See a Gusher of Artifacts and History at the Salt Creek Museum [PHOTOS, VIDEO]
The Midwest Oilers football team, much like last year, is off to a strong start. They recently returned from an explosive 72-21 victory over the Farson Eden Pronghorns. Unlike last year, they have to resort to playing six man ball now, instead of nine. Despite the tremendous effort and extra conditioning this takes, respect is still one of the most difficult things for the Oilers to achieve. Such is the boom-n-bust life of northern Natrona County.
I mention this because it continues to signal the furthering disappearance of the once thriving and vibrant community of Midwest, Wyoming. And regardless of the herculean effort extended by several proud individuals-its glory days are mostly likely behind her and she will eventually go the way of the Wyoming ghost town as so many have before her. People still have a hard time believing that this sometimes stinky little suburb once housed over 15,000 people, hosted the first lighted night football game in the nation, and stood in the shadow of the infamous Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s. It was, in fact, one of many "camps" that would dot this unique area.
So take her in while you have the chance people! I would urge you to go out to this little outpost 40 miles north on I-25 and at the least, visit the Salt Creek Museum. Drop a small good-will offering and glimpse a life away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Here you'll find no Dee the Mammoth, no priceless paintings, or exotic wildlife. What you will find are memories, artifacts, kitsch, and other mementos that serve to document some 100 plus years of life in the oilfield.
For this we can thank and applaud one of Midwest's proudest and finest-Mrs. Pauline Schultz. In 1980, Pauline would take an armload of personal memorabilia collected over the years and begin to catalog and display it all in one small space, a former patients' room in the old hospital which would later serve as the town hall. Pauline's careful preservation, attention, tirelessness, and lobbying efforts now take up a whole building and have resulted in one of the finest jewels still to be found out in that field. These efforts were even applauded on a national level when President George W. Bush made her the recipient of a 2007 Medal of Honor for the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities.
While we're at it, we should acknowledge Mr. Ed Bille, author of "Early Days at Salt Creek and Teapot Dome," for his very significant contributions to the Museum. Also in line for kudos, Sandra Schutte, current curator of the museum. Having grown up in the area, Sandra provided me with plenty of access, and a wealth of information and history of which I was not even aware.
As someone who absolutely loves images and stories of the past-especially ones involving my heritage, I probably sound a little biased. And I am. It's not the Guggenheim. You can see everything from an old barber chair to an antique mimeograph machine to a partially restored doctor's examination room from the 1920's. You'll also be treated to a "Mangle," antique wheels, hubs, machines, tools, photographs, maps, and every sort of knickknack. There's even an old clock hanging on the wall in one of the front rooms. Glued to the upper corner of this clock is a picture of my great-grandmother. At the bottom of this ancient plastic treasure, an old label maker tape inscribed: "In memory of Mildred Johnson." I find this so cool! Mildred, like thousands of others that made "the patch" their home, certainly deserves to be remembered.
My grandfather is also a presence in the museum. He was a Boy Scout leader, was the driving force behind the all-volunteer EMS service, rose to the upper ranks of the Lions Club, played an active role with the school district and local V.F.W., earned Volunteer of the Year honors several times, and donated countless hours to a community that prospered, thanks in no small part to him.
Oh, how I miss them all! Even though I've had to leave my little hometown of Midwest to find my own calling, I am still so proud and humbled by the work of my parents, grandparents, relatives, and others who made it the greatest home during my youth that a little Cowboy Troy could ever hope for. Sometimes I wish I could just bottle up all of the values, generosity, and the spirit that I grew up with. I think the world would be a better place.
So in essence, there's something for everyone at the Salt Creek Museum, and it's sure to bring back a lot of memories for those who visit it.
Hours are 8 am until 5 pm, five days a week. Tours are also available by appointment, and Sandy and Bill would love to entertain you with the stories and legacy of this historic place. Just call 307-437-6678 or 307-277-5565
I would like to personally toast Pauline Schultz for going above and beyond in taking on the task of preserving a sizable part of our history and way of life, and in doing so...keeping both a dream and a town, alive. Cheers!