This Crazy Horse photo has a story behind itGreg Latza saved my life one afternoon in the parking lot of a hamburger joint in Lead. The farm kid from Letcher is an inductee into the South Dakota Hall of Fame this year. They will tell you he’s going into the hall because he makes amazing photographs with his cameras. In truth, he makes the pictures somewhere in his soul. The camera simply records what he sees there.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
Greg Latza saved my life one afternoon in the parking lot of a hamburger joint in Lead.
The farm kid from Letcher is an inductee into the South Dakota Hall of Fame this year. They will tell you he’s going into the hall because he makes amazing photographs with his cameras. In truth, he makes the pictures somewhere in his soul. The camera simply records what he sees there.
If he hadn’t been inducted for photography, I’d have recommended him for life saving. If he hadn’t put down that double-sized burger and followed me out to my Jimmy that day, I’d be a goner. And for Greg to put down a double-sized burger when he’d only taken a couple of bites, well, that was a sacrifice. When I came to my senses and realized he had left the restaurant just to see how I was doing, I was flat-out touched.
Here’s what happened. We were working for the newspaper. Greg was in Sioux Falls. I was in Pierre. We drove separately to Lead late one evening, to stay overnight and be at the Homestake Gold Mine at something like 5:30 the next morning for some safety training and a trip to the bottom of the soon-to-be-closed mine. The room where we received the safety lecture included a table with coffee, juice and donuts. I had a cup of coffee. Greg had juice and two, maybe three, donuts.
The schedule called for us to go down into the mine around 6 a.m. and to re-surface around noon. Nobody said anything about food and water. Big oversight. We got to the bottom, and we saw miners and machinery and more rock walls and ceilings and chambers than we could count. We were in the company of a guide and a French film crew of some sort. Those folks had bottled water and fruit-and-nut mix in their backpacks. They apparently didn’t have a watch, because they were around the corner recording something or other when the cage to the surface departed. The guide kept Greg and me down below, so our party would go up together in the next car.
It was several hours after noon when we got back to the surface. We were hungry and tired and thirsty, and we headed for the first restaurant we could find. I was feeling particularly peaked and ordered a huge meal. By the time the food arrived, I could hardly focus. I told Greg I needed some air, staggered out of the building and flopped down across the front seats of the Jimmy. I believe I passed out, because the next thing I knew, Greg was shaking my shoulder and encouraging me to drink some orange juice. I guess I was pretty disagreeable, but he kept at it, and finally I swallowed enough to make a difference. Then he handed me a banana, and then the best-tasting Snickers bar I’ve ever had.
We had a couple of stories scheduled in the next day in the Custer area, and we had rooms reserved in that city for the night. Greg fooled around Lead a couple of hours, shooting who knows what. I leaned back in my Jimmy and began to come back from my near-death experience. When I felt confident I could drive, we headed south, stopping at Hill City for steaks and grasshopper pie. That was at Greg’s suggestion, and it completed my recovery.
The next morning, we stopped at Crazy Horse. Rob, the public-relations guy, couldn’t get his truck to start, so we took my Jimmy up the back side of the mountain to the arm. Somewhere in my clips and files, I have a print of Greg’s photograph of my Jimmy, all 225,000 miles of it, to the side and below the massive face of the Crazy Horse sculpture.
Everybody takes pictures of the sculpture from the side facing the visitor’s center. Greg’s main piece of art for that assignment was from behind the sculpture, partway down the trail, with a mountain goat in the foreground and the face of Crazy Horse looming above it. Great image. I felt lucky I lived to see it.