Printer Friendly

To the Badlands and beyond.

The Badlands of South Dakota are exquisite desolation and the cry of the coyote. The Black Hills are sacred to the Sioux. The massive sculpture at Mount Rushmore is a monument unequaled in the world, and Deadwood lives on as a Wild West town, born of gold and continuing on memories of yesterday's miners, gamblers, whores, and gunfighters. The southwest corner of South Dakota, abutting Wyoming and Nebraska, holds such wonders and more: Custer State Park, home of one of the largest public buffalo herds in the nation; Wind Cave National Park; Jewel Cave National Monument; the Rushmore-Borgium Story museum in Keystone; and the Columbian mammoth site in Hot Springs, where the remains of 42 such creatures have been found.

Nearby is gigantic Wall Drug, a shopping emporium and the only pharmacy in 10,000 square miles, famed for self-promotion, free ice water, and the map needed to explore the premises. And there is also Korczak Ziolkowski's three-dimensional Crazy Horse mountain carving near Custer. Sioux chief Henry Standing Bear asked Ziolkowski to create the monument after watching Gutzon Borglum place four white presidents on Mount Rushmore's face in the heart of his beloved Black Hills.

Badlands National Park A peculiar mix of sandstone, limestone, hardened volcanic ash, mudstone, shale, and assorted minerals, in colors muted yet sometimes vivid, from gray to purple, pink, and orange, this mysterious national park's terrain awes, frightens, and inspires.

Seventy million years ago, it was a giant saltwater sea. Barely 30 million years later, it was part of an enormous lowland that stretched from Saskatchewan almost to Texas, and across the Dakotas. And as late as 10,000 years ago, Columbian mammoths wandered nearby. Fossilized bones have been found in the Badlands : the extinct three-toed horse, the camel, and the saber-toothed tiger.

The 250,000-acre Badlands National Park has been scoured by wind and water and changed by volcanic activity and shifting climates. The site of Indian wars, home to prehistoric beasts, it is still full of cowboys and Indians, buffalo, antelope, prairie dogs, bighorns, rattlesnakes, mule deer, coyotes, meadowlarks, and golden eagles.

Weather here can be brutal, either mercilessly hot or painfully cold. The jagged cliffs, decades-old wildflowers, and savagely struck formations are tough partners for desert grass. But they are appreciated today by hikers, backpackers, horseback riders, photographers, and campers.

The Cedar Pass Visitors Center is nine miles south of Interstate 90 off exit 131. Tours with park rangers or naturalists can be arranged-or an evening program at the Visitor Center Amphitheater followed by the ranger led Night Prowl or Sky Trek. Cedar Pass Lodge, operated by the Oglala Sioux Tribe, offers accommodations, dining, souvenirs, and Indian arts and crafts. In the Pine Ridge Reservation, the White River Visitor Center features cultural exhibits and a video on Oglala Sioux history. The park is open year-round; White River Visitor Center is open only in summer. To play it safe, check in with a ranger at the Cedar Pass Visitor Center before exploring on your own.

Don't forget, when visiting the park: travel with care and respect for the fragile land, and carry water. Always remember, Badlands National Park is aptly named.

Mount Rushmore

National Memorial

Just after World War I a farsighted historian named Doane Robinson called on the famed Gutzon Borglum to create a heroic sculpture in the granite spires in the Black Hills. But the artist believed most of the needles were too brittle and not the right proportion to carve men. He also considered Robinson's idea of carving western legends too narrow.

Borglum spent weeks in the hills and found the perfect peak, with perfect light for a major portion of the day. Mount Rushmore offered stable rock and the mass needed to carve four great presidents with heads to be 60 feet high.

The work took twice as long as anticipated. Costs far overran the original estimate, for a final total of $989,992.32. Borglum actually worked only 6 1/2 years all told between 1927 and 1941; he employed 360 different helpers. Most of the time was spent searching for funds and waiting for a break in the weather. Borglum died March 6, 1941, and his son, Lincoln, completed the work. Two million people a year visit Mount Rushmore; 1.2 million flock during June, July, and August. The National Park Service provides a 12-minute movie and walking tours of this historic area, the memorial, and the studio. Borglum's original model is in his studio nearby, its large windows looking up at the mountain. It isn't as detailed as the work on the mountain, because the sculptor didn't want his final artistic expression on the model but on the mountain itself.

Today, sixty-three years after the beginning of the Mount Rushmore project, the monument is eroding and cracked. Each year the cracks are filled with a compound invented by Borglum, but each rain visibly streaks the faces of the presidents. Visitor facilities are overcrowded during the peak season. The Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society has capped years of restoration efforts with a major fund-raising campaign led by Al Neuharth, USA Today's founder. The goal is at least $40 million.

Mount Rushmore has never been formally dedicated. But a ceremony is planned for summer 1991, the 50th anniversary of the monument's completion. To coincide with the festivities and to raise funds, the U.S. Mint plans to strike a $5 gold piece, a silver dollar, and a 50cts copper coin, all bearing Mount Rushmore's image. About 5.5 million coins will be struck.

Surely the majesty of Mount Rushmore is worth the effort. "If the presidents had been full figure, they would be 465 feet tall and would have to bend down to read by the torch of the Statue of Liberty," said Tom Griffith, executive secretary of the Mount Rushmore Society. "The Sphinx would fit into any one of those heads. This is the most colossal work of art in the world."


In autumn 1875, gold was discovered in a creek in the Black Hills of South Dakota. No claim was filed until early November, at which point a skinny, three-mile stretch became known as the richest placer mining area in the entire United States. It was the birth of the boomtown of Deadwood.

"Imagine what this town must have been like with dirt streets, several thousand people, no sewer system, no water system," says Lew Keehn, the owner of Saloon #10 in Deadwood. They just threw stuff out in the street and in the creek."

The first wagons that came into town had to be lowered into the gulch using block and tackle until the settlers found a better route and made a trail. The

first stagecoach reached Deadwood in 1876, and by late that year, 25,000

fortune seekers, greenhorns, gamblers, dance hall girls, and gunslingers filled tent towns in Deadwood and the surrounding hills. Colorado Charlie Utter, Preacher Smith, Wild Bill Hickok, and Calamity Jane were among them.

Hickok's luck ran out that same year at age 39-he was killed by Jack McCall while playing poker in the original Saloon #10. Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried side-by-side (at her behest, not his) in Mt. Moriah Cemetery on the bluff high above the mining town.

The town's museums tell more of Deadwood's claims to fame. Deadwood also offers bus tours, the Franklin Hotel, a steam train, gambling, and a tour of an old-time underground gold mine. You can pan for gold in the creek and take home what you find. The Days of 76, the first full weekend in August, include a professional rodeo. In winter, skiing is available at Deer Mountain and Terry Peak, but there's also snowmobiling (at least 250 miles are marked) and cross-country skiing on numerous groomed trails in the vast Black Hills National Forest.

The townspeople, proud of their history, haven't changed much. Brothels were outlawed as late as 1980, but gambling (with a five-dollar limit) was legalized in 1989. In summer, the murder of Wild Bill Hickok and the trial of Jack McCall are reenacted nightly on Main Street. If the local citizens don't like what you're up to, they will use the law to run you out of town one way or another. Much like it was in the old days. Crazy Horse Mountain Carving

While Gutzon Borglum was working at Mount Rushmore, Henry Standing Bear, chief of the Sioux, asked another sculptor to do something he couldn't refuse: "Carve us a mountain so the white man will know the red man had great heroes too."

Korczak Ziolkowski (pronounced Kor-chuk Jewel-kuff-ski) had watched Butzon Borglum work at Mount Rushmore. He idolized the man even thou h he too was a famous artist. Ziolkowski had won first place at the 1939 New York World's Fair for a head of the pianist Ignace Paderewski. His work was in galleries and collections all over the United States.

Standing Bear and Ziolkowski traveled throughout the Black Hills before World War 11, and again after the sculptor's discharge from the army at war's end. Ziolkowski wanted to go to the Bighorns because he didn't want to be too close to Mount Rushmore. Standing Bear wanted the carving in the Black Hills, home to the Sioux. They found the rock in the northern hills too soft. They needed good granite, something remote, nobody's pet mountain. The place selected was close to nothing.

Ziolkowski designed a monument to the great Sioux leader, Crazy Horse. He believed that the Indian story was an epic one, and that the monument should be as powerful as the red man's story. It was to be a three-dimensional figure, a man on a horse, with the actual carving to measure 641 feet long, 563 feet high. His wife, Ruth, says he had $174 left after spending the bulk of his $6,000 life savings to buy Thunderhead Mountain.

The mountain memorial to Crazy Horse was never meant to be simply a tourist attraction. Ziolkowski wanted a university for Indians, plus a museum and a medical training center," Ruth says. "He wanted it to be the biggest. It had to be the best."

Ziolkowski moved from Connecticut to the Black Hills in 1947 and started to work. There was nothing on the site but rocks and pines. He cut down trees, peeled logs, and built a cabin by hand. There was no electricity for two years, no running water for four; he made I I trips between Connecticut and South Dakota in an old Chevy truck to bring out his antiques and furnishings. Connecticut-born Ruth came with him on one of those trips.

For decades, the sculptor shaped the mountain using dynamite, bulldozers, picks, and shovels. The work was demanding and dangerous. In South Dakota, in winter, mother nature bites hard and work has to stop; that season is long on the highest peak between the Rocky Mountains and the Swiss Alps. The Crazy Horse monument is only 500 feet lower than, and three miles from, 7,242-foot Harney Peak.

Financing of the Crazy Horse Mountain Carving is strictly by visitation fees and contributions federal funding is refused. Even though the rough shape can be recognized from the model at the Visitor Center, no one will guess how long it will take to complete the work. Ruth Ziolkowski will eventually donate the land to the nonprofit Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. "The foundation gives some perpetuity to the project," Ruth says, "because no man or one woman or one family is going to live long enough to take care of all of it."

The log cabin/Ziolkowski house, open to the public, contains some of Korczak's sculptures and models, a 15,000volume library, a stagecoach that ran the Cheyenne to Deadwood trail through Crazy Horse territory (built during Lincoln's time), plus historical clippings, Mount Rushmore items including a bronze of Gutzon Borglum, antiques, and other memorabilia.

At the Visitor Center, a scale model shows what the carving will look like, and a fine Indian museum displays plenty of artifacts, including drums, spears, and ceremonial robes. There are rugs, baskets, pots, and buckskin clothing trimmed with porcupine quills, beads, and bones. And the center houses a restaurant and two theaters that show the story of Crazy Horse. The cost is $4 a person (locals, native Americans, Boy and Girl scouts, servicemen in uniform, and preschoolers free). But they also charge by the car. "I don't care how many people are crammed in a car," Ruth says. "We don't charge more than ten dollars per carload, and that makes it reasonable. The more the better."

Ziolkowski died in 1982, but of five daughters and five sons, eight are working on the project. Standing Bear died in 1953, but Ruth Ziolkowski insists the native Americans from all around the country care a great deal about the project. Most items in the museum have been donated by the tribes. "We are about 90 miles from Pine Ridge," she says, "which is the second largest reservation in the country. And there are nine reservations in the state of South Dakota." The foundation and the family are using Korczak's plans to continue the work. Rock is constantly being measured and moved from the mountain.

"This project could take a very long time," Ruth says with a laugh. "We are still unpacking from Connecticut."
COPYRIGHT 1990 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:includes related article on Custer State Park buffalo roundup; travel in South Dakota
Author:Hadley, C.J.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jul 1, 1990
Previous Article:Landing 'em between the lakes.
Next Article:Cabbage: turn over a new leaf.

Related Articles
Where the buffalo roam ... and Custer legends proliferate.
South Dakota. (Advertisement: guide to historic travel).
Return of the swift fox: the smallest canid carnivore in North America will again roam Badlands National Park in South Dakota, thanks to a three-year...
Travel: WILD WEST IS BEST; Neil Murray sings the praises of the Black Hills of Dakota.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters