We drove a rather winding road from Custer State Park to the Mt. Rushmore area. Our first view of the monument was a surprise as we made a tight turn on the edge of the opposing mountain. There they were! Just like their pictures.
After parking in the Xanterra (the concession management company) parking building, we walked up to the visitor's center and expansive viewing deck. We both enjoyed walking through the hall of flags. As we looked up we identified the states, but wondered why the Hawaiian flag looked so British.
Google Answer: Hawaii was once an independent kingdom. (1810 - 1893) The flag was designed at the request of King Kamehameha I. It has eight stripes of white, red and blue that represent the eight main islands. The flag of Great Britain is emblazoned in the upper left corner to honor Hawaii's friendship with the British.
We listened to a nice young ranger give a talk, and then took the President's Walk down around the base to the sculptor Borglum's Studio and back up to the Borglum View Terrace.
One of the neat things about being able to walk down below the sculpture, was to see the presidents from a different angle.
I couldn't help wondering what President Washington would think of Mr. Trump.
Or what any of them would think about the rhetoric being thrown about by the Republican party candidates, not to mention the media attention focused on Clinton and her emails.
Each of these four were both honored and vilified during their lifetimes. The nation turned a blind eye to their human failures, and recognized the strong leadership they showed in their administrations.
Every four or eight years we see a new president take office. I often wonder what history will say about them in a hundred years or more. Will anyone ever carve a mountain image of Presidents Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama?
We will all be dead and gone by then, so we will never know.
In the studio we learned more about how the mountain was carved, and looked at the artist's model.
The sculpture was never finished. Work stopped when it became apparent the country was heading into WW2. But even with only the heads included, it is an inspiring sight.
As tourists in the Black Hills, our trip would not be complete without also stopping in to see the Crazy Horse Memorial. The sculpture itself is clearly visible from the road, but there was much to read and see in the American Indian Museum, the Crazy Horse Visitor's center, and the artists home and studio.
This sculpture, a private venture, is many times larger than Mt. Rushmore. The original artist estimated it would take a hundred years to complete. It has been 67 since it was started, and although the artist has died, his family's non-profit foundation continues the work.
We took the short bus ride to the base of the mountain where we got a little better view of the face. You can take a van ride up to the area below his chin, but it cost $150 per person. Not in our budget!
The plaster model is on display on a patio area where you can compare it to the work on the mountain. You can see there's a lot left to do, but the fact that the mountain is now pretty much shaped like the sculpture means a lot has been accomplished!
We enjoyed looking at the many donated collections of American Indian artifacts and art work. The walls were covered with paintings, quilts, war bonnets, and photographs. I was particularly delighted with all the beadwork on display.
We learned the first glass beads were brought to America in 1492. Before they had beads, the Indians used porcupine quills to create their decorative work. As an artist myself, I can imagine the awe and excitement they must have felt when becoming acquainted with the colors and permanence of the beautiful Italian beads.
While at the Crazy Horse Memorial we were lucky to catch an Indian Dance demonstration done by these two.
The older Indian also explained some of the parts of their dress. My new fact for the day was about the long "flap" that hangs down in the back below their knees. When they walked, or danced in a crouched down position, it would drag on the ground and erase their moccasin prints.
I am presently reading a rather thick book about Crazy Horse, that we bought at the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Reading it as we travel through this area makes it all come together.
I know it was another time, but I have never been proud of how the West was settled and what the whites took from the native people. But at the same time, America allowed slavery and women were not allowed to vote. The white men were the "illegal" immigrants of the day, many of them were not born on American soil.
Guns and technology made it possible.