Not too long ago, I found myself standing on a small hill, overlooking the vast rolling plains near Little Bighorn, Montana. In front of me, at a downward slope and in a disorganized pattern, were small headstones placed, where once, the courageous men of the 7th US Cavalry fell. When an outnumbered detachment of the “Boy General’s” horsemen bravely fought till the bitter end. They clashed with an overwhelming horde of Lakota, Dakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho in one of the most significant battles of the Great Sioux War of 1876.
In their midst was a special marked headstone that bore the name of General George Armstrong Custer, who died with his men at the so called “Battle of Little Big Horn” or “Custer’s last stand”.
I am not going to write about the campaign; you will find that and the many controversies that go with it well documented in history books. Rather, what I would like to write about is the impact that my visit to this historical, almost sacred place, had on me.
I did a lot of reflecting while standing there, of how quickly certain choices or decisions can escalate into disastrous pandemonium. Throw in arrogance, vanity and greed and you have a scenario for war. But there was another thing I noticed. Being a modeler, I like to look different at artifacts. I examine the lay of the land more than just scanning it. By taking mental pictures, I put my imagination to work of how it would look if I could recreate it in scale. I study objects different than, let’s say, the “accidental tourist” and absorb as much history as I can muster.
So, by building models, it not only gives me the satisfaction of crafting something I’m interested in but it also allows me to recreate the history behind it. I have visited many of battlefields, home and abroad and always draw energy from it. Maybe it is the sentiment of fascination for those places
that attracts me to them. I think most modelers will agree with me. At least if you’re into military stuff. But seeing the real thing is still better than reading about it. That’s when fantasy kicks in and the motivation to start a new project, soon follows.
Not sure I’m going to get into the “Cowboys and Indians” aspect of the hobby. Probably not, but by visiting the Little Bighorn Memorial, I realized once again that freedom is not free and the sacrifice, delivered from both sides, was a silent reminder of that. But if you believe in a cause that is just, even though there are different paths to travel, sometimes you have to fight! No matter what side you’re on!