CHIEF CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL, S.D. — I truly thought they’d be farther along on this carving job than they are.
My wife and I saw this place in 1973 when it was bore no resemblance to what we have seen on our second visit to this place.
Then I learned about what’s gone into the work done so far on the Crazy Horse Memorial, which honors all Native American nations.
Chief Crazy Horse was one of the leaders of the Native American force that defeated Gen. George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Then he died after being stabbed in the back by an Army officer.
Then a Lakota elder had this idea. Why not carve Crazy Horse’s image out of a mountain in the Black Hills? Henry Standing Bear sought out a sculptor and he found one, Korczak Ziolkowski, a Boston native.
Ziokowlski started blasting at the mountain in 1948. Crazy Horse’s face is now complete. But what about the rest of it?
It’s a long way from being done. They’re still blasting thousands of tons of rock off the mountain.
Ziolkowski died in1982. His wife, Ruth, carried on his work, along with the couple’s 10 children. Ruth Ziolkowski died in 2014. Her children — and grandchildren– are taking the project forward.
When it’s done, the statue — the largest in the world — will depict Crazy Horse atop his horse, pointing into the distance. The image will dwarf the other mountainside sculpture not far from this place. That’s the one at Mount Rushmore.
I asked one of the memorial employees, “When will this project be done?” She said the family has no date set for final completion, but it’s going to take another 14 years just to finish the horse.
What’s left? Crazy Horse’s head dress also must be done.
When you stand at the observation deck and gaze at this monstrous project, you have to wonder: How in the name of God’s Earth do you do such a thing? I cannot even begin to fathom the genius that is required to execute such a project.
The nine surviving Ziolkowski children are getting a little long in the tooth. Some of the grandkids are now involved with the project. My wife figures it’s going to take some great-grandkids and perhaps some great-great-grandkids to get the job done.
Trust me on this point: What they have completed thus far is mind-boggling in the extreme.