Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

What Have You Accomplished?

Custer, South Dakota

Sixty years ago the Crazy Horse carving was begun in 1948 by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. When finished it will be the largest sculpture in the world, 641 feet wide and 563 feet high. It will be taller than the pyramids and much more enduring, carved as it is from the hardest granite in North America. By comparison, the carvings on nearby Mt. Rushmore would fit into Crazy Horse's head.

The memorial was commissioned by some of the same elderly Oglala Lakota chiefs that rode with Crazy Horse against Custer. Korczak arrived nearly broke and initially lived in a tent nearby. He built 758 steps up the mountain and began removing 80 million tons of granite with a jackhammer and dy
namite. The statue is about 5% complete after sixty years. There is no fixed timetable for completion.

Korczak acquired a used 4,000 pound "Buda" air compressor and ran lines up the mountain to power his jackhammer. The Buda was cranky. One day he climbed down the 758 steps nine times to restart the hand-crank engine. Korczak died in 1982, before even the head fully emerged from the mountain. He left behind a wife and ten children to carry on his work.

This memorial is really for Chief Crazy Horse, not Korczak. Crazy Horse was bayoneted in the back by an American soldier while under a flag of truce. It was one of those "he won the battle and lost the war" stories.

Korczak was fanatic about free enterprise. He turned down several offers of $10 million or more of government assistance, preferring to fund the project from private donations and admission to a visitor center.

It's cold here this year. The temperature gets up to about 52 F. We're staying another day to see the Cave of the Winds National Park, some in situ mammoth skulls down in Hot Springs and maybe the Agate Fossil National Monument in northeast Nebraska. I never even knew we had a National Monument for agate fossils.

There is a lot to see in the Crazy Horse visitor center. They have a fine collection of native art and many photographs, sculptures and paintings.

In nearby Custer State Park we find buffalo and mountain goats. The goats are not native to the area. Six of them were imported in 1924. By 1928, they had all escaped and now there is a herd of about 400 goats living in the "Black Hills". They call it the Black Hills because the predominate tree, the Ponderosa Pine, has a needle with a flat side that doesn't reflect much light. It makes this ancient 150 mile long mountain range appear black from a distance.

We want to see Deadwood and Sturgis before we continue. Deadwood is where Wild Bill Hickok was assassinated. Sturgis is the site of the big motorcycle rally. Somewhere around here is a field called Little Bighorn.

1 comment:

  1. If you're heading up to Sturgis, you really should make a stop at Bear Butte (it's just outside of town). It's one of the most sacred sites to the Cheyenne and it's likely that Crazy Horse was born nearby. It's worth taking the trail up to the top.