Sunday, 25 July 2010
On Friday July 9th we made a late start to Mount Rushmore, but I couldn’t get Wall out from my mind. There were times I thought I was hallucinating: The Cowboy Orchestra and the Chuck wagon Quartet, life sized animated dummies hollered and winked as I dreamed along with a jumble of other artefacts Wall had to offer.
In fact I wondered whether it was worth the journey to Mount Rushmore. I mean, Wall already had a large facsimile of it, along with a bucking horse, a mounted buffalo, a covered wagon and a giant Jackalope; it had life sized carvings of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made from a 187 year old Cedar tree, and who, mercifully, remained mute. It also had a Wild West Historical Wax work museum, which was an advance on the Worlds Largest Crucifixion In Wax offered to honeymooners at Niagara.
Staring out the window put things into perspective. I was looking at the remains of a vast inland sea extending from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Plains its sea-bed, the Badlands its finest creation. Sandstone eroded over millennia into castles, turrets, finely sculpted walls, profiles of great historical figures.
Only men with an agenda and less patience noted the absence of four Presidents and set about to put this right.
Gutzon Borglum, an active member of the Ku Klux Klan chose four presidents involved in the acquisition of Indian lands (though admittedly every President during this period could be accused of the same) The mountain he chose was known to the Sioux as ‘Six Grandfathers’ but was renamed in 1885 after a prominent New York Lawyer Charles E Rushmore - because as one of those with him said: ‘Hell, that mountain has no name; it may as well be named after you.’
That evening we went to see Mount Rushmore illuminated and were regaled by a brilliant actor taking on the part of Teddy Roosevelt. We sat enthralled listening to his western drawl beneath honey coloured rock blurred in drizzle. He was explaining why he was up there, but interest gradually waned as drizzle turned into heavy rain. We returned to our coach with a collection of soggy leaflets and a jumble of facts:
Each President's head is as tall as a six-story building.
Over 800 million pounds of stone was removed from Mount Rushmore during the construction.
Workers had to climb 506 steps every day before they could start work.
The president's noses are 20 feet long, their mouths 18 feet wide, and their eyes are 11 feet across.
At least they weren’t waxworks.