Impressed by Industry

We viewed the workmanship of creative minds and industrious hands at Mount Rushmore last week. We weren’t able to stay for the evening lighting ceremony, which we enjoyed many years ago when we visited Rushmore for the first time. Make time for that if you go. During that program the ranger highlighted stories about these men carved on the face of the mountain and how their courageous choices provided direction for our country to follow.

During last week’s visit, the gift shop hosted one of the original artisan workers on the monument. I prodded my kids to approach him with a question. We talked to this small-framed older gentleman for a few minutes. I wanted to extend some compliment of gratitude for his contribution.

I muttered dumbly, “It’s very impressive.”

To which he responded, “There’s nothing like it.”

He was right. The thought, inspiration, planning and execution is like nothing else. I appreciated the originality and skill of the monument to our nation’s freedom and leadership. His was an apt description of any creative work.

Still, after I left I said to myself, “Yes, but I’ve seen something akin to it.”

Two days before we had toured another man-made creation from a mountain. Both used dynamite and heavy equipment, labor and industry. Each produced a  feeling of awe and inspired me to create and produce myself.

What was this other place we visited? Kennecott Utah Copper’s Bingham Canyon Mine.

I have three pictures that pan this site, and this is just the center one. Even though you can take a virtual tour online, you can not imagine the size and scope of the largest man-made excavation on earth until you visit it.

We stood on the rim of the visitor’s center and looked down into this open-pit mine that is 2¾ miles across and ¾ of a mile deep.   The trucks, big as houses with tires as tall as my garage, still seemed like toy trucks in comparison as they drove five or six in a row around the edge of the pit.

More than the size impressed me. This mine produces tons—literally. Twenty-four hours per day and seven days a week those trucks haul enormous loads of ore containing copper, gold, silver and molybdenum to the in-pit crusher. This starts the process of separating the valuable minerals from the waste rock, concentrating the copper and refining the metals into products we use every day—all developed and maintained with creative problem solving.

Viewing both these places only two days apart reminded me of a statement by John Adams which is quoted in the HBO miniseries about him.

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain. — John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, 1780

Today we have the choice to pursue any of these industries. Yet in our vast choices we often overlook the value that some add to our lives. At the mine, in particular, I realized how many technological advances and common household items require the minerals they produce.

As a creative individual I readily acknowledge creativity in the arts that add refinement to our lives, but I miss the artistry of industrial work and how it helps me produce.  If I were to rewrite Adam’s statement for our time and my life, I would have to not only pay homage to the leaders of the past who’ve brought me the freedom to choose what I write but also the mining engineers, miners, equipment operators and all the others who produce the materials I use to write and publish in the very same day.

1 Comment

  1. Rebecca
    Aug 14, 2009

    Yet another Utah tour site I have not seen! But it’s on my very long list.

    I really love that quote. I’ve never heard it before.

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