I love visiting Mount Rushmore – what an awe-inspiring, national treasure right here in South Dakota! Did you know it was originally described to the artist as a plan to feature Western figures like Lewis and Clark and Buffalo Bill? But Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor, chose instead to sculpt something that would incite national interest. The project was primarily funded privately until President Coolidge spent the summer of 1927 in the Black Hills and was so impressed with Borglum’s vision for the area, that he secured significant federal funding to pay for the project. Amazingly, ninety percent of the mountain was carved using dynamite; the workers were so skilled in knowing how much dynamite was needed to blast off rock that they were able to get within three to five inches of the final faces!
When viewing Mount Rushmore, it’s easy for people to marvel at its grandeur. However, learning the history of the project – the obstacles people overcame, the decisions made and risks taken – presents a far richer story about the significance of the achievement.
The same holds true of your family’s history. I always appreciate the opportunity to meet new people but cannot tell you how much my appreciation grows as I sit and listen to the stories of how families toiled in times of drought, or fought to keep their land during the 1980s, or rejoiced (with a bit of fear) when they won the bid at the land auction, and the list goes on. These family histories, including those of how land was acquired or operations built (often with extended family), are so very important.
I believe the story of the legacy being passed down needs to be put into writing for future generations. I do not want beneficiaries to see their parents or grandparents as just a “balance sheet.” You are so much more than a balance sheet! As you reflect on your circumstances, can you remember how certain land was acquired? Did the land pass down from grandma and grandpa? Did you buy it on auction – what were you thinking as you placed your bid? Was there a great neighbor who sold it to you at a reasonable price? Did you have limited machinery and equipment? Did you work two jobs? Recording these details gives loved ones who were not there a glimpse of the greater story of the land, and more importantly, what your family has achieved.
I recall one client’s story of having three tractors but only two batteries. Not being able to afford another battery, they would take the battery from one tractor and use it in the other. I also remember one gentleman recalling that they had no running water in the house for 10 years. His wife kindly corrected him that it was actually 15 years; she remembered the cold winter trips to the outhouse. This was in the early 1970s, yes 1970s. Their goal was to pay off the land, and they did without. I have heard these stories and am utterly impressed with the sacrifices. But have their children heard? Will their grandchildren know?
I realize that this may take some time to put your history into words. This process may conjure up some great, or perhaps even painful, memories. However, if you are willing to reflect on that history, we can help put that story in a form that will be tangible, long-lasting, and ready to share with those you love. It does not need to be formal or flashy, simply genuine. As you pass on your legacy, take hold of the opportunities to share the greater story that lies beneath what the eye can see to reveal the true legacy to be cherished.