Saddle Up, Sucker!

After writing that last post, I had a mighty strong hankerin’ to do two things: finish telling you about the trip I took last summer to the great state of South Dakota, and stand on the corner of a busy street and scream,with the joyful abandon of a drunken banshee, a certain word that will remain untyped in this post. Can you guess what it is? Go on…guess! Perhaps you could if you had something to lubricate your mind a bit, massage the old membrane, if you will… not that membrane and not that kind of massage, Ass Nasty! I’m speaking, of course, of a drink, a restorative beverage, a rum drink perhaps, a rum cocktail, a cockrum, a …uh-oh! I almost wrote it! I was so close! Must not write the word! Must be careful!

Anyway, I forgot where I left off in the tales of my travel and the saga of McAdams and her quest to avoid human contact and 50’s music. She doesn’t like people, generally, though she is fond of bears, and she is unreasonably afraid of any music that even approaches doo-wap, as she believes those smooth soul stylings are harbingers of doom. Other than these and a few other idiosyncrasies, she is the perfect traveling companion.
OK, so I told you about Mount Rushmore (boo!) and The Crazy Horse Memorial (yay!), Keystone and the shacklet, Porter Sculpture Park and the 1880’s train. That brings us, without further doodoo, to Deadwood! Yay! FINALLY!

Like all things that get an unnecessarily long introduction, are much anticipated, and over-hyped, Deadwood itself was kind of a letdown.
The historic part of Deadwood is mostly torn down, burned up, or remodeled, nowadays. The area was severely economically depressed until 1989 when gambling was legalized, and the gaming industry gave the city a much needed financial shot in the arm. Unfortunately, now Deadwood is filled with casinos that are dimly lit and tacky, like I imagine all of Reno to be. I don’t know why, I just do. The HBO series also did much to generate interest and tourism to the city, so there are a lot of cheesy souvenir stores and uninspired eateries, including one that is owned by Kevin Costner that is crammed with memorabilia from his movies. That was kind of weird. Deadwood is a little out of the way, because it was bypassed by I-90, and I found its sister city, Lead, to be more interesting and charming. Even the famous whorehouses are gone, the victims of a big raid in 1980. The last one to close was called “Pam’s Purple Door.” There’s some trivia for ya! After some industrious sleuthing, I did happen to spot a sinful roundheel strumpet plying her wares in front of a “slot house”…

If modern Deadwood lacks a bit to be desired, its history is still fascinating, and we loved the tiny Adams Museum – no relation to Mc- which had artifacts like chairs, scissors, hardware, blankets and old, yellowing ledgers behind ropes or under glass.

Here is a brief account of the city of Deadwood:

Deadwood Gulch, as it was originally known, was so named because it had a bunch of dead trees in a gulch. (What exactly were you expecting?!) It was an illegal settlement, because due to the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, it was part of the Black Hills territory ceded in perpetuity to the Lakota Sioux, and early on, the government sent troops to several forts to keep people from entering the Hills.

The Black Hills are magnificent and rich in minerals and resources, and settlers took notice and sneaked in to exploit them, despite the military presence. By 1873, the U.S. government began trying to buy the land back from the Sioux to open it for mining. In 1874, the coc – the conquered commander George Armstrong Custer was sent to investigate rumors of gold, which instigated the rush.
(A word here about Custer… I don’t like him. After barely graduating at the bottom of his class at Westpoint in 1861, he was known for not obeying rules and playing assholey practical jokes on his fellow soldiers – just the kind of guy you’d like to serve next to in a combat situation, right? He excelled in self-promotion, travelling with a 16 piece band, a small group of journalists, and dressing up in stupid costumes, like buckskins and boots. He wore his blonde, flowing hair down and loose, like an 1800’s Jim Morrison, and more than once his recklessness caused unnecessary danger to his troops. He was only made a general because of social promotion; his title was an honorarium from a high-ranking fan, and it was temporary. After the Civil War, his permanent rank was that of captain. He invented fancy-pants social events for his inner circle, which included young and dashing favored officers and his family members. This group was known as ‘the royal circle’ by resentful enlisted men.
He was sent to scout the Hills because he had already fought and won some battles against small bands of Sioux, when he was charged with protecting railroad interests. Prior to this, Custer had skirmished with the Cheyenne at the Battle of the Washita River, where he claimed to have killed 103 warriors. The Cheyenne estimated their own losses at 11 warriors and 19 women and children, plus Custer took 53 women and children prisoner, and shot most of their 500 plus ponies. Dick. Because he was arrogant, he assumed a quick and easy victory if he met up with the Sioux again.
Custer took about a thousand men into the Black Hills, and he took his time doing it. He hunted and shot a grizzly, hiked (but didn’t scale -wuss!) Mt. [Me So] Harney, played a lot of baseball, and threw nightly champagne parties for the winning teams.
By the time Custer and his men encountered the tribes, tensions between the Indians and the U.S. government were running high, on account of constant treaty-breaking and continuing American advancement on Indian landed. The government decided that all remaining free Plains Indians be rounded up and “corralled.” Instead of willingly reporting to designated areas, Sitting Bull gathered together the largest ever gathering of Cheyenne, Lakota, and Arapaho Indians at Little Big Horn River, to discuss what to do about the white devils that were destroying their way of life, stealing their land and murdering their people.
Custer had no idea what he was getting into. His famous last words were: “Hurrah, boys, we’ve got them! We’ll finish them up and then go home to our station!” WRONG!!!)

Right. So back to Deadwood. In 1875, a miner found gold in Deadwood Gulch, and it was on like Donkey Kong. In no time a-tall, the population of the still-on-the-DL town reached an estimated 5,000. In 1876, Charlie Utter and his brother Sam rode up in a covered wagon train filled with prostitutes and gamblers. That same year Wild Bill Hickok (Hickok-sucker?) was shot in the back of the head in the Number 10 Saloon, and shortly after that Calamity Jane began making up rumors that she had been romantically involved with the famous marksman, though by all accounts he was said to have found her somewhat repugnant. Al Swearengen (I admit, I just said it, LOUDLY, but I didn’t write it, so it doesn’t count!) opened up the Gem Variety Theater in 1877 and quickly cornered the opium trade. The Homestake Mine, the largest and most profitable in the area, thrived, and Sheriff Seth Bullock kept order, if not law, in town. 1878 saw the first telephone exchange in Deadwood. In 1879 a fire almost destroyed the town (this would happen three more times, the last being in the 1950’s), by 1880 there was a Chinatown, and in 1883 Deadwood was almost wiped out by a flood. In 1890, the railroad pushed through the Black Hills.
I know all of this stuff is true because I read two books, a bunch of pamphlets, and consulted the Internet.
The coolest part of Deadwood is Mt. Moriah, the cemetery, which was created between 1877 and 1878. You can see famous graves like these:

You can see less famous graves like this:
Ms. DuFran was the most profitable madam in Deadwood, and also had brothels in Belle Fourche and Rapid City. The one in Belle Fourche was called “Diddlin Dora’s” and was advertised as “Three D’s – Dining, Drinking and Dancing – A Place Where you Can Bring Your Mother!”, which is especially convenient if your mother is Elliot Spitzer, Jimmy Swaggart, or Hugh Grant. Calamity Jane worked for Dora DuFran as an occassional cook and maid, and it was from Diddlin’ Dora’s that Jane went off on her final bender. The little devil planter in the corner of the photo is one of four, that represent Dora’s four business establishments. Also buried at Mt. Moriah is Dora DuFran’s beloved husband and her pet parrot, Fred.

Mt. Moriah has a big section for children, many of whom died in epidemics, one headstone for an unidentified Chinese man, and a large Jewish section.

All right, my precious co- umm, concubines, that’s about it for Deadwood. My fingers are tired and my mind’s half worn from thinkin’, so I hope you’re satisfied, coc- Caucasians and other racial groups who read this blog. I’m out! Signing off from Deadwood,

Your COurageous Correspondent, Queen of the DaKotas…
So long for now, SUCKERS!!!!!!!!!!!

Crazy Horse

Everything that was bad about Mount Rushmore was good at the Crazy Horse Memorial.

In 1939, Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear asked sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski* to build a memorial to a great Native American, so that “…the white man [could] know that the red man had great heroes, too.” I guess the white man was too busy to ask the red man who was who amongst the heroes the white man were slaughtering, subjugating and stealing from. Here is a sculpture of Chief Henry Standing Bear by Korczak Ziolkowski:

Korczak, son of Polish parents who died when he was a year old, grew up in foster homes, at least one of which was abusive. Korczak put himself through school and worked as a ship builder. He trained himself in sculpting, painting and woodworking, and won first prize at the New York World’s Fair with this marble bust of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, composer, pianist, diplomat, and third Prime Minister of Poland.Stern looking, puffy-eyed dude, right? Anyway, Korczak quit his then day job, which happened to be working with Borglum on carving Mount Rushmore- will coincidences never cease?!- and went on to dedicate the rest of his life to building a monument that he felt was fit to honor the tribes that peopled the Black Hills. Together with Chief Standing Bear, they decided that the perfect representative would be Sioux Chief Crazy Horse, who defeated the arrogant bastard Custer (more on him later) in the Battle of Little Bighorn, and who famously took up arms against the U.S. government in order to protect the Black Hills and resist being forced onto a reservation. He became a warrior after he saw the Treaty of 1868, which was signed by then President Andrew Jackson, and which promised that “The Black Hills will forever and ever be the sacred land of the Indians,” broken. After that, he rallied his brethren with the famous declaration, “It is a good day to fight; it is a good day to die.”
Crazy Horse himself never touched a pen or signed a treaty. He explains his militantism thusly: “We had buffalo for our food, and their hides for clothing and for our tepees. We preferred hunting to a life of idleness on the reservation, where we were driven against our will. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to leave the reservation to hunt. We preferred our own way of living. We were no expense to the government. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone.” In other words, Popeye’s to be exact, “That’s all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!” Crazy Horse was 37 when he died after being stabbed by a guard while in U.S. protective custody.
Unfortunately, the Black Hills were chock full of resources, so peace and a live and let live attitude were not really options. Besides, the Indians were bloodthirsty, sub-human animals, so who cares. Back to the white guy in this story!
Korczak worked tirelessly on the monument, often alone. He built a log cabin for his wife and 10 kids, and a 741 step ladder to climb to the first level of excavation. He told a story of starting his old compressor up, climbing all those steps, getting to the top, and hearing the compressor die before he could start drilling. Back down the ladder he’d go, to start the compressor and climb up again. Mountain goats loved the steps and sometimes he’d have to wait to let them pass. He loaded blasting caps, set them off, cleared the rock and blasted again. In time, seven of his kids and his wife worked on the statue or on the adjacent Native American museum. In addition to the memorial, humanitarian plans for a medical training facility and a heritage preservation center are part of Crazy Horse, as well as a gift shop which supplies work to local tribes and individuals. Korczak never accepted government funding for the memorial, fearing that the U.S. could not be held accountable for upholding their end of any “treaty” negotiated, and he refused to undermine the integrity or scale of his monument. He believed in private enterprise and individual initiative, and the whole project has been and continues to be financed by donations, admission costs and gift shop sales.
McAdams and I were so overcome by the spirit of the place that we paid our admission price with a smile, hired a rickety bus to take us to the base of the mountain at sunset, and spent a shitload of money in the gift shop. I bought postcards and presents and metal replicas of the Crazy Horse stamp the U.S. Postal Service issued. The trinket has edges so sharp that when McAdams put hers on a chain around her neck, she almost gave herself a tracheotomy, so we decided to give them to little kids we know. We bought buffalo head nickel necklaces that we dedicated to each other “in the sacred shadow of Crazy Horse and the Indian Nation.” (That’s how my dedication began, anyway. It went on for ten minutes or so; fitting for the occasion, don’t you think? McAdams said, “Here! Do you want me to put it on you?” She doesn’t have my flair for oratory.)
Man-oh-Manischiewitz, what a sculpture it is! It is the largest in the world, and once completed it will be 563 feet tall and 641 feet wide, which is about 8 feet taller than the Washington Monument, which is real tall. This makes ol’ George nervous, so he’s always looking over his shoulder at Mt. Rushmore, to see what “those crazy Injuns are up to now!” He tries to look calm, but I can sense his fear.Crazy Horse’s 63 foot arm points over the Black Hills. 4,000 people could stand on that arm. The horse’s head will be 22 stories high. All four of the Mt. Rushmore heads could fit in Crazy Horse’s cranium. In the words of Brittney Spears, “Dang, y’all! That’s just a whole lot of head!”
It’s magnificent. It’s inspiring. It’s a testament to human ingenuity, vision and promise. I hope I am alive to see it completed.
Last night Glenn Beck held a rally to take back honor for America. He honored America in 2009, when he said that President Obama was a racist.** He said restoring honor could only be achieved by a religious rebirth, and that his role, as he sees it, is to “wake America up …most of all [to] God.” He also said, according to the NYT, “We are a country of God. As I look at the problems in our country, quite honestly, I think the hot breath of destruction is breathing on our necks, and to fix it politically is a figure that I don’t see anywhere.” I don’t really know what that means, but thank goodness we have Glenn Beck as an example of what America should be. Otherwise, we’d have to look elsewhere for inspiration, like to the memorial, which was created by godless heathens like Crazy Horse and long-haired, hippie, non-conformist Poles, like Ziolkowski.***
*And you thought I made up the name Guzton Borglum! I guess when you give your kid a wacky, zee-heavy name, you just kind of expect he’ll end up doing some massive mountain sculpture in South Dakota. It’s kind of like naming a kid Velvet Lushbottom or Klyde King Klansmann – what career choices do you really think they have?
**Beck has since amended his statement. Now he says Obama isn’t a racist; “he’s just a guy who understands the world through liberation theology.” As with many of Beck’s pearls of wisdom, I had no idea what he was talking about, so I had to do some digging. The New York Daily News explains that liberation theology, which was founded in the 1950’s in Latin America and based in Christian beliefs, involves the idea that the poor need to be freed from economic, political and social injustice. Beck claims that this is “Marxism disguised as religion” and that it is at odds with what most Christians believe. “That is a direct opposite of what the gospel is talking about.”
Not being the scholar that Beck is on what most Christians believe and WWJDology, I will have to look that up too, as I was under the mistaken belief that JC was cool with the poor and believed in helping others. All I know is this: the only way of righting America’s wrongs is by a religious revival, but we have to be really careful it’s the right kind of religion, and we need to listen to the voices of righteous like Father Beck and Sister Sarah, who will lead us away from equality for all and give it back to those who really deserve it. Here’s more, if you want it, from America Magazine, which is a Catholic weekly.
*** Another notable hippie-Pole? Mike Stivic! They’re everywhere!BONUS: OK, this one is truly worth watching! I didn’t add it in sooner, on account of I didn’t want to be disrespectful to the Crazy Horse legacy, but check out this crazy horse shit! Keep watching! Really, this one is …somethin’!

Did he say his name was “BM”? Is he speaking English? What the hell is that all about? And wait, did I just embed? Oh, HELLZ YEAH!!!! A new day has dawned! Yeah!

McAdams Goes Mobile

Before I continue with the South Dakota saga, a word or two – knowing me, it’s more likely to lean towards the two- about my travel companion, McAdams. We met several years ago when she came to my school, an enthusiastic and over-educated new teacher, excited to implement innovation, fling open the doors of opportunity, and make students’ dreams become realities. As this fresh-faced approach had already grown tiresome to me, I ignored her until she insinuated herself at the lunch table I share with my partner in gloom and defeatism, a man whose real identity I will obscure by making him Asian and giving him the name Chi Toh. Chi loved her instantly, as he is drawn to blonde women with open smiles and a nice rack. Or really any women who will sit at his table. Anyhoo, she came, she sat, she ate, and one day, a few months later, we discovered that we had both been chosen to go to Arizona with our principal and some other teachers for a boring educational conference. We decided to room together, and the rest is history.

Bell Rock, Sedona, Arizona. Painting by Steve Simon–sedona-steve-simon.html
The Sedona trip became our first adventure together, and it was complete with unexpected drug trips (we got dosed by our principal), rampant nudity (it’s awful hot in Arizona), a precedent-setting hiking excursion that culminated in McAdams proving her willingness to carry me down scary, steep, rocky switchbacks, and an almost total disregard for the agendas of others. (It’s hard to focus on a boring educational conference when you are busy focusing on the way your thumb can be used to totally block someone’s head out of your field of vision. Did I mention that I did not intentionally ingest the drugs? Well, at least not the first time, anyway.)
Traveling with McAdams is great, unless she is hot or hungry. Then she’s cranky and bearish, like a grizz, not a Berenstain.

Most of the time she’s pleasant, easy-going, and willing, which is perhaps my favorite attribute about anybody, ever. She wakes up in the morning, does her thing, and makes me coffee. She tunes in to the Today show, because she likes to watch Kathy Lee Gifford get drunk in the a.m., and then it’s off to whatever the day has in store. She’s game for just about anything, unless it involves people – not much of a fan of humans, that one – but once we have a plan, she likes to stick to it. She will accept almost any challenge, and is STUB-BORN once she makes up her mind to do something. Whereas I like to consider myself “adaptable to alternate and less demanding options,” she is not what she would term “a quitter.” She sees beauty everywhere, but hates being duped by hype, like when we saw the Space Needle in Seattle. “That’s it?” she cried, dismayed. “It’s tiny; nowhere near space!”
Oh yeah, and she’s hilarious.
Lots of time she doesn’t speak, so I obligingly fill in any gaps with an almost constant and never-ending commentary on anything of import; what we are looking at, how I feel about modern geopolitical theory as it relates to post WWII literature, TV shows I’ve seen, songs that have the word “moon” in them, the fullness of my belly or bladder, how I slept the night before, how I think I may be falling out of love with Paul Rudd and more in love with Jason Bateman, and how one time I thought I was in love with Justine Bateman, back when she was Mallory Keating…you know, things like that. Every once in awhile, McAdams breaks in, and when she does, often she cracks me up. The following is a sampler of things she said during our recent South Dakota journey:
On packing: “All I need is this fishing shirt, some underwear, this bag of chips, and some green hummus. That’s it. Priority. And this salad dressing.”
On liberty: “If you’re not free, man…bummer.” (Deep, right? Sometimes, and for several reasons, travelling with McAdams is like traveling* with Matthew McConaughey. Alright, alright, alright.)
On being entertained in the car: “We went through a drive-through wildlife park once. There was a lot of screaming, crying, and flooring the gas. Man, those emus get pissed!”
On passing a sign for Round Up Weed and Grass Killer: “Mmmmmm, weed.”
Going past large rock formations in Custer State Park: “Those rocks look like dicks. Our forefathers’ dicks. Our forefathers’ foreskins.There’s Jefferson’s dick…”
“Oh, deceiving blue sky!” This was sorrowfully whispered to the windshield during a brief rainstorm.
“Remember that move? ‘Foggy Chimp Mountain’? Oh yeah, right. It was ‘Gorillas in the Mist’.”
On being stalked by a mountain lion: “What can you do, but laugh and walk a little bit faster?” (I suggested we not walk at dinner, Northern Mountain Lion Time)
And finally, the last word on a decade of American music classics: “Ooh, Fifties music! I hate it! So scary and creepy, right? Let’s get outta here!”
I just love McAdams. She is a true friend. I hope we road trip together forever.

* I hereby exert my right to spell travelling with either one or two L’s! Who’s gonna stop me, huh?

QUIZ: Who do you think would win in a fight to the death for my affections, McAdams or Mallory? McAdams is big and relentless, but Mallory is a scrappy little badass….

BONUS: New words! When you blog incessantly and narcissistically about yourself, just to hear yourself blog, it’s bloggerbation. Reading bloggerbation can lead to blogravation. Conversely, when you have nothing to blog about, you are suffering from blogstipation.
You’re welcome for the free of cost vocabulary increase.

More than you ever wanted to know about…


It stormed the day we went to Mount Rushmore. Great rivulets of water dyed the gray stone black.The presidents looked considerably less grand and dignified with pools of liquid roping from their mouths and nostrils.

A fellow visitor and his family stood next to me at the floor-to-ceiling windows in the huge Rushmore cafeteria. They all wore fanny packs and t-shirts that boasted other family trips to various national monuments. “Tourists, ” I mentally sniffed, as if I had been born and raised just next door in the gift shop.
“Look, kids. The mountains are weeping.”
Instantly I was shamed. The man I had written off as the Ugly American had the soul of a poet. He cleared his voice and went on, a little louder this time, so that all of us that stood around could hear the truth and beauty of his words. I leaned in more closely.
“That’s because Obama is in the White House! Har, har, har!”
Mount Rushmore has an interesting history, much of which doesn’t speak of what is best about Americans. Part of a range originally known as “The Six Grandfathers”, the mountain was considered sacred to the Lakota and Cheyenne, and had been deeded in perpetuity to the tribes, along with the rest of the Black Hills region, in 1868. (The Six Grandfathers includes Mount Harney, which I’ll talk about later. I know how much you guys like continuity, so I wanted to be sure to alert you, and tip you off to digging my flow!) That was before miners discovered the lucrative value of the land and its resources, which included timber that could be floated down the Cheyenne and Missouri Rivers, and a multitude of minerals, including, of course, gold. (And lithum! Yum!) The rush was in full swing and growing when a “negotiating” committee went to “talk” to tribal leaders about just giving the Black Hills back, on account of that would be the “right neighborly thing to do, cocksucker.” (NOTE: While I was not actually at this meeting, and therefore had to fabricate this quote, I am assured by HBO’s Deadwood series that the language I am employing is realistic and authentic. Far be it from me to curse gratuitously or to risk offending my readership with obscenities; I’m just all about accuracy, and as such, I seek only to inform you with the utmost respect to veracity and verisimilitude. Plus, if you say it enough, as I found myself compelled to do throughout South Dakota and particularly in the actual town of Deadwood, you find that after awhile the word just rolls off the tongue in a rather pleasing manner…) Colonel John E. Smith recognized the importance of the Hills to the Lakota; in fact, he said that they were the only portion of the reservation “worth anything to them,” and that “nothing short of their annihilation will get it from them.” (NOTE: This quote is real, and comes from a letter from the Colonel to his commanding general, General Ord. It would have been a lot spicier if I had made it up, but as I told you, I’m all about truth in journalism. General Ord was a known cross-dresser and often worked in the saloons of nearby Wyoming. Not really. I made that part up. Interesting though, right?)
I guess I don’t really have to tell you what came next. We waged war and destroyed the indigenous people, stole their land, and called it progress, as it advanced our economic goals. After the land was raped and resources were depleted, the Gold Rush disappeared as quickly as it had begun, and Homesteaders were paid to take the land and farm it. As I mentioned before, many of those claims, and claims of the miners, are still honored today. The mountain that had been known as ‘Cougar Mountain’ ‘Slaughterhouse Mountain’, and Keystone Cliffs’, among other names, became Mount Rushmore, in honor of a lawyer from New York who came on a prospecting mission in 1885. (And do you know who else was on this mission? David Swanzey, who was married to the boring Little House on the Prarie sister, Carrie, who lived in Keystone! See how it all comes back around and ties together?)
The monument was created in order to build tourism for South Dakota. This was the vision of Doane Robinson, a lawyer from Wisconsin, who later became South Dakota’s State Historian. He originally wanted to depict a sort of scope of history thing that would show steps in America’s progress, but that was vetoed when he found his sculptor, Gutzon Borglum. (NOTE: I know it sounds like I made this name up. It is, in its own way, as fantastic a fake name as McLovin. However, I can’t take credit for this one. Somebody actually had an adorable little infant, took one look at him and said proudly, “Gutzon! You are, and shall forever be, Gutzon!”) Mr. Borglum, well-known, respected sculptor and sassy-assed diva, refused to sculpt something with unnamed personages on it, and said that if he had any part of this endeavor, it would have to be of the national and historical significance that was befitting of his work. Borglum himself chose the four presidents who would grace Mt. Rushmore, all of whom were in office during the acquisition of Native American land.
A moment here to speak of ol’ Gutzon. Born in 1885 in St. Charles, Idaho, Gutzon Borglum was proud to be an American, which he defined as being born of American parents. This was a bit ironic, as his own parents were Dutch immigrants. Not only that, they were Mormons, who, in the 1800’s were being jailed left and right for their practice of polygamy. According to a website devoted to Mormon missions,,, “The Lord recognized that the Church would not be allowed to progress while it still practiced Mormon polygamy. So in 1890 the Lord commanded the people of the Mormon church to stop practicing polygamy.” Mighty obliging of the Lord, right? Unfortunately, that was too late for Papa Borglum, who had two wives, Gutzon’s birth mother and her sister. Eventually, the senior Borglum tired of Mormonism and of polygamy, or perhaps just of Borglum’s mother. He moved to Omaha, where polygamy was forbidden, and ditched Borglum’s mother, upon which she was never mentioned again. (NOTE: This info came from an ep of PBS’s American Experience, so you KNOW it’s true!) Gutzon, an uber-patriot nativist, proved himself once again to be on the side of the right when he immortalized heroes of the Confederacy on Stone Mountain in Georgia. He was an active Freemason, and an active member of the Klan, who were major financial supporters of the Mount Rushmore sculpture.
Funding was always an enormous obstacle for the Rushmore project. Though Doane Robinson had been advocating the idea of the monument for years, it wasn’t until Calvin Coolidge was persuaded to vacation in South Dakota in 1927 that the concept began to look concrete. (Get it? Good one, huh? Mt. Rushmore is actually granite, but who cares.) South Dakotans gifted the president and Mrs. Coolidge with many things, including boots and a cowboy hat, in which Coolidge took to swaggering around the porch. He climbed – but didn’t summit – Mount Harney (What a wussy! Stay tuned for STILL more to come about Mt. Harney! I know! I can hardly wait either!), and tried fly fishing, at which he was an immediate pro, largely because the good Dakotans stocked the lake with fat trout from the local fish hatchery. When Coolidge dedicated the site and presented Borglund with ceremonial drill bits, Borglund asked him to write a 500 word explanation of the site that would also be carved into the mountain.* In 1930, Borglund released a version of Coolidge’s “Entablature” that Borglund had edited. It was widely mocked by literary critics, and though Borglund later admitted that he had changed the presidents words, a rift between Borglund and Coolidge developed. Towards the end of his life, someone asked President Coolidge about Borglund.
“About how far would you say ’tis from here to the Black Hills?” Coolidge asked.
The questioner said it was about 1500 miles.
“Well, y’know….that’s as close to Mr. Borglund as I care to be.” (NOTE: PBS again. I don’t make this stuff up, people!**)
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush officially dedicated Mount Rushmore as a National Monument. Until then, it was known officially only as Giant White Heads on Black Hills.
I tell you what, visiting Mount Rushmore really opened my eyes. Proud to be an American? You betcha! Just not so much at Mt. Rushmore. Good snack shop, though.
*Except of course when I actually do make this stuff up.
**Borglund originally intended to write the Entablature in three languages, English, Latin and Sanskrit, so that future generations would be sure to understand the monument’s import. Unfortunately, by the 1930’s, Sanskrit and Latin were already dead languages, so I guess only REAL Americans (and some Brits, Canadians and Irish folk – I don’t think Scots actually speak English, though they say they do) really needed to understand anyway.

I am the Q of Keystone!

Another of the disappointments at the shacklet was the free, high speed wireless internet I was counting on. While this feature was available, it involved some tricky maneuvering. What I would have had to do was hang out at the bar of the nearby Holiday Inn, buy drinks for one of the bikers sitting there, get chummy, and use my feminine wiles to elicit his internet password so that I could steal onto the hotel’s security enabled connection. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, and so now, weeks after I am home, I am just now telling you about the first days of my trip. I understand that most of you live vicariously through me and don’t want to miss a moment of my adventures, and I’ll try to make that dream a reality for you, but people, we can’t live in the past. From now on my blogs about South Dakota will be interspersed with what’s going on with me in real time. I just felt you should know.

So, in Keystone itself, there are basically five things to do. You can ride a ski-lift to the top of a mountain and then careen down a track carved into said mountain in a little cart outfitted with a hand brake. Fun as this sounds, it never happened. You can walk on the boardwalk that is supposed to recreate the experience of Keystone in its heyday, and eat bad food or buy t-shirts that say “Keystone, South Dakota!”, or “FTW: the 70th annual Sturgis Rally”, or “Bald men have holes in their pockets so they can run their fingers through their hair.” Nice. I guess Keystone in the 1880’s was much the same as today, full of fat tourists from Minnesota and skanky biker chicks looking for shiny, black, faux leather pants with the crotches cut out. While I figured this was just what I needed to score free wifi, McAdams got frightened by a 7 foot cowboy rustlin’ up business for a Wild West bar room brawl reenactment, so the boardwalk was out. You can walk into Keystone proper and see an old mine that was in ruins, or a town that was nearly dead, or old and abandoned farm implements rusting in the sun. Exciting and uplifting as entropy is, this endeavor only took us about half an hour. The next thing to do was take the 1880’s train. Train!!!!! Boy howdy, do I love a train!

The 1880’s train is a narrow gauge steam engine that was originally used for mining, and has been in continuous use, for one thing or another, since…wait for it…the 1880’s! It is the only train of its kind currently operating in the world, and you can only catch it in Keystone, South Dakota! Who’s lucky to have landed in a shack in Keystone, I ask you?! MEEEEE!!!!!! It runs up one of the steepest grades in the country, and goes to Hill City, a town ten miles away that, when it was born in 1875, became one of the first cities established in SD…and I got to go there! So lucky!
Sometimes sitting on a train, bound for a journey to parts unknown, listening to the hiss of steam and watching the track roll out endlessly ahead puts one in a meditative mood. McAdams turned to me with a rather serious expression. She’s not usually one for random heart-to-hearts, but as the 1880’s train chugged to a start with a small lurch, she confided that she was worried about the future and had some regrets about the past. “I don’t know,” she said quietly. “Sometimes I feel I keep going down the same paths, but I never get anywhere, and one day I’m going to end up like this train, back and forth, back and forth, because it’s the only stretch of track I know. Do you believe that we all have a purpose in life, something we’re supposed to do that will let us contribute to others as well as fulfill ourselves?”
“Wooo-Woooo!” I replied, for that is what I like to say when I am on a train.
Here are some things I learned from the conductor, a real nice fella in overalls and a cap:
*In Hill City, they mined all kinds of things, including lithium. This made me think that if lithium was in the Black Hills, it must also be in the water, which may have explained why I was so calm and happy in South Dakota. Hooray for drugs I don’t have to pay for or lie to my parents about!
* At train crossings, conductors toot the Morse Code for the letter ‘Q’. It’s a practice they took from British sea captains who were carrying the queen on their ships. They would whistle “Q” and everyone else would give them the right of way because royalty was on board.
Betcha you didn’t know that, right? 1880’s train, you are fun and fascinating! Wooo-Wooo!
*South Dakota still honors the claims of Homesteaders and miners, and so while most of the beautiful Black Hills are mostly state and national park areas, 10% of that valuable real estate is privately owned. We passed through beautiful forests that were suddenly broken by a dirt road that led to a huge house where kids played and horses ran free. There were also a bunch of dumps, but they had real nice views. The honoring of these ancient deeds is slightly ironic, since the American government deeded the entirety of the Black Hills to the Native Americans who had already lived there for centuries, and then booted them off as soon as we found gold in them thar hills. I guess lithium makes people pretty mellow about rape, murder and mayhem, so we didn’t mention this little historical fact to the kiddos on the choo-choo. No buzzkills allowed on 1880 train! Wooo-Wooo!!!!!

The last thing to do in Keystone is to leave it. So that is exactly what we did.
Next up: Giant Heads Rock!

One Divine Hammer

As promised, here are some views of the sculpture garden, but first, a poem by the artist:


Said one to the other,
“Let’s find a way out… explore.”
Said the other, “We are goldfish. We live in a bowl.”
“Yes,” said the one, “but there must be a crack, a door, a soul.”
They never found the one,
or his soul,
but he swam far.

Some of the stuff is creepy. Some is whimsical. There are works of joy, profundity and hope. Inside the big cow head there is this scary macabre sort of Santeria sacrifice.Bizarre. The hilltop the sculptures sit on is windswept, green and peaceful. Even though it’s right off the highway, it’s beautiful, and with all the art, it’s surreal and lovely. I was so glad we fell upon it. It was inspiring, and made us so happy. Yay to the creators who make things just to see how they will turn out!

This one is called “Pleasure and Pain.” Both are fleeting. The thorn gets removed and the butterfly takes to the sky. Just another little reminder that we never know what is just around the corner, that all is transient, and that moments are what we live for.
BONUS: Check this guy out: I like the TED video, but it’s a bit slow and long. If you can’t spare the moments, look at the more accessible clip here:

Locked in Keystone

Carrie Ingalls Swanzey, Keystone, South Dakota

OK, it’s me again! I’m back! Didja miss me? Awww! I missed you, too! I am so glad to communicate with you all again that instead of ignoring you, as I usually do, I will now answer your FAC’s (Frequently Accessed Comments), in the order that they were received.
#1 to Alisa: I will get a dog, and soon. I like dogs. They come when you call, and if they don’t, you just don’t feed them until they do. I think this time I’ll start with a puppy, now that I’ve figured out how to train them. By the way, I’m FINE, just fine, even though Belle tried TWICE to sever my femoral artery. Thanks for your concern, everyone.
#2 to Shan: The cooler was filled with vegetables, because they are illegal in South Dakota, except for corn smuggled in from Iowa or potatoes from Idaho (no, you da ho!), or anything else, like mushrooms or onions, that may be used to smother a steak. We ate a lot of vegetable sandwiches, and McAdams hooked us up right; we had lettuce and other leafy things from her garden, and cucumbers, sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes, cheeses, carrots, hard-boiled eggs, and a bad-ass garlic-guacamole hummus, that she made while she was a tad tipsy. We had fresh cherries, blueberries, peaches and melons – McAdams has some real nice melons, I tell you what – and wine and crackers and another couple of bottles of wine. We picnicked all across the state and went to bed happy and full every night.
Speaking of picnics, one of the best ones was our first stop on the road, in Montrose. SD. We were just cruisin’ down I-90, lookin’ at the corn – there’s an awful lot of corn between Nebraska and Iowa – when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, this enormous, 60 foot bull’s head, surrounded by these weird skeletal guardians, rears up out of the gently rolling landscape. Some might just scratch their heads and say. “Hmm, that’s odd,” but not us! We are much more intrepid than that! We investigate, driven on by the kind of wonder and curiosity that makes America great! We climb that mountain just because it’s there! We shoot men in Reno, just to watch them die! We cross the road to get to the other side! Also, I had to pee; I have a bladder the size of a walnut. This turned out to be Porter Sculpture Park, a place so wicked cool, I’ll make it it’s own post, but suffice it to say, it was a fantastic, bizarre first stop, and we stayed for lunch with Wayne Porter, sculptor and vegetarian, who pronounced our sandwiches the best ever, on account of that “weird green stuff.” More on this later. I mean on the sculpture garden, not the hummus. I don’t think I’ll be mentioning it again.
Our first destination in South Dakota was Keystone, population 311. It was once a boomtown of over 1,000, because it was a gold mining center, and there are still remnants of mines and shafts and all kinds of 1800’s stuff. Its claim to fame is that Carrie Ingalls, perhaps the least interesting Little House family member, and certainly not the wilder one (get it?) lived there as an adult. Nowadays, Keystone is a tourist resort, because it is just down the road a piece from Mount Rushmore. McAdams, who wanted to go on vacation on the cheap, booked us a ‘chalet’ that sleeps eight. She’s tough to figure, that one. When I think of a chalet, this is what pops in my head:

I was very excited. Unfortunately, our Swiss chalet turned out to be more of a piss shacklet. Sandwiched between a Chinese food restaurant that appeared to be a front for nefarious drug deals and a biker-friendly Holiday Inn, the shacklet had been the home of an elderly lady and her obviously incontinent little dog. It looked more like this:OK, not really, but still it was not what we expected. Or paid for. And it stank, like small, old dog pee, the worse kind if you ask me. Small, old dog, ASPARAGUS pee*! And it was kind of scary, and the tv only got four, fuzzy channels, two of which were always showing All About Steve**, and the hot tub*** on the deck that we were promised was directly beneath the big picture window of the Chinese drug restaurant, and the only bathroom was in the kitchen****, and we were scared to sleep in the bed so we had to sleep on the couches in the living room. I suggested we go into town, or perhaps another town all together and check out our options, but McAdams is not one to admit defeat or change a plan once she’s committed to it, so she spent the rest of the trip telling me how great it was and how much she grew to love it. Silly McAdams. Keep believing the things that you say are true…

* Did you know that everybody’s pee has that particular asparagus odor, but, according to Web MD, a magazine I perused in a doctor’s waiting room, only 22% of people have the ability to smell it. Not only is this the kind of fact I see fit to remember, but this stat puts me in the top quartile of competent urine sniffers! Moreover, I have to admit, I kind of like the smell, and that puts me right up there with great thinker and recounter of minutiae Marcel Proust, who said the stalky veg “…transforms my chamber pot into a flask of perfume.” Food for thought y’all!
**All About Steve sucks, but you probably knew that already. One of the other shacklet channels showed marathons of House. How come nobody told me I’d like House?! That guy is one cranky, drug-addled, self-absorbed, self righteous, emotionally crippled, son of a bitch! I can’t believe I haven’t dated him yet!
*** Of course, in her quest to prove how great the shacklet was, McAdams insisted on trying out the hot tub. It took two days to fill up – I won’t even mention the energy and water that wastes – and, of course, after ten minutes of making friends with the folks revving up their engines in the parking lot pf the crack den Chinese place, she was ready to get out. “Refreshing,” she said, and then spent a half hour in the shower scrubbing vigorously and sobbing quietly, convinced that she’d contracted a deadly staph infection.
**** The bathroom/kitchen combo was my favorite part of the shacklet. I’d go in there with a book and a few minutes later, McAdams would rap softly on the door. “I’m just in here making a snack,” she’d croon. “Can I get you a sandwich?”
Good times.