London Calling

I’ve learned some really cool things about the Black Hills during the course of my job. Like the fact that there is a secret chamber behind Abraham Lincoln’s head on Mount Rushmore that functions as a time capsule of sorts for future generations. It contains copies of important historical documents like the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and the Constitution, as well as the history of the mountain carving. The idea is that, if some folks stumble upon this mountain carving 1,000 years from now and are like, “WTF is that?!” they’ll have the answer at their fingertips. Assuming they can pry open the 1,200-lb. granite slab blocking the entrance.

The whole thing is a little unnerving though, because if some future civilization has no written record of Mount Rushmore, then we’re assuming a worst-case scenario like an  out-of-hand coronavirus that wipes out humanity. Cheery thought!

Hidden chamber leading to the Hall of Records.

In any case, once I heard about this Hall of Records, as the hidden repository is called, I knew immediately that I wanted to check it out and asked one of my coworkers if I could “pull my media card” and ask for a tour. After he stopped laughing so hard tears were streaming down his face and realized I was serious, he let me know the chances of that happening are pretty much zero. Once upon a time, the National Park Service used to invite select groups of people to check out the Hall of Records, but then in 2009 a bunch of Greenpeace activists gained access and unfurled a giant banner over the monument decrying global warming, and that put an end to the tours.

But hey, you never know if you don’t ask, right? I’m writing a legitimate story about the Hall of Records, so if they want to pull a Bloomberg and stop-and-frisk me for a hidden banner stuffed in my pants, more power to them.

I’m a huge Jack London fan; as a child, he was the author who pretty much ignited my love of reading. I devoured Call of the Wild, White Fang, and The Sea Wolf with the same zeal I hold today for lava lamps and Bloody Marys and Pink Floyd records. I found his writing to be very accessible and lacking the simplicity and gimmickry of, say, a Hemingway. His tales were set in exotic locations and featured colorful characters, both human and animal. One of London’s biggest strengths in my opinion was his ability to anthropomorphize animals. He wrote so convincingly of Buck’s transformation from domestic pet in sun-drenched California to alpha dog of the Yukon who (spoiler alert!) answers the call of the wild that I believed with every fiber of my being the thoughts attributed to the St. Bernard-Scotch Collie mix.

All of this is to say that when I learned there was a new Call of the Wild movie starring Harrison Ford coming out, I knew I had to see it. And yesterday we did. The reviews have been mixed, with a lot of people deriding the fact that Buck is a CGI creation and not a real dog, but I think this is rather silly given that one of Ford’s most popular roles had him starring alongside an 8′ tall shaggy brown creature whose speech is made up of wails, growls and moans.


The movie was pretty good escapist fare. I felt a little bad because it was a sunny, warm day—at least by South Dakota standards—that would have lent itself to outdoor exploration. But I got over that quickly, especially when we followed up the film with pizza and beers at Independent Ale House. They’re one of the few places in town that offers decent sours on tap—the only beer I can even remotely stand.

Tonight, we’re going to barbecue chicken on the grill before the next round of snow arrives tomorrow.

19 thoughts on “London Calling

  1. Interesting about the Hall of Records. I loved those London books when I was a kid, too. I’ll probably see the movie eventually. Glad you enjoyed it. Last night I learned of a bar nearby that has all sorts of odd flavored beer. If that weren’t enough to want to give it a try, they also have an ax-throwing wall! It’s definitely on our list now. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What’s the deal with this newfound popularity in axe-throwing? There’s actually an axe-throwing business here in town. Personally, I’d be more inclined to go there rather than a bar. Too many of those oddly-flavored beers and you might miss the wall entirely. Ouch!


  2. I didn’t know about the Hall of Records, so thank you. I feel better informed. I never liked London books as a kid and have never tried to read one as an adult. I have no problem with a CGI dog, but then I’m more pragmatic than judge-y. Except about not liking London books in general, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mark, that is so intriguing about the hidden chamber because I think a lot people don’t know that. I know I certainly didn’t. Looking forward to reading your story!

    Speaking of Call of the Wild, I spotted a clip from the movie on YouTube. Did not know about the dog being CGI though. It looks so real!

    Hope you had a super weekend, my friend. Enjoy your grilled barbecue chicken!


    1. I have to say, they did an excellent job with the CGI. Buck’s mannerisms are very realistic-looking! Maybe that’s why I have no problem overlooking the fact that he’s a computer-generated canine.

      Hope your weekend was a blast, Ron!


  4. That’s cool about the hidden chamber. I once toured the hidden bunker at Greenbrier. Scary what the government hides, that’s all I’m saying!

    And seriously, SOURS? That’s the beer you like? It’s the only kind I can’t handle. And makes little sense since you like those fruit wines that are uber sweet!


    1. Actually, I can’t stand sweet wines. The fruit ones I like are either tart (rhubarb) or dry (traditional grape-based). I’ve always been drawn to bold, intense flavors – kombucha, pickles, drinking vinegar. I just don’t like the hoppy, malty bitterness of traditional beer. Sours are right up my alley!

      My dad was stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB for three years in the 1970s and I am half-convinced the Air Force is hiding a UFO in one of the hangars!


      1. Ok, for some reason, I thought you liked those sweet wines. I love sauerkraut, pickles, and use straight vinegar on my salad, but I just can’t drink those sour beers!


  5. This is the first time I have heard about the secret chamber. It never hurts to ask re access and tours. I have also heard mixed reviews about this movie. We used to live in the Yukon so I was immediately curious where the movie was filmed. In California. Good escapist fare is still fun and entertaining. On my list.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I did not love Jack London as a kid, I more appreciate him now, but still not my thing. Now, Gary Paulsen books, especially Hatchett, entertained me much more — but again, by then I was in my 20s and teaching.
    I totally relate to your Wookie commentary. Solid argument.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Never knew about the hall of records. I wasn’t going to believe it until you showed the entrance. Too bad some people with agendas (whether their cause is right or wrong) spoiled it for the rest of us. Thanks again for the pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

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