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Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series
People-watching is a great pastime, just about anywhere you are. Driving around Mount Rushmore National Memorial like I do all day offers a specific genre that I’ve enjoyed this summer.
My principal job is driving a van to shuttle employees between the concession building and either the dorm or the RV park, both for work and meals. I make more than a dozen trips during my eight-hour shift, most of them almost three miles to-and-from the dorm and some almost seven miles for the RV park.
That’s not far, but the route (which is the only way short of almost an hour) loops us around the parking area, in front of the main gate and by a small turnout where folks can stop briefly and admire the four faces without having to enter the parking garage and pay that fee.
It’s there, at that turnout, where I have my most interesting sightings, brief as they are as I race by at 30-35 mph. That’s where people will pose for a photo with the memorial in the background. For the most part, it’s a simple photo op, but some are more entertaining.
One of the most enjoyable is seeing a person or, more likely, a group of people posing for a photo for a photographer who is obviously not a member of the traveling party. For instance, the photo subjects are an elderly couple dressed in standard tourist garb while the volunteer photographer is a grizzled motorcyclist decked out in leather and bandana.
A standard is one or more kids lined up with bored looks on their faces for the mandatory photo. Another is the arm-stretched selfie and no small number of selfie sticks.
Of course, some of them attempt to get creative.
Just the other day, I saw a boy with both arms curved above his head, clearly positioned to make it look as if he was holding the entire memorial.
The most common in that vein is the person with one finger stuck up in the air and, almost always, a silly grin on his or her face. You can bet those folks are positioned with their fingers strategically placed under George Washington’s nose.
I’ve also seen people park their motorcycles, bicycles and even cars just right so they can get a photo of their wheeled baby with the memorial in the background.
And then there are the props … probably my favorite category.
I’ve seen folks posing with what appeared to be a Flat Stanley or a stuffed animal.
Or an animal.
There was a guy early one morning that I saw at least three times while I was coming and going. He put a lot of effort into getting just the right photo with a baby goat, which was wearing a blue bicycle helmet and some sort of a blue garment I just cannot describe.
But my favorite was neither person nor pet but vegetable.
Early this season, there was work going on at the concession that forced me out of my usual parking place, so I walked back and forth to the public parking lot. This particular time, however, I only had 10 or 15 minutes between runs, so I drove down past the memorial to the profile view.
This small parking lot offers a closeup look at the right side of Washington, but you cannot see the others. It’s a neat sight.
There, I sat in my van until time to begin the next run. A small SUV parked across the way. The driver hopped out, opened the back hatch and removed what looked like a jar of canned cucumbers. Placing the jar on the roof of the car, he took out a camera and composed the photo of the canned vegetables in the foreground and our first president’s profile in the background.
My thought: “Grandma couldn’t take the trip with us, so we brought her famous pickles.”
Oh, the photo at the top doesn’t quite fit the topic here, but I couldn’t very well take photos of people taking photos while I’m driving. Last week, however, I was at the memorial while off-duty and walked around a bit. I was sitting on the Grand View Terrace when I spotted a woman with a white rabbit on a leash. That still doesn’t rank with the pickles, in my book, but it’s a special sighting.