“Because It’s There”

52 Pick-up 2.0, #45 – 11/10/2020

“I seem to recall that Walt and Henry got into trouble golfing one time, but you don’t strike me as a golfer. What recreational activities do you take part in?”
-June Anderson

Hi June,

I ranch, so there’s no such thing as recreation… Just kidding.

No, I don’t golf, but my wife does; she even won the women’s division of the Mike Schmitt Tournament back in Philadelphia when she lived there. Me, I prescribe to the Mark Twain adage that “golf is a good walk spoiled”.

There are lots of things I do enjoy—fishing, horseback riding, mountain climbing.

In my youth I climbed in South America, Europe, Asia, and there are a few peaks I’d still like to bag even though I’m getting a little old for that stuff. I’d enjoy seeing the base camp for Everest even though I think climbing it is behind me—I’d just like to have a look at the tallest mountain in the world with my own eyes.

I like being outside. We’re getting those last gasps of fall here in Wyoming, and anybody who’s lived here any length of time, knows what’s coming. I love the bittersweet aspect of the season when the skies grow darker earlier, leaves are falling, and the air has a crisp feel to it. Snow is already encroaching on the Bighorn Mountains, and they’ll always be the reason I live where I do.

I remember when I was building the ranch—I’d look up and see the tallest mountain in the Bighorn Range, Cloud Peak (13,171’), and think how can people live down here and not want to go up there? Once I got the ranch built, I did, and have summited Cloud Peak and some of the others numerous times over the years, sometimes even alone, which drives my wife crazy.

It’s not the most technical of climbs, weather permitting, and I used a lot of those experiences in Hell Is Empty when Walt is chasing escaped criminals into the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area. I guess most of the things I do lead me to isolated places, which is interesting in that I generally enjoy the company of people. I guess it’s a way of recharging my batteries like nothing else does. When you’re involved in an outdoor activity like horseback riding, fly-fishing, or mountain climbing it demands a certain amount of concentration, and I guess that’s another attraction. The writing is always on my mind, even then, or if not then, then later when I’m assessing the experience. Everything is grist for the mill, and I guess that’s telling.

Artists and photographers see the world in a very different way, and I guess that’s true for writers as well. My wife, Judy, is more of an artist and sees the world in colors and light, but I experience the world in words, and the way I can use those words so that the reader can be a part of the experience.

The writing swallows me up every day, and I have to guard against being a one-note-Johnnie, so sometimes it’s something as simple as splitting wood or walking the dog.

But maybe not golf.

See you on the trail,
Craig

“Wanted Poster”

52 Pick-up 2.0, #44, 11/3/2020

“I’ve noticed a lot of authors are abandoning some forms of social media or don’t put much effort into their pages, but you’ve got a healthy presence—is this kind of activity enjoyable for you?”
-Gary Frazier

Hi Gary,

Yep, I guess it is. Like anything else, social media can be pushed to being good or bad, and I think you have to decide why it is you’re in the game. Long ago I decided that I was going to use it as a way of staying in touch with readers and as a casual form of interaction; simply saying that I wasn’t going to get too personal or express my views in a lot of volatile subjects—not that I don’t have them, but there’s a time and place. There are enough folks arguing about politics, religion, and other things, and I just decided I wasn’t going to engage in that for a number of reasons: first off, if it’s a casual form of communication, I was going to keep it light, and also because I didn’t want to spend my days arguing with people I don’t know or may never meet. My writing time is precious to me, and I don’t want to spend it on some blog arguing the relative merits of what brand of truck I prefer.

When Facebook and others first came out, I remember that the publishers kind of threw all of us authors to the wolves saying, “You should have a presence in social media, so get at it.” Well, we did but that didn’t mean we specifically knew what we were doing. I guess I did something right because I discovered quickly that Facebook/Private accounts were limited to 5,000 friends, so when I got there they explained that I would have to transition over to a public persona account with unlimited Friends—the difficulty being that when you subscribe to that type of account you lose the ability to comment on your Friends streams. I really didn’t want to do that because I think of any kind of communication as a two-way street. So, now I have two pages, one dormant one that I comment from and the other, my official, active page. It gets confusing for people, and I generally have to message them and direct them to the public page when they want to Friend me but the communication is well worth the effort.

By the way, if you’re interested, here’s the link to the official page. https://www.facebook.com/OfficialCraigJohnson

I think one of the biggest mistakes you can make is banging your drum too loudly, that is only being on there to sell books. One of the greatest benefits of social media is the interaction I have with readers which may be because I live in a town of 25, or just that I enjoy it. With the advent of cell phones, it’s so easy to take photographs and share them, and as they say, every picture tells a story.

The Thirty Seconds of Zen I put up on Sunday mornings kind of evolved from an attempt to give folks a moment of pleasant contemplation, something their lives may not provide on a daily basis. Not everyone has the luxury of sitting by a stream in the Bighorn Mountains, so I feel it’s only conscionable to share.

Then there’s 52 Pickup, which you’re reading now. When Ry Brooks started up the Longmire Book Club on Facebook, I was just impressed by the amazing job he was doing and I thought that maybe I should be helping him do some of the lifting, so I contacted him and said why don’t we do a weekly piece where readers can ask questions and I can respond with more than a few sentences. It’s one of the few, writing luxuries I allow myself and hopefully people enjoy them—a break from all the religion and politics…

See you on the trail,
Craig

“Play It Again, Walt”

52 Pick-up 2.0, #43, 10/27/2020

“I’ve noticed a lot of musical references in Next To Last Stand and was wondering if music is a large component in the ideas for all your novels.”
-Betty Wagner
 
Hi Betty,
 
Yep, music is an essential part of all the novels for a number of reasons, but mostly because I love music so much, all kinds of music. I write up in the loft here at the ranch, and I have a pretty good stereo that I generally turn on while writing. I think music might be the most emotive art, and its abilities to summon up emotions in the listener are hard to ignore.

People always ask what I listen to while writing and generally it’s the pieces or genre that happens to fit the novel, but I also have a friend who is a member of the Academy and sends me the soundtracks that she receives. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t watch much TV or movies and what I do tend to watch is old and black & white, which gives me an advantage in that I don’t generally know the movies whose soundtracks she sends me. Film music is highly emotive and does a pretty good job of getting me into the story if I need it.

I was looking through a local marketplace online and noticed an old Victrola for sale for a more than reasonable price and wrote the individual a note about it and he responded that if I was the Craig Johnson he’d sell it to me for half-price and a copy of the new book… I took the deal and placed it in the living room of a little cabin I’ve got and plucked out the first old 78 in the bin and placed it on the turntable, lowering the metal needle—Tchaikovsky’s Moscow Cantata. I was just frozen to the ground listening to it. With all the little pops and cracks, I was immediately swept away thinking about all the individuals who had listened to this particular record album before me.

In the Next To Last Stand it was an opportunity to set a time and place for Magic Mike and the Wavers, to pin them in a period with which Walt would be conversant. Music provides bookmarks in our lives, a soundtrack to our very existence. It’s funny, though, because Walt doesn’t have the best personal memories connected to the 60’s music, whereas Vic just enjoys the tunes, having not been around for the tumultuous period. Music is such a marvelous way to summon up a period in the reader and another opportunity to establish a high context connection so long as I don’t get too esoteric. In those scenes, if I chose carefully enough, the reader instantly hears what I want them to hear.


Another reason is that I like doing what the characters do, see, taste, feel, and hear. As stated above, I know what can happen when you hear certain songs, how transformative that it can be. Sense-memory is always a shortcut to getting into the character’s world.

Another reason for all the music is Walt is a musician. I think it’s one of the hallmarks of his character that’s intertwined with his abilities in math and investigation. He rarely makes it home to his little unfinished cabin, but when he does, I think he’s drawn to the old Henry F. Miller piano his wife refinished all those years ago. He has a poet’s soul heightened with the temperament of a musician which gives him a different connection to the world, an ability to slow its tempo to where he can read the music of life, which can sometime distract him—but sometimes distraction is important.

Like reading.

See you on the trail,
Craig

“Making His Mark”

52 Pick-up 2.0, #42 – 10/20/2020

“I have noticed that in every signature of yours I have seen, there is a dot after the last “n’ in Johnson. Is that done to fight counterfeiting?”
-Joseph Bennett

Hi Joseph,

You know, when I first started out doing signing events, I started putting the dot at the end to signify special events where the bookstore owner or librarian were very nice or where the venue was pleasant or the readers particularly responsive—then I came to the conclusion that I was doing it at every event. I guess I figured they were all special and still do.

I take pride in my signature, not so much for the artistry of my penmanship but just hoping that when I’ve finished a book it, like any other form of art, is worthy of being signed. Often, before a book comes out, Viking/Penguin will ask me to do tip-in sheets, singular blank pages that they send to me to be signed, that first batch they sent, years ago, being something like five thousand of them. In the beginnings of my writing career I was somewhat uninformed, especially concerning numbers and figured I’d crack open a beer after dinner and knock them all out in an evening. Have you ever signed your name five thousand times? It takes longer than you might imagine. Anyway, I’d made a template to place the sheets on and put a new cartridge in my old rollerball that I started my career with and had at it…

A moment to talk about my weapon of choice, the Faber-Castell Basic Rollerball with the cedar barrel, a gift from my good friend Marcus Red Thunder. Cedar has a special meaning to the Northern Cheyenne and Crow and I still remember him giving it to me when the first Walt Longmire novel, The Cold Dish, came out. “Here, it’s good luck.” As it turned out, it was. I’ve gotten a few replacement parts, but I still use the same pen, proudly whipping it out when all the other writers pull their Mont Blancs from their jackets.

Five nights it took for me to sign all those tip-in sheets, but I finally got them done and shipped them back to the publisher. Then something interesting happened. I got a message from the production manager, the person in charge of actually putting the pages together into some semblance of a book. He wrote and said he’d been doing the job for more than fifty years and that no author in his experience had as consistent a signature and that the signing at the beginning of the stacks was exactly the same as the one at the end.

Kind of stupid, but I take a great deal of pride in that and almost look forward to the tip-in sheets arriving with each book now. Well … Almost.

I guess I look at each book as a kind of contract between myself and the readers, a monetary agreement that I have to live up to on an annual basis. I feel that if I don’t come through on numerous levels, the reader shouldn’t feel compelled to continue reading my books. I push that contract just a bit in an attempt to do something different with each novel, but that’s just to continue providing the best, complete book that I can and not repeat myself. I think the way I sign my name is reflective of that, a conclusion, full-stop as the British say.

It’s become more obvious to me with the current situation that signing books for readers is a way of finishing the process of writing and publishing a novel, the personal contact that for me makes it all worthwhile. It’s like the email tab on my website or the messages I respond to the best I can on social media—it’s personal. Just like an autograph.

See you on the trail,
Craig

A “Sheriff” doodle for…”sheriff Doodle”.

“The Write Stuff”

52 Pick-up 2.0, #41, 10/13/2020

“I was wondering, when you finish a book do you take some time off, celebrate, or do you start right back in again?”
-Betty Durbar

Hi Betty,

You know, that celebration-thing sounds like a really great idea, but I’ve never done it… My wife, Judy, is a big one for recognizing the important moments in our lives and reminds me to stop and smell the roses if you will, something I just plain forget to do. Writing a novel is a year-long project and quite an undertaking, but it’s also a joy for me. I love writing, it’s the celebration that’s alien. You know what I do? I start a new book. I’m superstitious that way because I don’t like leaving the characters hanging. I guess I feel like they’re not there if they’re not on the page. Sounds weird, huh?

Judy usually talks me into going out to dinner, or makes something special that she knows I like, which isn’t hard in that she’s a marvelous cook. In case you happened to have missed it, my mobile studio in the kitchen at the ranch is the computer sitting on a stack of cookbooks.

I sometime treat myself by buying something, but it’s usually not anything all that exciting. This year it was a new floor in the tack room which doesn’t sound all that great, but I walked in there the other day and a floor joist collapsed and I was suddenly eight inches shorter. When I originally built the barn, I did it on a shoestring and used rough-cut, untreated lumber, and over its twenty-year tenure… Anyway, the replacement floor is almost done, which is important because it’s where the barn cats keep warm in the winter and they’re responsible for patrolling the barn and keeping the field mice from launching an all-out assault on my saddles and tack. Besides, the racoons have to have somewhere to celebrate and eat out.

As soon as I finish a book, I type that first sentence and to be honest I usually start in on that novel relatively fast. I always laugh whenever someone criticizes a book as “rushed” and that it feels as if I was “under the gun” and in a hurry to meet a deadline with the publisher. The most recent novel, Next To Last Stand was eight years of research in the making and was turned in two months early. I always submit my books early–they’re ready and I don’t see any reason in having the publisher wait; it gives them an extra month or two in production and that’s always helpful. Besides, it allows me the ability to get going on the next, or any other projects like the next novella which is something I’m champing at the bit to get going on.

​Every book is different, and I suppose some readers find that off-putting, but writing the same, formulaic-type novels would be a death sentence. I guess that’s the joy of what I do, the freedom to try something new with every novel. Each one is an opportunity to strike off in another direction and cover new ground. I’ve got some really exciting books in the offing, not all of them that readers might be particularly used to in the mystery or western genre. It’s interesting to see the initial response to some of these more out-lying ideas and then to see the response after they’ve been around for a bit.

I’d write more, but I’ve got a novel to get down on paper… Tee-hee.

See you on the trail,
Craig

“Walt’s Last Waltz”

52 Pickup 2.0, #40 10/6/2020

“Not to be morbid, but have you thought about writing a book that will finish the series? And just keep it in reserve in case you get sick or something happens to you? I am thinking of Sue Grafton and how she passed before she finished the Kinsey Milhone series, or how Henning Mankell became ill and wrote the ending to Wallander?”

-Lynn Henderson Thompson

Hi Lynn,

​Not morbid at all, and yes that thought has crossed my mind. The problem, of course, is that authors, like everybody else, think we’re going to live forever… “Ask not for whom the bell tolls” comes to mind when I think of author mortality, whether it’s Hemingway’s ambulance crash, Dostoevsky being marched out of prison to be shot, Stephen King being run over by a car, Samuel Beckett getting knifed on the streets of Paris or Hunter S. Thompson fighting a riptide and almost drowning—it almost happens to everybody, and then eventually it does.

I’ve always been intrigued by writers who were that far-sighted. Some of the ones who immediately come to mind are C.S. Forester and his Horatio Hornblower series where he wrote a short story about the courageous admiral long after his retirement where the grandson of his old adversary Napoleon has his carriage break down outside Hornblower’s home and provides the man with a place to stay for the night; another being Dumas’ Twenty Years After where we learn of the final destiny of The Three Musketeers.

Nobody wants to tempt the fates, but an awful lot of writers have left the reader to imagine what could possibly happen to the characters. I don’t particularly care for the idea of leaving the good sheriff hanging, so I can’t help but imagine that I’ll come up with something even if there’s a hubris involved with thinking you can sum up the character’s entire existence. Sometimes I think it’s best to just get the characters to a place that’s acceptable and leave it at that.

Of course, these days if there’s a popular series, the estate of the author contacts another writer and just keeps the series going, something I have to admit that I’m not in favor of. It seems to me that’s like deciding that you’re going to take a composer’s work and continue writing their music or adding to an artist’s canvases, which changes the complexion of the original work as a whole, altering it—and I think that’s wrong. There are some wonderful writers out there that do a masterful job at re-writing other authors and I can understand taking the characters from another author and then doing something different such as Anne Hillerman’s continuation of Tony’s novels. In my estimation she did it exactly right, waiting a reasonable amount of time and then taking a support character from her father’s books and elevating that character to a central role all the while making her father’s characters a background of her own.

I’ve warned Judy that if something happens to me that that’s it, no more Longmire.

I do have some strong feelings about where the series and its characters will end up, even timing it out to approximately when I think my writing career will be drawing to a close. I shared some of those ideas with the Longmire producers and they modified those thoughts to suit the quasi-ending of the TV series.

​One of the difficulties in writing an entire end-point novel is that you’d have to put all that effort into a piece and then stick it in a drawer like a time capsule where it wouldn’t be garnering any income and that’s tough to do in that you only have so many writing hours in the day. I can see the appeal of a short story or one of the novellas like Spirit of Steamboat or The Highwayman which are easy enough to write when I have extra time.

​Of course, the stories do change in the writing so some conclusion I come to now might not fit the characters twenty years from now—but I’ll be keeping it in mind.

See you on the trail,
Craig

“All Quiet On The Western Front Forty”


52 Pickup 2.0 #39, 9/29/2020


“Judy, what’s it like living at the ranch when Craig’s writing?”
-Craig Johnson


Hi Craig,
I’m glad you asked me that question, because I’ll tell you the truth.

Quiet. That’s what it’s like, quiet. Except when you crack yourself up and start laughing up there in the loft. Then I get to ask what’s so funny, and it’s a treat to listen to you read the amusing dialogue. It has to be a laugh-out-loud bit though or I’d be asking for him to read all the time and nothing would get done, either in the writing department or the house department, though I must admit I’d way rather sit and listen to him than anything else I can think of.

He goes back to work, and I go outside in those months that require that sort of attention—watering plants, tending to weeds, sweeping the leaves from the patio. We are well suited for each other because I like the gardening and all the fussing it takes, and he doesn’t that much. He takes care of the horses, not because I don’t like them, but because he really does—gives him thinking time while he feeds them, rakes the sand in the barn and their stalls, spray them when necessary…Walt’s life through Craig’s thoughts. Can’t be much better.

Irrigation is a constant problem here in Wyoming where it doesn’t rain much—Craig calls it irritation and anyone who has fought with that project knows what he means. I am the tool getter and try to save him a few trips to the shop. When the pump works and the timer works and all things irrigation work, it’s a good year, although there’s always a bunch of little things on a ranch, even one as quiet as ours.

Sometimes he asks me to do a little research. I think I’m not that great at research, but I have the time, even though I have a shop in Buffalo, The Bucking Buffalo Supply Co., that specializes in all things Western, including the Longmire books, new one included (307-245-1020). I like to think the store is unique and people tell me so. It’s a lot of work but I like it and contrary to the quiet at home, it’s noisy with a lot of people with a lot of opinions. It also provides a connection to the internet, which is important when there is that research thing…There is air conditioning also, which helps the concentration it takes to dig things up.

Craig isn’t fond of air conditioning, so he moves his work to the shop in the summer—it’s cool down there and quiet. Aha, that quiet thing again aided by there not being a phone line. Speaking of the phone, I am the official and non-official answerer– enables me to weed out unwanted calls—nothing like the phone to break a train of thought. And of course, the cell phone doesn’t work here—it’s surely Walt’s world here in Ucross in a lot of ways.

Solitude is important to Craig and probably most writers but easier here in Wyoming where the population is low and the land is large, the vistas enabling the magic that is quiet.

See you on the trail, too…
Judy

“Funny You Should Ask…”

52 Pick-up 2.0, #38 – 9/22/2020

“I was glad to hear Next To Last Stand was on the humorous side, I love all your books but the one’s that make me laugh are my favorites. There aren’t that many mystery novels that are honestly funny and I was wondering how you decided to include that component?”
-Josie Poole

Hi Josie,
That’s good to hear, in that most of the time my wife doesn’t think I’m very funny at all… It’s a tricky proposition to include humor because it’s such a personal taste and you run the risk of offending, boring or any other number of reactions authors would do well to avoid.


A lot of young writers will ask me how it is you get readers to empathize with your characters, and I always tell them to give their characters a sense of humor. Who do you like hanging out with—people who make you laugh. Inevitably, the next thing out of their mouths is, “Yeah, but what if I’m not funny?”


Then you’ve got a problem.


The real challenge in giving your characters a sense of humor is making sure that all have different ones, Henry’s dry humor is not the same as Vic’s, cutting, eastern tongue so you have to be careful. I’m always swapping laugh lines when my wife reads my books to me aloud, “That sounds more like Henry don’t you think?”


Next To Last Stand reintroduces one of my favorite characters as far as humor goes–Lonnie Little Bird, the Chief of the Northern Cheyenne. His interaction with the long-suffering Barrett Long, who pushes his wheelchair turned into one of my favorite scenes when Lonnie describes his great-great grandfather’s participation in the Battle of the Little Bighorn but keeps getting distracted. Lou Diamond Phillips does the reading of it on the tour, and his rendition is a crack-up.


I don’t know, to me one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal of self-preservation has to be a sense of humor. That’s what the characters are doing most of the time in my books, trying to stay alive, and I’m not just talking about the plot twists I throw at them, but the emotional fallout that follows.


Comedy comes easy for me, so I guess that’s why I use it so much. I’m something of a natural-borne smartass, and every straight line I send up like a balloon, I have about a half-dozen darts ready to throw at it.


To me life is just funny, and I like it that way. My world view is that life is a sticky situation best dealt with a light touch. Witness this morning when I cut up my hand handling some tin roofing sheets and couldn’t find the first-aid kit, so Judy caught me putting leather conditioner in the cut. “What are you doing?”


“Skin is like leather.”


She shook her head, reaching behind me and finding the Neosporin. “Sometimes I feel like I’m living with a six-year-old.”


That explains a lot, too.


See you on the trail,
Craig


PS: Next To Last Stand goes on sale TODAY!

“The Highway, Man”

52 Pick-up, #37, 9/15/2020

“I wonder if the fact that Craig’s books are always released right at the Autumn Equinox has any significance. Is this on purpose, or just a fluke?”
-Elizabeth Robertson Waggoner
 
Hi Elizabeth,
 
When I first started my writing career back in ’05, Viking/Penguin placed me in a January spot for the release of the first Walt Longmire novel, The Cold Dish. The reason for doing that was in hopes that as a debut author I would get more reviews from newspapers and magazines because the big guys don’t publish in the middle of the winter. The downside of that was touring out of northern Wyoming in January… The nearest airport at that time was Gillette, about an hour away and at that time was notorious for cancelling flights due to weather. I tried to explain to the folks back in New York that if they had me flying in and out of Wyoming in January there was going to be a point when I was going to be stuck somewhere and that was going to be the end of my “Local Author Events” tour, so instead, I drove my four-wheel-drive truck all across the West and they reimbursed me for gas.

I got a number of glowing reviews that played a large part in kicking off my career, but Wyoming Winter continued to loom large. Next they tried March, which worked pretty well, but the weather was still a factor.

They finally moved me again this time to late May in hopes that June would avoid the weather problem which it did, but there was another problem with the weather… May and June are some of the most spectacular months on the high plains, the point when Wyoming wrests the shackles of winter and the days are sunny and warm and nights are cool and soothing.

The problem? I was on the road everywhere else in the country.

I asked my editor at that time, Kathryn Court, if I could move to sometime in the Fall, a time when things start winding down on the ranch. I like touring in the Fall, for me it’s like going back to school, I suppose. Viking/Penguin still moves me around a bit, but only within a week or so.

I don’t know, maybe they check the Farmer’s Almanac back in Manhattan, but somehow, I doubt it.

Next To Last Stand comes out September 22nd, a week from now and with the COVID situation I won’t be physically touring, but there will be a virtual event with not only video readings from the cast, but a number of very special guests at each book store in the virtual week-long tour extravaganza.

See you on the trail,
Craig

“Fallen Star”

52 Pick-up 2.0 #36 – 9/8/2020

Were there any surprises about Custer in all the research you did for Next To Last Stand?
-Scott Bynum

Hi Scott,

Yeah, there were more than a few. A lot of the revelations concerned Custer in that a great deal of the shine has come off the heroic patina that had been applied to him over the years, mostly due to the efforts of his wife, Libby. After his death at the Little Bighorn, Custer’s choice of splitting his forces into three parts before even seeing his foe was heavily criticized–even today cadets from West Point are brought there to see what happens when you don’t gauge the strength of your enemy proportionately.

His wife felt that Custer was being blamed for a tactical error that was not of his making and set out to burnish his image a bit, and hell hath no fury like a widow scorned. The country was in need of a hero, and she was bound and determined that George would fit the bill. For better or worse, she accomplished this, and an awful lot of the details of the Brigadier General’s life were somewhat glossed over for more than a century… There can be no doubt that he was an effective officer in the Civil War, but as Earnest Hemingway cogently put it, “He had a talent for getting himself in trouble and getting out of it—until he didn’t.”

Some of the more sordid aspects were that he graduated last in his class at West Point and contracted syphilis there and was sterile as a result. He volunteered for the Army of the Potomac and as a surprising and flamboyant cavalry officer was elevated to the rank of Brigadier General at the age of twenty-three. In continued service he was busted to Colonel in the down-sized army and was charged with desertion when he ran off to go visit his wife two states away.

Another major point of interest is Monahsita, an eighteen-year-old Cheyenne woman that was taken prisoner with fifty-three other women and children by the 7th at the battle of the Washita and used as human shields. According to Captain Benteen, the Chief of Scouts and Cheyenne accounts, Custer had sexual relations with the young woman who bore him a son, conflicting with the fact that Custer was sterile. Some believe it was actually Custer’s Brother, Thomas, who fathered the child.

There were five members of the Custer family who were killed at the Little Bighorn, one of whom was Thomas, who may have been the one who actually finished Custer off in hopes of not having him tortured if captured alive. Monahsita was also there and pleaded with the Lakota women to not mutilate the body of Custer, because he was family and it was assumed that the only thing they did was puncture his eardrums as a sign of his inability to listen. They did more than that, but I think I’ll leave those details to readers of Next To Last Stand…

“Walt” and “Henry” investigate the Little Big Horn battlefield

I guess the biggest surprise came from the anthologies of Native stories about what happened at the battle, they’re just so honest and unvarnished in the telling; people fighting for their lives, their loved ones, and for a nomadic way of life that no longer existed. The two I enjoyed the most were Custer’s Fall: The Indian Side of the Story collected and translated by David Humphreys Miller, and Cheyenne Memories of the Custer Fight compiled and edited by Richard G. Hardorff.

There are so many more, but I hope you’ll read the book, which is only two weeks away!

See you on the trail,
Craig