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Thom Ross
Artist: Thom Ross, Title: Smell of Death - click for larger image
Smell of Death
36 x 48 Inches  Acrylic on Canvas   Sold
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In September, 1868, a novel idea was hatched in an effort to halt the raiding of some recalcitrant Cheyenne Indians. Rather then take to the field with a huge, cumbersome army, Colonel George Forsyth was ordered to lead a group of 50 scouts and frontiersmen and see what this light, fast-moving, mobile unit could accomplish. On the morning of September 17, a vastly superior force of Cheyenne warriors in what is now eastern Colorado attacked the small band of men. Camped along the shallow Republican River, the men dashed into the muddy river and took shelter on a low-lying sand bar/island in the middle of the stream. From here they fought off the numerous attacks of the Cheyenne. Late in the fighting on the first day, the famous Cheyenne warrior, Roman Nose, led a charge. Roman Nose, whose real name was translated as Hooked Nose, had a very detailed ritual he observed before entering any fight. This magic had protected him in many battles and he had become the most famous warrior on the southern plains. But this morning he had learned that a taboo had been broken; he had eaten food touched by a metal utensil. To re-establish his "good luck medicine" would have taken a long and careful ritual, and he was needed in battle. Knowing he would die that day, he nevertheless put his famous war bonnet on his head and led the third charge against Forsyth's men. The charge swept over and across the island, but Roman Nose received a wound in his lower back which proved fatal. The death of Roman Nose took the wind out of the other Cheyenne. They kept a lookout over the entrapped men and made some half-hearted charges, but, after 3 days, the Indians disappeared. Forsyth's men had suffered some fatalities and had some wounded men; Forsyth himself had been shot three times. All the food the men had to live on was the rotting flesh of their dead horses. At night the wolves and coyotes, enticed by the smell of death, would surround them in the low hills and howl until dawn. Relief parties were organized and sent for help. When help arrived, Forsyth was found reading a copy of "Oliver Twist". He survived his wounds and the idea of small parties of armed men going up against the power of the Cheyenne was abandoned.
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