Tuesday, April 22, 2003

The Black Hawk Blog.

The cast is gone! My foot is liberated! The bone is healed, but some of my foot muscles are still stiff. Now I have a removable Air-Stirrup® Ankle Brace for support, and it’s sometimes irritating. But I can take it off.

Last Friday, the first place we drove to was Oregon. Oregon, Illinois, that is, the county seat of Ogle County. My ambition there was to see the Black Hawk statue.

(On U.S. 2 in western Massachusetts going westbound, there’s a bend in the road that suddenly reveals a large sign: ENTERING FLORIDA. The hamlet of Florida, Mass. I always got a kick out of that sign.)

Black Hawk can be found in Lowden State Park, which is just north of Oregon. At 207 acres, Lowden isn’t very large as state parks go, and with its picnic grounds and playground equipment, it looks more like a city park. But it does have camp grounds and ranger’s quarters. Like elsewhere, the trees were only beginning to bud, but the grass was green.

Small road signs in the park said, “Statue —>”. These lead to a small parking lot behind the Black Hawk statue, and you need to walk around it to see his frontside. The statue, made of concrete, is about 50 feet high and stands on a bluff overlooking the Rock River and some of the town of Oregon. The head and neck represent an Indian, looking pensively off into the distance. His arms are folded in front of his chest, and from there on down the statue is less representational, but is clearly a human form. The view from the foot of the statue is that of an impressively large blob of concrete topped by its Native American head & shoulders. From down below on the river, I suspect it looks more like a large, looming figure.

It's known as the Black Hawk statue, though I’ve read that the artist who created it, Lorado Taft, didn’t call it that. His name for it was the “Eternal Indian.” The following is from the Lowden State Park Web site:

“Lorado Taft, who created the statue as a tribute to Native Americans, is said to have thought of the figure one evening as he and other members of the Eagles' Nest [artists’] colony stood gazing at the view from the bluffs. According to a story attributed to Taft, he and his colleagues tended to stand with their arms folded over their chests. The pose made him think of the Native Americans who were so reverent of the beauty of nature and who probably had enjoyed the same view.

“With the help of John G. Prasuhn, a young sculptor of the Chicago Art Institute, Taft created a figure almost 50 feet tall, including a six-foot base. Reinforced with iron rods, the hollow statue is eight inches to three feet thick. The interior is accessible to park employees through a door at the base. The outer surface, composed of cement, pink granite chips and screenings, is three inches thick.

“The figure is estimated to weigh 100 tons and is thought to be the second largest concrete monolithic statue in the world. Although Taft dedicated the statue to Native Americans, it has become commonly associated with Black Hawk.”

And where is the largest? Perhaps an old commie monument. It's just as well that the statue should be associated with the Indian chief, since Black Hawk lived around the Rock River, and the area was the scene of his resistance, ultimately futile, to being resettled across the Mississippi. That incident, called the Black Hawk War, occurred in 1832 in this part of Illinois and in southern Wisconsin, and involved the participation of (among many others), Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis and Zachary Taylor.

From Merrian-Webster’s “Webster’s New Biographical Dictionary,” 1983 edition, which has provided me much happy browsing over the years:

“Black Hawk. Indian name, Ma-ka-ta-i-me-she-kia-kiak. 1767-1838. American Indian leader, b. near present Rockford, Ill. A leader of the Sauk and Fox tribe; ally of the British in the War of 1812; rival of pro-U.S. Keokuk; returned from Iowa to original Illinois lands with 1,000 followers (1832); failed to gain assistance of other tribes; defeated by Illinois militia and U.S. army troops at Bad Axe River, Wis. (Aug. 1-2, 1832). Ward of Keokuk (1833-38).

“Taft, Lorado Zadoc. 1860-1936. American sculptor, b. Elmwood, Ill. Studio in Chicago (from 1886); taught at Art Institute of Chicago (1886-1929); exercised important influence on development of sculpture in Middle West. In addition to many portrait busts, executed “Solitude of the Soul” (1911), “Black Hawk,” a heroic statue in Oregon, Ill. (1911), Columbus Memorial Fountain in Washington, DC (1912), Fountain of the Great Lakes (1913), the colossal Fountain of Time (1922) in Chicago, and the Thatcher Memorial Fountain in Denver (1917)…”


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