We stayed in the Deadwood area for a few days because of it being located in the middle of a few other sights we wanted to see. Just an hour to the West is Devil’s Tower and an hour Southeast is Mount Rushmore. Neither one of us had seen either one of these national treasures, so off we went.
The first day we left Deadwood for Mt. Rushmore. Doane Robinson came up with the idea of carving famous people in the rocks of the Black Hills to promote more tourism. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum oversaw the project of carving US presidents in Mount Rushmore from 1927 to 1947 after being fired from a project on Stone Mountain, GA. He was carving leaders of the Confederacy in the side of the mountain in Georgia.
Mount Rushmore has become an icon for America. Standing at the base of this symbol of man’s power over nature and patriotism, I had some mixed emotions. First off, I have a hard time justifying defacing a mountain to glorify our nation’s leaders. I understand it was a different time when it was being made, but still seems weird to want to carve up a mountain just to show it is possible. Secondly, I always have had a problem with some of the men in this monument. Half of the men in it owned other humans and made them work for them against their will. One of these men freed his slaves at his death; The other slave owner only freed the slaves that were later determined to be his own offspring. They were men who’s bravery lead to the birth of our great nation, but these flaws are something I just cannot overlook. It is the behavior of monsters. We did get to hear a ranger talk at the base of Rushmore where he did point out some of these failures of the men depicted on the mountain face.
I also wondered what Teddy would have thought of his likeness being carved into the side of a mountain. Roosevelt was the president that lead the fight for the National Park System and modern-day conservation. Carving into natural beauty seems like something he might have opposed. Having said all of this, Mt. Rushmore really is a sight to behold. It shows what humans are can do if we sent our minds to something.
Another mountain carving just to the south of Mt. Rushmore started in 1948 and is far from being finished. It is of Crazy Horse pointing to the west. Work has picked back up and one can go and witness the progress. If finished, it will be the biggest sculpture in the world.
The next trip out of Deadwood was an hour to the west to Devil’s Tower National Monument…A very fitting place to visit after seeing Theodore Roosevelt’s head in the side of a mountain. Devil’s Tower is the very first National Monument. On September 24, 1906, Teddy Roosevelt declared it a National Monument with his new power to do so under the Antiquities Act. This presidential power has also been used to protect lands like the Grand Canyon, Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and many more. Walking here made me understand why someone would want to pay homage to the man that fought to protect it.
Devil’s Tower is an awe-inspiring sight. It is a laccolithic butte (whatever that means) that rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River. I can see why the movies pick this place to depict first contact with ET’s. It really does look like it is not from this world.
Devil’s Tower is a popular climber’s destination. Because the tower is sacred to several Plains tribes, many of them objected to climbers ascending the monument. A legal fight went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ultimately decided that the climbers had the right to climb the tower. A compromise was reached between the two groups: There would be a voluntary climbing ban in the month of June each year, when tribes conducted ceremonies around the monument. There is no law against climbing Devil’s Tower in June, but there were signs up while we were there stating the voluntary ban was in effect. We still saw climbers on the face of Devil’s Tower when we were there in late June. I could not help from feeling pretty pissed at them. I understand fully why we need laws to protect our national treasures, because without them some people will just do whatever they want without regard for others or the land itself.
After a few days in the Black Hills of South Dakota we were off to Billings again to see our Montana family the Tillery’s. Some very beautiful pictures to share from there.
Until next time,