As we entered, two friendly volunteers greeted us. We trod upon floors laid in tri-color memorial and donation tiles naming those who have contributed to this museum. One wall of this room contains an extensive collection of research materials, including newspapers and legal records. Visitors can take these to study them seated at tables provided for this purpose. I also found some excellent brochures and papers about the area in a corner of the museum that serves as a mini-visitor center.
Another large room is also laid in donor tile floor edged with glass display cases and collections. Old TVs look like they came straight out of my childhood. A medical collection includes a portable iron lung. Here are pianos, elaborately wood-carved organs, and phonographs with big listening horns. A small-scale 1930s matchstick church is surrounded by other miniature buildings. Three rows of old typewriters have found a home here. In one corner is an old-fashioned farm kitchen; in another, farm tools, including saws and scythes, are arranged artfully hanging on the wall.
Round another corner and you’re in yet another room with glass cases and World War II military clothing and memorabilia. Very worn leather pilots’ jackets lie next to crisp military dress uniforms that look like new. Here are photos and a scale model of the USS Chadron commissioned in 1942. Displays of weapons range from arrowheads to pistols to rifles.
Walk outside and enter the schoolhouse, where a school marm manikin stands lecturing by her desk behind the woodstove. A color-coded map of the "countries and their colonies" hangs on the wall. Walk over to the fully furnished settlers’ cabin and climb the stairs to the slope-roofed bedroom, where child manikins stand between beds and cribs, chamber pots underneath. Behind the cabin, a small barn contains a shiny, life-sized black-and-white cow and more farming implements. A local craftsman made and donated unique stained-glass windows to the old schoolhouse/church building to give it more of a churchy feel. Though most of the windows illustrate religious themes, the black steam engine stands out. Coveted railroad access meant survival for these outpost towns.
In the row of old farm equipment, robust weeds grow up through long-unused tractor blades, cultivators, and potato diggers. The museum grounds stand on the former farm of the pioneer Card family, who had lived there since 1910.
There’s no admission charge, but donations are accepted. The museum is open from 10am to 5pm weekdays and Saturdays and 1 to 5pm Sundays from Memorial Day to October 1. Call 308/432-4999 for further information.
Rodeo, New Mexico
March 30, 2005
From journal Forests and Fur Trade in Northwest Nebraska