Paul Dyck and Me
Paul Dyck was my friend and compadre. Although he was 13 years my senior I would like to have passed through some of his life adventures at his side.
He was born in Chicago in 1917, and spent much of his early life in Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Florence, Italy.
Paul returned to the United States and married Fawn on Elk, and they settled in among her Lakota people on the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. That’s where Paul met One Bull, the adopted son of Sitting Bull.
Although One Bull was many years older than Paul, they became such fast friends that he was adopted into One Bull’s family. In discussions between the two that lasted into the wee hours, they talked about the early Indian way of life and about the Custer Fight. One Bull said that some historians had written that he was the one who killed Custer in the fight, but it wasn’t true. Although he was in the battle, he said he never saw Custer. He was 23 at the time, and he died in 1947.
As a painter, Paul had an intuitive flair for color and description. So much so that the Sioux named him Rainbow Hand. He was fascinated by the carving that Gutzon Borglum was doing at Mount Rushmore, so he went over and got a job carrying water to the workers.
After Fawn died in childbirth, Paul moved to Rimrock in the Verde Valley of Arizona. His ranch house was on Beaver Creek and when the water was up, a car couldn’t cross it. So Paul would come get you in his tractor.
Paul’s house looked like an aircraft hangar, with the ceiling about 40’ high (I’m guessing). His bedroom and bath were off to the side and upstairs. It was generally considered that he had the greatest private collection of antique Plains Indian material in existence, and his big room was full of it. It included more than 80 beaded dresses, and 70 war shirts.
Paul was one of the authorities on what he called, the “Buffalo Culture.” His book Brule’ about the Sioux people of the Rosebud, brought him national acclaim. Museums and universities sought his council, and he was awarded an honorary PhD by the University of Montana.
Paul was married two more times. Jean Hamilton was his third wife, and the love of his life. He called her Star. When she died, he was devastated, and started spend time reading out by his corral where he had two buffalo. He fed them by hand, and delighted in watching his bull hook a big tractor tire and toss it high into the air.
About 2004 I videotaped a lengthy interview with Paul at his ranch. He said a few things that ran contrary to the generally accepted history of the Custer fight. Supposedly, White Swan, a Crow Indian scout with the 7th Cavalry, was in a club fight with some Sioux warriors and was left prostrate on the battlefield.
According to Paul, two days before the battle began, White Swan was dispatched to track down a trooper who had deserted, and return him to duty. A fight ensued, the deserter was killed and White Swan was severely wounded by a conk to his head. When he returned, the Custer battle was in full swing, and he collapsed on the battlefield, forever deaf and dumb from his fight with the deserter. Paul said that One Bull, who was in the fight, told him that story.
It is terrible when history is written wrong, but worse still is not knowing who to believe. f