As children, my brother Jeff and I sometimes went to the restaurant attached to our dad's favorite bar in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Like bars all over America, it had a copy of "Custer's Last Stand", the poster commissioned by Anheuser-Busch in 1884. We always insisted on sitting in the booth beneath the poster and spent hours gazing at it.
Mother wrote a letter in my name to Anheuser-Busch, asking if Jeff and I could have our own copy of the picture. One day, a salesman drove up to the house with it, cautioning us not to tell anyone because the company couldn't give out posters to everyone who asked. After sixty years, I think I can divulge our secret.
I have read just about everything about the Battle of the Little Bighorn and read somewhere that, except for Abraham Lincoln, more has been written about Custer than any other American. Perhaps it is true. I researched extensively for years to provide true details for the book.
Not much is known about Boston Custer, the General's youngest brother, so I made up a fiancee for him in Rose Alice Chapin. The book is about how they fell in love, how she found out that he had been killed, and what happened to her afterward.
Rose is very much like me, and I patterned Gus Williams after my husband, Bill Gustafson. Like Rose, I fell into a snowdrift and was scared to death. However, no one was around, so I had to get myself out. The scarlet fever delirium described near the end of the book is something I remember from my own illness sixty years ago.
My father-in-law had gone to school in Rapid City, but I have not yet visited there (hope to soon!). In order to research its early days, I tried unsuccessfully to borrow on interlibrary loan some books from South Dakota libraries. Finally I called a bookstore in Rapid City, and a wonderful librarian, whose name I have forgotten, found copies of books, including one long out of print, and sent them to me.
Bill and I have visited the battlefield on a day as hot as June 25, 1876. It was a wonderful experience. Perhaps someday we will take our grandsons there.