A Presidents’ Day Reminder

When I think of Presidents’ Day, the one thing that comes to mind is how stupid it is to blast the faces of presidents onto South Dakota mountains.

I once said this very thing in a job interview for a position at the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University in North Dakota. To say the least, it did not help my case. Considering the location, I did not care.

65 comments on this post.
  1. Lee Rudolph:

    You’re lucky they didn’t send out some guy in a cropduster after you.

  2. Doug:

    Why even take the interview then? An undying desire for Dickinson?

  3. Stan Gable:

    the one thing that comes to mind is how stupid it is to blast the faces of presidents onto South Dakota mountains.

    Yeah, but it’ll be an endless fascination for some future archeologist. Can you imagine trying to figure out what prompted a civilization to carve massive faces in a granite cliff a zillion miles away from any major city?

  4. Hogan:

    Eh. We can always make more mountains.

  5. c u n d gulag:

    “…the one thing that comes to mind is how stupid it is to blast the faces of presidents onto South Dakota mountains.”

    Not at stupid as seeing the face of Jesus on a piece of toast and paying for it, though – so give it that.

  6. Erik Loomis:

    A) It was an interesting job, at least potentially

    B) I was at least considering the possibility of taking it at the time. Then I visited the town.

    C) I might actually have considered taking the position even with the town if they hadn’t defined the position as staff instead of faculty, thus providing me with 2 weeks of vacation instead of a normal faculty flexibility. Before I had a tenure track job, my basic idea was that I could give up that career if I lived in a nice place. Or I could keep that career, live in a less desirable place and then go away when I could. But I certainly wasn’t going to live in western North Dakota 50 weeks a year.

    Honestly, it probably wasn’t a great fit for either side. They wanted a TR booster, which I am not, even though I am very knowledgeable about the man and even more so about the era and the issues with which he was greatly involved.

  7. rm:

    I had the same thought. Insulting local sensibilities is almost as bad as not knowing exactly where you are during an interview.

    Sometimes one imagines such a job candidate is just looking for a free plane ticket outta wherever they live and a few days’ stay in nicer location, but since the interview was in North Dakota that does not appear to be a likely motivation.

    Sometimes you get to a job interview and immediately realize the place is not what one had hoped.

  8. rm:

    Making sculptures out of mountains is not as stupid as blowing them up to extract the coal inside, I must admit.

  9. Bill Murray:

    yeah, they should have put them on Rhode Island mountains

  10. Erik Loomis:

    There is evidently skiing in Rhode Island.

  11. Malaclypse:

    Yea, I’m just going to post a link to the place that is apparently the only “ski area” in Rhode Island.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I hate skiing. But that is just sad…

  12. Erik Loomis:

    Is that the double black diamond run?

  13. Malaclypse:

    Dunno, it looked like some suburban back yard, or possibly my kid’s elementary school playground.

  14. Randy Paul:

    Actually saying something negative about South Dakota in North Dakota could be a positive.

  15. MAJeff:

    I am grateful every day that I no longer live in North Dakota. The day I left the state for the last time is one of the happiest of my life.

  16. Hogan:

    Yeah, that’s what I would have thought.

  17. BigHank53:

    When I lived in New Hampshire, my driveway was steeper than that.

  18. Erik Loomis:

    What’s great about that “ski slope” is that it isn’t even in the hilly part of Rhode Island. It’s down by URI.

  19. efgoldman:

    You could ski in my back yard. Its steep granite ledge (left by the icebergs.)
    Loomis, why do I feel you’re not long for our tiny state with the real big name.
    (I wouldn’t be either, but I’m stuck here, at least until I retire.)

  20. Erik Loomis:

    I’d have no problem staying here forever, at least in theory.

    Admittedly, I’m a west coast guy, but for reasons of my wife’s giant family, it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever get back there permanently.

  21. efgoldman:

    When I lived in West Roxbury (Boston) my driveway was steeper than that, also too. So was my street.

  22. Substance McGravitas:

    You don’t fuck with giants.

  23. Keaaukane:

    I’ve got a mole hill we could use! We could have a show!

  24. Royko:

    Others would look at the mountains of South Dakota and see a mere geological formation. But not us: we look and we see a potential billboard for our national mythology.

    Think of it as a monument to that aspect of our national character.

  25. Breadbaker:

    Coincidentally, we were watching North by Northwest on TCM on Saturday night and when they got the climactic scene, I said to my wife, “imagine getting permission to carve that today.”

    On the other hand, no one seems to have considered that about the carved Buddhas the Taliban blew up.

  26. Gozer:

    Not a fan of New England?

  27. Substance McGravitas:

    On my last US trip it was pretty striking just how many high spots were expected to bear monuments or town names or university letters and so on. Yes, it’s American.

  28. Matt:

    My older brother lived in Dickinson for several years. I visited once, for his wedding. The best thing I can say is that it’s an improvement over Glendive MT., where he had lived for several years before that. I’d say you were lucky not to get the job, except that, if it was more than a few years ago, you could have bought a large house for about $25K, and now sold it for enough to retire on.

  29. Murc:

    I believe Aaron Sorkin, who whatever his other faults are could often write very snappy dialogue, put it best:

    “Are you aware that studies clearly show the word ‘north’ leaves the impression that this state is cold, snowy, and flat, significantly depressing tourism and business startup?”

    “With due respect, sir, your average temperature is 7 degrees. Your average snowfall: 42 inches, and a name change isn’t going to take care of that.”

    “We enjoy roughly the same climate as South Dakota. We took in 73.7 million in tourism revenue last year. They took in 1.2 billion. They have the word ‘south’.”

    “Also Mount Rushmore.”

  30. MAJeff:

    Yes, the word “north” is the reason North Dakota lost population from 1930-2010. (There has been an uptick the last decade, but that’s solely due to the oil boom.)

  31. rea:

    I once said this very thing in a job interview

    I once interviewed for an attorney position at Ferris State. My remark about always having wanted to be a big wheel on campus was inexplicably not appreciated.

  32. Hogan:

    My family lived for about a year on Bobsled Drive in Needham.

  33. MAJeff:

    We must have lived in different parts of WRox.

  34. Pen:

    Believe it or not, Dickinson has suffered a substantial decline in charm since the recent boom.

    Was the position for which you interviewed taken by Clay Jenkinson? He has become a conscience of sorts in the state’s oil extraction debate-if you could call it that.

  35. Randy Paul:

    My one and only trip there was to Bismarck and Mandan in 1988 for business. I got to the Holiday Inn in Bismarck and checked in at 2 p.m. The kitchen was closed, room service was not available, so I asked the front desk clerk where I could get lunch. He told me that there was an A & W across the street. I went there, stepped up to the front counter and started to order. The woman at the counter, told me to sit down and she would take my order. I go to a seat at the opposite end and look out the window. After a couple of minutes. I start looking around to see where she is as I’m the only person there. Finally, I see her waving her arms and gesturing to something on the table: a phone, I pick up the phone and she said “May I take your order?”She then comes to my table on roller skates with one of those change belts, whereupon i pay for my order.

    On the same trip, I met this woman who was going to the same convention, who had lived in Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago and Dallas. She had never been mugged, had her purse snatched or otherwise been a crime victim. Her hotel room was broken into and all her cash taken.
    ]
    Custer’s last words: At least I don’t have t go back to North Dakota.

  36. Joe:

    It was built to hide secret treasure.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Treasure:_Book_of_Secrets

  37. MAJeff:

    And for as many Montana Lakota warriors Custer may have been facing, even including certain death, it was better than returning to North Dakota.

  38. efgoldman:

    [Reply to MAJeff]

    We must have lived in different parts of WRox.

    When we were first married (’77-78) we lived on Redlands Road, just off Center Street near Holy Name Circle. There was a gas station on the corner. Went straight up the hill from Center to Weld Street.
    It was also a block away from Kevin White’s mother’s house. Our streets always got plowed.

    And yes, I love new England. Grew up in Brookline, raised my daughter in Belmont. I’m just not so crazy about RI.

  39. MAJeff:

    I lived on Centre, but it was fairly flat. This was around 2000…then there was a move to Lynnfield, then Central Falls.

    I’m rather liking Pittsburgh–FAR more than that shithole North Dakota–but I will always miss living in the Boston metro.

  40. expatchad:

    Or with ICEBERGS that float in your yard. Or glaciers.

  41. John:

    When you put it that way, it’s already kind of hard to explain.

  42. John:

    That probably makes more sense than what actually happened.

  43. witless chum:

    I grew up near Houghton and Hancock, Michigan, where the cities are each built on hillsides overlooking the Portage ship canal and you have a handy view of the Mt. Ripley ski run that is, in fact, less steep than many streets.

    Not doubt Erik would have insulted pasties, Finns, snow, the Ontonagon Boulder and hockey if he’d interviewed at Michigan Tech or Finlandia University. (Yes, the initials are FU, but my dad used to joke about it roughly three times a week, so you shouldn’t. I think that’s what killed him.)

  44. witless chum:

    It was built because Gutzon Borglum was judged by the KKK to be too much of a dickhead for them to put up with while he was carving Stone Mountain and he fled Georgia.

  45. Uncle Ebeneezer:

    Totally OT but, what’s the deal with Russian River’s Pliny The Younger? We were just at a brewery in SoCal that had a line around the building this morning for Pliny, and sold out of it within 2 hours. Really?? Can any beer be worth that kind of hype?

  46. Bob Munck:

    how stupid it is to blast the faces of presidents onto South Dakota mountains.

    How about an entire Indian and the horse he rode in on?

    I’ve often suggested that the other end of the mountain that Crazy Horse (and his relatively-sane horse) is being carved out of could be used for a Rushmore-style likeness of Ronald Reagan. After all, there isn’t enough granite on Rushmore itself to appropriately represent Reagan’s Head.

  47. MikeN:

    -IIRC, in Gene Wolfe’s “Book of the New Sun” series, so much time has passed that all of the mountains of ‘Urth’ have been caed into the faces of monarchs, dictators etc. (OTOH. they’re mostly big piles of garbage from past civilizations.)

    - There was a fad that went around the Internet a few years back on “The Mount Rushmore of Science /Sports/etc.
    It was based on the fact that the final entry in the series “Washington Jefferson. Lincoln….Teddy Roosevelt” was a bit of a letdown (if it had been carved later, with Franklin, okay then).

    The entries have to both be great and recognised as such by the general public
    Science: Newton, Darwin, Einstein and ______.

    Sports (International): Pele, Mohammed Ali, Michael Jordan and_____.

  48. Erik Loomis:

    It’s really good, but waiting in that kind of a line is totally ridiculous. I mean, it’s not THAT good.

  49. Erik Loomis:

    Although I would make the argument that Russian River is probably the best brewery in the United States.

  50. Warren Terra:

    I don’t know if it’d be all that difficult. My understanding (I’ve never been) is the Mt. Rushmore was done to a bare rock face, so the environmental impact might be minimal. Not obviously worse than building a ski lodge.

    I’m not saying it’s a fantastic idea, but I’m not sure there are regulatory measures that would prevent it, especially if done on privately held land. See eg the Crazy Horse memorial.

  51. Warren Terra:

    One assumes religious motives will be discerned.

  52. harmfulguy:

    Or better yet, a trio of traitors.

  53. Thlayli:

    As you may or may not know, the project is actually unfinished, because they ran out of money.

  54. Njorl:

    It will be even more bizarre when natural erosion reduces the areas behind the faces to gigantic lions’ bodies.

  55. Rhetorical or A.D.D.:

    It’s no worse than spending two hours at a Phish concert.
    You must taste the sublime brew in question to answer the question for yourself.
    Or you could go with: Hey, a really cool blogger I know says that it’s really tasty… but not that tasty! Proceed.

  56. Halloween Jack:

    You’re almost definitely much better off not being there.

  57. Halloween Jack:

    I was in Fargo for a week over a decade ago, visiting an old friend who was ill, and about halfway through my visit I stopped by a Harley dealership and, even though I’ve never ridden a motorcycle in my life, started fantasizing about buying one–to the extent of speculating about what kind of a loan I could get–because it would have gotten me out of ND quicker. (I already had the T-shirt that read “[umpteen]-thousand square miles, one area code.”)

  58. Halloween Jack:

    It’s the work of Gutzon Borglum, who warmed up for it by starting the bas relief sculpture of the Confederate generals on Stone Mountain in Georgia.

  59. Halloween Jack:

    Or, you know, just put Reagan’s face on the horse’s ass.

  60. Better than Yuengling:

    Pliny, whether Old or Young is liquid fun!!!

  61. Bob Munck:

    @Halloween Jack: That was my intended implication. Too subtle?

  62. rm:

    Now there is a mountain sculpture that deserves the Bamiyan treatment. Although I must admit it’s very monumental and good looking, if only one doesn’t pay attention to whom it’s memorializing.

  63. Bob Munck:

    they ran out of money.

    And they laid off my father. He was only out of work for two months, though, as he joined the Navy right after Pearl Harbor.

  64. Mike Schilling:

    It certainly works that way in Northern California.

  65. ajay:

    – OK, Mr Munck, under “previous experience” you’ve put “spent three years around things named after US presidents that kept blowing up”. Sounds ideal. When can you start?

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