The Devil's Rope Museum (and Margo telling me to hurry up)
We were back in our car and on our way. I fully expected to drive most of the way, at least, to Oklahoma City before we stopped again. (Why does that sound familiar?) But the ghosts of Route 66 kept calling. We drove another 15 minutes and reached McLean, TX. We would have blown right past it, without thinking twice, but a billboard proclaimed McLean as the home of “The Devil’s Rope Museum”. Now who, but the curiosity challenged could resist that. If Radiator Springs had such an attraction Lightning McQueen would not have been needed. Margo and I both agreed that we had to stop.
It looks like the end of the world to me
We were on vacation, and even though this would put us farther behind schedule, we are not slaves to said schedule. The schedule, I always put together, is just a guide. If you must do “this”, it will take this much time. You keep blocking out time with things you must do, factor in when “Must do” is open, factor in meals and sleep, and keep going until 24 hrs is filled. That is my schedule.
If you find something else you want to do, you cut back elsewhere. Well, we discovered we must do The Devil’s Rope Museum
and we will just have to cut back on walking in the metal softening Oklahoma
heat this afternoon. Maybe God wasn’t mad at me, after all.
Anyway, we pulled off of I-40, and followed the signs a short distance to the museum.
Barbed Wire Stetson
As we shortly found out the building houses two museums, the aforementioned museum dedicated to satanic rope, and The Texas Route 66 Museum. Bonus! Two for One! If it is air conditioned, it’s official, God is not upset with me for not visiting his cross at Groom
, TX. I took a few quick pictures outside and we went inside. The air was much cooler than the 100 plus degrees outside, so I could stop looking for lightning producing clouds.
We were greeted after a few minutes by a very nice, elderly lady. We told her we would like to tour the museum and asked how much admittance was. She informed us that it was free. “We just hope that if people enjoy the museum, they would leave a donation or maybe buy something from the gift shop.” That sounded both appealing and honest.
Barbed Wire Coyote
Honesty always impresses me, so even it the museum was less fun than a cleaning up after your dog ate a pot of green chili (happened to me, I have perspective), I was leaving a decent donation.
My expectations were not high. I have been to many museums, in many states, and from the outside this one didn’t look too impressive. You could tell they were not relying on big funding from the government to run the place. It is housed in a cinder block building that used to be a bra factory (No Kiddin’!) with a dirt and gravel parking lot. The weeds are kept under control by the lack of rain and car traffic. I figured we would get bored in 15 minutes, and be out in twenty. Wrong! We were there for over an hour and could have spent more!
The first thing we came to was an exhibit of photos from the Dust Bowl.
Burma Shave would set these signs up along the highway, so you could read the poem as you drive
Margo was not interested in the Dust Bowl. She went straight into the Devil’s Rope Museum
. I am a history buff, and decided this was something I wanted to see. I knew very little about this time. I knew it happened in the early to mid 1930s. It featured dust storms and drought. Lots of people picked up and moved. Tragedy summed up in three sentences. But, when I looked at the pictures of the actual dust storms my first thought was “Armageddon” This looks like something out of the bible, after locust (which I later found out, also plagued the Dusters) didn’t work. When I thought “dust storms”, I thought some blowing dust that made life unpleasant. No, these things were 1000s of feet tall and dark. They could blot out the sun. The blowing sand would create enough static electricity to knock a man down when he shook hands. Or, it would short out the electrical system of a car.
Original Route 66 sign
Barbed wire fences would glow with St Elmos Fire. The display was a small, but powerful display of pictures. I knew that the gift shop had just made a sale if they carried a book on the subject. I headed out to find Margo
OK, I’ve ignored the obvious question for long enough. Devil’s Rope is barbed wire. This is not a common term for the item, even here in Colorado. I had heard the reference before, but long ago. When I first saw the sign, I couldn’t recall what it was referring to. When we pulled in and saw the two large balls of barbed wire our front, it clicked. This click also triggered the “In and Out in 20 minutes switch” to be thrown, two paragraphs ago. I figured even if there are 1000 kinds of barbed wire, would I really care? The answer was “I didn’t have to”.
Bill and the Big Texan Steer.
The museum was not just a collection of the many different kinds of barbed wire. It did have those. But there was also art out of barbed wire, a village made out of barbed wire, and even barbed wire used as telephone lines. There was an exhibit on tools and the techniques to string barbed wire. There was a display from Australia
. They even had, what had to have been a 100 year old horse drawn wagon used for stringing barbed wire, back when the combustion engine was a novelty. Margo and I both found this part of the museum very interesting and it was worth the stop alone.
But we still had the Route 66 museum to tour. I’d like to say this was a trip down memory lane, but I needed to be about 20-30 years older for most of the exhibits to really ring home. That isn’t to say we didn’t enjoy it, we did.
Old Phillips 66 gas pump
We just enjoyed from a television perspective. There were plenty of things we did remember. There was an old style diner and lunch counter set up. Margo and I both remember the old Woolworths in Brighton
, that had one. They made a really good chocolate shake. And there was the display of antique road signs, including an actual Route 66 one. A lot of those ended up being taken down by the citizenry when it was announced The Mother Road was being inactivated.
Things like the Burma Shave road signs, where something we had only seen on TV. And the old, tall, clear gas pump from a Phillips 66. Another item from a bygone era that only the magic of television had made available to us of the '70s and '80s.
I lost track of the amount of time we spent there. I knew we needed to get going, but there was no way we were skipping the gift shop. I found my Dust Bowl book (“The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan. A surprisingly good read!) and we found another $50 worth of stuff we had to have. After paying our bill, we went back out in the Texas heat, got back on I-70 and headed east.