Friday, August 6, 2010

Catching Up from the Trail

Well, so much for updating the blog at least every month! I hope you take it that it's been a busy and productive three months since I last posted because it has.

Probably the biggest news is I've signed a contract for my next book with Stackpole, entititled "The Great Plains Guide to Custer: Forts, Fights and Other Sites from Louisiana to Little Bighorn." It will have a similar format to "Forts" but in a chronological format for the sites rather than alphabetical/state-by-state. Besides letting you know where to go if you want to walk in the footsteps of Custer, it'll also tell the story of the general on the Plains and give some insight on why he did the things he did here. I'm pretty excited about this - there's likely at least ten new Custer books every year, but no one has done a travel guide to all of these sites. My summer and first half of the fall is in completing the manuscript; look for it to hit the shelves at the end of 2011.

June was a huge month for me - in the first weekend, I had a presentation to the librarians of eastern Nebraska at their annual conference and made some great contacts. The next day I was at Fort Sisseton State Park in South Dakota for their annual historical festival and gave three talks on the forts (I think that's a record for an eight-hour day), and the next day I was at the beautiful Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls for another presentation of "The Forts of Dakota."

I found myself in Lexington, NE, the following weekend for my "Forts of Nebraska" talk at the Dawson County Museum (this is before the show - ended up with more than 50 and the director said their best-attended event in quite awhile). This was very enjoyable - not just because it is a great little museum but because the area had a couple of the smaller sod forts built by the Army during the particularly violent summers of 1864-65. I recreated the Post at Plum Creek in 3D for the presentation just so the attendees could get an idea of what it looked like.

After the talk, I took the next couple days to investigate Custer sites in southwest Nebraska/northwest Kansas and almost got stuck in a particularly muddy stretch of road between North Platte and Hayes Center - the photo is of my car on the driest spot I found, but believe me, it was a terrifying 23 miles of slipping and sliding. These are the sacrifices you make if you want a photo of an historical marker! I did visit the sites of the Great Buffalo Hunt with the Grand Duke Alexis (in the background), Custer's Nebraska campsite, the Kidder Massacre site and even got surprised by a wayside for another Custer campsite which I show here. I even hoisted my cavalry flag to their flagpole!

This is enough catch-up for now - I'll post about my amazing trip to Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota in the next one.


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