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American Road Trip Adventure: Day 5 (Part Three)

I've just returned from a long road trip. I was traveling to a conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, and we made it a family vacation, to show our son more of this big, amazing country. I blogged from the road, but I didn't want to advertise to every burglar on the internet that our house was empty, so I've waited until now to start posting the entries.

Sunday, August 18
Rapid City, Keystone, Mount Rushmore,
and Crazy Horse, South Dakota

P1120392 Crazy Horse Scale Model, web

Part Three: Crazy Horse,
Crazy-Dedicated Sculptor
After Mount Rushmore, we jumped back in the Cadillac (I do like saying that) and made the half-hour drive through the Black Hills to the Crazy Horse Memorial to see another large stone head. By now, it was after 5 p.m., so we knew we'd have to make it a quick visit. But I had been told it was a must-see, and I was curious.

The Crazy Horse Memorial, still a work in progress, is the world's largest mountain carving. Started June 3, 1948, the memorial was inspired by the carvings on nearby Mount Rushmore. Chief Standing Bear and other chiefs of the Lakota tribe conceived of a similar mountain m
onument that would honor Native Americans. Federal officials and Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum weren't interested. So in 1939, the Lakota leaders had turned to Polish-American artist Korczak Ziolkowski, that year’s champion sculptor at the New York World’s Fair.
P1120338 Crazy Horse closeup, web
Ziolkowski (1908-1982) made their vision his own and then devoted the rest
of his life to the project. He began with a two-foot long statue Ziolkowski sculpted as a model. It showed Oglala Sioux Chief Crazy Horse (1840-1877) on horseback, arm extended to point toward the lands of his ancestors. The model featured in the first photo here is, of course, a much larger model that has been sculpted since then. (For scale, that's my 11-year-old son's head and orange shirt in the lower left corner.) The finished sculpture on the mountain will be, well, monumental -- 641 feet across and 563 feet tall. Crazy Horse's head alone is nearly 90 feet tall! (Each presidential head on Mount Rushmore is about 60 feet tall.)

P1120310 Teepee art in museum, webThe memorial has since been offered federal money but has turned it down, seeming to operate at times on nothing but sheer will and dedication. Ziolkowski began the job with a single sledgehammer, living in a tent on the mountain for the first few months. Like a lot of energetic, devoted geniuses, the guy seems to have been a tad eccentric, to say the least. Living alone in a tent on a mountain in South Dakota with only a dead Sioux warrior to talk to will do that to you.

Over the next few decades, he married Ruth Ross and fathered 10 children, and private donations paid for more advanced blasting and carving equipment. The family lived near the site in a house he built himself, and his family embraced the project with a passion to rival his own. Today, Ruth Ziolkowski is in her 80s, but she and seven of the couple's children continue the sculptor's work.

Because we had arrived so late -- and because Bob was feeling queasy, probably because he'd downed enough black coffee to fill a mug sized for a 60-foot presidential head -- we decided not to pay to ride to the base of the sculpture, but instead to view it from the visitor center and spend time in the museum complex there. The museum has exhibits on Crazy Horse himself, but also displays an extensive collection of Native American art and artifacts, all presented from a Native American point of view. (The picture of the yellow horses, above, is a detail from the decorations on the side of a tepee in the museum.) We toured the collection and browsed the gift shop.

Then, while poor Bob dozed in the car, Jon Morgan and I stepped outside to view the sculpture from a large viewing deck. It was equipped with several of those binocular-viewers you can operate for a quarter. He set himself up behind one of them and was enthralled with a magnified look at the massive sculpture. I couldn't blame him. This monument is darn impressive. It's just so BIG. And even unfinished, it is beautiful, especially in the late afternoon sunlight. I hope to see it finished someday.

After a while, Jon Morgan noticed that I was experimenting with different settings on my camera, a Panasonic Lumix ZS20. I've had my camera for a year, but I'm still exploring the different effects I can achieve with it. He had inadvertently left his own camera in the car, so he begged to use mine. He said he wanted to take photos to enter in this year's PTA Reflections arts contest. As a former PTA Reflections chair, I couldn't refuse. After all, he couldn't possibly find a better subject to fit this year's Reflections theme:

"Believe, Dream, Inspire."

P1120331 Crazy Horse, sunset view, web