 212 at Crow Agency, Montana.
The names of Sitting Bull, Custer and Crazy Horse, so prominent among many others, make the Little Big Horn Battlefield perhaps one of the best-known historic sites in the country. The site is now a National Monument, with a visitor center containing much information about the people involved and the events leading up to the battle as well as the battle itself. The many walking trails, markers and several interpretive kiosks, add to the public’s understanding of this major event in western U.S. history.
The legendary leaders who fought there still hold the imagination of the public and, being the summer vacation season, there were hundreds of tourists, many of them from Europe and Asia, visiting the Little Big Horn Battlefield the day we stopped there.
Even with that crowd (and the traffic from the nearby, very busy, annual Crow Fair) our visit to the battlefield’s grassy hills and trails was worthwhile. We’ve made a few stops there in the past, including in mid-winter and early spring, when we were the only ones there.
Whether you are there alone or with a crowd of others, the deep history of the Little Big Horn battle that took place on June 25, 1876 and the story of triumph of the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians over Custer and the Seventh Cavalry always make it a compelling place to return to.
Like the many other places we had stopped and explored, our visit to the Little Big Horn Battlefield was worth every minute of the two-plus hours we spent there. Taking the time to learn about history and the people and events that brought us to where we are at today is always worthwhile.
History on a more personal note came running back when we made a visit to the State Fair a week ago. I read somewhere that many, if not most of the nearly two million folks who visit the fair each year return to many of their favorite and familiar places at the fair.
There have been dozens of visits there over the years, but we do tend to fit that mold and go to many of the same places we’ve visited in the past. Why wouldn’t you go to your favorite food stand or the always interesting farm animal barns? And why not check out the music stages or other displays that seemed fun the last time you were there?
We also went back in time a bit by buying tickets to the grandstand show that evening. Comedian Sinbad opened the evening followed by the always fun and energetic 11-piece soul-funk band Earth Wind and Fire. They made their mark in the mid to late 1970s but haven’t lost a beat. Three original members, including their lead singer, the bass layer and lead guitar and singer have added younger players and are great fun to see. Although we were listening to songs that are 40 years old, it seemed like they could have written them just the other day and they capped a fun day at the fair.
Another trip to the Twin Cities last weekend set the stage for another slice of history and a new lesson.
Our tickets in the upper reaches of the Orpheum Theater’s balcony didn’t diminish the fun we had seeing the musical “Hamilton”. 2,400 folks packed into the big theater on Sunday evening, expecting a great show and got it. I’m far from being an aficionado of hip-hop or rap music but the music had me tapping my foot through the whole performance which has very little spoken dialogue and was instead almost entirely singing.
The story of Alexander Hamilton’s rise in influence as George Washington’s “right-hand man” and Treasury Secretary as well as his death in a duel with Aaron Burr has certainly been written about but even then, many of us know little about the guy whose picture is on the ten-dollar bill. This wonderful musical brings much about all of that to life.
The enthusiasm for the show is unprecedented. The “Hamilton” touring company is spending six weeks in Minneapolis, doing eight shows per week to a large sold-out theater. It was fun to land a couple of tickets, even in the upper balcony.