I am on the phone with Gerard Baker, superintendent of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial outside of Keystone, S.D.
Me: Have you begun work on carving Ronald Reagan's head into the mountain?
Me: Well, is there any timetable for that?
Gerard: No, sir. We haven't begun it, and we're not going to do it.
Me: You're kidding.
Gerard: No, sir. Why?
Me: Well, I just assumed. They're talking about putting Reagan on the dime and/or the $10 bill. His name is already on the airport here, so now it's got the longest, stupidest name of any airport in the world, other than "Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Flughafen airport" in Salzburg.
Me: I checked.
Me: So, anyway, I figured it was already in the works.
Gerard: There's no room for another head. The problem is, according to our studies, there is no more usable rock up there. There are too many fissures and cracks.
Me: Well, you know, Reagan's face was pretty fissured.
Me: So, you're saying it's structurally impossible?
Gerard: That's what our studies say.
Me: Well, if there is one thing Reagan taught us, it's that actual facts do not have to stand in the way of optimism. He said that at least 2,349 times, including most famously during his meeting with Stalin and Churchill at Yalta in 1945.
Gerard: I know.
Me: You do?
Me: So, do you think it'll get done? Reagan on Rushmore?
Gerard: No chance, my friend.
Me: Well, wait a minute. Are you looking out at the mountain right now?
Me: Well, look at that outcropping to the right of Lincoln. You see it?
Me: I'll show it to the readers here.
[picture of Mt. Rushmore here]
Me: That's pretty much Reagan's hair, right there. Half your work is done!
Gerard: Ha-ha. No.
Me: Okay, well, if you say so, I'm prepared to abandon that idea, and I'm sure America will, too. If there's no room to add it, there's no room to add it.
Me: So, how about if we have a sculptor redo Teddy's face and turn it into Reagan's?
Me: I mean, most Americans don't even remember what Teddy did. What did he do, anyway?
Gerard: He created a lot of national park areas.
Me: That's not exactly like ending the Cold War single-handedly, like Reagan did, with only his ax and his blue ox, Babe.
Gerard: I guess they could put Reagan on the other side.
Gerard: I didn't say that, officially.
Me: You know, people really like Reagan. Putting him on the mountain could help tourism. You can use all the tourists you can get. I don't need to remind you that you are in South Dakota, do I? Is there anything else to do in South Dakota?
Gerard: There's a lot to do!
Gerard: There's the Crazy Horse monument. And Indian reservations. And the continuation of the Black Hills.
Me: The continuation . . .
Gerard: . . . of the Black Hills.
Me: This is a tough interview, huh?
Gerard: It's only my second week on the job.
Me: Wow. I'm sorry.
Gerard: It's okay.
Me: I guess we're done, anyway. I'll give up. No Reagan on Mount Rushmore.
Me: How about Ray Charles?
Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is email@example.com. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.