Our Military Life Blog

Black Hills – Week 1

Well, Dear Readers, it is time to dive into a new book! I have been sitting on this one for a while, waiting for a good time to dive in, and the beginning of summer seemed just the time to do it! So before we start, just a few things to bear in mind. For those of you who do not like “bedroom scenes” I suggest skipping over the George Custer chapter (chapter 5). He is a little risque in “his” writing. I did a search, but could not find a letter that matched this one, so I am taking it as some poetic license on behalf of the author. He does however, mention both Fort Hayes and Fort Riley in his letter, and both of those forts are in Kansas. Riley of course is still functional, but Fort Hayes is more of a tourist attraction located in Hays Kansas. I suggest visiting there if you get the chance, as the history is amazing! I have been there several times and if you go when they have the living history going, you are in for a real treat! Now, without further ado, here is our segment for the week!


Paha Sapa (whose name means Black Hills) is just a young boy when the battle of the Little Big Horn rages on the plains of the Dakotas. As a young boy, he is not yet old enough to be a warrior, and even if he were, he is not sure that that is the life that he wants to lead. When he begins counting coup on the dead strewn on the ground, he feels the spirit of one begin to overtake his body. He is unable to remove it, and he is not sure what to do! He knows that he has let down Limps-A-Lot (Crazy Horse). As his adopted son, he feels he has some big shoes to fill. The sensation that he felt is something that he is not sure what to do with. There are strange words filling his head. He is not sure what the words of the soldier are that are filling his head.

Paha Sapa is drawn into a circle that includes Sitting Bull and some of the other wise men of the village. There he relates the story of how the ghost took over his body. It is only recently that he admitted to Limps-A-Lot about the small vision backward touching that he has been experiencing for several years. It is something that he has felt ashamed of, but not sure what to do with. When he was born, his mother died. Several months prior to his birth, his father, a proud young warrior, was killed while on a raiding party. With his small visions flitting back into the past, he begins to ask questions. Slowly, he begins to learn of his past, of the pain his mother felt when his father died, and of the many hurts she caused herself during her grief.

As we move back and forth between the past and the present, Paha Sapa is working on the monument, which will become known as Mount Rushmore. His past has shaped what he feels today, and knowing that he is dying of cancer has only fueled his desire to destroy the entire monument. He knows that he is taking a risk, but he feels that he needs to do something. But for now, he is known as Billy Slovak, chief powder man for the Mount Rushmore project. He is good at his job, and even at his age, he has not slowed down. He just does not know if he has the time to pull it off before the President of the United States is set to visit within the coming week..

This week we are reading Chapters 1-6


  1. What do you think of the development of the character of Paha Sapa so far?
  2. What do you think of the “gift” that Paha Sapa has?
  3. If you read chapter 5 on General Custer, what do you think of the picture that the author paints of him?
  4. How realistic is the desire Paha Sapa has for wanting to blow up the monument?