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Category: Practicing the Craft

[Flash NonFiction] The Great Archer Wept

[Flash NonFiction] The Great Archer Wept

The last time I saw the Milky Way throwing garlands across the night sky was on a moonless night in western Nebraska. Bands of darkness ran river-like through the streaming starlight, the interstellar dust playing hide-n-seek with the stars beyond. The brightest area seen from my Earth-bound perch was in the direction of Sagittarius, the Great Archer, who moved relentlessly across the southern sky.

Standing there, I was reminded of another great archer who once rode under this sky. Given the name Cha-O-Ha at birth, in manhood he took another – Tašúnke Witkó – Crazy Horse. While he lived, his name cast a dark shadow on the Great Plains as powerful as the Great Rift running above. When he died, half a nation let out its collective breath.

I can’t tell you about his death because it’s been chronicled so often it’s reached a point where legend and truth are inseparable bedmates. What I do know is that on a May day in 1877, the Oglala warrior rode down out of the pine bluffs and surrendered his band of nearly three hundred starving families. It happened right here, where I stood.

If the stories of the time are true – and I have no reason to doubt historian Stephen Ambrose’s research – Crazy Horse entered what was then Camp Robinson wearing a war bonnet, his pony and body painted for war. He had a single hawk feather in his hair, a tribute, perhaps, to his Spirit animal. Thousands of already-surrendered Indians lined his route, cheering and singing. One Army officer complained “By God, this is a triumphal march, not a surrender.”

But it was a surrender. On that day and a day earlier. With Sitting Bull’s escape to the safety of Grandmother’s Land – Canada – the great Sioux War ended..

I wish I could say that the end of the war was the end of hostility, but it wasn’t. Within months of Crazy Horse’s surrender, jealousies and intrigues amongst Indian factions, a gullible Indian agent, and an Army fearful of a potential break-out, led to his death.  When the warrior whose heart soared with the hawk saw the three-foot-by-six-foot cell that would become his cage, he turned to flee. But a bayonet through the back and into the kidneys brought him to the ground and to his death.  It’s said that overhead, a passing hawk screamed.

Afterwards, his father and mother wrapped him in a buffalo robe and secreted his body somewhere on the Plains that he loved.

My memory of this place, the sky and the man, is filled with scattered fragments – a black butterfly, black-and-white magpies, and dark blood dripping from the bite of a black fly. And the wind that kicks up every afternoon. And the hawks.

On a summer evening I watched the sky turn from powder to deep blue to blackest black and wondered at the days when Crazy Horse sat astride his pony amongst the Ponderosa pine on the bluffs beyond, watching the buffalo graze in the White River Valley where the Camp now stands. Ambrose said it was a fitting stage for the tragedy that would be played out and he was right.

The hawks still swoop low to the ground here, the blustery wind sweeps the air every afternoon and the spirit of the warrior-archer flies through this place as surely as the constellations cross the sky.

And the Milky Way. I like to think it’s as brilliant today as it was on that September day in 1877, when the most feared of the Sioux warriors drew his last breath. And maybe, just maybe, the Great Archer, Sagittarius himself, wept.

 

 

 

 

Bent’s Old Fort – an Exercise in Chatting About Something Fun

Bent’s Old Fort – an Exercise in Chatting About Something Fun

I read an article today about 40 blog post ideas for writers. You’d think, as writers, that our brains could create dozens of blog ideas, but yes, we do get stuck. That’s why I picked #1 on the idea list – writing about a vacation. I choose a trip along the Santa Fe Trail to Bent’s Old Fort in Colorado.

You see,  Bent’s was a famous landmark on the Santa Fe Trail, visited by just about everyone who traveled the area – from trappers and traders to soldiers and Indians. I went on one of their Living History weekends because I love talking to reenactors. The slide show above is just a sampling of the folks I chatted with over the weekend.

By the way – if you write any kind of history, either fiction or non-fiction, – you won’t find people more informed about the period than reenactors. These folks pride themselves on the authenticity of their costumes as well as their knowledge about the period in which their “persona” lived.

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Visiting Mission San Luis Rey – a Possible Writing Project

Visiting Mission San Luis Rey – a Possible Writing Project

I’m thinking about doing a series of articles or possibly a book on the California Missions. Although Mission San Luis Rey (King of the Missions) is only 45 minutes from where I live, I’ve never visited. Took a few hours on Sunday to stroll through the historic grounds and the original mission church.
Join Me in Mind-Mapping Your Next Flash Non-Fiction (or Fiction)

Join Me in Mind-Mapping Your Next Flash Non-Fiction (or Fiction)

mind mapp

Yesterday I wrote about  creating a mind-map in preparation for a flash non-fiction piece. Today I’m inviting you to do the same. (If you write fiction, please join in!)

If you’ve never done mind-mapping, I’ve included links below to a few quick guides.  I have mind-mapping software (Simple Mind) but I prefer using pen and paper. My technique is a simple one: I begin with a central idea, which I circle, and then (like spokes on a wheel) begin free associating outwards from the central hub. In my example from yesterday’s mind-map, Fort Robinson was at the hub of my mind-map, from which I added other ideas/observations (black butterfly, wind, elms, cottonwoods, officer’s row, bluffs, sky,etc).

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Meaning – Flash Non-Fiction

Meaning – Flash Non-Fiction

flash non-fiction

The Art of Extraordinary Writing appreciates this contribution by Jane Castellanos. Jane was a teacher, intuitive, traveller, currently living in Devon, seeking to reconnect. 

Meaning

I don’t have a desk, but I do have a room. The windows are plastic, not allowing for squirrel or bird feeders to be attached. It is forbidden to throw things out of the window. So I do at night for the birds. I’m on the second floor corner flat. The room is light and clean. The view over a rather tacky back street allows the rising sun to reach me over the roof-tops. Daisies have implanted themselves across the way in the guttering and gulls are raising their numerous, raucous families sheltered by chimneys at my eye level.

What means most to me here? It’s difficult to say with so many precious things around me.  I have chosen first a small foot- high driftwood chest of drawers that I couldn’t walk away from at a Penzance street market many moons ago.  It stands on the window ledge. The sea-bleached pine is soft to touch, smooth of line and has no jagged edges. Swept by tides on deep turbulent seas and lulled by sparkling clear days off the Cornish coast, then racked onto rocks by a wild storm, stained by

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