When you've never been somewhere, your brain tries to construct an image of the place. I'd seen pictures of Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial before, but they were all close-ups. I filled in the blanks of the surrounding area with what I thought I knew about the central high-plains of America: that they were flat and rolling hills. I knew the two giant sculptures were in the Black Hills of SD, which I pictured as little craggy rock towers poking up out of the giant, flat prairie.
I couldn't have been more wrong. The day before we went to the monumnets, we stayed in Custer, SD. Driving up into the north eastern corner of Wyoming (and regretting that we didn't have time to swing by Devil's Tower National Monumnet, where we wanted to hum the Close Encounters music), we were surprised by the beauty as we ascended into the Black Hills and the southwest corner of SD. These aren't hills! They're little mountains. The highway was picturesque. The little towns looked like post care representations of themselves. It was truly amazing. What a place.
And the monuments! It's hard for a mental image to get an idea how truly large these things are. Crazy Horse is a whole mountain! And in the museum of Mount Rushmore, pictures taken during the carving show a man is as tall as the pupil of an eye. These are truly monumental monuments!
Of course, there is controversy about Rushmore being created on sacred indian grounds, and that is enough to trigger some serious white man guilt in me. But the explosions are over, the result is there, it is a national monument to some white guys who did their best to help a young country survive in order to spread democracy and freedom. I'm sure those guys, including Crazy Horse, would be impressed with the president now. It's the 8 years prior that I'm not so sure about. Hopefully, I'll get to go back and visit the mountains while we have a president I could actually imagine seeing up there.