Ahhhh, the Ouray Historical Museum, Ouray Colorado. What's one of my favorite things about camping out-of-state? Why, checking out the local culture, of course.
Doooders and I pulled on clean shirts, brushed our teeth, slapped a little deodorant on to be respectable, then trotted off to see the museum this day. Cultural sites, usually local bikers' bars, gabby coffee houses, tasty diners, small volunteer-run museums are all places where you can tap into the pulse of a community and find out what it's really like.
This particular museum, I was thrilled to find, is housed in the old former "Miner's Hospital." So I was overjoyed. Maybe I'd catch a ghost on my camera, I eagerly thought, as the stairs going up to the second floor creaked impressively under my feet. I copiously snapped pictures, hoping to catch a shadowed form, perhaps a miner in his last throes of death, I imagined.
The museum was silent--the way museums that are likely haunted should be. Volunteer curators whispered to each other as if they were librarians, everyone talking softly under their breath.
Whoever put the exhibits together had a fairly dubious sense of humor, I found, on the second floor, in the room that was the old "Operating Room." The placard on an easel near the exhibit cheerily reminded us, there was no such thing as anesthesia or cleanliness during operations.
A mannequin from the 1960's dressed as a miner from the 1800's lay on a gurney with a fake blood soaked towel wrapped around what appeared to be an amputated leg. A bottle of Jack Daniels sat jauntily by his side. How cheery, I thought. Nearby, a 1960's female mannequin dressed as a nurse with an astoundingly bad wig, looked on, holding a scalpel. It was all rather alarming in a ghoulish sort of way, and I hoped the local grade-schools thought twice about taking a field trip here.
Suddenly, the quiet solitude of the museum was broken by boisterous voices from outside.
"Ahhhhhh!" Dooders and I shouted as we accidentally bumped into a stuffed black bear with a dog-like collar reading "Jimmy" on it. "Cripes," I exclaim. Apparently, "Jimmy" had been the miners' doctor's pet, but had to be taken down as he had gotten "too friendly with visitors."
I looked out the window and saw a gigantic truck, a dualie, the kind you'd expect to see in the Dukes of Hazard, one that had to be driven by someone with a name like Rooffus or Bufford. I glanced at the license plate and noted it was from Texas. I looked down the stairwell, to a large Texan family loudly entering the museum.
I say "large" because all of them were large, fleshy things, sort of reminding me of something from Honey Boo-boo. There was a grandmother, a great-grandmother, a great-great grandmother, a mom and a dad in loud tourists' shirts and an assortment of mewling children.
But what struck me as amazing was their deep southern accents. I could hardly understand them. It was as if they were from a foreign country speaking a different language.
"Hey Paw, whaaaaaaaaaaaazzz dat dare?" the littlest boy asked his father and pointing a fleshy hand to a mining tool.
"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaayle, daaaaat's a shit-shoveler, sawwwwwn." Then the father proceeded to read every placard to every single solitary exhibit aloud, in astoundingly high volumes, to everyone in the family--to everyone in the museum, I might add.
The windows shook as he thunderously spoke. Glass figurines threatened to topple. I wanted to shout, "SILENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" and sternly point to the sign on the wall to be quiet, but the Texan family treated the museum as a carnival, everyone gleefully shouting, hopping about and reading every placard in the place in voluminous tones.
Worse still was the awful stench of Axe the father wore. He must have sprayed the entire bottle on that day, coating his hair, skin, clothing, hat and shoes with it.
It gave Doooder a headache, so we escaped to the rock-exhibit in the other part of the basement, but the Texans followed us to there, too. It was if we were all playing hide-and-go seek.
"OMG," Dooders moaned holding her head. "That Axe-man is giving me a migraine."
"Don't worry Doooder. I'll find a place for us to hide." But there weren't any places, and The Texans were happily trotting around the corner to greet us.
I looked for an escape hatch, an emergency exit, but there was nothing.
So we knew our time was up, admitted defeat and headed to the haunted hotel bar down the street for brews and aspirins.
Doooder's headache abated; the beer flowed, and the Texans never followed us there, thank goodness . . . Stay tuned!