Timelines and Bloodlines Merge,
and Washita Echoes Nine Eleven,
and the Moment is Right and Proper
on the Battlefield by Cheyenne.
September 3, 2002
Being holed-up in a Best Western Motel beside the broad commercial highway between Amarillo, Texas, and Liberal, Kansas, isn't an ideal way to pass the Labor Day holiday weekend. I'll chalk it up to necessity and head for the Sangre de Cristos in the afternoon light.
Other than a fleeting episode of poetic insight late Sunday night, my sixty-seven-hour sojourn here in the very heart of old No Man's Land sacrificed inspiration for organization. I needed to regroup, transcribe notes and interviews, and analyze the psychic landscape.
A modem pipeline from the motel phone through Panhandle Telecommunication Systems of Guymon to the Internet and corndancer.com's web server in Atlanta has opened a portal into some intense webwork. (At $5.95 a day, the pipeline is a major-league bargain.) The Zephyr site needed retooling and refinement in preparation for the next phase of my journey. I did it.
What remains is the aspiration to dip this byted ladle into the flowing well of fresh recollection and lay-down some words before the clock chimes the next alarm: Time to pack-up and go.
Nine-Eleven and 1868 at Cheyenne.
Lest we forget, the tragedy of September 11, 2001, will be front and center throughout the USA next Wednesday on the first anniversary of Arab Islam's sneak attack on New York City and Washington. Nine Eleven, as we've come to know it, will be eulogized with remarkable irony at the Washita Battlefield National Historical Site in Cheyenne, Oklahoma.
On a prairie hillside overlooking one of the most infamous battlefields of the USA's Indian Wars, timelines and bloodlines will be merged when a typically eclectic band of Americans gathers to pay homage to their common heritage. As full participants in a great and terrible experiment in governance, union, and nation-building, they will stand in familiar unity as citizens of the republic. Like so many others across the continent that day, they will confirm the one identity that holds.
Pentecostals and Baptists of European heritage will stand beside Cheyenne elders and Catholic deacons with roots in old Mexico to remember the fallen ones and send forth hope that battles between nations and peoples might end.
"We will have reached a point in time where we can gather together as one people to remember and hope and learn," Rich Arias, organizer of the observance, said at Cheyenne on August 27. "We will come together with prayers, songs, and words of encouragement to one another."
Chief Black Kettle Dies.
The Battle of Washita in late autumn of 1868 saw Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle die beside his bride Medicine Woman during a sneak attack by U.S. Army cavalry under the command of George Armstrong Custer.
Caught up in the spirit of revisionism and reflection that characterizes all of history, Washita is becoming an ascendant symbol of USA's debate with itself over past acts and enduring ideals. Was it a massacre, or an ambush? Was it legitimate combat between the warriors of nations, or genocide practiced by an army of Caucasian Europeans against the native peoples of the plains? Was it an elemental struggle for land and natural resources between antipodal societies in which blame is meaningless and only the victor prospers? To achieve a small measure of shared spiritual peace, an agreement shall be sought as Washita emerges in the national consciousness.
As soon as the new interpretative center is constructed on a hillside above the battlefield sometime within the next year or two, the Park Service will begin to promote Washita. Black Kettle's star will rise. Tourists by the hundreds of thousands will make the pilgrimage to Cheyenne. The debate will intensify. The place where Custer killed Black Kettle could conceivably rival Little Big Horn in the pantheon of historical attractions.
Right, Proper, and Appropriate.
Mr. Arias, acting superintendent of the National Park Service's Washita site, organized the observance because he knew it to be right, proper, and appropriate. He organized it with a personal kind of passion, an intensity based on direct experience and abiding love for the city he left behind to make a second career with the Park Service. His wife survived the first attack on the World Trade Center. The office where he practiced his previous profession as a broker and commodities trader was located in one of the smaller buildings that toppled in the fiery afternoon aftermath of the second attack.
Now Mr. Arias has come from the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park on temporary assignment to Cheyenne, where he serves as Acting Superintendent of the Washita site. Here he has learned the poignant, instructive realities and reverberations of another sneak attack in another war that shall not be forgotten.
"The battle of Washita 134 years ago saw the tragic loss of innocent lives through needless violence, just as the World Trade Center, Washington, and Pennsylvania saw the tragic loss of innocent lives through needless violence," Mr. Arias said. "I won't endeavor to try to parallel the two events, but we can recognize that Washita presents a perfect backdrop for the observance of Nine Eleven. The location is very appropriate for the spirit of the moment. "
Mr. Arias, born of a Puerto Rican father and Polish mother, said the Cheyenne High School band would play the national anthem at the observance. Hymns and patriotic songs will be sung. It begins at 10 a.m. at the interpretative center on Oklahoma 47A just west of Cheyenne town.
The Cheyenne tribal dignitaries who plan to participate in Wednesday's observance are driving over from Hammon, twenty or so miles to the east of Cheyenne town. Several people told me that the last Indian to live in Cheyenne moved away several years ago.
Roads and Towns Along the Way:
An Accounting of the Journey.
Wednesday, August 21
ARK 286 across the Arkansas River at Toad Suck Dam.
ARK 60 westward through Houston, Perryville, Alpin, and Nimrod to Fourche Junction, where emergency signs announcing, "Bridge Out," led to a detour south on ARK 7 to Hollis.
ARK 314 west along the South Fourche LaFave River to Onyx.
ARK 27 north to Rover.
ARK 28 west through Wing, Briggsville, Bluffton, Gravfelly, Nola, Harvey, Cedar Creek, and Parks to Needmore.
US 71 south through Boles and Y City to Acron.
US 270 west through Eagleton to ARK 272.
Up Rich Mountain to ARK 88 and Queen Wilhelmina State Park and a camp side on the south side of the mountain.
Thursday, August 22
Down the mountain on ARK 272, 270 and 71 to Mena for gasoline. (The night before I had run the tank low in a successful drive to beat dark to the camp site.) Back up the mountain on ARK 88 for breakfast at the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge.
Westward through the morning mist onto Talimena Scenic Drive on ARK 88 to the Oklahoma border, where the two-lane byway becomes OKLA 1 on Winding Stair Mountain.
US 271 south past Talimena State Park to Talihina.
OKLA 1/63 west to a county road just north of Buffalo Valley, which turned east for a short drive to the Choctaw Council House outside Tuskahoma.
US 271 briefly to OKLA 2 at Clayton, then southwest along the Kiamichi River through Stanley, Dunbar, Eubanks, Wadena, Kosoma, and Moyers to the intersection with OKLA 3 just west of Antlers.
OKLA 3 due west through Darwin, Farris, Lane, and Atoka.
OKLA 7 west, past Boggy Depot State Park, across the old Shawnee Trail, and through Wapanuka to OKLA 99 and south to Tishomingo.
OKLA 1 west through Ravia, Russett, Mannsville, and Dickson to Ardmore.
Friday, August 23
US 70 west through Lone Grove, Wilson, and Ringling to Waurika and the Chisholm Trail Museum.
OKLA 5 west through Hastings and Temple to Walters.
OKLA 53 east for a few miles, then north on OKLA 65 through Hulen, Letita, and Pumpkin Center to Sterling.
OKLA 17 to Apache, east on US 277 to Cyril, and then north on OKLA 8 to Anadarko.
Saturday, August 24
OKLA 9 west across the Washita River to Fort Cobb, Carnegie, Mountain View, and Gotebo to Hobart, then southwest for the short jog to Lone Wolf.
OKLA 44 into the Quartz Mountains, then across the North Fork of the Red River to Quartz Mountain State Park.
US 283 west to Mangum, then north on OKLA 34 through Carter to Elk City on I-40.
OKLA 6 west from Elk City to US 283, then northward to Cheyenne.
Sunday through Tuesday, August 25-27
Cheyenne and the Black Kettle National Grassland.
Wednesday, August 28
US 283 north through Roll to OKLA 33, then west on an excursion to Mr. Terry Watson's ranch and the Antelope Hills. Return to US 283 north to Arnett.
OKLA 46 through Gage to May.
OKLA 3 west into the Panhandle through Slapout to Elmwood.
US 270/OKLA 3 north to Beaver along the Beaver River.
Thursday and Friday, August 29-30
Beaver Dunes State Park.
Saturday, August 31
US 270 north to Forgan, then west on US 64 to Turpin. South on a Texas County rural road to Adams, then southwest to the Optima Dam and abandoned recreation areas, exiting the wasteland at US 412, then west to Hardesty.
OKLA 3 to Guymon.
Sunday and Monday, September 1-2
Tuesday, September 1-2
West on US 64 to Boise City, the Black Mesa, and points beyond....