Billings, MT to Hardin, MT
Cumulative total: 998
Today was one of those perfect days: Lovely weather, a nice tailwind, remote empty country, a long downhill run and a short riding day. Everyone made it to Hardin well before lunch, giving us time to find the best ice cream place in town even before we set up our tents on the lawn of the high school. Hardin is on the edge of the Crow Reservation, and some of us received a tour of the town by a eager clutch of 6th-grade Crow boys riding BMX bikes.
Hardin has a population of about 3,000 and offers a fine local (air-conditioned!) library (where I'm now typing), lots of little shops and the excellent Big Horn County Historical Museum. Several of us toured the museum's 20 western buildings and looked at old pictures. My favorite part was the structure filled with early tractors, including a gigantic 1919 Altman Taylor, a gray 1923 Fordson, and at least two big Caterpillars, as well as a large collection of stationary engines used to pump water, operate small sawmills, even drive sheep shearing equipment.
George Custer and his men of the 7th Cavalry met their end 15 miles from here at the famous Battle of the Little Bighorn. It was one of the Indians' last efforts to preserve their ancestral way of life. The 7th Cav continued as part of the U.S. Army. When I was a Newsweek correspondent in Vietnam I covered some of the activities of the 7th Cav. My colleague Joe Galloway, then of UPI, wrote a book about a famous early battle between elements of the 7th Cav and North Vietnamese regulars that Mel Gibson made into the film, "We Were Soldiers."