That evening, Vera and George sat on the front deck of The Nine Dragons and a Sheep, having spent the afternoon blissfully rowing around on the river, feeding swans, taking turns with the oars, comparing childhood memories of Texas.
All was calm and quiet.
And then . . . Uncle Petr came walking down the street, waving his cane in the air,
pushing a wave of energy ahead of him like a warship on a mission.
He launched himself in through the door of The Dragons to shouts of welcome.
He held up one hand asking for silence, and with the other hand he held his cane up like a bow, and shot an imaginary arrow into the wall. Then he shouted,
“Sitting Bull is here! Tonight we fight the Battle of the Little Bighorn!”
Cheers and Indian war whoops rose from the crowd at The Dragons. Yes, yes!
Some people left the pub in a hurry – not to avoid what was coming – but to rally friends from the neighborhood to take part in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
“I wouldn’t want to miss this,” said George, “It will be a night to remember.”
And he and Vera left their table and carried their beer and sausages inside.
If you are Czech, you understand what follows. If you don’t know, you need to know or you will be left out of something uniquely Czech.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn, known to the American Plains Indians as The Battle of the Greasy Grass, is more commonly called Custer’s Last Stand.
The two-day fight in late June of 1876, was between members of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indian tribes, and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, led by General George Armstrong Custer. The result was an overwhelming victory for the Indians, who were led by Crazy Horse, Chief Gaul, and inspired by the mystical visions of Sitting Bull.
This history is not unfamiliar to most Czechs, who are enamored of American Indian lore through the novels of Karl May and his heroes, Winnetou, the wise chief of the Apaches, and Old Shatterhand, Winnetou’s white blood brother.
To this day, many Czechs belong to Indian Clubs and send their children to Indian- themed summer camps, where they dress as Indians, live in Tipis, and hold Indian-style dances, feasts, and contests.
When Uncle Petr shouted “Sitting Bull is here!” the Dragons were not surprised – only enthused.)
The first problem was that every Dragon wanted to be an Indian in Uncle Petr’s drama. And the second problem was that only men were involved in the battle.
“I shall be the war leader of the Indians,” announced Uncle Petr.
“But Sitting Bull stayed in camp during the battle,” said Rado.
“You don’t know what you are talking about. I was there. I know.”
Rado laughed. “Who will be Custer?”
“You, Rado, will be General George Armstrong Custer.”
“But the cavalry was massacred. Custer died. I don’t want to die.”
“It is an honor to be a man who died so heroically against such odds. You will go down honorably. Your death scene will be memorable. You are the star!”
A young woman raised her hand, and asked:
“What about the squaws, Uncle Petr. You can’t leave all us women out.”
“Of course not, my dear, you will all begin this re-enactment by performing the war dance of the young maidens, which took place in the Indian camp the night before the battle, and then after the battle you can scour the field and take white men’s scalps.”
“Did that really happen, Uncle Petr?”
“Of course it did, I was there – I know – I saw it all with my own eyes. Onward!”
Uncle Petr assigned some men to be cavalry, some to be horses, and some to be cannons.”
“But Uncle Petr, there were no cannons at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.”
“There must always be cannons – besides, I was there. I saw them myself.”
In no time at all, the main floor of The Dragon was cleared of tables and chairs.
“Now,” shouted Uncle Petr, “All the Indians get out in the back patio. All the cavalry get out on the front deck. And all the Indian maidens get in the middle and do their war dance.”
Young women painted their faces with lipstick and started dancing in a circle, while two bartenders beat out the Indian rhythm on empty beer kegs.
At Uncle Petr’s signal, the cavalry rode slowly in from the deck, led by Rado, wearing a mop-head as Custer’s blonde hair, and carrying a broom as a rifle.
Suddenly, Uncle Petr came galloping in out of the back patio, shooting arrows with his cane, shouting something he later claimed was Sitting Bull’s special war cry,
and followed by all the rest of the Indians whooping at the top of their lungs.
Mayhem. Utter mayhem. Cannon fire, horses whinnying, soldiers lying dead all over the floor, scalps being taken – moaning and groaning and whooping.
Finally, Uncle Petr stood up on a chair in the middle of the chaos, shouted for order, and announced that Custer was going to die now.
Whereupon Rado went into his death act, and took so long to die horribly that Uncle Petr finally declared, “You must be dead by now, General, fall down.”
As George had predicted, it was a night to remember.
Vera danced enthusiastically with the rest of the Indian maidens
George decided he was Custer’s bugler, and went around blowing his horn
And, at the end, Uncle Petr, as Sitting Bull, was paraded around the pub on the shoulders of Indians and soldiers alike.
Rado said later than the pub set a record for beer sales that night.
As well as a record for red wine – referred to as “soldier’s blood.”
Nobody got hurt.
All the Dragon’s helped clean up the mess and put the pub back in order.
As Uncle Petr walked out the door at the end of the night, he was heard to exclaim:
“Next time, Waterloo!”