Generally Speaking Redux

Maybe I’ve mentioned once or twice that my brother, Fred, was a wonderful big brother.  I really don’t exaggerate.  If  you could have made up the perfect big brother, it would have been Fred.  But you probably would have given him a better name.

Fred is 3 years older than me.  And he played with me all the time.  He didn’t beat me up.  He wasn’t mean.  He let me tag along wherever he went.

He actually seemed to enjoy my company, too.  Or at least, it never occurred to me that he might not be enjoying it.  Perhaps I was late in picking up some social clues.  Anyway, I can honestly not remember Fred ever hurting me, or setting me up to fail, or doing any mean big brother things to me.

He was my hero.  When we tucked towels into our jammies and jumped off the back of the couch, I was not just pretending Fred was Superman.  He was Superman.  Of course I also thought that our dog, Tip, was SuperDog when we called him “Kripto,” tucked a dishtowel into his collar and pushed him off the back of the couch.

It was during the late 1950s and early 60s; we saw Westerns on TV and in the movies — The Lone Ranger, Branded, How the West Was Won, and more.  There were a lot of shoot outs at our house, too, because that’s what we played most of the time.   Fred invented great games for us.  Cowboys and Indians, gun fights, sheriff and posse.

Fred was always the hero.  Me?

I was the bad guy who got outgunned and had to keel over and die.

I was the outlaw brought to justice by the handsome sheriff.

I was the squaw who had to skin and cook the deer.

I always lost.

I felt good that at least I had a better part than Tip.  Tip was the deer, and Fred and I would chase him around pretending to shoot him with arrows.  Fred and his friends once caught Tip and tied him onto our broom and carried him Indian-style, to roast over our pretend fire.  Tip escaped and didn’t want to play Indian for a week or so.  We did not eat him.

Tip was much less cooperative for some reason. (Google Image)

Tip was much less cooperative for some reason. (Google Image)

Losing wasn’t a condition for Fred to play with me, but it was reality.  Fred always won.  He was always first, fastest, bravest.  He was always the hero.

Fred’s pretend horse, Thunder, was faster than my horse, Lightning, even after Fred discovered that in real life lightning comes first.  Fred showed me pictures of lightning in “the big dictionary” – a huge reference book we loved to look at.  It had the coolest pictures and lots of words we couldn’t read.  If something was in the big dictionary, it was fact.  Period.  “In real life,” Fred said, pointing to a picture of a scary bolt in a stormy sky, “Lightning is faster than thunder.  But not with horses.”

I really didn’t mind.  If Fred’s horse was slightly faster than mine, that was OK.  We were a team.

But one day when Fred wanted to play Cowboys and Indians, I’d had enough of losing.  Maybe I was growing up.

“I wanna be the cowboy,” I insisted.  “You always get to be the cowboy.  I always get shot.”

“OK,” Fred said.  He didn’t argue or try to convince me to be the Indian.  I should have been suspicious.  But I’ve always trusted Fred completely.  I knew he would never be mean to me.

“OK,” said Fred, again, thinking up a new game.  “You can be a General!  I’ll be an Indian, ummmm, I’ll be called Crazy Horse.”

“OK!” I said, excitedly.  A General!  I wasn’t just cowboy.  I was gonna be a general!

I blew my bugle, called my troops to arms.  My imaginary troops and I rode off on our stallions to fight the Injuns.

I blew my bugle again and my (pretend) troops surrounded me.  We heard Indian war whoops from Fred and his Indian braves.  Fred/Crazy Horse and his braves came at me, surrounding me and my men on all sides.  But I wasn’t worried.  I was a general.  And even at that age, I knew that the cowboys always win.

And then Fred shot me.

I did not flinch.  I did not fall.  I did not succumb to my wounds.  I screamed bloody murder:

“I’m the cowboy!  You can’t shoot me!


Fred calmed me down and took me by the hand over to the big dictionary.  He turned the pages and showed me a picture of a general in a cowboy hat with blond curls.  He looked just like me.  Except for the mustache (mine grew in many years later).

Thanks a lot, Google

Thanks a lot, Google

George Armstrong Custer.

“That’s General Custer,” Fred said.  “Crazy Horse killed him.  Or Sitting Bull did.  Some Indian killed him at the battle of Little Bighorn.  The Sioux Indians surrounded General Custer and his men and killed them.”

I didn't have a chance

I didn’t have a chance

If it was in a book, in the big dictionary, well then,  I had to die.  It was right there in black and white with a color picture.  It was my fate.

We went back over to the battlefield (the front hall) and started the battle again.  Again, I blew my bugle and rallied my troops into a circle around me.  Again, the Indians pressed forward, surrounded us.

Again, General Custer got shot.  And this time he/I was brave.  I clutched my heart, tossed my curls and fell dead.

*     *     *

I owe my devotion to the underdog and my tendency to look everything up to my big brother, who is still wonderful.  Today, I will be visiting my big brother/hero, coincidentally, so I decided to re-run this post.

Because today,  June 25th is the 140th Anniversary of the Battle of Little Bighorn.

And speaking once more as General Custer, I deserved exactly what I got.


Filed under 'Merica, 2nd Fastest Horse, ; Don't Make Me Feel Perky Tonigh, All The News You Need, All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance, Anniversary, Bridgeport, Brothers, Cool people, Crazy family members, Curses!, Family, Good Deed Doers, Growing up, History, Huh?, Humiliation, Humor, Justice, Taking Care of Each Other, WTF?

55 responses to “Generally Speaking Redux

  1. I’ve been thinking about this post because i used to play cowboys and Indians with my cousins. I even wrote a poem about it that is in my book. The cousin who side I was on became mentally ill when he was in college and he died two years ago from the mental illness (in a roundabout way). We were the Indians. We always lost. But then I read a biography of Crazy Horse, and I was in love with him. I even bought dye for my skin from a catalogy of “Indian supplies” so that I could be Crazy Horse. Not sure how this relates to your story about Fred, long-suffering Tip, and Crazy Horse, but it brought back a lot of memories for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. He taught while he shot… awesome…


  3. What a wonderful big brother! I always wanted one of those. All 3 of mine were younger so they were basically just pests.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I absolutely love this! My little brother was not so fortunate as you. I should likely call him and apologize.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Paul

    As an unrelated aside Elyse I just had a guest post published over at Cordelia’s Mom’s. If you have the time to drop by for a read, I’d be honored. Thank you.


  6. JSD

    Sounds like you’ve got a great big brother…lucky you. Nowadays, one rarely sees kids playing cowboys and indians…is it not PC? By the way, I’ve been to the Battle of the Little Bighorn site and it is overwhelming to think of what went on there.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A great story. It rings of many things besides just your big brother, but also of an incredible childhood filled with fun, games, and imagination.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sounds like you’re just as good a sister as he is a brother. I love mine too. (Although he did pick on me lots as a kid. He’s apologized numerous times.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I imagine I was a pest as a kid, but what child doesn’t love his adoring followers? Trouble is, I can’t guilt him into anything! It might come in handy from time to time!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Did Fred grow up to be a politician? Just wondering, because he was so adept at making you feel good about losing to him all the time. He was a good brother, though – my brothers either ignored me or teased me until I ran crying to Mom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fred grew up to bean artist/art historian/professor. Then he grew tired of starving and became a computer programmer. He has some interest in politics, but less than me!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s great to have a loving brother. I have one too although he was much older. We’ve always been close. I’m also glad that your mustache grew in. Hard to be a cowboy or Indian without one.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lucky you, and lucky Fred. Give him a hug for me. I did not fare as well in the older sibs department. There are 4 of them, and, uh… Well. It’s amazing I turned out as well as I did. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Fred was a very clever guy. Sorry about your defeat. I understand what it was like to be the fallen. We played “war” a lot growing up. It was more like a WWII battle for us, in the woods behind our house. My older sister, mean as shit, always was the victor. sigh…

    Enjoy your visit, and the fact that you have a great rapport with that older sibling. 💘

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Nice to have a big brother like that. Custer faired much better during the Civil War. Maybe next time you can play Civil War with him, and he has to dress in gray.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Paul

    Awesome story Elyse.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I am kind of a Custer groupie. Not that I admire him. But I am fascinated by him. When I was a teenager, I found that my hometown library had (in storage, because they were delicate) the books that Elizabeth Custer wrote after he died. The librarian let me read them. So romantic! I’ve read enough historical accounts to have come up with my own (or at least partially my own) theory of why Custer let himself be drawn into the trap of the Little Big Horn. He was 35 – just old enough to run for President. He was wildly popular. I think he thought he would rack up one more big victory and throw his fancy hat into the ring. It didn’t exactly work out like he thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There probably aren’t too too many Custer groupies in the world!

      How fascinating to read the books. You’re probably right about his ambitions. What else does a handsome brilliant (albeit ill-fated) guy do?


  16. Great story, Elyse.

    I envy you having a good brother like Fred. My only sibling, Susan, was 13 years younger than me, but I did have playmates. I don’t recall playing cowboys and Indians with them, but I do recall, in the late 1940’s, our getting in my father’s car and pretending it was a spaceship. (Even then, I was reading science fiction like Rocket Ship Galileo, by Robert Heinlein.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am lucky with my family — except losing my sisters. But Fred is great and always made me feel welcome. Still does!

      When my son was little there were kids interested in trucks and others interested in dinosaurs. I guess it’s their version of Cowboys and space ships!


  17. Loved this, Elyse. And when you wrote that you were going to get to be the General, I went: “Uh-oh. I know what comes next.” Enjoy your time with your big brother!

    Liked by 1 person

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