Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)
- TITLE: I Was There
By Loren T. Lowery
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The women’s faces will match the sounds of the drums, worry etched into their dark eyes. The prairie wind will blow their braids and they will be silent in their thoughts.
Over the sound of the drums, I feel the earth move in a gentle rhythm. It is their feet, the women’s feet. They are moving, walking along the river in cadence to the drums.
The sky is blue like larkspur. The wind rises, stirring the air. My hills whisper ancient secrets, preparing themselves to catch the fallen. They moan a sacred oath. My fields a final cradle to the defeated, my bosom darkened by their blood.
The drums leach the words carried on the wind. On either side, the warriors listen only to the sound of the drums. Prisoners to its palpitation, held in the womb of its hypnotic beat. Dust beckoning dust.
Two foes have taken offense to one another. Yet, I know there is goodness within the sheath of each man. And decency stands on both sides.
I have heard their murmurs beneath the night sky as they lay unsettled on woven blankets and bedrolls. My breast a pillow for their words and offered prayers.
The drums beat faster, louder; the footsteps of the women hasten in pace. I quake in their flight. I am helpless and can only wait.
You are lucky; those who get to chose. A path divides and you say this way - or that. There are no roots to bind you; no river to weigh you down. As a bird, you take wing to fly or to stay. Even in mid-air, you can change your course. Your wings give you freedom.
But I am the hills, I am Little Big Horn. Forever I will be called hallowed. Forever my tundra will be stained red, my sod ripped to bury the dead who fall here today.
As an iron pulled from burning embers, history will brand me; my legacy will be sadness. I did not choose this moment, it was chosen for me. Today, June 25, 1876 becomes my destiny; my birthmark.
Dawn spills over the Montana landscape, native Cheyenne and Custer’s cavalry appear along my hills like withered pampas beneath fallen snow. Dark, bruised grass turning into mortal men as they emerge in the morning mist; their bravado withering in the sun
A shot rings out; the hooves of horses thunder over me. The wind pulls back in stifled gasps at the unfolding horror. Men scream, horses scream. Terror blights the sun. Arrows, bullets, hatchets, bind into a single black force of insanity.
Blood mingles with blood and God cups his hand to combine them as one. That which once divided these rivals in life now unites them in death. My hills have become a staircase to the fallen; heaven or hell, an enigma no more.
And then it is quiet and there are sobs and praying and cries for help. The language of anguish is universal, but few pause to hear it. Regret becomes a chasm and words drop off its edge into a pit now too vast, too deep to ever fill.
My hills become steeped in this quiet and soon visitors will come only to hide their ears from its piercing sound. This silence will become my shrine; and those who learn of me will turn away in awe and judgment.
Memory poisons my ground. I am stained. I am judged.
You are lucky, those able to choose. A path divides and you decide this way, or that. You need not stay. You can turn. You can move on. I am the Little Big Horn, I had to stay.
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