38 j CHRONICLESnCuster, at the Grand Review of victoriousnUnion armies, mastered a runawaynhorse. Dubbing this critter a “surrogatenfor the man’s animal self,” Slotkinnsuggests that “Thus brought againnunder strict discipline by the rider (thenintellectual being), the presence of thenhero reveals itself.” But then, onlynSlotkin would assume that in a magazinenarticle by Custer he “solicits thenaid of Delaware Indian scouts (Cooper’snfavorite tribe)” in keeping with anLeatherstocking-like self-image.nCuster was, of course, ambitious.nBut Slotkin imagines a hero always thenopportunist, facade always “on.” Coldbloodedncalculation is insisted uponneven in stating (wrongly) that the Custersnwere “childless by choice,” or thatnCuster endorsed Negro suffrage beforena Congressional committee while privatelyncondemning it, though his actualntestimony records no such endorsement.nThe reduction of a complexnman to a two-legged calculating machinenclimaxes in denying Custer abilitynto reveal his true feelings (if any)neven in writing to his own wife aboutnIndians raping a little girl. Slotkin concludes:n”This is of course the archetypalnraison d’etre of the Indian war, andnCuster responds appropriately: ‘Woento them if I overtake them.'” A morenlevelheaded writer might assume thatnthe fiery Custer desired retribution.nWhile fair-mindedly terming Custernone of our Army’s best Indian fighters,ndiscounting silly stories of alleged presidentialnambitions, and exploding hisnbuffoonish modern image (the Montanandisaster “retroactively discreditsnhis professionalism”), Slotkin repeatsnseveral hoary fables. He writes of Custer’snsupposed cohabitation with a femalenCheyenne captive. (It would beninteresting to find out whether similarnliaisons of Seventh Cavalry officersnwith Cheyenne women involved coercion,nas Slotkin believes, or simplensexual collaboration with the whitenenemy.) Higher standards of evidencenmight also have benefited his interestingnthoughts on Custer’s “hunger forncash” and “rather flexible” Gilded Agenbusiness ethics. He even tries to establishnCuster as the railways’ tool, parflynby charging him with plagiarism from anNorthern Pacific propagandanbrochure — though the two paragraphsnhe quotes have virtually nothing inncommon.nIn the book’s final section, “ThenLast Stand as Ideological Object,n1876-1900,” Slotkin credits the newsmennof Custer’s day with some awarenessnthat the Little Big Horn “wouldnbecome a ‘legend,’ ” because in writingnabout it they used “the full rangenof legendary references and metaphors,nfrom the Trojan War to Horatiusnat the Bridge, to the Alamo and thenCharge of the Light Brigade.” (Consideringnthe inability of modern electronicnreporters to come up with anythingndeeper than the usual “It was likensomething out of a spy movie,”nSlotkin’s misconceptions are explicable,nif not pardonable.) The LastnStand, though an ill-wrought fable innan age of rapid but irregular communications,nbecame an “exercise in appliednmythology” for a generationnpainfully aware of the final death of thenFrontier. Custer became cast as civilization’snmartyr, while his foes achievednstatus as mythic savages. The Indians’nstunning success actually inspired demandsnfor “extermination” — though,nas the author observes early on, thenmore such rhetoric was broadcast, thenless killing seemed to get done. Ofncourse, the Custer “legend” is capablenof assuming many shapes, and we mayndoubt not only the author’s assertionnthat the “Boy General” had achievedn”mythic” status even prior to his deathnbut also the importance assigned tonCuster as an element of scholars’ racewarnmyth.nAware that his “Myth of the Frontier”nis but part of the mythic West,nSlotkin ignores certain well-known legendsn(such as those of outlaw-heroes ornlawmen) as well as many familiar modernnfantasies (though his GunfighternNation promises to carry his trilogy’sn”myth” into our own era). Instead, henprovides neglected information and anfascinating thesis which may permanentlynalter, or at least stimulate, thenreader’s thinking on Westward expansion.nYet an academic sterility hangsnover it — a coldness that does littlenjustice to frontier, frontiersmen, orneven Eastern stay-at-homes. ThenWest, and America itself, seem barrennplaces, and we are left, intentionally ornnot, with crass racialism, greed, paternalism,nand “contradictions.” It is hardnto help feeling there was more — ifnonly that hard-bitten love of individualnliberty we associate with the Frontier.nnnOr that sense of opportunity, howevernexaggerated, that moved Irish-bornnBrevet Lieutenant Colonel MylesnKeogh, destined to die with Custer, tonwrite that in America — that “queerncountry” where “impudence and presumption”ncarried great weight and “ancertain lack of sensitiveness” was vitalnto success — “you are judged only bynyour merits as a man.” It was nonEastern journalist but a simple cowboynwho, asked by an English visitornwhether his “master” was at home,nsummed up the Frontier philosophy bynremarking: “The son of a bitch hasn’tnbeen born yet.”nPseudo-History ofnEventsnby John C. ChalbergnHold On, Mr. President by SamnDonaldson, New York: RandomnHouse; $17.95.nHorace Greeley may have had itnright for his 19th-century compatriots,nbut the proper direction for thenambitious voyagers of this centurynhas too often been eastward. Just asknNew Mexico’s own Samuel AndrewnDonaldson.nNo one asked her, but ChloenHampson Donaldson thinks she knowsnwhy her son strayed from the straightnand narrow path: “Sam was always annobedient child until he went backneast.”nPoliticians make the trek, and buddingnjournalists have similar experiences.nHappiness was not to be SamnDonaldson’s until he had retreatednwithin the beltway before there was anbeltway to hunker down within.nThere, still wet behind the earphones,nhe went to work for a Washingtonntelevision station in 1961; and there,nstill a loyal Westerner, he cast a vote fornBarry Goldwater in 1964.nThree years was apparently notnenough for Washington to work itsnmagic on a fledgling newsman whonbarely eight years earlier had organizednthe Young Republicans of El Paso andnwelcomed a campaigning RichardnNixon to west Texas. However, a quarternof a century of the Washingtonnhigh life has turned Chloe Donalds-n