“Never forget your dreams” – The story of Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse Memorial
While driving cross country earlier this year I was at Mount Rushmore when a stranger asked if we saw Crazy Horse yet.  I had no idea what the “Crazy Horse” was, and he could clearly tell based upon the look on my face.  Before I even got a chance to inquire he began telling us about this mammoth rock sculpture down the road and it didn’t take long before we were convinced it would be our very next stop. We pulled up to the private complex, paid the $22 entrance fee and walked into the visitor center.  Upon arriving they gave us a very brief overview of the sculpture and asked if we wanted to watch the 20 minuets video on the Crazy Horse project.  Not really a huge history buff I suggested we skipped the video and just take the tour, but luckily my friend Dorota talked me out of it.  In my eyes the story behind the Crazy Horse Memorial is every bit as impressive as the sculpture itself. Talks of the memorial began when Chief Henry Standing Bear set out to create a sculpture that would honor his late cousin Crazy Horse who was killed at Fort Robinson in 1877.  After years of searching he got ahold of Korczazk Ziolkowski, an award winning sculptor saying, “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too.”.  Talks between the two continued for years until Ziolkowski agreed to work on the sculpture starting on May 3, 1947 until his death on October 20, 1982 at the age of 74. While this is the extremely abbreviated version of the memorial’s story, the part I find most inspiring is not the story of the war veteran Crazy Horse or the effort Standing Bear put in to get this sculpture created, but the dedication of Ziolkowski.  When he agreed to work on this project, he knew it was something that would take much longer than a lifetime to complete.  He spent the last 36 years of his life carving away at a rock in everything from thunderstorms to blizzards, knowing he would never see the finished product.  The video you watch at the visitor center had an old interview of him talking about the trials and tribulations he we would go through on a regular basis.  He spoke about running a water pump from a generator while he climbed a hand made staircase for 45 minutes to reach the blasting site.  After arriving at the blasting site the generator would stop, so he would pack his things, hike back down, and start it back up again.  He said there were some times where he would go through this process up to 6 times a day! As you leave the Crazy Horse complex, there’s a sign posted with a very short quote from Ziolkowski that I think completely sums up his take on life, “Never forget your dreams.”