Thursday, July 10, 2008

Split Shift

Yesterday morning we hopped (or maybe crawled is more accurate) out of bed and actually got out the door around 7:30 a.m. The morning activity was simple, just drive the wildlife loop through Custer State Park. We were told that you need to go early to see the most animals. I guess 7:30 was not early enough, as we didn't see many critters.

The babies seem more curious and willing to be still for pictures than the adults:

These prairie dogs were just too cute to resist:

Sweet baby bunny:
The burros are not native here. They were set free after they were no longer needed to haul tourists up Harney Peak. These are the descendants of the original ones.

We finally came across a few buffalo, and this baby was in the group:

We enjoyed the drive, even though we didn't see thousands of animals. The terrain varied from flat or rolling prairie to steep hills through densely wooded forest.

When we got back home, Jim went to the store to pick up a few groceries. He also looked for a place to get the oil changed on the Saturn. No such place in Custer. We'll have to get that done when we go to Rapid City. He did get the car washed and vacuumed, though. He even cleaned the windows!

We had time to relax most of the afternoon. I worked on blog reading and doing some family research online. I've recently come across a few more tidbits to add to my family tree. It's always fun for me when I come across new information.

Around 4:00, we geared up and headed out to Mt. Rushmore to do the tourist thing and attend the evening lighting ceremony. We looked around, took a lot of pictures, visited the gift shop and had a bite to eat. We toured the museum in the visitor's center. It was especially interesting to listen to the short recordings of some of the men who worked on the mountain as the monument was being created. Local people, miners, farmers, laborers, had jobs on Mt. Rushmore, drilling, blasting, and many other tasks. To them it was just a job, hard work, hot and dusty, or cold and miserable. One man said he made Sixty-five Cents per hour, which was a lot of money in those days.

We picked out our spot in the amphitheater to wait for the 9:00 ceremony. We sat in the very back row, which is the only row that has a back to the seats. That row was the first to fill up, and was filled well before 8:00. We spent the time people watching and taking pictures.

This was one of those "Kodak Moments" -- this wild boy with the Mohawk walked by and I just whipped around to snap the picture of him. I didn't know until I downloaded it that I also caught the girl with the astounded expression on her face.

I stitched 3 pictures together to provide a panorama of the crowd. It got a lot more crowded by 9:00. I cannot imagine 35,000 people being around this area, as there were for the July 3rd fireworks!

Finally, patriotic music began to play and people got settled in for the show. It was dark by this time, and we could no longer see the presidents above us. The ceremony was very moving. It consisted of a ranger giving a short talk about the personal meaning of patriotism, then a film about each of the 4 presidents depicted on Mt. Rushmore, as well as Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor. I gained a new appreciation of our country's history as I watched the film. As the film ended, the ranger asked everyone to stand and join in singing the national anthem. As we sang, the lights began to shine on the monument, very dim at first, growing brighter as we sang. When the anthem ended, a Boy Scout troop from Sugarland, Texas, marched up on stage to retire the flag, as veterans were asked to come to the stage for recognition.

From our seats at the very back of the theater, we were able to scoot out ahead of the crowd. We made our way back to the gift shop to make our purchases. We'd also parked at the back of the parking lot, so we had little trouble getting out on the road. We got home around 10:30.

What a day!


Dee & Jim said...

Thanks for sharing. How beautiful!!

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see it. Thanks for the tip on the seating.