Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Our Mugs Visit Their Mugs

"... let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and rain alone shall wear them away."
Gutzon Borglum, Mount Rushmore sculptor, 1930

Taken September 19, 2017. Why does my hair always look like the "before" picture?

As a former newspaper Focus editor, I often had to incorporate "mug shots" into the pages I designed. There were people celebrating milestone birthdays, others marking 50 years or more of marriage and young couples just starting on their matrimonial journey.

Mug shots - or the dreaded "grip and grin" shots from a ribbon cutting or awards banquet - weren't the preferred illustration for newspaper editors. We much preferred action shots or unusual angles ... the photos that made the reader stop for a second look. (Of course, those head shots with anniversaries and weddings and such were probably the best read of the section, if I'm honest. People like seeing their friends and family in newsprint.)

But I couldn't resist having a stranger take our "mugs" visiting the "mugs" of a rather famous four guys in American history.  I returned the favor for several fellow tourists.

A trip to Mount Rushmore was not on the docket this September. However, Randy's brother was in the hospital in Rapid City, and Randy wanted to make the trip to South Dakota. After his brother was transferred to Montana for additional rehabilitation, we became tourists for the afternoon.

The day was gray, but the rain held off until after we'd been up and down the steps and trails that gave us different angles to view the monument.
As I looked at this monument carved out of the Black Hills of South Dakota, I kept thinking about what a genius sculptor and artist Gutzon Borglum had to have been. He didn't have any computer models. He didn't have modern equipment. He didn't have state-of-the-art blasting tools. He used a protractor ... yes, a protractor ... to figure out the measurements and dimensions.

And I realized that while Borglum didn't have modern contraptions, he had something much more valuable: He had vision. He could "see" through the layers of rock. And he had the skill and determination and intestinal fortitude to make it happen.
More than 450,000 tons of rock were removed from Mount Rushmore to bring out the four presidential faces. Although about 90 percent of the rock was removed with dynamite, the remaining rock was removed by drilling with jackhammers and wedging the rock off the mountain. The final finishing work on the faces was completed using small jackhammers and facing bits.

As with many monumental projects, not everybody was on the same page at first. In 1923, Doane Robinson, the superintendent of the South Dakota State Historical Society, had envisioned a massive mountain memorial carved from stone so large it would put South Dakota on the map and bring tourists by the carload. Robinson was dreaming of Western figures such as Chief Red Cloud, Buffalo Bill Cody, Lewis and Clark and other Western heroes.

But Borglum didn't share that vision. The outspoken sculptor told Robinson that his life's work would not be spent immortalizing regional heroes. Instead, he insisted the work demanded a subject national in nature and timeless in its history.

By selecting four presidential figures for the carving, Borglum wanted to create a reminder of the birth, growth, preservation and development of a nation dedicated to democracy and the pursuit of individual liberty.

In these days when the nation seems so divided, those ideals are worth remembering, don't you think? 
While we were in South Dakota, Randy read an article that said peak beauty for fall foliage was still a week or two away. We did find a little bit of fall color decorating our way.


  1. Definitely worth remembering.
    Thanks for the background info. Borglum's vision to see is amazing.

    1. It really is remarkable what he was able to envision and accomplish.