Postcard from the Black Hills

Crazy Horse Monument, one day to be the largest sculpture on earth, will eventually be a likeness of the Lakota leader riding his horse and pointing to the lands where his dead are buried.


Walking through the museum section of the Crazy Horse Monument, two men–who reveal themselves to be the direct descendants of Sitting Bull–ask me and Winter, our two year old, to come near them. We walk over and Winter, being the somewhat anti-social child he is at the ripe age of 30 months or so, turns his head. Perhaps he was afraid of them due to their wardrobe, traditional Indian garb, or it could simply have been that he’s afraid of all strangers (except young ladies…). The older Indian man asked me if I could hold Winter directly in front of him. I gladly did so.

“Watch what happens,” he said, as Winter squirmed to get further from the Indian man, who began chanting out a song in his native tongue. It was an entrancing sort of humming tune, personally I had no idea as to the words but to call it a lullaby I thought would not be an inaccurate description. Winter slowly relaxed, put his head on my shoulder, and looked at the man for a moment before turning his head back away. He didn’t cry, he didn’t squirm anymore, both his typical responses to things he doesn’t like. The old Indian sang on for a couple of minutes.

When he was finished he rubbed Winter’s boot, then tickled his calf. Winter, wearing purple pants, big brown boots and a grey shirt, does not come off as feminine in any way to me. However, his long, curly locks often confuse people as to his gender, and so I wasn’t particularly surprised when the Indian said to him, “Such a sweet little girl, can I have a high five?”

Winter turned immediately, dropped the Matchbox car he was holding, and planted his hand firmly into the Indian man’s.

We went about our business, exploring the museum and photographing the head of the Crazy Horse sculpture, until an hour or so later the two men, still in their traditional garb, approached a stage and began to dance to wild old Indian music. It was a monumental sight to see, and certainly touching. My great-grandmother a full-blooded Cherokee, and having been born with a soft spot or two on my otherwise rugged and rude heart, I feel great compassion for a people so beautiful and with such a tragic story. So while all of this was going on, the older Indian man telling stories between dances, dedicating each dance to someone particular, his grandson, his people, eagles or all of America, it was just before the last dance that I think I may have allowed a tear or two to leaky faucet drip away from my eye.

“This next dance,” the old Indian man said, “is dedicated to a very special young girl in the audience.” I assumed he would tell a story of his grand-daughter or wife or someone. “Her name is Winter, and she touched my heart today in a special way.”

We’ll be covering this entire region in a future issue of Wand’rly, but suffice to say that if you are on the road and anywhere in the South Dakota region, while it’s still summertime, the Black Hills is among the most beautiful places I have personally ever been. We have driven amongst a pack of bison here, those rare animals that once ruled this nation and were nearly driven to extinction. We’ve walked through massive caves and driven under towering Ponderosa Pines accented by jagged massive beautiful boulders. Small towns and biker bars, backroad two-laners and homie breakfast joints abound. It’s heaven here and I’m sorry for a summer so short, except perhaps that it makes the time here all the more grandiose.