Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Four Presidents

So finally we made it to Rapid City, South Dakota, the focal point of our trip. On our way there we crossed over from Central Daylight Time to Mountain Daylight Time, so it was only 2:30 when we arrived at our motel, and they didn’t have a room yet. No worries, that gave us an opportunity to see Despicable Me 2 (yes, my husband’s choice) and scope out places to have dinner.

The next day we took off for Mount Rushmore. While we were in Moline, my brother told us about the Chief Crazy Horse Memorial, which is not far from Mount Rushmore, so we decided to see both of those and if time permitted, to see the  Museum of Geology at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Or in short: rocks, rocks, and more rocks.

While at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, we were able to meet the last surviving worker, Donald “Nick” Clifford, and buy an autographed copy of his book, Mount Rushmore Q and A (Answers to Frequently Asked Questions). The Memorial took 400 men from 1927 to 1941 to carve, and now only one is left.

And although you have already seen much better pictures than mine, here are the obligatory tourist snaps, with commentary.

As always, click on the picture for a larger size.

Entrance to the Memorial

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum

That Declaration thing was nice, but the first ice cream recipe  in America? Major props! 
There it is, Mount Rushmore

Distance shot, to give you an idea of how the sculpture fits into the mountain.

Close up of Washington and Jefferson

Close up of Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. Roosevelt is as far back as he is because a lot of rock face had to be blasted away to find suitable granite for sculpting him.

Model for the sculpture. As you can see, the presidents were to have been depicted from the waist up, but there wasn't enough usable granite, and then Borglum died. I like it the way it is.

 I'm glad I finally got to see Mount Rushmore. As impressive as it is as an object, it is also a microcosm of its time, the early twentieth century when nothing seemed impossible. The Panama Canal was completed in 1914, the Hoover Dam (originally called the Boulder Dam) in 1933. The first skyscraper in the United States, the ten story Home Insurance Building, was completed in 1885, but it was the Empire State Building in New York, built in 1931, that would stand as the tallest building in the world for 40 years. Nobody had dreamed of the ecological impacts, global warming, and certainly not the possibility of jet airplanes crashing into even taller towers on a clear day in September.

They emerge from the rock, four giants of our country's past, a reminder from an age as innocent as the ice cream cones made with Thomas Jefferson's recipe, of hope and hubris, two of the defining qualities of humankind.

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