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Published: March 24th 2008
Strangely, they show Custer across from Black Kettle, like opponents.
Posted By: Onaxthiel: I must preface anything I say about the Oklahoma by saying that I really like the state. It has pretty country, cheap gas prices, and the people driving pickups on the back roads wave at passersby like Dakotans. Really, I find the state rather charming. But the state is filled with ax-murdering psychopaths. And coming from me that should be a telling statement. Our day started off well enough, with a drive out of the Foss Lake State Park we had overnighted in, towards the Black Kettle National Grasslands, a land of many uses. The most direct route was closed, so we ended up driving about twice as far to get to the prime site of interest, the Washita Battlefield. On the way we stopped off at an unremarkable small town post office to mail off the weather balloon instrumentation we had found in west Texas. This small post office with an American flag fluttering in the breeze was the last bit of normalcy we would see for the day. Pretty soon we were driving over Dead Indian River, and then Sergeant Major's Creek, and seeing the little historic markers along the side of the road that said
things like “here were discovered the bodies of a white woman and her child.”
The battlefield museum is brand new and gleaming fresh. So new that not all the exhibits had been transferred from the old museum in the nearby town of Cheyenne. So new that the contractors were still caulking the windows in the lobby when we were there. So new that the roof still leaks, because not all the kinks are worked out yet. Still, what is there is pretty cool. And what else would be fondly commemorated in this state of ax murderers other than an Indian massacre. In Lt. Col. Custer's very first excursion against the Indians in the west, he rode out towards a village with around 700 calvary troopers. Then he ordered an attack on the very first encampment they found. As it turned out, this was a tribe led by a chief known as Black Kettle, and he had already signed a peace treaty with the whites. Black Kettle's band cooperated with the white enough, in fact, that the main encampment of Kiowa and Cheyenne only a mile or so further up the river (and still hostile to the US government) had
forbidden him from moving his teepee's into their village. So as Custer and the 7th cavalry moved in and crushed an unsuspecting tribe, the band of 6,000 further up the river began to prepare for imminent attack. As it was, Only a small squad of Custer's command found out about how large this contingent was, when they accidentally pursued some fleeing natives into their camp. They were all killed, and Custer realized that he couldn't win against the numbers he was seeing and retreated with his prisoners. It was this habit of dividing his forces and charging villages that would cost him dearly about eight years later. It should be noted that Custer, to his credit, ordered an immediate stop to the killing of women, children and the unarmed as soon as he saw it beginning. Given some of the bad press he has since received as a whole hearted slaughterer of Native Americans, it is worth pointing out that he wasn't trying to kill non-combatants.
The park has a rather well made movie about the battle that will one day be shown in a small theater. Right now, due to the newness of the building, it is shown
Bar S meat processing.
Maker of discount meats!
on an HD plasma screen instead. It shows a pretty good re-enactment of the fight, except for the Ford pickup that is seen parked in the background of a few of the shots. Hey, if it can happen to Peter Jackson, we can't expect a public servant to do much better. The battle site itself is a pretty good nature hike. There are a few locations marked on the map that you can bring along, and this gives you some sense of how the massacre played out, though it is a bit harder than it should be to tell where you are due to their re-using of numbers on the map. “Well, we are either at the site of Custer's command post, or the site of the escape of a few Indian children. Either way, it's HISTORY!”
From there we headed back towards the highway to get ourselves to OK City. Needing gas, we stopped right before hitting I-40. There were cops everywhere. They searched our trunk for one of the many escaped convicts that roam the Oklahoma roads in the spring, when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of break outs. We also had a chance to
stop off at the Oklahoma Route 66 museum, a chance to look at the many years of driving through small town America that the creation of the interstate system has mostly destroyed.
A few hours later we arrived in Oklahoma City, and went to the memorial for another slaughter of people that really didn't deserve it. The Alfred P. Murrah federal building memorial is a tribute to the victims of the worst terrorist attack in US history prior to September 11.
The remains of the building itself had to be imploded a little over a month after the attack, due to the structural instability of the site. The buildings nearby still bear witness to the destructive power of the bomb (Obfuscator adds: And by proxy, the cow). Across the old parking lot, a building which now houses the memorial museum shows its scarred walls to the world, as well as the spray painted messages of rescuers and evidence collection teams from the days immediately after the blast. Almost a block away, an apartment building displays the cracks in its facade that kept it legally uninhabitable for eight months after the bombing. Within the grounds, a single tree
State route 66 museum.
Showing examples of 60 years of road trips.
is the only living thing permanently located in the park that was present at the time of the bombing. Below, a reflective pool shows the sky and the entrance and exit to the memorial, and a section of fence holds memorials to the dead left by parents, siblings, spouses and children, all deprived prematurely of a loved one.
After these two depressing stops, it was time for us to meet one of Obfuscator's old college friends, R, who is working on a doctorate in Meteorology at the University of OK. With a bit of time to play with, we checked out the OKC river walk in the brickyard neighborhood of town. It's an urban redevelopment area centered around a minor league baseball stadium. The most notable part of the river walk is that it displays the largest collection of climbable outdoor art that we have yet seen on the drive. A small wagon trail drives away from a man with a cannon as fast as it can, while a chicken hearted cowboy with nasal strips rides away from them across the river. We finally met R and her friend D at a statue of a man pushing a boulder
up a hill in hell, waiting for it to roll back and crush him. We moved on to a local brewery and pub for dinner and tried the low alcohol beer that the prohibitionist state of OK allows in their bars.
Once dinner was done, we headed to our campsite for the night, Thunderbird Lake State Park. The first part that we drove into was manned by a park ranger in a truck. He explained that this section was closed due to three missing girls in the park, (ax murderers!) and instructed us to head down the road a few miles further on. There we found a very nice sardine campground, and only had to contend with drunken college spring breakers screaming until 2 AM. In total it was a pretty good day, if a bit disturbing.
Tot: 0.035s; Tpl: 0.019s; cc: 11; qc: 27; dbt: 0.0069s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
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