Ft. Phil Kearney
To the south, between Sheridan and Buffalo, is the site of Ft. Phil Kearney, a National Historic Landmark. This fort had the bloodiest history of any fort in the West. Sioux, Arapahoe and Cheyenne fought repeatedly with the 250 US Calvarymen assigned there to defend the Bozeman Trail, which existed in violation of numerous treaties. On December 21, 1866 Brevet Lt. Col. William Fetterman and a force of 80 soldiers and civilians were lured into a classic ambush by Red Cloud and his Sioux. There were no white survivors. To relay the news of this disaster to his superiors in Omaha and Washington, Colonel Carrington, the fort's commander, paid two citizen couriers - John "Portugee" Phillips and Dan Dixon - $300 each to carry his message (through snow and subzero temperatures) to the telegraph post at Horseshoe Station, some 190 miles away. They arrived at Horseshoe Station on Christmas morning and then Phillips carried an additional message on to Ft. Laramie, about 45 miles away, arriving there about 11p.m. that same evening in the middle of both a blizzard and the fort's Christmas night dance.
The fort was eventually abandoned by the Army and was burned to the ground by the Cheyenne and Sioux.
The RBL Bison Ranch
East of Sheridan you will find the RBL Bison Ranch. You can board a bus and be driven out to the visit the herd, whose members savvy that the arrival of the bus means "COOKIES!" You just haven't lived till you've had a 2000 pound bison slobber all over your hand. :-)
Yes, those of you who have watched "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" will know this place! Continuing east from the bison ranch, we pass through the town of Sundance (named for the neighboring mountain, which in turn was named after the sacred Sioux sundance ceremonies that were held there...The Sundance Kid took HIS name from the town!), and then to Devil's Tower. Standing 865 high, Devil's Tower is actually the core of an ancient volcano, left exposed after millions of years of erosion. But I've always preferred the Native American explanation for its existence...
One day, seven Indian girls were playing some distance from their village, when a bear appeared and gave chase. Unable to reach the safety of their village in time, the girls jumped upon a 3-foot tall rock and cried out to the rock to save them. The rock heard their plea for help and began to elongate itself, pushing the girls out of the bear's reach. The bear clawed at the rock, leaving the rib-like columns visible today. Eventually, the seven little girls were placed in the heavens, where they are known as "The Seven Sisters" (the Pleides.)
In 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt designated Devil's Tower the nation's first national monument. Considered sacred to the Native Americans, a mecca for rock climbers and a popular tourist destination, Devil's Tower is a unique and inspiring landmark.
"Ghost Riders in the Sky"
And now we'll cross west over the Big Horn mountain range,
to the Big Horn Basin!