Spending time in the Black Hills National Forest happens with far greater frequency than I would have ever expected when I first drove through the area in 1991. While moving from Denver to Marquette, I stopped with my infant son to visit the four faces and then continued on to Ellsworth Air Force Base. Even for a summer afternoon, Mount Rushmore wasn’t terribly crowded, but given the routine of a nearly one-year-old, we came, we saw, we moved on to dinner and bedtime. Mount Rushmore met my expectations for large memorials chiseled into rock in Great Plains states.
We kept our power drive going and skipped Badlands National Park, Wall Drug, the Corn Palace, and the bevy of Laura Ingalls Wilder sites throughout southern Minnesota. The next time I make it back to the western side of the Mount Rushmore State, I plan to take my time and enjoy more than one rock face feature (see Playing Defense from December 2012), including the Crazy Horse Memorial. The setup confused me as vantage points were lacking but displays of colored beads and posed photographs dominated the facility. I’m not certain what I ought to be learning, absorbing, and understanding throughout the exhibits, when I simply planned to view the sculpture in progress. I’m not certain the Crazy Horse Memorial met my expectations.
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/moondance38/9577316831
Work In Progress
Dedicated in 1948, the carving on former Thunderhead Mountain in the Black Hills honors the Oglala Lakota leader and his role in not just his tribe’s history, but the overall significance of the plight of Native Americans in the American West. I’ve often considered upon reflection that getting to see the work in progress took a crazy amount of effort. In comparison, Mount Rushmore boardwalks and seating offer hundreds of views for selfies, snapshots, and serene contemplation. This memorial offers only a few suitable perspective sites – again, crazy when you consider the significance of this hero in the Plains states. One of the key victors of the Battle of Little Bighorn, Tasunke Witco (his true name) defended the way of life of millions of extended tribesmen and women and his sculpture deserves greater visibility.
You know what’s really crazy? Mount Rushmore, from idea to completion, took eighteen years to bring to fruition. The Crazy Horse Memorial, in progress now for nearly three-quarters of a century, remains largely unfinished. The variance in their developmental pace speaks to the prioritization of the two similar projects. I often wonder, on this timetable, when might the Crazy Horse Memorial reach the point of completion as the model versus the full carving appear to be only fractionally aligned? I know with certainty that my significant other (see Somewhere from March 2021) and I will visit the Black Hills again, and I know that no matter how far down the road we look, it is unlikely we will see the Crazy Horse Memorial in its final state, which is undoubtedly unfair, unfortunate, and completely crazy.