SANDY -- It appears that Gary Stewart is not afraid of anything, even death.
The Sandy resident is about to face his own demise again for the 17th time.
Stewart, an avid horseman, is headed to Garryowen, Mont., this week for the annual Realbird family and friends re-enactment of the Battle of the Little Bighorn along with more than 200 other horsemen.
Stewart will play the part of Capt. Thomas W. Custer, of the 7th U.S. Regiment Cavalry, the brother of Gen. George Custer. Thomas Custer had been twice decorated with the Medal of Honor for separate engagements during the Civil War.
Both men died along with 223 others in their company when they fought Indians on June 25, 1876.
"The pounding of hundreds of horses like thunder raises dust clouds over everything and everyone," Stewart wrote of his thoughts as he participates in the re-enacted battle every year.
"No one can tell friend from foe. The very ground seems to grow Indians. The earth vibrates, lunging horses and horsemen in the cold waters of the Little Bighorn River."
The battle is one often studied by those with an interest in war maneuvers.
This year, the event will be observed by an author who is writing a book about the annual re-enactment.
Stewart said he knows by heart the events of June 25, 1876, and the following day when seven companies of American soldiers held up their defenses in mountain bluffs until the Indians retreated.
"A warrior told me he had seen the sun reflecting off the guns and the shiny saddle brass on the distant horizon," Stewart said of Custer's regiment's advance. The soldiers did not realize that the Indian encampment included 1,500 to 2,000 warriors and that a part of his regiment and two other groups of soldiers would be unable to aid him and his men.
"The great Indian camp is now partly in sight before us," Stewart tells of his approach every year. "Indian warriors are everywhere I look, raising the war cry, and like a swatted bees nest, Indians fill up the prairie to push away the soldier horsemen."
Each year, Stewart said, he watches in awe the "powerful and remarkable" riding skills of the Crow Indians as they participate "bareback and painted for war" with him in the re-enactment.
"The stories and tales of this historical event touch the heart and make the imagination fly," he wrote in a description of his feelings for the event.
Stewart was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, but immigrated with his family to the United States and grew up hearing stories and tales of the American Indian and the defeat of the 7th Cavalry in Montana.
Stewart said he lived a cowboy lifestyle in Cody, Jackson Hole and Muddy Gap, Wyo.
"Camped out on the high prairies of Wyoming with cattle, horses and a cranky ole cook and his cook wagon throughout the summer months seemed to me as close as it got to the old Indian way of life," he wrote. "Here I gained a great respect for all things in the wild given to us by our creator."
Besides his role each year in the re-enactment, Stewart is also part of a troupe of historical re-enactment figures touring with "the Freedom Bell."
Thought to be the sister bell to the "Liberty Bell," the bell and the actors are stopping at every state's capital in the continental United States.
During this tour, Stewart plays the part of Gen. George Custer.