6/22/20 – Rapid City, South Dakota
On our first night in Rapid City, South Dakota my cousin Barb came over to our campsite. We sat outside on the picnic table talking. I hadn’t seen her in ten years and we had to touch elbows instead of hug. I’ve always been close to my cousins Nancy and her younger sister Barb. We can talk about anything. There’s almost something sacred about cousins. There’s no need to present in the best light or embellish as one might be inclined to do with others. With cousins it would be like lying to yourself. We got down to the nitty gritty all about the family, who was in jail and why, what was the real story.
We talked about the race issues of the day. I found Barb’s thinking wonderfully refreshing. She’d been around Black people all her life, from Tupelo, Mississippi, South Florida, working closely as a nurse and in the close quarters of an ambulance crew. “I love Black people,” she said with a simple childlike honesty I’ve always loved about Barb. She went on to say, “we are all different, we are all unique.” I’ve gotten to where I don’t even notice skin color, I look beyond into the person inside. That’s what’s interesting. That’s what matters. Racial tension stems from not knowing. We tend to fear the unknown.
So after a good night of talking, the next morning Barb picked up Judy and me and took us up into the Black Hills. It’s such a beautiful place, deep green evergreen trees and meadows appear darker under the thick dense clouds. Looking into the distance they appear black, thus the name. She took us to all her favorite places: Pactola Lake, Sylvan Lake, Sheridan Lake. We had lunch near Mt. Rushmore, did wine tasting at Prairie Berry Winery, happy hour at Miner Brewing Company in Hill City, and finally dinner back in Rapid City at her favorite pizza place that specialized in cauliflower pizza crust. It was a fun full day.
The highlight for everyone was the Crazy Horse Monument, a colossal project similar to Mt. Rushmore, but much greater in size and scope seventy years in the making and still not finished. The face of the noble subject is complete, but there’s his horse and so much more to do. The nostril of the horse is 20’ in diameter, and the outstretched arm of the rider is nearly the length of a football field. The sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, has died since beginning the project in 1948, but no doubt it will take over 100 years to complete. For me it felt like viewing the Sistine Chapel before it was completed by Michelangelo. It is a worthy tribute to the Native people of America.
As we said goodbye, I gave Barb a copy of my book FOOTPRINT: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Extinction to donate to the local library. We gave each other a big hug. Touching elbows just wouldn’t do.