The boy and I drove through the Badlands to the town of Wall, SD. We had to get a glass of water from Wall Drug. In 1931, Wall Drug Store was established as a true pharmacy. Business was slow until Mt Rushmore opened up to tourists, and Wall Drug began offering a free glass of water to thirsty travelers. Now, Wall Drug is a large western themed mall with restaurants, art galleries, museums, gift shops, and even a video arcade. And they still offer a free glass of water to thirsty travelers. Well,they don’t offer a glass anymore, but a paper cup.
Throughout the trip, we had noticed more and more motorcycles on the road. I didn’t think much of it until we got to Wall. We parked the car and walked downtown to Wall Drug. There were bikes, bike trailers, bikers, leather, denim, and rumbling pipes everywhere! The whole street was lined with chrome and chaps. Then it dawned on me; this was early August. It was time for the 73rd Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which was only eighty-miles away from Wall. Bad timing on my part.
Now I have nothing against motorcycles or their riders. I’m friends with several motorcycle enthusiasts. But there were a lot of them! They were everywhere, and I was getting kind of irritated. So we buzzed through Wall Drug as quick as the throng of leather allowed, and left town. Next stop: Mount Rushmore!
When The Boy was in first grade, he learned about money. After he learned to count the money, he became more interested in the dudes ON the money. So he taught himself about the presidents. He read everything he could get his hands and eyes on. He could recite all the presidents from George to George (and now beyond) in order. You could ask him who the 22nd president was and he’d tell you it was Grover Cleveland. You could ask him who the 24th president was, and he’d tell you it was Grover Cleveland again. When we visited President Garfield’s Tomb in Cleveland, he went back and forth with the tour guide, exchanging presidential trivia and facts. He’s lost some interest now, and forgotten much of what he learned, but back then, he was amazing!
Seeing Mount Rushmore had been his dream since first grade, and now we were mere miles from it. We followed the winding Highway 16 through the Black Hills, into a crowded and loud Keystone, SD, dodging motorcycles and other tourists, until we rounded a corner and gasped at the massive monumental portraits waiting for us. We paid our way in, parked the car and went for a walk.
He was thrilled to be there. I was thrilled to have brought him. He had been waiting for five years, almost half his life, to see this.
There’s a lot to paint in the Black Hills. Not just the obvious giant sculpture, but bridges, vistas, stone formations, mountain lakes, twisted pines, winding roads, and I could go on and on. This place could keep an artist busy for years. And of course, this was only the beginning of the inspiration!
We spent a couple hours wandering around the park, trying to see the portraits from as many angles as we could. When we left, he said “I thought it’d be bigger… but it was still cool!”
It was very cool!