With his unique blend of intrepidity, tongue-in-cheek humor, and wide-eyed wonder, Ian Frazier takes us on a journey of more than 25,000 miles up and down and across the vast and myth-inspiring Great Plains. A travelogue, a work of scholarship, and a western adventure, Great Plains takes us from the site of Sitting Bull's cabin, to an abandoned house once terrorized by Bonnie and Clyde, to the scene of the murders chronicled in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. It is an expedition that reveals the heart of the American West.
asked what kind of artifacts, and he said, ‘Early-man tools.’ We all thought that was pretty funny—whenever we’d need a rock for something, we’d say, ‘Hey, hand me one o’ them early-man tools.’ Then one day the guy comes down off the ridge and he’s got this beautiful spearpoint about six inches long. Ever since, I’ve been keeping my eye on the ground, and picking up chippings and points and hide scrapers all over the place. Some of these rocks I don’t even know what they were, but I know they
mustache, sitting one table away. I continued west, across the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and then up through the mountain canyons. All at once a low-slung ’67 Pontiac full of long-haired Indians passed me, going about ninety. Then a Montana state highway cop, with no sirens going. Then several more cars of Indians, then another highway cop, then more Indians. Just across the Flathead River and inside the boundary of Glacier National Park, I came upon
slid along the ground, the bluffs on the near riverbank turned dusky, the bluffs on the far bank turned pink. Then, beyond the low peaks of the Rocky Mountain front, the sun went down at a point indicated by none of the spokes of the wheel. I had with me a diagram of the wheel when it was less damaged, which showed a small double row of rocks on the approximate line of the sunset. The medicine wheel is on private land, and a trail used by ranch vehicles has scattered those rocks. Astronomers say
big purple groove around his neck. When they went to bury him the people were so mad they would have dismembered the body and no preacher would preach the sermon, but at the last minute a preacher showed up who believed that every man was entitled to a Christian burial—he was a relative of mine but I’d never liked him very much—and he preached the most beautiful sermon I ever heard. He said, ‘If you had a man in your community as crippled in body as this man was in spirit you would all have so
Ruth Gaines (New York, 1944). See also, among many other accounts, Overland to California, by William G. Johnston (Oakland, 1948); Trail to California: The Overland Journal of Vincent Geiger and Wakeman Bryarly, edited by David M. Potter (New Haven, 1945). The story of Angus Mackay and the introduction of summer fallow to the plains is told in that classic work of Western history, Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome, by Joseph Kinsey Howard (Lincoln, Neb., 1983), pp. 276–77. Part of Howard’s