The Family Business
Imagine a family business that was founded by an idealistic artisan, twice refused huge grants from the federal government and may never complete its one and only project. Here’s their fascinating story.
In 1948, sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski received a letter from Chief Henry Standing Bear. The letter asked Ziolkowski, who worked on Mount Rushmore, to create a statue of Chief Crazy Horse, a famed Lakota warrior.
Ziolkowski, a self-taught sculptor, accepted the challenge. He moved his wife and ten children from Connecticut to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Together they built a log cabin at the foot of Thunderhead Mountain, the structure out of which the stature would be carved. The family then built a 741-step wooden staircase to the top of the mountain and Ziolkowski inserted four sticks of dynamite. Those 10 tons of granite would be the first of millions to come.
As work continued, he twice refused $10 million grants from the federal government because he feared that taking the money would interfere with his goal of creating a cultural memorial that honors all North American Indians.
The monument has been in progress for over 60 years and is still far from completion. An amazing 8.5 million tons of granite having been removed so far.
When completed, the statue will show Crazy Horse atop his steed with his outstretched arm pointing to the horizon. It will be fully three-dimensional, sculpted entirely out of the mountain. It will be so large that Mount Rushmore will fit on Crazy Horse’s arm. A five-room house will fit inside the nostril of the warrior’s horse. It will be taller than the Washington Monument and nearly twice as big as the Statue of Liberty.
It is truly a monumental project. While we probably wouldn’t go to these lengths even for a family business, it’s still good to reflect on how important our families are to our jobs and our happiness. That’s why it’s vital to work safely every day. We have to remember that we’re not just working for ourselves, but for our families who love and depend on us. In fact, our families are the reason why we work so hard every day.
Today, Ziolkowski’s family continues the work. They now own Thunderhead Mountain and the 328 acres on which it sits. They still live at its base. With drills, dynamite and determination, they are committed to making Ziolkowski’s vision a reality, no matter how difficult it is and no matter how long it takes.
Do it for you
Do it for your family
*Copyright 2008 Harkins Safety B-228