….. For 99% of you – knowledge of South Dakota consists of “its just below North Dakota, isn’t it.” Well I know a whole lot more than I knew a week ago. My experience has made me a stronger, wiser BobLee. It is a very very cool (“neat”) place; …. and I escaped by the hair of my chinny chin chin.
I’m relatively well-traveled within the continental 48. I’ve seen first-hand most of the geographical trivia questions that America has to offer. What few I haven’t seen, I’ve read about in books. “Read about in books” is an ancient art practiced by our elders before the creation of websites, revisionist history and “twittering”.
Expanding ones horizons beyond the end of one’s nose is a scary exercise. One must be willing to debunk the notion that nothing beyond what I already know is worth knowing.
I was recently invited to South Dakota to share “the BobLee perspective”. In the process I got to see and experience an intensive dose of South Dakota.
Is See Mount Rushmore on your “bucket list”? It should be if it isn’t. Nowhere else has a Mount Rushmore. Atlanta has a Stone Mountain and Virginia has a Mount Vernon but only South Dakota has a Mount Rushmore. I received a two-hour backstage tour of Mount Rushmore by its official curator. My gracious hosts assured me such personal attention is not the norm.
It is a unique American landmark. With the current turmoil involving what is America and “American”, Mt Rushmore may soon be replaced as a National Park by “Bill Ayers’ first hide-out” so you better hurry if you want to see it.
I visited Deadwood too. Deadwood was a gold rush “boom town” from the late 1870s depicted in a highly-acclaimed HBO series. If you’ve been to old west town reproductions such as Virginia City or Tombstone, this is the South Dakota version.
If I say “The Crazy Horse Memorial” what comes to mind? I knew it was kind of like Mt Rushmore except it was Crazy Horse. It is quite a bit more. When finished (assuming Armageddon is delayed at least 30 years) it will be 6-8 times larger than Rushmore. Rushmore is four faces carved into a mountainside. The Crazy Horse Memorial is an entire mountain that is being dynamited and carved into a humongous statue of Crazy Horse and his horse.
The genius behind The Crazy Horse Memorial was Korczak Ziolkowski. Like most artistic geniuses, Korczak approached life and the purpose of his in particular on a different plane that your standard mouth-breathing nitwit who can name the finalists on American Idol. He was a big picture visionary. He started a project he knew he could never finish and could only hope his family might follow thru. They are doing so. Google Crazy Horse Memorial and learn about it. If you are ever in South Dakota, make a concerted effort to see it.
The only “from South Dakota” person I had ever heard of was Lyle Alzado who died from steroid abuse after a colorful career with the Broncos and Raiders. Other than The Jabberwock who might easily be related to Lyle, I found almost everyone I met in South Dakota to be incredibly nice. As it turned out, TOO NICE. There was one guy who was into the Luminati and Tri-Lateral Commision but there’s a few of those everywhere.
I have become insular and cynical when meeting strangers. My naïveté in expecting most people to either “like” or “be like” me was scuttled on the jagged rocks of harsh reality many moons ago (a little Crazy Horse lingo). Most people are not “like me”. More than a few people don’t “like me”. “Liking me” can require more effort than might be worth it for a significant % of the Great Unwashed. That said, I have acquired enough friendlies to fill a small chapel upon my inevitable demise and an impressive national data base for these silly commentaries. Loftier expectations are gravy.
In my several days in South Dakota I met several dozen locals. My host couple were INCREDIBLY NICE. I just hope their Federal Witness Protection relocation has great scuba diving nearby. The “committee” to a person were charming, intelligent and exuded the sincere friendliness of Dale Carneige instructors. They all also had some prior knowledge of “what BobLee does”. As you all know, my commentaries (written and oral) tend to the obtuse with more layers than ancient Troy and assume a level of audience awareness that, in 2009, is an absurd assumption.
My preliminary impressions of South Dakotans was soooo warm & fuzzy that I was lulled into a false comfort zone of my own creation. I was on such a “Dakota high” that two hours before I was to go on, I decided to scrub my standard presentation in favor of customized on-the-fly comments. Uh oh! That violates every survival rule for podium warriors. Lloyd’s of London (or AIG) would never insure such a risky venture ….. for good reason.
OK, I can hear you all screaming “DON’T BOBLEE DON’T ! Local historians are comparing it to Custer’s brilliance at nearby Little Big Horn. Anyhoo I was bopping along in “OK mode” sensing a slight unrest but not enough to call for the pepper spray when BOOM …… The Jabberwock struck.
Every community in America has three common elements – (1) bad drivers ….. (2) unpredictable weather ….. and (3) a resident COC (Crazy Old Coot). I met South Dakota’s COC.
He rushed the stage screaming incoherently and shaking a gnarled digit towards me. Picture a rabid Gabby Hayes. From my 4’ riser, only 3’ separated the toe of my Tony Lama from the snarling maw of The Jabberwock. The collective blink and stunned silence from the audience was deafening. Several good men and true ensnared the raging beast and led him off.
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!”
I apologized for whatever local land mine I had stepped on; remembering I was not wearing my Kevlar t-shirt. With the audience still stunned I completely skipped the meat of my remarks and moved quickly to the dramatic close ….. but not quick enough.
I’ll be damned – Ol’ Coot The Jabberwock had escaped his subduers and was on his all-fours crawling under the stage to disconnect my power source. The concept of a wireless mic being outside Jabberwockian expertise. Chaos reigned in The Black Hills.
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came!
It was a surreal scene missing only a flashing strobe and the voice of the aforementioned Custer ordering his 7th Cavalry to “take no prisoners”. I never even got to my “God Bless You South Dakota” big finish.
The several dozen incredibly fine folks I had met earlier had been reduced to a valiant handful of wonderfully understanding and embarrassed Dakotans. I was told various stories of past COC antics which, while appreciated, were about an hour too late to help much.
Visit South Dakota ….. See Rushmore …… Definitely see The Crazy Horse Memorial …… appreciate that South Dakotans are as representative of humanity as you will find anywhere …… some incredibly friendly ….. some less so …… and somewhere under a local rock lurks The Jabberwock.
Pierre SD is the second smallest state capital
in America. What is #1 in “small”?