“I’m writing a column on persistence,” I told my wife. It’s a very important quality. By the way, do you think it’s one of MY qualities?”
“Hmmm…”, said she. “Well ,you persistently forget to let the water out of the bathtub.” She went on to note my persistent failure to put my dirty clothes in the laundry room, to remember to gas up the car, to…no use to bore you with the whole list. But I was sorry I’d asked.
I’ve read and heard many stories of remarkable men and women whose persistence was beyond belief . Some prime examples:
In 1972 I took my wife and two sons on a camping trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. We went to Mount Rushmore to see the gigantic carvings of the faces of four U.S. presidents. They were incredibly huge. But we were told of another monument being built, also in the Black Hills, of Sioux War chief Crazy Horse. He was a leader of the Indian forces that destroyed General Custer and his cavalry at the Little Big Horn Battle. We didn’t go to the site then as not much of the shape was yet visible.
In 2010 I went to the Black Hills again, this time with Esther, and we went to the Crazy Horse site. Only part of the face was visible. But when you realize that the face is at the very top of a mountain you are aghast at the size of it. And when finished , below the war-bonneted head will be the upper portion of the warrior’s body and the head and neck of his horse. The whole statue will be 563 feet (172 meters) high, taller than a 50 storey skyscraper. And, astonishingly, the face of Crazy Horse could contain all four of the faces on Mount Rushmore.
At first glance of the 2021 photos of the site it seems little different from what it was in 2010. Looking closer, the face has been completed in quality detail. The project has been a very slow and amazing undertaking by an amazing man.
Korezak Ziolkowski was a world famous sculptor. In 1948 he began working on his dream to create the world’s largest monument. For 34 years, until his death at 74, he laboured almost daily (for many of the early years alone except for his wife) on the project. He built a 700-foot stairway , an engine powered giant lift and an electric plant complete with power poles and lines.. He blasted and removed hundreds of tons of rock from the mountain to make trails to move equipment up and to prepare the site for the statue. His children were born after the project began and eventually went to work on it along with hired help. In time he had acquired a number of large machines to replace some of the grunt work. Since his death his family has taken over the job, his wife as manager. And if their will and perseverance matches their father’s the monument may yet be completed.
The Polynesians, it is thought, arrived in Hawaii around 1000 AD. They originally lived on Pacific Islands about 2265 miles (3638 km) south of Hawaii. They noticed that a bird, the Golden Plover, migrated northwards every year and returned months later. This, they believed, was because there was a land to the north more suited to them, perhaps with more room for their population. They set out in canoes from the Marquesas Islands to follow the bird, but couldn’t keep up with it and turned back. They continued the attempt--tiny boats on the huge and dangerous Pacific Ocean--year after year until they got to what we now call Hawaii and settled there, about 1000 AD. And how long did it take them to find it? At least 400 years in one account I read. Other sources use other numbers, 800 years according to one. Many details of the story are missing. The Polynesians of those years had no written record. But their accomplishment is a story of persistence and courage.
There are thousands of other examples of extreme determination. The most important recently might be the ability to come up with the vaccine for Covid 19 in just over a year--it normally takes several years for that to happen. This was possible because of medical scientists, willing research subjects , and medical practitioners world wide who sacrificed millions of hours of personal time to work long hard hours on the campaign .
And even closer to home for me, farmers who have often waited two, three four or more years for a crop that would bring in an actual profit, and decades to be considered viable, are first class examples of the persistent and determined.