October 4

1927 — Mount Rushmore sculpture begins


Julian always wanted to visit Mount Rushmore.

In person, the giant heads were even more impressive than they appeared in photographs, in travelogue shows, or during the climactic chase scene of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.

He’d never forget that film’s thrilling ending, with Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint climbing down Mount Rushmore as they’re pursued by spies.  That’s where his fascination with this unique monument began.  People crawling past giant eyes and ears, dodging bullets, sliding down a nose or grabbing at a stone-carved moustache.

Even without the connection to classic cinema, the monument was still breathtaking. Those carved heads of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln added an uncanny, man-made element to an already majestic mountainside. His country’s forefathers overlooked the world from above.

Julian heard the sculptors used dynamite and jackhammers in addition to traditional chisels to complete the monument. They originally intended to include part of the body beneath each president’s head — a torso, adding 90 feet to the already-massive 60 foot height of each sculpted head.  That part of the project was abandoned as impractical — but it was funny to imagine a head stuck through a hole in the mountain, the entire body crouched behind, while the subject hopes to maintain a dignified, presidential expression.

Then Julian noticed small shapes crossing over Lincoln’s face.  Birds, he thought initially, but they lacked the grace of natural flight.

One shape seemed to hang in place, dangling from Roosevelt’s moustache — desperate, in danger of falling, like Eva Marie Saint before Cary Grant grabbed hold of her arm.

Julian felt a twinge of jealousy.  He’d been confined to an observation area, told that was as close as he was allowed to venture.  Yet some other park visitors had special permission, perhaps a premium ticket that allowed them to crawl and climb over the giant heads.  Either that, or they were daredevils who snuck past roped areas to attempt unauthorized stunts.

As the shapes continued to crawl, a sound of gunfire emerged, like when the spies shot at Cary Grant.

Julian squinted, wishing he had binoculars for a closer look. The section of rock that one of the daredevils clung to… turns out it wasn’t the bushy moustache of Teddy Roosevelt, but looked more like the seaweed curl around the mouth of a hideous catfish.

That’s when Julian reminded himself he wasn’t actually visiting Mount Rushmore.

A small mountain range rose along the southern border of his hometown, and he’d always wondered what it might be like for monument heads to be carved into the rock.

One day it happened, not just near him, but in the face of mountains across the world: giant heads, far more sinister than the posed heads of respected historical figures, appeared overnight.

Not human heads at all.  Faces of demons, in an obscene parody of the national monument.

Awful stone bodies perhaps lay buried beneath each head, prepared to emerge from crumbling mountains.

Here, outside Julian’s hometown, the whirl of helicopter blades filled the air, followed by gunfire.  Bullets bounced harmlessly off granite.

The mountain roared, and began to move.