Gutzon Borglum Korczak Ziolkowski and Dr Harley Niblack – Day 110

Gutzon Borglum, Korczak Ziolkowski, and Dr. Harley Niblack

Day 110 – July 19, 2003 – Saturday

Are you familiar with the artwork of Gutzon Borglum? Korczak Ziolkowski? Dr. Harley Niblack? We spent most of the day visiting their studios and seeing their work. We also met Ruth Ziolkowski; she has been pursuing her husband’s artwork since he died in 1982.

Gutzon Borglum and Korczak Ziolkowski were both sculptors. Harley Niblack was a world-class woodcarver. While you may not know the name Gutzon Borglum, you are undoubtedly familiar with his work — Mount Rushmore. Neither Boz nor I had ever been to Mount Rushmore. It’s even more impressive than the photographs, and the whole facility is really well done. Our national park pass was not accepted at Mount Rushmore. I don’t understand why.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a monumental granite that represents the first 150 years of the history of the US with 60-foot sculptures of the heads of former United States presidents: George Washington (1732-1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). The entire memorial covers 1,278 acres. The memorial attracts approximately 2 million people annually.

We watched a movie that tells the story of Mount Rushmore, and then we walked through the Exhibit Hall. Fascinating! We visited the Sculptor’s Studio, and we looked at the Monument from several perspectives. The movie theater and exhibit hall are almost hidden, and the brochure distributed to visitors doesn’t effectively show you where they area. So, when you visit Mount Rushmore, be sure you see the movie and the exhibits.

We met a nice family from Puyallup, Washington in the area where everyone poses for photos with Mount Rushmore behind them — Jason, Joshua, Heather, Jessica, Janet, and Jeff. We met Dean and Joanne at the voting booths where visitors can cast their vote for their favorite President. I was half-joking about getting a black magic marker so I could eliminate Bill Clinton as an option. Dean said he would help, and we began talking.

We had lunch at the Freedom Grill at Mount Rushmore. The hot dogs were pretty good (first dogs we’d had in quite some time). The Walnut Fudge Bars we had for dessert were great.

As we were climbing into the car to leave, we met Emily, Ken, and Eric. Then we met their parents. I was talking with the kids while Boz began talking to their Mom. They were on a trip from their home in Illinois to California to visit their Aunt Di. Boz learned that the trip was to celebrate Mom’s triumph over breast cancer. She endured mastectomy, radiation, chemotherapy, and all the horrors related therewith, and the doctors just gave her the great news that she is cancer-free. How fantastic! She removed her cap to show us that her hair is starting to grow back. Boz commented to young Emily that she must have been a big help to her Mom during all this, and she proudly said: “I learned to make coffee.” I told the boys that I thought they had a very beautiful baldheaded Mom, and little Eric said his Mom isn’t always bald. I told him I understood that, but she looks mighty good without hair. Older brother Ken said, “She’s the best Mom, and she’s EVEN MORE beautiful with her hair.” What a wonderful family. Bozzie and I were both crying as we left Mount Rushmore!

I did not know the name Korczak Ziolkowski, and I was not familiar with his work until I did the research for this trip. Korczak worked with Gutzon Borglum on Mount Rushmore, and then he was recruited by Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear to produce a sculpture of Crazy Horse in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Crazy Horse is the world’s largest sculpture. 641-feet long and 563-feet high. Crazy Horse is ten times the size of Mount Rushmore. The work began in 1948, and it is a long way from completion. The 90-foot tall head was unveiled on June 3, 1998. It’s quite a sight to see, especially when you view the mountain with the 1/34th scale model in the foreground.

As we walked out of the theater after viewing the orientation movie, “Dynamite & Dreams,” Bozzie Jane (having just seen her in the movie) recognized Ruth Ziolkowski standing anonymously in the crowd waiting for the next showing. We introduced ourselves, met her daughter Anne, chatted a bit, and gave them lucky beads. Ruth worked with Korczak to prepare three books of detailed plans to be used with his scale models so the work could be continued after his death. Since 1982, Ruth had managed the project with the help of 7 of their 10 children. It was a real honor to meet Ruth and Anne and to have an opportunity to speak with them about this amazing effort.

The huge visitor complex at the Crazy Horse Memorial has the theater, museums, art and sculpture galleries, restaurants, Indian crafts, an Indian museum, and much more. Gale and Jim helped us find our way around. It’s quite a place. The funding is one of the most amazing aspects of this massive project. The project has been financed entirely through private donations and from admission fees — not one cent of federal funding.

From the Crazy Horse Memorial, we went into the nearby town of Custer. We did a U-Turn when we saw Reetz’s Old Fashioned Pie Shop. We met Terry (he and his wife own it) and Ashlee, Lacey, and Luressa. The Rhubarb Pie was great, and we really enjoyed taking with Terry and Ashlee.

There are a ton of tourist attractions in and around Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. We stopped at The Flintstones Theme Park, The Maze, and a few others. We stopped at Mistletoe Place to pick up a South Dakota ornament for our Round America Christmas tree.

Our last stop of the day was at the National Museum of Woodcarving. Since I enjoyed Tinkertown so very much, we thought this would be an enjoyable tour. Most of the museum is the life work of Dr. Harley Niblack. While his woodcarving does not, in my opinion, match the work of Ross Ward at Tinkertown, many of Dr. Niblack’s woodcarvings are animated. In 1954-55, he designed and built the animations at Disneyland. We enjoyed the movie about his life more than the exhibits themselves. The last room features displays of the work from some of the top caricature carvers in the country, and their work was very impressive.

We met a lot of people today. In addition to those already mentioned, we met a nice Wisconsin family having a roadside picnic near Mount Rushmore — Rob, Heidi, Jace, Allie, and Trish. We also met some nice folks in Deadwood this morning — Pat, Rhonda, and Skip. Boz met a young man in the Comfort Inn parking lot in Rapid City who had seen our car several hundred miles away in Dickinson, North Dakota a few days ago.

We saw a few sights before we arrived in the Mount Rushmore area.  We visited Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood — where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried.  We drove by the Homestake Gold Mine in Lead, South Dakota.  We drove through Sturgis, South Dakota where 300,000 bikers take over the town in August each year.

We really enjoyed today. Mount Rushmore was high on our To Do list for this trip. Meeting Ruth Ziolkowski made Crazy Horse even more enjoyable. And we met some really nice people.

The thought for the day is how precious our Moms are. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about Emily, Ken, Eric, and their Mom. My mother died of breast cancer. I hope their mother has a long and healthy life!

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this web site. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest and the full itinerary is shown.

More Information on the Sights Visited Today:

Mount Rushmore — Crazy Horse Memorial — National Museum of Woodcarving