That Thing with George Jefferson

Mount Rushmore fascinated my oldest daughter, Natalea, from an early age. I don’t know why. When she was eight or nine years old, my ex-wife and I decided to take a road trip with our kids to Mount Rushmore, but we kept our destination a secret.

So, one summer day, we loaded up the family vehicle.  I believe it was a Grand Cherokee because I know this took place before I rolled my Ford Explorer into Boulder Creek during a blizzard.  (Shout out to Rick Dirr).

As we headed for the Black Hills,  the kids were excited and kept asking where we were going, but each time they asked we just repeated, “It’s a surprise.” To be fair, I tried to give them hints by repeatedly singing, “Now somewhere in the black mining hills of Dakota, there lived a young man named Rocky Raccoon, and one day his woman ran off with another guy, hit young Rocky in the eye.” This may have been a factor in my divorce. Not sure. But I digress.

We stopped at Guernsey State Park in Wyoming for a swim, then continued on to Lusk, which has little to recommend it, though it does have a Sinclair station to offers Coca-Cola products rather than Pepsi products. From there we crossed into South Dakota and drove through Custer State Park.  Custer State Park is to buffalo what today’s Republican party is to ignorant people. You see a lot of buffalo when you drive through Custer State Park, and the children enjoyed that.

From there, we began the last leg of our journey.  As we got within a few miles of the monument, we turned a corner and for just a second you could see Mount Rushmore between some rock formations before it vanished from sight. Sure enough, Natalea saw it and became extremely excited. “That thing,” she said. “I saw that thing.”

“What thing, Natalea?”

“That thing.  That thing with George Jefferson.”

I knew right then I had just heard the funniest thing I would ever hear in my life, and that my life was over because it would all be downhill now. I suppressed my sadness and said, “Oh Natalea, we are one thousand miles away from Mount Rushmore. You must be imagining things.”

“No,” she insisted.  “I saw it.  I saw that thing.” We eventually arrived at the monument, and the jig was up.  The kids knew our destination. Natalea got to see Mount Rushmore.

Natalea had no way of knowing she had confused two American presidents with the star of a TV sitcom than ran for more than ten years. But even at the age of eight she could spell “coffee” correctly. And she never confused 9/11 with 7/11.

Natalea is a geologist now, and maybe that trip to Mount Rushmore had something to do with that. She’s about to begin graduate school.  You could say she’s movin’ on up.

As for George Jefferson, why shouldn’t he be on Mount Rushmore? People seriously think Trump should be on it, so George Jefferson would be an a fortiori case.  It wasn’t easy for a black man to own a successful dry cleaning chain in New York in the 1970’s. And, as far as I know, George Jefferson was the first person to use the word “honky” on national TV.  That’s good enough for me.

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