Thursday, September 29, 2005

Custer, SD - Crazy Horse Memorial

Custer, SD
We moved further up into the Black Hills and stayed in the town of Custer for its convenience to many of the attractions. Custer is close to Crazy Horse Memorial, Jewel Cave, Mt Rushmore, Custer State Park, and many hiking and biking trails.

Crazy Horse Memorial
Our first stop after setting up camp was at Crazy Horse. The visitor’s center and museum there is very in-depth: history on the Lakota Indian tribes, the sculptor they hired, the sculpting process and there were tables set up with Indian craftsman selling their wares. We spent about 3 hours touring the facility. The sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, started sculpting the memorial from a request by the Lakota elders to build a memorial to show “the red man as heroes as well”. Korczak started carving in 1948 all by himself. He used a compressor named Buda with 2,000 feet of hose to start jack hammering the granite outcropping. Buda wasn’t very reliable and would quit on him sometimes before he even walked to the top and got started. One day he had to go up and down 9 times to restart the compressor. How he must’ve dreaded hearing those sounds: “kaputta, kaputta, kaput”. Luckily for Korczak, he met his wife and had ten kids. Now 7 of those children and his wife are continuing his legacy. Crazy Horse is a private non-profit, not accepting any federal funding so they can create the facility without any outside influences. And it is a top-notch facility. Oh, did I say just how large this monument is?? It’s huge. Crazy Horse’s head alone is 87 1/2’ tall and the horse’s head will be 219’ tall. For comparison, Mt Rushmore is 60’ high.

We were given a re-admittance pass to come back for the night-time laser show, but it took us three nights before the rain would allow us to return. I expected just your standard-fare laser show, but this was really good. The pre-show included different colored lights shown on the monument. The laser show actually covered the history and meaning of the monument. History of the Lakota Indians, Crazy Horse, the request for Korczak’s work, progress of the sculpting, etc. It was 30 minutes long and was definitely worth pulling out our winter gear (hats, coats, gloves) to watch. But even with the damp cold the sky was crystal clear (previous days were blanketed in fog) with so many stars that felt within reach and even the milky way was visible. It was a very beautiful night. In So. Florida it’s easy to forget stars even exist for all of the city lights blocking our view.

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