When Life Gives You Lemons…
In July I wrote, “The path of life is often very crooked, no matter how straight we think we can make it. We are in control of very few influences, with the rest well beyond our reach.”
Our plan for day two of the Road Trip to Kansas was to spend another day in Yellowstone Park and then drive east to Cody, WY. Unfortunately, the United States Congress couldn’t reach an agreement on funding the Federal government, so what would become an extended shutdown of non-essential Federal services began on October 1, day two of the road trip. Highway 14 through Yellowstone was closed!
We quickly decided to continue on with an adventurous attitude! We drove north to Bozeman, MT, east to Laurel, MT, and then south to Cody. It was actually a very nice detour that gave us a view of more uniquely beautiful terrain. We toured the Buffalo Bill Center of the West when we arrived. The current exhibits include five separate museums: the Buffalo Bill Museum, Cody Firearms Museum, Draper Natural History Museum, Plains Indian Museum, and Whitney Western Art Museum. The contrast between the Buffalo Bill and Plains Indian museums provided somewhat conflicting perspectives on the American-Indian wars of the late 1870’s. I’ll share more with you on that later.
On day three we traveled east toward Sheridan, WY on “alternate/short cut” Highway 14 through the Big Horn Mountains. Along the way we stopped near the Medicine Mountain National Historic Landmark. While the view was ever-reaching, the dirt road up to the Medicine Wheel was slushy and muddy, so we stopped before reaching the wheel itself. (For more information about the significance of the Medicine Wheel to Native American culture see Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark.) We travelled on and made a brief stop at the Bear Lodge Resort. Conversation among the elk hunters dining in the lodge centered on the storm heading in that would drop 20-24 inches of snow. There was some concern on the faces around us, but most of it seemed to be about missing this annual opportunity to drop and tag a big one.
A large Black Bear scrambled across the road in front of us as we descended the eastern slope of the Big Horn Mountains. Exhilarating! We took another short cut off of county road 345 onto 65, a gravel road, to make our way to I-90 and head north to our main stop for the day, The Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument.
When we arrived at the battlefield a flash of disappointment flashed through me. Of course it was closed! There we were after decades of paying taxes, annual interagency pass in hand, and the land we own as citizens was closed! I don’t want to get into a political debate in this space. That’s really not my purpose. I am a conservative, however, so tend to react to the shutdown through that filter. I don’t think either side of the aisle is “right” in their actions. The Republicans are making a last-ditch effort to change course after failing to gain wide-enough support to move their agenda forward. The Democrats are holding their ground. From my perspective, our President is taking the extreme win-lose approach to negotiating by refusing to do so. The game being played, whoever is at fault, is using the American people as pawns by shutting down the resources that have the most immediate impact on the citizenry, encouraging an uprising of sorts to reinforce the President’s agenda. Whether or not the citizenry understands this is moot. It is neither the intent of the government when it was formed nor the right of our current leadership. Lisa and I were not going to give in by letting this political game interfere with or undermine our long-planned retirement road trip!
Other people who had come here to see The Little Big Horn Battlefield seemed to have a similar reaction to mine. Some of them were actually inside, having found their way through a decrepit barbed-wire fence. Interesting!
The battlefield was initially a memorial for Custer’s 7th Cavalry. On Memorial Day, 1999, the first of five red granite markers denoting where warriors fell during the battle were placed on the battlefield for Cheyenne warriors Lame White Man and Noisy Walking. Other warriors’ granite memorial markers, including one for Crazy Horse, dot the ravines and hillsides just as do the white marble markers representing where soldiers fell. The Indian Memorial inside the national park further emphasized the conflicting perspectives on the American-Indian wars of the late 1870’s.
Sometimes the need to experience something meaningful and inspiring outweighs the potential risk of doing so. Sometimes, on the Road Trip to Kansas, we have no choice but to…
Travel is such a good way to deepen the experience of life, and to contemplate philosophical lessons through novel glimpses of nature and historical artifacts. I enjoyed riding along on this part of your trip.