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Friends Summer Events June 23-25, 2012 -- 136th Anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn
by Bob Reece
All photos © Joanne Blair, Kay Hunsaker, Bob Reece, and Mike Semenock as noted.
Last Stand Hill as seen from Deep Ravine Trail
This year marked the 136th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and the Friends of the Little Bighorn’s highlight for the weekend – as last year -- was the Sunday evening field trip, “Evening Walk Through History with Dr. Richard Fox”. Besides the field trip, we held our general membership meeting and annual Friends Feast on Saturday the 23rd, and our member volunteers manned the trails to interpret the battle story for the Monument’s visitors Sunday and Monday the 24th and 25th.
Hover your mouse over any photo to read a caption and photographer credits. To enlarge the photo, just click on it.
“An Evening Walk Through History with Dr. Richard Fox”
Our field trip was held Sunday evening from 6:00 PM until the Monument closed. Friends’ board member Mike Semenock provides a detailed report of the field trip. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Fox for an informative evening of remembering the archeological digs of the 80s and 90s. He touched all the elements I asked of him, plus some. I was very interested in having him begin the program by thinking back and digging deep into how he felt, what he saw, and what he found that first day he walked on the battlefield immediately after the Big Fire of 1983. You’ll learn fascinating stuff in Mike’s report.
Dr. Richard Fox Leads Field Trip
photo by Mike Semenock
Friends Command Post and Volunteer Interpreters
Our command post was on the second floor of the administration building. We opened the doors for members’ registration Saturday morning the 23rd and remained open through Monday the 25th. Although this location is far from the center hub of activity, it did provide for a comfortable resting spot with air conditioning and easy access to bathrooms.
We placed interpreters along the Deep Ravine and Crazy Horse/Keogh Trails, Last Stand Hill, Indian Memorial, and Reno Benteen Battlefield. Joanne Blair ensured there were healthy snacks and plenty of well-chilled bottled water. The water was especially needed, because the temperatures were the highest seen over the anniversary weekend since 1988. We experienced temps over 100 degrees on Saturday through Monday.
Friends also provided assistance to the NPS during the public lunch feed on Monday the 25th. I especially want to thank the following for helping the NPS: Friends board members Kay Hunsaker and Lola Mauer, Friends members Ruth Rhode, Joanne Blair, Christine Martin, and newest member Jana Over. I’d heard all weekend from various NPS staff members that visitation was up from last year but the number of people attending the feed seemed lower. Of course, when one remembers how low visitation was last year due to high gas prices, visitation should be up this summer.
WNPA and Friends Book Signing
Sunday afternoon the 24th, Western National Parks Association (the cooperating association that manages the visitor center bookstore) and Friends partnered to provide an author book signing for the Monument visitors. Thank goodness it was held inside the bookstore so the historians could visit the public in a much cooler environment. Sitting at the table were Friends’ board member Neil Mangum, Dr. Richard Fox, Paul Hedren, and Jeff Barnes. Neil autographed “Battle of the Rosebud” and Friends’ “Ghost Herder” while Dr. Fox signed “Archaeology, History, and Custer's Last Battle”. Paul Hedren wrote his John Hancock on “After Custer” and Jeff Barnes autographed his travel guide “Custer: 85 Forts, Fight, and Other Sites”.
L-R: Jeff Barnes, Paul Hedren, Neil Mangum, Dr. Richard Fox
Thank you to WNPA Field Ops Mgr Valerie Schafer for working so hard to put this event together. Valerie and I met last year at the WNPA board meeting in Golden, Colorado. Friends is fortunate to have a strong and trusting relationship with WNPA, so Valerie and I agreed that we would think of ways to partner more for the purpose of raising revenue for the battlefield. This year’s book signing generated more revenue for WNPA, which can do nothing but help the battlefield in the end.
We continue this partnership in June 2013 when we will present Dr. Douglas Scott to sign his upcoming book, “Uncovering History”, which Friends and University of Oklahoma Press have partnered to publish.
General Membership Meeting and Friends Feast
Friends held our general membership meeting and Friends Feast on Saturday evening, the 23rd. Every year at the feast, we thank the volunteers who worked the trails, as well as welcome any of the NPS staff so we can all get to know each other better. Once again, Julie Elkshoulder made the best Indian Tacos you’ll find in the West. This year she also presented some of the wild fruit that grows on the Montana Prairie. We savored wild plums and chokecherries.
We enjoyed both acting superintendents attendance at the feast: Gus Sanchez and David Harrington. Acting Superintendent Harrington brought us up to date on battlefield news. The excitement of the announcement of the next superintendent was still hanging in the air while we were at the battlefield.
Friends Feast & General Membership Meeting
Except for the extreme heat, it was another great battle anniversary for Friends members. For our members who could not make the trip, we hope you’ll be able to next year. You really don’t want to miss it, because we’ll have Dr. Douglas Scott leading us on the field trip.
Thank you to the Friends board members who made it this year: Kay Hunsaker, Neil Mangum, Mike Semenock, Lola Mauer, and Ryan Trainor. Also, thanks to Mike for managing the volunteers. He might pass the role to someone else next year because he would like to get back on the trails for a change. Thanks to Den Mother Joanne Blair for doing countless numbers of things that ensured everything went smoothly. She kept all of us fed and hydrated. Thank you Neil for adding interesting stories to Richard’s accounts while on the field trip. I learned that it was Neil who escorted Richard on the battlefield that first day after the Big Fire of August 1983. I cannot thank Kay enough for hauling from California our polo shirts and jackets adorned with the beautiful Friends logo. A good number of members purchased them to take home and wear proudly.
As always, we could not do any of this without the generous support from the Park Service staff: Acting Superintendents Gus Sanchez and David Harrington for helping us with logistics; Ken Woody for the volunteers; and Jerry Jasmer, Michael Donahue, Marvin Dawes, and Sharon Small for everything else. All of you do an amazing job everyday protecting the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument that we all hold so dear.
Finally, a sincere thanks to all the Friends members who volunteered on the trails. Your professionalism while representing the NPS and Friends was superb. You shared your version of the battle with such passion that it could do nothing but enhance the visitor experience. As always, I hope all of you had a great time. This year it was especially tiring because of the heat. God Bless all of you.
I’ll see you on Last Stand Hill.
Black White Man, Deep Ravine Trail
Last Stand Hill on horizon
Copyright 1999-2013 Bob Reece
Friends Little Bighorn Battlefield, P.O. Box 636, Crow Agency, MT 59022