5835 Vine Street Lincoln, Nebraska 68505 Captain Michael J. Koury Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska
Dear Captain Koury:

Your book, Diaries of the Little Big Horn, was presented to me by a friend as a Valentine gift, and I have enjoyed it immensely. I have spent a great deal of time on the Custer story and have been well acquainted with the Sioux for some years.

I was well acquainted with General Godfrey, who helped me greatly when I was working on my Song of the Indian Wars. Majoy G. R. Lemly also was a good friend of mine. He was Crook's adjutant and was at the Battle of the Rosebud and on the Horsemeat March when they were in pursuit of the Sioux. Major Lemly circulated the petition to admit me, a civilian, as a Companion of the Order of the Indian Wars of the United States, and I knew, at least in a casual way, a number of the old Indian fighters. I knew Private Slaper, who was under Reno and was left in the little Big Horn valley when Reno made his wild "charge" across the river and up the hill.

I agree perfectly with your attitude toward E. A. Brin-instool, in so far as I know it. Brininstool was a friend of mine and helped me greatly, but I feel convinced that he was wrong about Reno, although he was more often right than wrong in other matters perhaps. He did know a great deal about the whole affair.

Of course I value Wallace's diary highly, as I think we have reasons to trust him, At this point I am half inclined to tell you the story about Wallace and how I foudn his grave in South Carolina thirty years ago. It is rather a spooky story, and I will leave it for a possible visit with you some time.

I was not the least interested in the fact but my son, who was driving, said, "Oh, Dad, there's a graveyard! Do they let you go in such places?" I replied, "Oh, of course," but we kept on driving. Reaching Rock Hill in the middle of the afternoon of a lovely day in October, we drove around town for awhile. We never liked to stay all night in a place where we were to appear the next day because too often we were entertained and made weary by our well-meaning hosts. So I said, "Let's go back to that little town up there. I saw a private home on the highway with a Tourists Room notice out in front. We could stay there." We started back, chiefly because we had plenty of time to spare but nothing much to do.

As we approached the little town, we arrived at the graveyard again, and my son said, "Oh, Dad, look! There's a whole family buried over there. Let's go and see." We walked over, and this is what we saw on the tombstone: "Captain Geroge D. Wallace, burn (such-and-such a time). Killed in battle with the Sioux at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, December 29, 1890."

Here's the point of the story: Wallace was a member of the Seventh Cavalry and was under Reno at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. he was with the same cavalry at Wounded Knee and was the first white man killed. He is not one of my heroes and was not mentioned in my Song of the Messiah. I had no idea where he came from nor where he went, but my son, who often has psychic experiences, had led me to his grave with seemingly no reason for doing as he did, and he himself didn't know why he wanted to go into the graveyard.

I told this story because a friend of mine, who is typing this for me, has been trying to help me in making sure that York is the town where I saw the grave: and it undoubtedly is, as we have just learned.

Does this look to you like "coincidence?" In thinking about it, remember the unusual effect my reading had that night at Roanoke just before we found the grave.

The question may be asked: "Who wanted me to see this grave?"

All the while I have been getting over my eye operations, I have been working on my "autobiography." I have nearly forty thousand words written and should be through some time during the year. It's really a pleasure to do the job. At present in my "autobiography" I am only fourteen years old, but I am getting older fast, and soon there will be adult doings. The boyhood and youth section, however, is of great importance and has been actually entertaining to me. My little poodle dog, who is my constant companion, has often been aroused by my laughing at something "the old man remembers," and comes to ask me what the fun's about.

I was much pleased by what you say about the use of my poem in the editorial on the great McGill. That little poem, "Let Me Live Out My Years," was written in my late teens and has had many adventures. I have seen it now and then with other people's names attached and I was always pleased and flattered. I still sometimes read it at the end of a recital. The only thing I dislike about it is the reference to death as "the grisly thing." The expression is natural enough to a youth, but my opinion of death has become more complimentary. Maybe it is something like saying, "Nice doggy," to a savage German shepherd; at any rate at my age I no longer call death bad names.

I still hear regularly from Tom and Elaine. Tom is working hard on his Doctor's dissertation, and I wish they would just let him alone to do the job. Maybe one of these days he will be allowed to forget it. Tom is good material for a Doctor.

I have wished so much that our group might get together again. I think I could get Tom and Elaine over here for a visit, but I fear that we could not get results in a short time. I think you know Mark and Judy also. They are still your admirers, of course, and they too wish our group could get together for further experiments. We were really hitting the ball just before we broke up.

With thanks for your great kindness to us and with all kind thoughts.

John G. Neihardt

Your material on Charlie Reynolds has special personal interest for me also.

In 1908, when I was descending the Missouri River for the Outing Publishing Company, I became well acquainted with Captain Grant P. Marsh, who was captain and pilot of the steamer Expansion, engaged in hauling materials from Mondak, near the mouth of the Yellowstone, up to where the Crane Creek Irrigation Dam was being built. Captain Marsh was then eighty-three years old. I had met him first at Fort Benton, and after I reached Mondak on my voyage, I ascended the Yellowstone with him, acting as a deckhand because one of the owners of the boat was on board and, being a sorehead, refused to let me go as a guest. Marsh and I became good friends and I found a publisher for Joseph Mills Hansen's book, The Conquest of the Missouri. It had been to various publishers, not one of whom knew its value. It was because of this that Marsh was eager to become friendly with me. He told me practically his whole story as it was told later in the manuscript for which I found the publisher. I spent my days in the pilothouse with him when we were traveling, and in the evenings we talked far into the night when I was not helping to load coal on the foredeck from the outcrops on the bank.

I knew the Curley story from him some months before the book was printed. Then in 1917 I met Curley and spent several days with him on the Crow Reservation. When I went to him, I knew well that he was regarded as one of the biggest liars in the West. I also found out why he had this reputation. He had a gorgeous sense of humor, as I learned when we became friends, and it gave him pleasure to learn first what an interviewer wanted to hear; then he would give him a good story, generally based on an account for his own heroism, laughing quietly all the time.

My relationship with Curley really became a warm friendship. I have known Indians many years, and I think I know how they feel about me. The fact that Captain Marsh was my friend, and that I already knew how Curley brought the news of the disaster to the Far West, made it necessary in his mind that he tell me only the truth. He, I, and an interpreter went over to the Custer field horseback.

While there, I said, "Tell me, Curley, what you really did do over here," and he said, "Longhair called us three Crow boys to him and said he did not pay us to fight, but only to show him the enemy and we had done it, so now we should save ourselves. He gave me a letter to take to the other man over there. I started, and when I came to this big gulch that leads up from the valley it was full of Cheyenne and Sioux, and I couldn't get across. So I rode back to this hill over here, and I saw that Longhair was already fighting and that he was going to get rubbed out. I was only sixteen years old and had never been to war before, and I thought it was a pretty good time to run." That was his story to me.

Then I said, "Curley, where did you go?"

He said, "Out in the hills."

Then I asked, "What did you do out there?" and he said, "I cried all night."

"What did you cry about?" I asked him.

"Because I would never see Longhair again."

"Then where did you go?"

"I went down to the mouth of the Greasy Grass (Little Big Horn) and there was the steamer with Captain Marsh."

I knew this story already from Marsh. Marsh told me that it was the morning of the twenty-sixth, the day after the fight, that he saw this big Indian break through the willows on the shore, crying and tearing his hair. The steamer was anchored in midstream, and Marsh sent a boat over to get the Indian, whom he recognized as one of the Crow scouts.

No one on board could speak Crow. They knew one word, Absoraka, which was the name of his people and meant to him "our side." Marsh gave him a pencil and a piece of paper and indicated that he should draw a picture. He then made a little circle of dots saying, "Absoraka, Absoraka," referring to the side the Crow scouts were on, Custer's battalion. Then he made the great circle of dots on the outside--many, many dots--saying in a raised voice, "Sioux, Sioux, Sioux, Sioux." Then, lifting his hands, he said, "Pouff."

This story of course is told in The Conquest of the Missouri, but I have told it as it came to me from Marsh and Curley. I haven't read the Hanson account for many years. The point of this is to insist that both Curley and Marsh told me that Curley arrived on the day after the battle (Curley), on the twenty-sixth (Captain Marsh).

I suspect that I am the only man living who knew both Marsh and Curley well. Curley and I became Brother Friends and he has my ring on, in his grave.

There will never be a Custer story wholly acceptable to many students of the affair, and it is going to get worse and worse. So many people decide to write themselves a book, and human nature is much given to hair-splitting. I myself don't feel that there is much mystery about the affair, except in minor detail, which doesn't matter too much.

With thanks for what you have done and kindest regards.


John G. Neihardt