Wednesday, May 23

How Curley Kept His Hair

By Grant Davies

On this day in 1923, Curley was buried. He wasn't one of the three stooges, although in his later years many people thought he acted like one.

No, the Curley of this story was a participant in a little tiff called "Custer's Last Stand."  In fact, he was the last guy (on the losing side) to see the flowing hair of a dim-witted Lieutenant Colonel by the name of George Armstrong Custer  before it was used as an ornament on a Sioux lodge-pole.

Curley (one can only speculate on the origins of his name) was a Crow Indian. As such he was an avowed enemy of the Sioux. So it was a slam dunk for him to be on the side of the US army when it came to fighting them in the summer 1876. Hell, he had been fighting them himself since he was a youth.

His service as a cavalry scout would have been more useful to the army if Custer had only listened to what he and the other scouts were telling him, particularly when it came to the size of the enemy force ahead. So instead of being a small part of a series of forgotten military skirmishes, he became the last observer of one of the most memorable slaughters in American history.

One problem was that Custer's ego was twice the size of his IQ. Another was that he wasn't big on correcting his mistakes. Curley, on the other hand, knew how to spot an error in judgment and rectify it. So after making the initial mistake of deciding to stay with the troops after Custer dismissed the Crow scouts just before the battle, he rectified it right after the poo-poo began to hit the fan. He decided to join his other four friends (you will find them listed in your program under "those who made the right decision") and he rode east inside the ravines as fast as his pony could go.

After getting about a mile and a half away, he found a vantage point from which he could observe the carnage through his field glasses. Suspicions confirmed, he beat a trail back to warn the other contingents, led by Generals Terry and Gibbons, who were riding right into the mess themselves. So Curley was able to witness history, without becoming history. At least not the fatal kind.

Over the years, anxious writers were successful in getting him to embellish his story a bit to make for more exciting reading. That led to him being considered by some to be a stooge, but his first reports are now thought to be a very accurate account of what took place that day at Little Big Horn.

So Curley's decision to beat feet allowed him to be buried at the Little Big Horn Battlefield some forty seven years later, after dying from pneumonia, instead of being planted there on that crazy day, after dying from "lack of hair."

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