Western Hero


It’s hard to choose the most overrated of the West’s many overrated heroes. It’s a fool’s congeries that has to include George Armstrong Custer, who made the biggest mistake of his short, vainglorious life when he decided to attack an Indian encampment down on the Little Bighorn. It has to give a nod to Zebulon Pike, father of a half-century misconception that the Great Plains was fundamentally uninhabitable, and to “the Pathfinder,” John C. Frémont, who without Kit Carson to lead him around by the nose could not have found his bum with either hand.Read more »

The Question Is: How Lost Was Zebulon Pike?

In a strange message to the intriguing General Wilkinson, the soldier-explorer seemed to predict his own geographical befuddlement and his capture by the Spanish.

In the deepening snows of a high mountain valley, about where Salida, Colorado, now stands, a band of sixteen men were gathered on the day before Christmas, 1806. Earlier they had been separated into straggling parties to forage and explore, but now they were united. Earlier they had been wretchedly hungry, but now they had been so fortunate as to kill several buffalo cows.