I will read anything by Larry McMurtry. In fact, I thought that I had read everything he has published until I ran into Crazy Horse: A Life (1999). It was tucked back on a shelf in the American Indian research section of the San Benito County Free Library and I grabbed it as soon as I saw it.
This is a short Penguin book written in McMurtry's factual, but richly descriptive style. He takes you into this biography only as far as he can go without making stuff up. The brief life story of Crazy Horse, most of which is just plain unknown, is terse and brutally realistic in that McMurtry refuses to dramatize or glorify beyond what can be claimed as true. And, as he repeatedly reminds the reader, it ain't that much. You want to know more, but Crazy Horse just didn't give it up. A lot of this book is dedicated to debunking previous accounts as fairy tales.
Crazy Horse only lived about thirty-five years. Much of what we know about him stems from a vision he had after fasting for a couple of days. He saw a horseman floating above ground. He was told not to decorate himself or to keep anything for himself. In battle, he was to wear a small stone behind his ear and a single feather at most atop his head. He would die when people he knew were holding his arms back in a fight.
He kept to himself almost all the time, but was known, in keeping with his vision, as a man of great charity to those he stayed with on the occasions when he was in camp. He was quite taken with a woman of his tribe (Oglala), but she married another man, someone much more of a homebody. Crazy Horse eventually took a wife who bore his children, but continued his roaming, singular mystic life most of the time.
Peace, Love, and Independence,