Over the years, my family and I have spent many vacations and weekend trips, especially the 4th of July, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We love the area, and it’s close enough to home to get there even for a three day weekend. Bob and I mostly love to hike the many trails there, as opposed to the tourist attractions, since we have been there many times. Nevertheless, there are a few places that we usually go and things we usually do, like the 1880 Train, Keystone, and of course, Mount Rushmore. Being patriots, Bob and I are very much impressed by the carvings on Mount Rushmore. I think most people know that four United States Presidents, who were instrumental in making this country great, are carved in the granite face of the mountain. If you go there, you will see, President George Washington, President Thomas Jefferson, President Theodore Roosevelt, and President Abraham Lincoln, looking out across the land, making a majestic tribute to these men and to our nation as a whole. These four presidents were chosen because they represent the first 130 years of American history well. These presidents were selected by Borglum because of their role in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory. I can’t go there, or even drive by the monument, without feeling a deep sense of pride and awe. It’s almost like you can feel history when you are there.
On March 5, 1925, the Governor of South Dakota, Carl Gunderson signed the Mount Harney bill, which would allow the carving of a monument in Custer State Park. The mountain was chosen as the sight for the carvings by Gutzon Borglum, the artist in charge of the project, and really the visionary of what it would become. It was dedicated on October 1, 1925, as the sight for the carving that South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson first dreamed of seeing in the Black Hills, back in 1923. On October 7, 1927, the actual carving began. The project took 14 years and 400 men to complete the carving of the mountain. The conditions were harsh and dangerous, yet no one died during the project. Over 90% of Mount Rushmore was carved using dynamite. That is probably one of the facts about Rushmore that most people find most intriguing. The blasts removed approximately 450,000 tons of rock. If you walk on the President’s Trail, you can still see the drill marks used for the dynamite. The fine details were finished with jackhammers and hand chisels. It really isn’t what you would have expected at all.
George Washington was dedicated on July 4, 1930. Then work began on Thomas Jefferson, but many people thought it was Martha Washington for a time…a drawback of an artists work being done so much in the public eye. Thomas Jefferson was dedicated on August 30, 1936. Abraham Lincoln was dedicated on this day, September 17, 1937, and Theodore Roosevelt was dedicated on July 2, 1939. The Hall of Records was never finished because of dangerous working conditions. Gutzon Borglum died suddenly on March 6, 1942, and the work on the mountain was finished by his son, Lincoln Borglum. With the onset of the US involvement in World War II, the mountain was declared complete on October 31, 1941. So ended the work on the mountain, and I really never get tired of hearing the story.
My brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock has always been a man of many talents. He has always had a love of the outdoors, and one day took up the art of chain saw carving. I’m sure that many of you have seen those carvings in different places around the country. I have to say that it must take a lot of vision, because not everyone can look at a log and see a bear hidden inside its bark, and even if they could, very few people could pick up a chainsaw and carve out that bear they saw inside that log. Now, I have to tell you that while I might be able to envision a bear coming out of a tree trunk, I could not coax it to come out…especially with a chain saw, but my brother-in-law can…in just a few minutes. That has been amazing to me, since he started chain saw carving. How does one simply pick up that craft? He took no classes, he just did it!
A few years ago, my mom had a tree that had broken in a storm. As we were cleaning up her yard, Chris walked up to a tree, and I thought at first that he was just cutting the dead tree down, but he stopped short of completely cutting it dawn, and as we watched, his saw worked back and forth, creating a cute little bear cub standing on top of a dead tree trunk. It was amazing to watch. The whole thing took him maybe 15 minutes. My mom was thrilled. She had seen those around, but never purchased one, and in reality, she wanted one. Suddenly, there it was standing proudly in her back yard. It couldn’t get stolen or lost, because it was rooted in deep in the ground. All she had to do was go out on her deck in the back yard, and there was her little bear.
Chris is a dedicated family man, and his two newest little joys are his grandchildren. Much time is spent with Ethan and Aurora, as well as their parents and aunts and uncles. They love to go up on the mountain to their place up there. There will eventually be a cabin there, complete with several chain saw bears, I’m sure. And their house is also graced with these Beary Nice friends, and his two little grandchildren just had to have their picture taken with the most un-scary bear they know. Chris’ life is a very happy one that will only grow more happy as new little grandchildren arrive…and maybe a few new bears too. Today is Chris’ birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!