Like a lot of celebrities, the Rock is smaller than you expect it to be. It's only about waist high. But it's sturdy and elegant nonetheless, rough in some places, smooth as glass in others. Though it's famous for stoking controversy, most people are moved to awestruck silence when they see it up close. It conveys grandeur and permanence. Even in its present surroundings, strapped to a flatbed that's littered with strips of dying turf and a stray tombstone, the Rock is magnificent.
It was meant to be so. You can see this in the detail, from the lofty inscriptions (Washington, Jefferson) to the quality of stone from which it was cut. When you build a monument in the Deep South, you normally get your granite from a quarry in Georgia. But the Rock is carved in Barre granite, from Vermont—the finest in the world, practically flawless in its consistency and almost as hard as sapphire. When you are paying obeisance to God, how could anything less suffice?
It doesn't look that heavy. That's what you think when the Rock is finally at rest. Then, if you're on tour with it, you see the twenty-three-foot crane on the back of the International flatbed jerk slowly to life and the entire contraption, which resembles a folded crab's claw, groan under the strain of 5,280 pounds of Barre granite. Even the pious tend to take a step backward. Or, if it is at home in Alabama, as it is now, a fifty-seven-foot yellow I-beam crane that spans the ceiling of the Clark Memorials warehouse drops down to retrieve the Rock from its chariot, and even this one—a five-ton crane!—buckles visibly under the weight. The Rock is so heavy that it has begun to slip the bond of the Italian industrial epoxy that fastens it to its granite base; the lead spacers beneath it that prevent the stone from cracking have been pounded as thin as a sheet of paper.