On Top of Crazy Horse Mountain

Tom Wilson, Shadow, and Chuck on the arm of Crazy Horse

Today we stood on the arm of Crazy Horse Mountain in Custer, SD. Our guide was Tom Wilson who works at the Crazy Horse Memorial. He was a joy to talk and spend time with, as is everyone we’ve ever met while visiting the site of the largest mountain carving in the world, begun by Korczak Ziolkowski 60 years ago and now continued by his wife, Ruth, and 7 of their 10 children and now including 6 grandchildren and 1 great grand-daughter!

It’s been two years since we last stood here – on a cold and drizzly Sunday morning as we attended a Sunshine Service (ironic, huh?) led by Fred Tully, former Director of Development and long time friend of the Memorial and the Ziolkowski family. That day we felt a special connection to the mountain, as Chuck described in his blog post that day. Today was just as powerful. Tom was part of the reason, as we bonded over our mutual feelings about the Crazy Horse project, the Ziolkowski family, Native American experiences, and our own personal connections to it all. And the mountain did the rest. Korzcak said many times he felt Crazy Horse was on the mountain with him. And many say about Korcazk himself, “He still walks here.” Both are true. It’s a powerful feeling that you’re not alone when you’re on this mountain.

It was a beautiful, clear, and warm day today – perfect for a trip up the mountain – and Tom gave us a really great tour, with lots of information on what is currently happening on the mountain. Since we were last here, the progress has been amazing. The arm has been cleaned of a lot of rock blasting debris, flattened, and a layer of gravel laid out on top. The safety fencing lining the outreached ‘arm’ has been moved in a bit, and it isn’t as easy to touch the face of Crazy Horse as it was before. When we looked out over the front of the mountain, facing the visitors’ center, we could see the different ‘benches’ much more distinctly than we could before. Tom explained that 9 of the 11 benches have been cut.

Tom pointing out the progress on the mountain to Cheryl and Shadow

While we were on the mountain we watched the crew drilling into the lowest bench, preparing for the next blast to take place on October 11th (Columbus Day to most of the U.S., but Native American Day for us Indians, the Crazy Horse Memorial, South Dakota, and all those who empathize with the Native American viewpoint regarding Columbus and his ‘discovery’ of America).

We would have loved to stay on the mountain all day, but eventually we made our way down after taking a few pictures and videos, picking up a few ‘blast fragment’ rocks to keep, and stowing our hard hats. As we drove out, we were passed by a bulldozer driven by Casimir, who has been working on the mountain right beside his dad, Korzcak, ever since he was a little boy. What a nice way to cap off a very special day.

Casimir Ziolkowski on Crazy Horse Mountain (Photo Credit: Seth A. McConnell / Rapid City Journal)

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