Podcast Episodes

Four Men on a Mountain

In the Black Hills of South Dakota, majestic figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln are said to tell the story of the birth, growth, development and preservation of this country.

But how much do you know about Mount Rushmore National Memorial?  Even if you think you know the basics, there’s a whole lot more that may knock your socks off.


Listen

Listen to the episode in the player below, or wherever you get your podcasts. 


Connect & Subscribe

You can find America’s National Parks Podcast on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, and make sure to subscribe on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts, so you’ll never miss an episode.

Join the America’s National Parks Facebook Group here.


Learn More

Links to some of the resources we used and the website links we mentioned in this episode.

Mount Rushmore — National Park Service Website

The real history of Mount Rushmore — Star Tribune

The Sordid History of Mount Rushmore — Smithsonian

Doane Robinson — PBS American Experience


Transcript

In the Black Hills of South Dakota, majestic figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln are said to tell the story of the birth, growth, development and preservation of this country.

But how much do you know about Mount Rushmore National Memorial? I’d venture to guess that most people can name those four presidents, and can tell you where it is, but do you know the history behind it? Even if you think you know the basics, there’s a whole lot more that may knock your socks off.

Here’s Abigail Trabue.

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Minnesota farmer Doanne Robinson became disillusioned with the life of tending to crops, and thought he’d try his hand at being a lawyer. Needing a place to practice, he headed for the new state of South Dakota. But it was really books he loved, and a second career change found him digging into history, eventually being appointed a job as South Dakota’s state historian. He wrote about and recorded the events of the state, as well as biographies of important people.

At that time, tourism to the Black Hills region was already booming. An island of dark evergreen mountains and grey stone, The Black Hills rise out of nowhere at the edge of the vast Dakota prairie, and were nearly as popular at the turn of the 20th century as they are today.

Robinson wasn’t convinced that nature was enough though, and concocted an idea to draw even more tourism dollars to his state. He wanted to do something big. The towering spire rock formations known as the needles that pepper the Black Hills looked to him a bit like people, and, inspired by a massive rock carving in Georgia, he thought that many of the needles could be carved into the likeness of famous western figures like Buffalo Bill and Lewis and Clark.
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JASON:
Hold on a minute. I don’t think we can gloss over the inspiration for Doane Robinson’s wild idea. That massive rock carving in Georgia is called Stone Mountain. You may have heard of it. It’s the largest bas-relief in the world, so sure, it’s impressive, but it depicts three different American figures, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. It’s a monument celebrating the Confederacy, and even if you hold the belief that revering southern Civil War figures is an important piece of history, Stone Mountain is a bit more than that. It’s the site of the founding of the second Ku Klux Klan in 1915. It was purchased by the State of Georgia in 1958, which opened Stone Mountain Park on April 14, 1965 … proudly marking the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Ok, back to Doane Robinson’s idea
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ABIGAIL:
In 1923 Robinson wrote to one of America’s best sculptors, Lorado Taft. Taft sculpted seminal works as a part of the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, as well as a likeness of George Washington at the University of Washington in Seattle, and “Defense of the Flag” in Jackson, Michigan. Not only was he a well-known sculpter, he was a patriotic one. His works mostly documented American history, making him perfect for Robinson’s spires. Unfortunately Taft was ill. So Robinson tapped another sculptor, Gutzon Borglum.

The son of Danish immigrants, Gutzon Borglum was born in 1867 in St. Charles in what was then Idaho Territory. A child of Mormon polygamy, His father Jens was married to a pair of sisters, Christina and Ida, and had children with both. Jens Borglum decided to leave Mormonism, divorcing Gutzon’s mother Christina, but keeping the family together as he moved them around Missouri and Nebraska.

After a brief stint at Saint Mary’s College, Gutzon Borglum relocated to Omaha, where he apprenticed in a machine shop and graduated from Creighton Preparatory School. Inspired by his younger brother, he developed an interest in sculpture and went to Los Angeles to study the art. In 1889 Borglum married one of his mentors Elizabeth Janes, who was 19 years older. The Borglums spent the next ten years studying and exhibiting in Europe where they became acquainted with Auguste Rodin and learned from his impressionistic light-catching surfaces. Gutzon Borglum’s works were accepted to the 1891 and the 1892 Paris Salons. After moving back to California, the Borglum’s then went to England to study together again, where marital troubles had them separated in 1903 and divorced in 1908.

By now Gutzon Borglum had sculpted saints and apostles for the new Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, he had a group sculpture accepted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art— the first sculpture by a living American the museum had ever purchased. He also won the Logan Medal of the Arts.

In 1909 he would marry for a second time, to Mary Montgomery Williams, with whom he had three children. In 1925, the sculptor moved to Texas to work on a commissioned monument to cowboy trail drivers. He completed the model in 1925, but due to lack of funds it was not cast until 1940, at a fourth of it’s planned size. Gutzon Borglum was obsessed with large scale. He crafted a massive head of Abraham Lincoln, carved from a six-ton block of marble, which was exhibited in Theodore Roosevelt’s White House and can be found in the United States Capitol Crypt in Washington, D.C.

In addition to scale, Borglum was obsessed with the ideas of patriotism and nationalism. He looked to create art that he said was “American, drawn from American sources, memorializing American achievement,” according to a 1908 interview article. And his temperament was perfect for the competitive environment surrounding the contracts for public buildings and monuments.

So Gutzon Borglom may have been even more ideal for Doane Robinson’s plans for South Dakota than Lorado Taft. Borglum met Robinson….
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JASON:
Hi…me again. That’s the backstory of Gutzon Borglum you’ll get in most quick histories, or even if you visit Mount Rushmore. What you may not hear about is why he was available to drop everything to go visit Doane Robinson in South Dakota to work on a project that would surely last decades… He had just abandoned the Stone Mountain Project. He had been commissioned to do the carving, but infighting in the KKK stalled fundraising. But Borglum wasn’t just a hired gun sculptor. There’s no proof he actually joined the KKK, but it’s possible-to-likely that he did. He was at the very least, heavily involved with the orgainization, and had written several highly racist remarks. In letters, he brooded about a “mongrel horde” -referring to indigeoenous people – overrunning the “Nordic” purity of the West.

When Robinson approached Borglum, it enraged the Stone Mountain backers, who fired him on February 25 from the project that was unfunded anyway. Borglum took an ax to his models for the shrine, and fled to North Carolina with a mob of angry KKK members on his heels. He’d eventually renounce the organization. Ok, back to the story.

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ABIGAIL:
Borglum met Robinson and agreed to the project but suggested that the subjects be national figures instead of western ones, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Robinson introduced a bill into the state legislature to authorize carving in Custer State Park and asking for funds to begin surveying the site. The funds were refused, but permission was granted. On Borglum’s second visit in 1925, he announced that he would not carve the spires of the Needles, as they weren’t quite big enough, nor was the rock suitable. He would find an appropriate large, solid mountain to carve instead, and eventually landed on Mount Rushmore.

Originally known to the Lakota Sioux as “The Six Grandfathers” or “Cougar Mountain” the site was renamed after Charles E. Rushmore, a New York lawyer, during an expedition in 1885. After Borglum decided on Rushmore, Robinson, then 69 years old, joined a party in scaling the mountain with Senator Peter Norbeck. The two would work to shepherd the project, with Robinson in charge of managing the headstrong Borglum.
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JASON: ….So, I think we need to mention here that the land didn’t belong to South Dakota. As Six Grandfathers, the mountain was part of the route that Lakota leader Black Elk took in a spiritual journey that culminated at Black Elk Peak. Following a series of military campaigns from 1876 to 1878, the United States asserted control over the area, a claim that is still disputed, since the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 granted the Lakota a broad a 60-million-acre region encompassing all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River — including the Black Hills. Clearly, that didn’t hold up. Mount Rushmore, with its faces of men who may have been great figures of American history, but all perpetrated terrible actions toward indigenous people, now face towards a tiny Lakota Reservation to the Southeast. Native Americans railed against the idea of the monument, as did a whole lot of other South Dakotans. Let’s continue
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ABIGAIL: Well before sculpting began, Gutzon Borglum decided to hold a ceremony, a spectical dedicating the monument. He wired to Doanne Robinson “SHALL BRING SOME COSTUMES FOR CEREMONIES CAN YOU GET A FEW REAL INDIANS FOR SPECTATORS … ” But on the planned day of the ceremony, Borglum didn’t show. Robinson wired: “BORGLUM DID NOT ARRIVE … DO YOU KNOW HIS PLANS … SPECTATORS AND INDIANS HARD TO HOLD.” The ceremony was rescheduled, and at it, Robinson’s spoke to the crowd: “Americans! Stand uncovered in humility and reverence, before the majesty of this mighty mountain!”

Borglum, Robinson, and Norbek raised enough private funding to begin the project, even with Borglum telling locals that South Dakotans would not shoulder the brunt of the financing, this being a national memorial. They did, however, even if voluntarily, making Robinson feel like a fool or a liar. In 1929, president Calvin Coolidge’s signed a bill giving appropriations to Rushmore and creating a commission to oversee the project. The Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission was led by a dozen important men — but left behind Doane Robinson. He was heartbroken. Later in the year, a Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society was formed to solicit additional funds, and Robinson was put in charge of the effort, which still exists today. He retired as state historian, and became a farmer once again.

On October 4, 1927 sculpting began, based on a model created by Borglum, and overseen directly by him. Nearly 400 men and women had to endure conditions that varied from blazing hot to bitter cold and windy. Each day they climbed 700 stairs to the top of the mountain to punch-in on the time clock. Then 3/8 inch thick steel cables lowered them over the front of the 500-foot face of the mountain in a bosun chair, like a modern day playground swing. Some of the workers admitted being uneasy with heights, but during the Depression, any job was a good job.

The work was dangerous. 90% of the mountain was carved using dynamite . The powdermen would cut and set charges of specific sizes to remove precise amounts of rock. Before the charges could be set off, the workers would have to be cleared from the mountain. Workers in the winch house on top of the mountain would hand crank the winches to raise and lower the drillers. If they went too fast, the drillers in their bosun chairs would be dragged up on their faces. To keep this from happening, young men and boys were hired as call boys. Call boys sat at the edge of the mountain and shouted messages back and forth, like a fire brigade, to help ensure safety. During the 14 years of construction, not one fatality occurred.

Dynamite was utilized until only three to six inches of rock was left to remove to get to the final carving surface. At this point, the drillers and assistant carvers would drill holes into the granite every couple inches in a process called honeycombing. The holes would weaken the granite so it could be removed often by hand and chisel.

After the honeycombing, the workers smoothed the surface of the faces with a hand facer or bumper tool, evening up the granite, creating a surface as smooth as a sidewalk.

Originally, three men were chosen to be depicted on Rushmore – Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. Undoubtedly three of our most famous presidents. Washington was the founding father of our country and the first president – an obvious choice. Jefferson – The author of the Declaration of Independence and the man responsible for the country’s expansion via the Louisiana Purchase. And Lincoln was Borglum’s favorite president. Not so much for ending slavery, but for keeping the country together during the Civil War.

They were to be depicted to their waists, as if their massive bodies were walking among giants. Jefferson would be to the left of Washington and Lincoln to the right. And to the right of all three presidents — an entablature in the shape of the Louisiana purchase commemorating in eight-foot-tall gilded letters the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, Louisiana Purchase, and seven other territorial acquisitions.

After the work on Jefferson had begun, the rock was found to be unsuitable, so it was blown up, and a new figure was sculpted on the other side of Washington. Lincoln was moved to the location that was supposed to show the entablature, leaving a giant gap between Jefferson and Lincoln. Enough room to add a fourth president: Theodore Roosevelt. Borglum chose Roosevelt to represent the development of the United States. Roosevelt provided leadership through rapid economic growth into the 20th Century. He was instrumental in negotiating the construction of the Panama Canal, and was known as the “trust buster” for his work to end large corporate monopolies and ensure the rights of the common working man.

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JASON: Wait…the Panama Canal? Come on. Roosevelt was a great president, and an instrumental figure in creating the National Parks, so I’m a fan…but the man had just died! What about James Madison, or John Adams? Remember when Roosevelt displayed a Borglum statue in the White House? Yeah, Borglum knew Roosevelt personally and worked on his campaign for president. In today’s eyes, through the lens of history, Roosevelt may seem like a decent choice, but at the time, he wasn’t.
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ABIGAIL: In 1933, the National Park Service took Mount Rushmore under its wing. A tram was upgraded so it could reach the top for the ease of workers. On July 4, 1934, Washington’s face had been completed and was dedicated. The face of Thomas Jefferson was dedicated two years later attended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt [Audio clip?] The face of Abraham Lincoln was dedicated on September 17, 1937. That year, a bill was introduced in Congress to add the head of civil rights leader Susan B. Anthony, but didn’t provide any funding. In 1939, the face of Theodore Roosevelt was dedicated, but the sculpture was far from finished.

Borglum had planned to make a secret room behind the hairline of Abraham Lincoln intended to hold some of America’s most treasured documents, and had began blasting a tunnel 70 feet deep, but when Congress found out about it, they weren’t so crazy about the idea, especially since work was behind schedule. Borglum focused back on the presidents until he died from an embolism in March of 1941. His son Lincoln continued the project for a short time, but insufficient funding and a lack of stable rock forced the carving to end. The entablature would not be created. The secret room would not be finished, and most notably, the busts would not be carved to their waists. Carving ended on October 31, 1941.

In a canyon behind the carved faces sits the secret chamber, cut only 70 feet into the rock. Borglum’s idea of a place to store our most treasured documents was probably never going to happen, but in 1988, president George H.W. Bush dedicated a vault with sixteen porcelain enamel panels – the text of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, biographies of the four presidents and Borglum, and a brief history of the United States.

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JASON:

Doanne Robinson lived to see the completion of Mount Rushmore, having said “South Dakota has already forgotten that I ever had anything to do with the matter.”

There’s a lot of sordid history to Mount Rushmore. And it’s maybe important to note that the second KKK that had only just formed when Gutzon Borglum was involved was a bit different than the KKK we know today, but still a white supremacist organization that would go on to perform terrible acts after Borglum removed himself from it. Borglum would eventually renounce the Klu Klux Klan, saying he never had any part in it, but some historians believe that was for show.

Regardless, Gutzon Borglum believed that massive sculptures like Rushmore were not the work of an artist, and belonged to the people. And Rushmore is there, for goodness sake, it’s not like we can argue about whether it should have been built today. Even knowing the dark history of the sculpture, it can still be a thrilling experience to visit. Especially if you focus on the accomplishments of the 400 men and women who crafted it, and the commonality of the American Experience the memorial intends to reflect.

Nearly 3 Million people a year visit Mount Rushmore – it’s a really popular and often crowded place. There’s plenty of parking, at $10 a car, with no discount for National Park passes. If you’re heading to Rushmore in the busy season, arrive early to avoid the heaviest crowds. I highly recommend you take the Iron Mountain road from Custer State Park, as it impossibly winds through the Black Hills until Mount Rushmore is perfectly framed in one of its tunnels. You can then see the mountain from a high vantage point at an overlook before heading down towards the more touristy grounds of the memorial itself.

When you exit the parking garage, instead of walking down the main walkway with the flags and gift shops and ice cream vendors, take an immediate right turn and head over to the entrance to the nature trail. This very short paved walk will take you to the historic viewpoint, called the Borglum View Terrace, where you can see the sculpture framed in trees with very few distractions. Then follow the path to the left, where it exits near the visitor center. Here you can see the park film and a museum honoring the creation of the memorial.

After the visitors center, take the half-mile Presidential Trail as it gets you to the closest possible views of the sculpture, right at the base of the pile of blasted stone that serves as a pedestal for the presidents. You can then continue around the trail to the Sculptor’s Studio, a preservation of Gutzon Borglum’s workspace, where he re-sculpted the face of the mountain over and over to fit the changing needs of the rock.

This episode of America’s National Parks was written by me, Jason Epperson, and narrated by Abigail Trabue. If you enjoyed the show, we’d love a 5-star review wherever you listen to podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Just search “National Park Podcast.” You can also join our new America’s National Parks Facebook group. We’ll link to all of our social media, as well as National Park Service resources, music credits, and more in the show notes at National Park Podcast dot com.

If you are interested in RV travel, give us a listen over at the RV Miles Podcast. You can also follow Abigail and I as we travel the country in our converted school bus with our three boys at Our Wandering Family dot com.

Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #beanoutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.


Music

Provided through the generosity of the artists under a creative commons license.

Podcast Episodes

The Wonderful Wind Cave

In 1881, Jesse and Tom Bingham heard a whistling noise coming from a beach-ball-sized hole in a rock formation near Hot Springs, South Dakota. Wind was blowing out of the hole, just as it does today, with such force that it blew off Tom’s hat. As the story goes, a few days later, when Jesse returned to show the phenomenon to some friends, the wind had switched directions and his hat was sucked in. The hole was the only natural entrance to a cave…a massive one.

We now understand that the movement of the wind is caused by the difference in atmospheric pressure between the cave and the surface. The place was dubbed the Wonderful Wind Cave, before it became only our seventh National Park of the United States. On today’s episode of America’s National Parks: three eras of Wind Cave National Park: It’s first explorer, the Lakota origin story, and a teenager lost for 37 hours. 


Listen

Listen to the episode in the player below, or wherever you get your podcasts. Download this episode (right click and save)

Connect & Subscribe

You can find America’s National Parks Podcast on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and make sure to subscribe on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts, so you’ll never miss an episode. Join the America’s National Parks Facebook Group here.

Learn More

Links to some of the resources we used and the website links we mentioned in this episode. Wind Cave National Park

Transcript

Jason Epperson: The America’s National Parks Podcast is sponsored by L.L.Bean. This year, L.L.Bean is joining up with the National Park Foundation, the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, to help you find your happy place – in an amazing system of more than 400 national parks, including historic and cultural sites, monuments, preserves, lakeshores, and seashores that dot the American landscape, many of which you’ll find just a short trip from home. L.L.Bean is proud to be an official partner of the National Park Foundation. Discover your perfect day in a park at findyourpark.com.

In 1881, Jesse and Tom Bingham heard a whistling noise coming from a beach ball-sized hole in a rock formation near Hot Springs, South Dakota. Wind was blowing out of the hole, just as it does today, with such force that it blew off Tom’s hat. As the story goes, a few days later, when Jesse returned to show the phenomenon to some friends, the wind had switched directions and his hat was sucked in. The hole was the only natural entrance to a cave…a massive one.

We now understand that the movement of the wind is caused by the difference in atmospheric pressure between the cave and the surface. The place was dubbed the Wonderful Wind Cave, before it became only our seventh National Park of the United States. On today’s episode of America’s National Parks: three eras of Wind Cave National Park.

Abigail Trabue: Alvin Frank McDonald was born in 1873 in Franklin County, Iowa, and moved to the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1890 at the age of 17. His father had been hired in by a mining company to oversee the company’s claim. It’s not known if the mining company expected to find minerals of value in the cave or planned on developing it for tours. The McDonald family decided to attempt to make a living from the cave by enlarging passageways and building wooden ladders and steps with the hope of attracting travelers. Alvin fell in love with the cave, and began systematically exploring its passageways. He used a single candle at a time, and unraveled a string behind him as he went deeper and deeper, so that he would always know his way out. He kept a journal in which he described his exploration of the cave and the naming of the rooms and passageways. He began giving tours to travelers from nearby Hot Springs, calling himself “the permanent guide” of Wind Cave. Though the wonders of wind cave were spectacular, travelers were not prepared to crawl on their hands and knees in suits and dresses. One day, Alvin left a small tour group in a room in the cave with their lunch while he explored a bit. He got so deep into discovering, he forgot all about them, only to remember moments before falling asleep in his bed that he left the group behind with one candle which was surely burnt out. Alvin spent all day almost every day for more than three years exploring and guiding within Wind Cave. He gave names to rooms, routes, and interesting features. He estimated distances, and through his diary he kept a record of explorations. He quickly realized the complex nature of the cave; passageways that he would explore 10 miles of. He wrote in his journal that he had given up the idea of finding the end of the cave. He appreciated the beauty and natural features, but like others of his era, removed cave formations to sell to visitors. In the spring of 1891, the McDonald family was busy making improvements in the cave and gearing up for the tourist season. J.D. McDonald, Alvin’s father, was making weekly visits to Hot Springs to report to the local paper on the progress of developments. Talk of the cave’s potential caught the interest of a man named John Stabler, who McDonald sold somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 interest to, creating the Wonderful Wind Cave Improvement Company. Stabler was also given the right to build a hotel near the cave entrance. To publicize the cave, J.D. McDonald traveled to Iowa to display minerals at the Ottumwa Coal Palace and the Sioux City Corn Palace. During the summers of 1892 and 1893, two large publicity stunts made local headlines. One was a petrified man “found” near Wind Cave and promptly displayed inside it. The other was the arrival of Professor Paul Alexander Johnstone. Johnstone, a famous mind reader, ventured into the cave blindfolded to search for and eventually find a pin hidden there by local townsfolk. In November of 1893, Alvin left Hot Springs to join his father in Chicago. He was to assist in selling cave specimens at the World’s Columbian Exposition. He contracted typhoid fever in Chicago, and died about a month later. He was 20 years old. Alvin was buried near the cave he loved so dearly. A bronze plaque on a stone marks his grave on a hill above the natural entrance. Though his life and time at Wind Cave were short, much of what we know today about the mysterious caverns are a direct result of Alvin McDonald’s meticulous journal. Jason Epperson: During the next few years, ownership of the cave became a major question. A lack of a government survey of the area made possession of a clear title almost impossible. Mining and agricultural claims provided only a small degree of protection to the owner as they were dependent upon proofs of improvement and/or valuable mineral deposits. In 1893, the South Dakota Mining Company brought suit against the McDonalds and Stablers for restitution of property and premises. But by this time both the McDonalds and Stablers had filed homesteading claims around and over the entrance to the cave. The case was in court for several years, but no decision was reached. Of course, as it goes with most of our natural wonders, indigenous people had long before found Wind Cave, though there’s no evidence they ever entered it. To the Lakota people, wind cave is a sacred place, an important piece of their very existence. Ranger Sina Bear Eagle: In Lakota culture, history is passed down to new generations through the spoken word. There are many different versions of the Emergence Story, varying from band to band and family to family.

his story begins at a time when the plants and the animals were still being brought into existence, but there were no people or bison living on the earth. People at that time lived underground in the Tunkan Tipi — the spirit lodge — and were waiting as the earth was prepared for them to live upon it.

To get to the spirit lodge, one must take a passageway through what the ancestors referred to as Oniya Oshoka, where the earth “breathes inside.” This place is known today as Wind Cave, referred to in modern Lakota as Maka Oniye or “breathing earth.” Somewhere, hidden deep inside this passageway, is a portal to the spirit lodge and the spirit world. There were two spirits who lived on the surface of the earth: Iktomi and Anog-Ite. Iktomi, the spider, was the trickster spirit. Before he was Iktomi, his name was Woksape — “Wisdom” — but lost his name and position when he helped the evil spirit Gnaskinyan play a trick on all the other spirits. Anog-Ite, the double face woman, had two faces on her head. On one side, she had a lovely face, rivaling the beauty of any other woman who existed. On the other, she had a horrible face, which was twisted and gnarled. To see this face would put chills down any person’s spine. Anog-Ite was once Ite, the human wife of the wind spirit, Tate. She longed to be a spirit herself, so when the evil Gnaskinyan told her dressing up as the moon spirit, Hanwi, would grant her wish, she followed without question. Gnaskinyan used both Ite and Woksape as pawns in his trick on the other spirits. The Creator, Takuskanskan, decided not to punish Gnaskinyan for this trick, because evil does what’s in its nature. Woksape and Ite were both punished because they let their pride determine their actions and allowed themselves to be guided by evil, when both should have known better. Takuskanskan transformed the two into Iktomi and Anog-Ite, allowing Iktomi to play tricks forever and Anog Ite to be the spirit she desired to be. Both were banished to the surface of the earth. Iktomi and Anog-Ite had only each other for company. Iktomi spent his time playing tricks on Anog-Ite, torturing her and never allowing her to live in peace, but this pastime soon bored him. He wanted new people to play tricks on, so he set his sights on the humans. He knew he needed help for this trick; he asked Anog-Ite, promising he’d never torment her again. She agreed to these terms and began loading a leather pack. Anog-Ite filled this pack with buckskin clothing intricately decorated with porcupine quills, different types of berries, and dried meat. She then loaded the pack onto the back of her wolf companion, Sungmanitu Tanka. When the wolf was ready, Iktomi led him to a hole in the ground and sent the wolf inside Oniya Oshoka to find the humans. The wolf followed the passageways until it met the humans.
Anog-Ite was once Ite, the human wife of the wind spirit, Tate. She longed to be a spirit herself, so when the evil Gnaskinyan told her dressing up as the moon spirit, Hanwi, would grant her wish, she followed without question. Gnaskinyan used both Ite and Woksape as pawns in his trick on the other spirits. The Creator, Takuskanskan, decided not to punish Gnaskinyan for this trick, because evil does what’s in its nature. Woksape and Ite were both punished because they let their pride determine their actions and allowed themselves to be guided by evil, when both should have known better. Takuskanskan transformed the two into Iktomi and Anog-Ite, allowing Iktomi to play tricks forever and Anog Ite to be the spirit she desired to be. Both were banished to the surface of the earth. Iktomi and Anog-Ite had only each other for company. Iktomi spent his time playing tricks on Anog-Ite, torturing her and never allowing her to live in peace, but this pastime soon bored him. He wanted new people to play tricks on, so he set his sights on the humans. He knew he needed help for this trick; he asked Anog-Ite, promising he’d never torment her again. She agreed to these terms and began loading a leather pack. Anog-Ite filled this pack with buckskin clothing intricately decorated with porcupine quills, different types of berries, and dried meat. She then loaded the pack onto the back of her wolf companion, Sungmanitu Tanka. When the wolf was ready, Iktomi led him to a hole in the ground and sent the wolf inside Oniya Oshoka to find the humans. The wolf followed the passageways until it met the humans.
Once there, he told the people about the wonders of the Earth’s surface, and showed them the pack on his back. One man took out the buckskin clothing and felt the soft leather. His wife tried on a dress and, when he looked at her, he thought the dress accentuated her beauty. Next they took out the meat, tasted it, and passed it around amongst some of the people. The meat intrigued them. They’d never hunted before, and had never tasted anything like meat. They wanted more.
The wolf told them if they followed him to the surface of the Earth, he’d show them where to find meat and all the other gifts he brought. The leader of the humans was a man named Tokahe — “The First One” — and he refused to go with the wolf. He objected, saying the Creator had instructed them to stay underground, and that’s what he’d do. Most of the people stayed with Tokahe, but all those who tried the meat followed the wolf to the surface. The journey to the surface was long and perilous. When they reached the hole, the first thing the people saw was a giant blue sky above them. The surface of the earth was bright, and it was summertime, so all the plants were in bloom. The people looked around and thought the earth’s surface was the most gorgeous place they’d ever been before. The wolf led the people to the lodge of Anog-Ite, who was in disguise; she had her sina — “shawl” — wrapped over her head, hiding her horrible face and revealing only her beautiful face. Anog-Ite invited the people inside, and they asked her about the clothes and the food. She promised to teach the people how to obtain those things, and soon she taught the people how to hunt and how to work and tan an animal hide. This work was difficult, however. The people had never struggled like this in the spirit lodge. They grew tired easily and worked slowly. Time passed, and summer turned to fall, then to winter. The people knew nothing about the Earth’s seasons and had worked so slowly that, by the time the first snow came, they didn’t have enough clothes or food for everyone. They began to freeze and starve. They returned to the lodge of Anog- Ite to beg for help, but it was then that she revealed her true intentions. She ripped the shawl from her head, revealing her horrible face, and with both faces — beautiful and horrible — laughed at the people.
The people recoiled in terror and ran away, so she sent her wolf after them to chase and snap at their heels. They ran back to the site of the hole from which they’d emerged, only to find that it had been covered, leaving them trapped on the surface.
The people didn’t know what to do nor where to go, so they simply sat down on the ground and cried. At this time the Creator heard them, and asked why they were there. They explained the story of the wolf and Anog-Ite, but the Creator was upset. The Creator said, “You should not have disobeyed me; now I have to punish you.” The way the Creator did that was by transforming them — turning them from people into these great, wild beasts. This was the first bison herd. Time passed, and the earth was finally ready for people to live upon it. The Creator instructed Tokahe to lead the people through the passageway in the cave and onto the surface. On the way, they stopped to pray four times, stopping last at the entrance. On the surface, the people saw the hoof prints of a bison. The Creator instructed them to follow that bison. From the bison, they could get food, tools, clothes, and shelter. The bison would lead them to water. Everything they needed to survive on the earth could come from the bison. When they left the cave, the Creator shrunk the hole from the size of a man to the size it is now, too small for most people to enter, to serve as a reminder so the people would never forget from where they’d come.
Jason Epperson: Wind cave, like many caves, is full of rooms with tongue-in-cheek names provided by their discoverers. The Bachelor’s Quarters is named for the thin layer of dust and dirt that covers everything in it. Spelunkers on a lunch break in two large rooms they had just found had all coincidentally brought sandwiches made on bagels. The new rooms were dubbed the Bagel Ballroom, and a hole in the floor that led to another room was dubbed “Bagel Hole.” A large, connected gallery became the “Bagel Bowl.” In 1989 a new room would be discovered, completely unintentionally. It was named before it was ever found … by a psychic. Here again is Abigail Trabue. Abigail Trabue: On Sunday, October 22nd, 1989, the National Outdoor Leadership school conducted a mock search-and-rescue operation at Wind Cave National Park. The 17 Young cavers were paired into teams of two, and set out into the various passageways. 18-year-old Talahassee Florida native Rachel Cox and her partner found themselves deep in a passageway disagreeing about the way back. An argument ensued, and the pair split, each going their own way. Rachel was unfortunately wrong. After a long time heading in the wrong direction her single carbon light source extinguished. But instead of staying put, she continued to try to find her way out before falling through a 50-foot vertical shaft. Nearly 150 volunteers began searching for Rachel in rotating shifts, a process made difficult by the thick walls of the cave that don’t transmit sound well. Eventually, volunteers heard clicking noises about 1000 feet from where she was reported lost. They then made voice contact with her, but not until they were almost right above her. They passed her food and water through a crevice while they searched for another two hours for a large enough space for Rachel to crawl out of. She left the cave at 2:40 a.m. that Wednesday, 37 hours after she was lost. Before she was found, the park received a call from a psychic who said Cox would be found in a room with “Duncan” in the name. In fact, the room she had been discovered in was new territory that had yet to be described. To fulfill the psychic’s prediction, it was dubbed Duncan Room. Jason Epperson: Rachel Cox’s misfortune led to new safety precautions for cave explorers. Teams of three are the norm nowadays, and cavers always carry three sources of light. Wind Cave is known for it’s formations of boxwork, a unique, brittle formation rarely found elsewhere that looks like mail slots, or miniature shoeboxes. Wind Cave National Park is full of underground wonders, of course, but the park is just as spectacular above ground, where the vast South Dakota prairie meets the island of Ponderosa Pines called the Black Hills. Bison and Elk majestically roam the open prairie, above the massive prairie dog towns. In fact, it’s one of the best National Parks I know of for wildlife, and you get to avoid the crowds of more popular parks like Yellowstone. Bison and prairie dogs will great you on any visit, but the Elk take a little more patience. They’re a finicky creature, but still can be seen from trails and the main park road, usually around dusk. There’s nothing like a massive bull leaping through the air. Cave tours are offered year round, but the quantity drastically decreases outside of the summer busy season. There’s no fee to enter the park, and even if you don’t have time for a cave tour, the scenic drive on Highway 385 from Hot Springs, up through Wind Cave National Park, and into Custer State Park is well worth the trip. There is a no-hookup campground and available backcounty camping within the park, but campers looking for water and electricity should consider staying at Custer, or in the Angostura Recreation Area to the south. This episode of America’s National Parks was written by me, Jason Epperson, and narrated by Abigail Trabue, with ranger Sina Bear Eagle. If you enjoyed the show, we’d love a 5-star review wherever you listen to podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Just search “National Park Podcast.” You can also join our new America’s National Parks Facebook group. We’ll link to all of our social media, as well as National Park Service resources, music credits, and more in the show notes at National Park Podcast dot com. If you are interested in RV travel, give us a listen over at the RV Miles Podcast. You can also follow Abigail and I as we travel the country in our converted school bus with our three boys at Our Wandering Family dot com. Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #beanoutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.
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