Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Custer's final days on Earth were hot and bloody -- myths abound to this day so we set the record straight


The much visited Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument memorializes a major battle fought on June 25 and 26, 1876.

Native people celebrate their culture with a drum ceremony June 25.
WHEN LIEUTENANT Colonel George Armstrong Custer traveled to Montana, to bring "hostile Indians" under control, he was already famous, a decorated Civil War hero and career military man.
He had no reason to believe his next mission would go wrong -- but, boy, howdy, did it. Big time.
 For Custer and 262 of his men, the battle, known for decades as "Custer's Last Stand," was bloody, brutal and fatal.
FOLLOWING orders from President Grant, the Army was charged with removing the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne peoples to the Sioux Reservation in Dakota Territory. Naturally, the native people resisted. They were there first.
A young native American dancer arrives at the battlefield June 25.
While there are many myths about the details, the facts are: The battle between the Indian people and the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry was on June 25 and 26, 1876.  It involved 31 officers, 586 soldiers, 33 Indian scouts and 20 civilian employees. They did not all die.
WHEN THE smoke cleared on the evening of June 26, 262 were dead, 68 were wounded and six later died of their wounds. Custer’s Battalion – the five companies of C, E, F, I and L – was wiped out.  Many of the seven other companies under Major Marcus Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen survived.
Custer's decision to divide up his troops contributed to his demise, historians and military strategists agree. Men from the other companies admonished him: "don't be greedy -- save some Indians for us." Ironic in view of what
Native American flags lead the way to a beautiful memorial honoring
the fallen Indian people, with quotes from their leaders about peace.
I GREW UP with the moniker, "Custer Battlefield," but the name was, rightfully  changed to Little Bighorn Battlefield, honoring the lost on both sides. A striking Indian Memorial was dedicated in 2003 and completed in 2013 and now stands proudly just 75 yards northeast of the 7th Cavalry monument for Custer and his men. Red granite "warrior markers" honor fallen native warriors.  With the contrast of 265 white marble military headstones for the Custer contingent, visitors get a balanced story. We should have long ago honored the fallen Indian people and the end of their way of life.
Indians join in part of a re-enactment of Custer's last days last weekend.
COMING NEXT at whereiscookie
CUSTER'S MISTAKES were many, but mainly he radically misjudged the numbers of the Indian warriors and he divided his companies. We're clearing up the misconceptions and "holes" in the story. For instance, most people don't know that water travel played a role in the expedition and probably saved many lives.  After  “being whipped and driven up the hill by Indians,”wounded men from Benteen's and Reno's commands were transported by steam boat to medical care in North Dakota. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekends and Wednesdays at www.whereiscookie.com
Absarokee's Saturday Market is this Sunday, July 5, complete
with barbecue, crafts and yours truly signing "Lilian's Last Dance."
And if you're anywhere near this corner of Montana, don't forget  the Sunday, July 5, Saturday Market and the legendary Barbecue Cook-off in Absarokee. Head for Itti Bitti Bistro for barbecue under the Big Sky! Tasty stuff. And I'll be signing my new novel, "Lilian's Last Dance."!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Buffalo Bill's Cody is a showy town; tiny Fishtail has a good time, too

Amusements abound at the Buffalo Bill Cody Center of the West -- and Cody town herself; then there's Fishtail, Montana

Step right up to a feast of fantastic art as Cookie is doing at the Buffalo Bill Center's Whitney.



CODY, WYOMING brings out the fun in a person.
So does Fishtail, Montana.
Fishtail facts:
Did you know that a town only one block long can produce a parade that stretches two miles?
Check it out Saturday, June 27, at Fishtail Family Fun Day. Fishtail General Store is at the hub of the action.
A shoot-out in Cody, Wyo., takes
 place each evening by the Irma..
At the heart of the Saturday Fishtail Family Fun
Day is the historic Fishtail Store.
Since its opening in 1900, Fishtail General Store has been operating in the same location in Fishtail, Montana. BILL AND Katy Martin became enraptured with the store in 2000 and bought it. They've imbued the warm and welcoming institution with the feel of an old-time antique
If you're anywhere around Fishtail, check out the all-day fun time June 27, for food, festivities, bakery, contests, games and the fun spirit that put Fishtail on the map. Give a pat to the pot belly stove, admire the original oak cases and old-time meat counter with great rib-eye steaks.
Horses will be part of the fun in Fishtail this Saturday, June 27.
store-grocery-wine shop and gift shop which stocks an abundance of western memorabilia from candles to homemade jam, and this reporter's new paperback novel, "Lilian's Last Dance."
CODY BOASTS a different kind of treasure -- both art and antiques.  And many surprises.  Did you know that one of the paintings in the gorgeous Whitney Museum features "roving eyes"?  The eyes of the doe in the painting will follow you as you walk about 10 feet in front of it. There are historic, eye-popping Bierstadt paintings -- used to lure settlers West -- but there are playful modern art paintings, too.
Keller takes a bow next to Buffalo
 Bill Cody in Cody, Wyoming.
WHAT WE love about the Northern Rockies, especially in summer, is the variety of beautiful scenery, historic attractions, fun restaurants and enticing places to stay.

REMEMBER to explore, learn and live, and check us out Wednesdays and weekends at www.whereiscookie.com
We're on the road touring "Lilian's Last Dance" in eastern Montana -- between Hardin, Forsyth and Miles City.  Tomorrow, we're on at 2 p.m.(Saturday) for a reading at the Miles City Library.  And we've been invited back to Cody in October, to read at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Catch our adventures, on the road with "Lilian's Last Dance" at that blog, too: www.lilianslastdance.com

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cody's Buffalo Bill Center of the West provides returns, surprises time after time


The Buffalo Bill Center of the West draws an international clientele to Cody, Wyo.  It houses five  fine museums.
A painting of  Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill Cody is one of the most
admired and talked about in the Whitney Western Art Museum.

FOR DECADES now, I've enjoyed the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. It's a road trip highlight with family, friends or visitors from other states and countries..
For years, this stunning complex of five museums, was known as the Buffalo Bill Museum.  In our nearby town of Cody, Wyoming,
One doesn't have to be a gun aficionado to appreciate Cody's Firearms Museum.
IF YOU'RE a fan of art of the West, you'll enjoy my favorite of the quintet of museums, the Whitney Western Art Museum. You'll see a majestic Deborah Butterfield bronze horse, a stunning collection of western paintings ranging from Albert Bierstadt to N.C. Wyeth, with everything in between.  There are fun, recent paintings and sculpture, too, besides the time honored portfolio of artists who joined in and promoted the western expansion effort, or who simply came to know and love the west through visits as tourists.
I ALWAYS discover something new, and revisit favorite pieces.
The famous painting of the Custer Battle, whose anniversary is this week, always has people around it.   Did you know that painter Edgar  Samuel Paxson arrived in Montana in 1877, the year after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, to begin his prodigious research?
The painter's interest in the battle -- almost an obsession -- would become a defining element in his artistic career, culminating in his major work, "Custer’s Last Stand."
You may not realize that the Center of the West contains five museums plus a world renowned research library.
The Plains Indian Museum has a world-class collection of artifacts.

Edgar Paxson's famously detailed  painting of the Custer Battle
Besides the Whitney, the Draper Natural History Museum showcases the rich life, power and beauty of the natural world of the Yellowstone region.  The Plains Indian Museum's elegant and elaborate collection depicts in beautifully curated displays the lives and legends of the Plains Indian people, and the Buffalo Bill Museum explores the world of the man after whom the town of Cody, and the museum, are named.
THE CODY  Firearms Museum is a must for anyone interested in guns, the lore of firearms and their importance in history.
 Cody's shoot-out  attracts those looking for corny but
entertaining, old-west fun, each night by the Irma Hotel.
The museum houses the world's most comprehensive collection of American firearms. In 1975, the Winchester Arms Collection, the heart of this museum, came to Cody on loan from the Olin Corporation. It was hugely received and gifted in 1988, enjoyed by thousands since. The museum houses 7,000 firearms with 30,000 firearms-related artifacts. A gun lover's paradise to be sure.
IF YOU'RE planning a trip to Cody, Wyo., take note of these upcoming special museum events:
Buffalo Bill Invitational Shootout, Aug. 6-8; Rendezvous Royale, Sept. 21-26,; Patrons Ball, Sept.26; Holiday Open House, Dec. 5.
The Fishtail General Store is an institution in the tiny town of Fishtail, Montana.
COMING UP: Grab the gang and head for Fishtail Family Fun Days, a real kick in the pants. It's this Saturday, June 27, in Fishtail, Montana. We preview it, plus examine just what makes Cody, Wyo., such a fun town? The Buffalo Bill Center of the West, of course, is the centerpiece, but there's much more -- including the nightly "shoot-out" at the Irma, a fantastic restaurant, The Local, and 90 straight nights of rodeo. Plus horses, horses, horses, fun shopping and a plush library. Meanwhile, if you're anywhere near Fishtail Saturday, stop by the Fishtail General Store, headquarters for fun, food and a two-mile long, parade. Not bad for a one-block town. Plus bakery, crafts, kids events and more. Check us out Wednesdays and weekends at www.whereiscookie.com


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Cody's thriving raptor exhibit gives hands-on, close up view of spectacular birds of prey

Kateri, a gorgeous golden eagle, was injured while feeding on a dead deer near Gilette, Wyo. She cannot fly. She was named
by a young Cody girl.  Kateri honors the patron saint of people who love nature and preserve the environment.
Volunteer and raptor aficionado Patrick Pitet, a retired
attorney, visits the raptors and helps with the birds. Here
he is with Suli, a turkey vulture beloved by the staff., .



A BIRD IN THE HAND, as the old saw goes, is worth two in the bush.
In the case of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, there are several hectic "handsful" of gorgeous raptors.
Birds of prey at the museum include eagles, kestrels, falcons, hawks and owls.
You can get up close and personal with a half-dozen of these beautiful creatures, named raptors because they kill and eat other animals for sustenance.
Eagles, hawks, falcons, kestrels and owls fit this category, and the Center has built a small, classy raptor house to hold them. None of the birds could be successfully returned to the wild.
MOST ARE victims of accident, but one -- the turkey vulture -- is a victim of human imprinting.
Suli hatched in a haystack in Kansas in 2011 where ranchers discovered her and thought her an orphan.  They took her to a nature center where she grew up with people not other vultures.  Thus Suli failed to learn bird behavior or survival in the wild.
Teasdale, a great-horned owl, came to the Center with a broken wing.
Her name derives from the Utah town near which a hiker found her.
Known as an important member of "nature's clean-up crew," the vulture is respected for its disposal of waste and rotting meat.  Its unique digestive system is impervious to bacteria and most disease.
THIS FACT and others are imparted during a lively half-hour show twice daily at the Buffalo Bill.  It's a wonderful outdoor option when visiting the five spectacular indoor museums in this world-class facility.
The Draper Museum's"Raptor Experience" shares these spectacular wild birds with visitors while staff commentary encourages conservation, bird watching and feeding and proper protocol for handling injured birds.
Frozen quail, mice and other raptor
delicacies are kept in the storeroom.
A red-tailed hawk, Isham, arrived at the raptor program from New Mexico.  He
was likely hit by a car when only a few years old. His eyes were damaged.
Visitors to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West often spend two days
visiting the five world-class museums.  More on that next time.
OUR CODY FRIENDS, Patrick and Lynn Pitet, are museum devotees -- she as staff and he as a volunteer. When they invited us to the outreach program, we "flew" at the opportunity and went behind the scenes in the raptor house, then watched the well done show. Here's the schedule, next time you're at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West (it's included in the admission):
11:30 a.m. "Raptors: Superheroes of Nature,"  Braun Garden, at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. “Relaxing with Raptors” can be enjoyed, too, at announced times. The raptors do school visits in winter, traveling to Red Lodge and other nearby Montana and Wyoming towns. Email Melissa Hill or call 307 578-4111 for information.

COMING UP: whereiscookie spends the day at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, known worldwide. Remember to explore, learn and live and check us out weekends and Wednesdays.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Glacier Park's wonders leave lifelong impression and appreciation of the Roosevelts


Lake McDonald  in Glacier Park belongs to all of us, thanks to the national park system and the Roosevelts' push. 

FDR loved the parks as his distant cousin Theodore Roosevelt had.
Here, FDR visits Glacier Park and makes a radio broadcast. 
and news archives

"There is nothing so American as our national parks.  The scenery and wildlife are native.  The fundamental idea behind the parks is native...that the parks belong to the people...."  FDR

Teddy Roosevelt above, said
his love of nature was encouraged
 by naturalist John Muir.

ONE FEELS a swell of pride when entering a national park. For me, it's as close to "church" as I  get, for as I pass the ranger station, I enter hallowed ground.
We here in Montana are lucky to have three national parks within easy driving distance.  Whether exploring Yellowstone to our south, or Grand Teton a bit farther, or heading north, "going to the sun" on the breathtaking highway by the same name in Glacier, we remind ourselves of our good fortune and the foresight of the Roosevelts.
So much beauty awaits in the national parks -- in large and small doses.
 Here, a close-up of algae makes a lovely mosaic on rock .
FRANKLIN Roosevelt's cousin, Theodore Roosevelt --"the conservation president" -- was a champion of the National Park System well beyond his term in office. He doubled the number of sites within the National Park system and enabled future presidents to proclaim historic landmarks through the Antiquities Act of June 8, 1906. This Act allows for structures and historic and scientific objects to be protected under federal ownership.
We appreciate the Roosevelts' vision and that of naturalist John Muir. He guided Teddy Roosevelt into the wilderness of Yosemite, and friends said it marked Teddy for life.

Conservationist John Muir engendered a love of nature in
the common man -- and in presidents. 

OUR NATURALIST friends knew a single day -- or three -- couldn't do justice to a national park. Yet FDR's few hours more than 80 years ago inspired a stirring radio address about Glacier's wonders.
If you only have a couple days, though, savor a national park visit to encourage an encore visit.
The grizzly bear is 
a sight to behold.

Trees, critters, birds, majestic glaciers, waterfalls, redwoods and vistas are a few of the enticements. They impressed Teddy, Muir and FDR as they impress millions today.
IN EVERY visit to Glacier, Teton and Yellowstone, we've been lucky to see bears.  We've watched them hike up hills and munch on grubs and berries, fattening up for the long winter's nap, months away. Once, we watched one unearth a carcass of a long dead mountain goat. The griz feasted on the smelly remains, buried months ago. No doubt, he'd remembered where he hid it.
Photographer Rick Cosgriffe has a field day in Glacier. He visits the park
several times each season, taking photos for his annual Daytime Planner.  
The grizzly has been around for at least 10,000 years. The native people knew them first, and they'd been there thousands of years before European explorers showed up in the late 1800s.
The "westerners" crossed the mountains in search of vast buffalo herds on eastern plains, documenting their observations of the grizzly.
 NATIVE people saw the parks' same wonders that Teddy, FDR, Muir and today's tourists do: rugged peaks, clear waters, abundant animal and bird life, breathtaking geysers and glacial-carved valleys.  May our national parks inspire those who love nature's beauty to protect and preserve it through the generations.
Kateri, a golden eagle injured by a car, is part of the Raptor
Exhibit at the Buffalo Bill Center. Coming soon here.

COMING SOON: We're back from a road trip to Cody, Wyoming, with a store of wonders including the Draper Museum Raptor Exhibit and its live show at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekends and Wednesdays at www.whereiscookie.com

Friday, June 12, 2015

Yellowstone Park in our back yard! Time for our annual nostalgic pilgrimage celebrating a world wonder

The drive in to Yellowstone from Red Lodge to the Cody entrance is lovely and varied, especially along the Chief
Joseph Highway, then again  between Cody and the East Entrance of the park. It's a favorite summer ritual. 
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone showcases
the turbulent Yellowstone River as it roars through
golden cliffs and ridges with thousands of firs. 


Slowing down as bison cross the road is a Yellowstone tradition.



AS A CHILD growing up in Montana, no summer was complete without a pilgrimage to Yellowstone National Park.
Although most of this splendid place is in Wyoming, our neighbor state, we thought of it as "our park" back in the 1950s.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, we didn't know
better and fed bears from our cars.

A herd of elk parades across the prairie on the drive from Gardiner
 to Mammoth, a thrilling sight no matter how often seen.  
I STILL THINK of Yellowstone as "ours" -- with apologies to our Cody, Powell and Worland friends.  Even after decades of multiple visits -- at least 100 in my lifetime -- a trip to the world's first national park leaves me proud and humbled.  As a global citizen, I feel ownership.  I hope everyone who visits does.  I love hearing dozens of languages, spoken by people whose countries I visited.

TOGETHER, WE gaze at spectacular  waterfalls and geysers, identify wildflowers, admire birds and count mammal species.
"Inspire, educate, preserve" is the motto.
Keller is "arms up" at the Roosevelt Arch near Gardiner.

WHATEVER PART of Yellowstone's glorious two million acres we visit, Teddy Roosevelt's best gift to the country shines like a well loved tiara.  We hike one of Yellowstone's 1,210 miles of marked trails. We usually stay at Lake Yellowstone Hotel or Old Faithful Inn,  and the restaurant at Lake is our favorite. I usually ask to play the grand piano in the lobby. (I've never been refused) while the musician a break.
If we have guests from the East Coast or Europe, we stop at Roosevelt Lodge for a cookout.  And we try to arise early one morning to visit "our Yellowstone" before the crush of folks begins about 10 a.m.
OUR PLACE north of Nye, Montana, is just 70 miles north of Yellowstone, as the crow flies.
As people drive, it's at least a three-hour journey -- to one of the park's five entrances. Our favorites are the stunning Beartooth Highway to the Northeast Entrance, or the less frightening, equally beautiful road to Cody, Wyo., and the park's East Entrance.
Because of its proximity, Yellowstone was a perfect "long weekend" trip for our young family, a journey taken in our Ford County Squire station wagon. We go by Ford Explorer now, and the family's dwindled since the carefree days of yore when we innocently fed bears marshmallows through the car windows.
Lake McDonald  is a stunning sight on a drive through Glacier Park, up next!
I HAVEN'T missed a summer trip to
Yellowstone and hope I never will. It's my celebration of a lucky birthplace -- and a thank you to TR!

COMING UP: Getting to Glacier National Park presented a bit more of a challenge -- about four times further away than Yellowstone, from our little town of Columbus, Montana. Still we made it every summer -- my dad's parents ran a motel in Kalispell for years. Remember to explore, learn and live and check us out Wednesdays and weekends at: ww.whereiscookie.com

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

'Weather' -- or not -- 'tis a fine time to be alive in Montana


Columbine and poppies, bending in the wind and rain, look toward the sunshine in the changing weather at High Chaparral.

Cookie's at the weed whacking, as the endless summer yard work begins.
MY GRANDMOTHER Olive often described Montana weather in this fashion:
"Nine months of winter and three months of company."
I'd add: "We've gone from rain coats and fires in the fire place to weed whacking and short shorts -- in less than 10 days.
Canada geese stop for a spring stroll  and snack
on our hillside grasses.
MOST STATES have some version of "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes."  But in Montana, we've experienced drenching storms and flooded main streets (Harlowton suffered through crazy thunderstorms a couple weeks ago, with torrential rains. "I've never seen anything like it," said my 70-plus year old
Catch up with 'Lilian's Last Dance'
cousin, who has lived there most of her life.) Lightning, hail and thunder visit Montana most Junes and sometimes into July.  But the radical change from cool to sweltering is always a shock.  The thermometer at my Billings bank said 96 yesterday as we dashed around for errands. It was a nippy 46 degrees 10 days ago.
WE CAN'T control the weather, and here in cattle and ranching/farming country, it's blasphemous to curse the rain.
So we smile and slog through the mud, and peel off a layer when the sun shines.  We relish the bird life that comes and goes -- tanagers are plentiful this year, gold finches, orioles, chickadees, and the gorgeous lazuli bunting with his showy aqua and orange plumage.
A lazuli bunting caught in song, outside our home windows.
We've had hawks, owls and eagles fly right over the place, resting on a telephone wire just out the front window. So, thanks, Gram, for your sayings, which included this little ditty you sang, always with an Irish accent!

Whether the weather be fine,
Whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather, 

whatever the whether,
Whether we like it or not!
A baby wren squawks for supper
from inside a bird house in our yard.

THE BIRDS MAY BE CALLING... But theater and national parks take starring roles in upcoming whereiscookie posts! We show what can happen when an enterprising opera company and an inventive theater troupe merge their resources and creativity. And we explore splendor in our two nearby national parks -- Glacier and Yellowstone! Remember to explore, learn and live, and follow us Wednesdays and weekends for our twist on travel, the arts, nature, cruising, pets and interesting hotels. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Off to Cody, Wyoming, with our own dog and pony show

‘Broads, Booze & Buckaroos’ writers’ workshop, reading June 13 in Cody

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Posted: Monday, June 1, 2015 2:52 pm | Updated: 9:37 am, Tue Jun 2, 2015.
Award-winning reporter and arts writer Christene Meyers will conduct a writing workshop from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, in Grizzly Hall of the Cody library.
The workshop is free and open to all writers or would-be writers.
Called “Broads, Booze and Buckaroos,” Meyers’ workshop will offer tips on imagining or re-imagining one’s history to produce lively writing.
The workshop is limited to 12-15 people to give time and attention to each participant’s efforts. Register for the workshop at the library or by calling 307 527-1880 during library hours to reserve a spot.
“What is necessary is to have the desire to write, and an idea,” says Meyers.
People may choose fiction, non-fiction or poetry for writing genres. Attendees should bring a list of characters – real or imagined – as well as a sampling of vintage photos from their family or friends, preferably at least three generations back. These will be used to inspire the day’s exercises.
The Cody workshop is one of five regional workshops Meyers has given. More are planned into the autumn in Wyoming and her native state, Montana.
Meyers is on a national tour with her novel, “Lillian’s Last Dance,” recently out in paperback and available at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. She will also address the "Buffalo Gals" in October at the Center, discussing her novel and its "Cody connection."
The book’s paperback publisher is WordsWorth of Cody. Meyers will have the book for signing at the workshop.
Her book was featured at the Billings Public Library as part of the “Big Read, Wednesday with Willa” activities sponsored by the Writer’s Voice of Billings. Her novel is set in 1907-1917 and features a love triangle among traveling actors during the transition of silent movies to “talkies.” It includes 24 colorful western supporting players and 20 cameos by actual personalities of the day, from Pablo Picasso to Buffalo Bill, after whom Cody is named and the founder of this newspaper.
Meyers divides her time between Nye, Mont., and San Diego, Calif.
In addition to teaching writers’ workshops, Meyers writes travel and arts articles for newspapers and magazines. Her byline, informed travel tips and knack for a lively interview are familiar to readers throughout the region. She also plays piano in nightclubs in Montana, California and Arizona.
There will be a lunch break for workshop participants, who may either bring a lunch or buy it in the library’s Biblio Bistro.