Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Aug. 24, 2010

Today we spent another day in the Black Hills. We woke up to an absolutely scrumptious day—not a cloud in the sky, and crisp cool weather. I think the latter was helped by the fact that we were up on the side of a mountain, not down in the valley of Deadwood. I decided that after all, I really did want to see Mount Moriah Cemetery, even though I likely wouldn’t get to see the Jewish graves unless we walked up to the top of the hill (and bear in mind, this is not a “hill”, it is a MOUNTAIN.) So anyway we subjected ourselves to one of the 1-hour guided tours which tend to overemphasize the Wild Bill Hickock stories and are less heavy on the history. At least, our tour was like that. The lady at the tourist office said to “pick whichever tour fits your schedule better, they are all excellent”, but our tour guide seemed to specialize in horrendously corny and stupid jokes.

However, we did get the ride up into the cemetery, and it was abundantly clear that Joe and I could *never* have walked up it yesterday, and probably not ANY day. The road up was longer than we’d realized before we even reached the cemetery gates, and then we continued up even further inside. The bus stopped at the gravesites of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane (who is buried right next to him, allegedly as per her request), and Potato Johnny, another colorful Deadwood character. We also stopped for a view of Deadwood—the dead have the best view of the town. I was unexpectedly happy to discover the historical marker about the Jewish gravesites right at our stop, at the corner of David St. and Jerusalem St.—apparently not everyone wants to have to climb up to the VERY top of the hill to read a historical marker. The Jews are buried at the highest part of the cemetery, and if we’d left the tour at that point to go see their graves, we’d be climbing yet another very steep section of walkways. Also it was interesting—on the way out, I noticed that the designs in the iron gates included a Jewish star. Unfortunately the bus was at a bad angle for me and I couldn’t snap a photo in time.
After our bus tour, we did a little bit of shopping. Then we went back to Mo for some lunch, before heading south out of town. We followed Route 384 through beautiful Black Hills scenery, until we reached Crazy Horse, our destination. The sculpture of Crazy Horse seated on his horse, pointing out over the landscape, is going to be the biggest sculpture in the world, by far. So far the only part which is completed is Crazy Horse’s head. It is so monumental that the faces on Mount Rushmore, only 17 miles away, would fit into Crazy Horse’s head. Work on the sculpture has been in progress for 60 years so far.
The project is supported solely by private donations and by the proceeds from visitor fees and purchases at the Crazy Horse Monument—no government money at all. To attract tourists, the site includes not just the view of the mountain carving, but an orientation film, galleries of photos about the project, an Indian Museum, the Native American Cultural and Heritage Center, the studio and home of Korczak Ziolkowski (the sculptor of the work), a restaurant, and a large gift shop. We spent about 3 hours there.

The most interesting parts to us were the historical items and photos dealing directly with the work of beginning and continuing work on such a gargantuan project. From the first letter written by Chief Henry Standing Bear to Korczak asking him to participate in creating a heroic memorial on behalf of the Native American peoples, to the photos of the first blasts of dynamite and the careful photo record of the sculpture’s advance since then, it was fascinating to see how this dream became reality.

What is truly amazing is that none of the people who began the project could ever expect to see it completed; since Korczak’s death, his wife Ruth (now 84) has directed the work, with the help of 7 of her 10 children. At the time when the actual work was begun, the first blasts were attended by the last 5 living tribal elders who had been at the Battle of Little Big Horn! Tonight Joey and I were estimating that we would not be alive when the horse’s head was completed; and thinking about the rest of the sculpture, it will probably take another couple of hundred years. The scope of the project is just mind-boggling.

We finally left Crazy Horse and continued south to Hot Springs. The drive was beautiful; it was after 6, and that is when the wildlife is supposed to be more active. We drove through Wind Cave National Park (which we saw in 2007) and in addition to seeing deer, prairie dogs, and wild turkeys, we also encountered bison at a roadside overlook, and standing in the road nearby.

As for Hot Springs, we stayed in this town 3 years ago to visit the Mammoth Site and head north to Deadwood; today we reversed the trip. We are now in the same KOA we stayed in 3 years ago—it is shaded and nice, and the wifi seems good. Tomorrow we will head further southeast into Nebraska, and get our last new state sticker for this vacation.

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