Hello and happy August. I don’t know about you but I think that this year has whizzed by so fast it’s made my head spin, and that’s not a good look especially if you have a cold. (I don’t have a cold, but just sayin’.)
I thought I’d tell you what inspired me to really get the writing bit between my teeth and gallop forward into authordom. I fell at many hurdles along the way but at last I feel like I’m at least beginning to trot comfortably around the writer’s paddock.
Well, it all started back in 2001 on one of my many trips to the USA. I am totally in love with the place and ache to return….but that’s another story. OK, so the OH and I landed up in South Dakota, home of Mount Rushmore and other ‘awesome’ (to be read in an American accent) sights.
At that time I taught amongst other things, The American West to GCSE students. I was fascinated with the history of the Native American Indian way of life and their struggle against white American domination in the 19th century. Imagine my excitement when I realised that one of the guys who’d worked on carving out the President’s heads at Rushmore had actually jumped ship to carve a memorial to Crazy Horse one of the Sioux leaders. Crazy Horse was the main guy who’d lead the defeat of Custer at The Battle of The Little Bighorn in 1876, and his monument was only 17 miles up the road from Rushmore!
When we arrived at this memorial I was completely moved and amazed at the sheer size of it. It is in fact the world’s largest mountain carving. A huge head as you can see from the picture had been blasted and carved out of rock and to get an idea of its size, when it is finished Mount Rushmore will fit into it four times. I was even more moved to find that it had been started buy this one guy in Korczac Ziolkowski in 1948. He had been asked by a Sioux leader at the time if he would help to create a memorial to Crazy Horse by carving him from the sacred Black Hills. Korczac agreed and for many years he worked alone with just an old generator to power his tools. A student, Ruth Ross, came out to visit Korczac’s project; they fell in love, married and had 10 children. Ruth, now 85 still runs the memorial visitor centre.
When news of Ziolkiwski’s work reached the government they offered a large sum of money to help him. He and his family, by this time all working on the mountain, refused the offer. They said they didn’t want Crazy Horse’s memory turned into a theme park. Funding is from visitor’s admission fees, visitor centre merchandise sales and generous donations from like-minded people. The aim is to protect the heritage and history of the Native American Peoples and to establish an education programme and medical training centre for the Sioux living in the Black Hills.
When the going got tough in the early days, Korczac always told himself, ‘never forget your dreams’ and he never gave up. That really touched me and struck home. And although I have never carved a mountain alone in the middle of nowhere, my writing journey has often felt like it. At times of despair, normally after a rejection, when I felt I didn’t have what it took, I would think of that determined, brave and some say crazy sculptor, grit my teeth and carry on. If he could dedicate his life to carving a mountain, battling against the odds in all weathers and still never give up, then what was I grizzling about?
So now my motto is … ‘never give up and never forget your dreams.’ It stands me in good stead when the going gets tough and if you ever get the chance to visit Crazy Horse Memorial, please take it, I’m sure you will be inspired too!
Read more about it here: Crazy Horse Memorial
See a clip here: A Tribute to Korczak Ziolkowski