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Today’s guest poet — Dante Gabriel Rossetti
I have been here before
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.
You have been mine before,
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow’s soar
Your neck turn’d so,
Some veil did fal — I knew it all of yore.
Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time’s eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death’s despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?
Day 3 started too early for Kelsea, but what are mothers for if not to wake their children in some annoying manner?
We partook of the too-expensive breakfast buffet at the Inn, and left loaded for bear (oh wait, that was Day 2). Well, we left, at any rate, excited because today was the day we got to see it: Mount Rushmore, aka, the Big Heads. Goats were dining on tightrope walkways in the air at Old McDonald’s Farm (we didn’t stop). En route, we decided that if we ever own a Jersey cow, her name will have to be Snooki.
Kelsea was keeping track of the disturbing death marker signs with little tick marks (just FYI, in this one day, we counted 27) as we headed through the Black Hills, unsure of what to expect from Mount Rushmore. Some of our acquaintances had said “Oh, they’re smaller than you think.” Others had said it wasn’t worth it, especially not with the crowds. Well, our first peek at the peak was pretty cool regardless of those misguided expectations.
Parking was only a minor challenge, probably because I made it so by debating if the EXIT signs on the structures REALLY meant exit, or if that was just a suggestion. The level-headed one told me not to be an ass – they say exit because they mean exit (and remember the “Road Closed” signs?) Much to our delight, many, many (many) Mustangs were still in evidence, making a long weekend out of the Sturgis Mustang Rally. Each got a “hey-ay” shout out from us.
I never knew I had a childhood dream of seeing Mount Rushmore until I fulfilled it by actually seeing it. It’s fabulous and don’t let anybody tell you differently. The Big Heads ARE big, plenty big, the perfect size, in fact.
The monument is laid out well, clean, accommodating, everything a monument should be. Even the soda machine in the ladies room maintained the theme.
The background museum is worth a stop, and I now regret not having stayed for the video, because we both have some unanswered questions. The museum had details on the sculptor, the heads, the presidents, and the area, as well as some cool giant photos.
The Avenue of Flags was a fitting entryway to the full-on views of the monument.
At the end of the Avenue of Flags, you come upon an amphitheatre with a fantastic view of the heads. It’s the prime viewing spot, if you are unable to walk any farther. We walked to the bottom of the amphitheatre (no one else seemed to do that) but declined to get up on the stage.
The Presidential Trail winds through the forest, a wooden walkway to give you a closer look at the Big Heads.
There was one little viewing hole. We stood in line for it, not knowing what we were standing in line for and double checking to be sure that people ahead of us in line were actually coming out, and it was not some sort of bizarre Big Head feeding tube. Standing in line for an unknown reason made us feel slightly stupid, but we did it anyway.
Being us, we had numerous absurd observations about the Big Heads:
Kelsea: “George looks like he has a little something right there.” (Pointing to the left of his nose)
Me: “It looks like Thomas is leaning in, trying to tell him about it.” (Thomas looked like he was kind of creeping on George.)
We cracked ourselves up with remarks about how rock-hard and sculpted they were.
Kelsea didn’t know that Teddy was wearing pince-nez. Teddy looked a little mad. We decided he felt kind of squooshed and didn’t like it.
Abe was kind of off by himself – not so snuggled up. We speculated that he was being treated as some kind of outcast.
Everyone had some spidery cracks through their faces.
We kept trying to get photos in which trees were sticking up presidential nostrils, but failed, and settled on the classic, “Add YOUR big head to Mount Rushmore” shots.
The trail took us to the sculptor’s studio, in which we discovered that the original idea for the whole thing showed much more torso and hands. In the current version, only Abe seems to have lapels.
The studio exhibit also reveals the existence of the secret cave. Not a secret if you tell everyone about it, eh?
If you were unaware, the sculptor who was behind Mount Rushmore was Gutzon Borglum, the son of Danish polygamist immigrants.
Borglum most wisely thought that the Big Heads needed some explanation, and that said explanation needed to be WITH the Big Heads. So, he put a brief US history, and explanation of the Big Heads, carved on tablets, in a titanium box in a cave that is behind (or perhaps inside) Abe’s head. There were pictures of people doing the dedication. But of course, the cave is off-limits to visitors and there is no marked or visible trail to it. Kelsea appropriately scoffed at my idea that they covered the trail with dirt.
The concept of the secret cave spurred much discussion between us, and seeing it is now on Kelsea’s list of life goals (which sounds a lot better than Bucket List when you’re 14).
Our dialogue ran along the lines of this:
Her: How do we know what he wrote on those tablets? What if he made up a whole bunch of stuff?
Me: We just have to trust him.
Her: What about now? Do they update what’s in there?
Me: I doubt it.
Her: Then won’t it seem like the world just ended when the history did?
Me: I’m sure there will be more records on earth than just that one.
Her: Who’s going to read it?
Me: I don’t know…aliens?
Her: How do we know they’ll be able to read English?
Me: They’re aliens. They’re smart enough to get here, they’ll be smart enough to figure it out.
Her: And why do we send up things like DVDs on space missions? Why do we possibly imagine that aliens have DVD players?
Me: Good, yet unanswerable question.
Her: What if aliens never find this place? Then the whole titanium box thing is pointless. So I should be able to see it.
Me: Well, maybe the survivors of the future destruction from the nuclear holocaust will find it.
Her: If there’s a nuclear holocaust, there won’t be any survivors.
Me: New survivors might evolve.
Her: They couldn’t. There’d be nothing left for them to evolve from. And how would they know English?
Me: Look! A chipmunk.
Truly, our voices were slightly raised during this debate, and we got many strange looks.
All in all, it was a highly satisfying experience. On the way to our next destination, George presented us with a lovely profile.
Next stop: Crazy Horse, Boyd’s Antiques, and Custer State Park.
Photo Title: A Gentle Walkway to the Sea
Topsail Beach, North Carolina.
Quote of the day: “The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as long as those of the man who descends to the depths of his heart.” — Julien Green
A single rumble of thunder last night
Acknowledging when I am sad
A new day
The breath in my body