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Published: January 23rd 2008
Obfuscator writes: How would you like to spend the day in a museum? How would you like to spend the day in a freezer? How would you like to spend the day in a museum that was colder than most freezers? These are the questions you must ask yourself if you are considering visiting Harold Warp's Pioneer Village in the town of Minden, Nebraska and the season happens to be winter.
We left our motel in Kearney and headed for historic Fort Kearney, only to find that it was closed for the season. It's probably ok that this happened, since there didn't seem to be much to see there. On a whim, we decided to follow signs to something called Harold Warp's Pioneer Village, which was only about another 10 miles. The closer we got, and the more signs for it we read, the more I think we determined that we were potentially getting in over our heads. Nevertheless, we had to know more about the village of the pioneers. Who knows? Maybe it would be occupied only by disturbing blond children with cold, soulless, blue eyes that speak with British accents. Maybe it would hold an enclave of Luddite
professors and their families, desperate to remain hidden from the outside world, but unaware that we were already monitoring their every move. Maybe it would have pioneers in deep cryo. You just don't know these things until you try.
The Pioneer Village is a series of buildings, taking up about three city blocks. Some of them are historic buildings rescued and preserved by Harold Warp, and others are just warehouses to hold the many artifacts in the collection. There's something like thirty buildings here, only two of which have any sort of heat. The rest are just cold. When it's snowing and somewhere in the teens outside, about all a bunch of unheated buildings do is block the wind and snow from getting you while you're in them.
It's a really interesting place though. At $10.50 a ticket though, I wouldn't recommend it unless you have a lot of time to really appreciate it fully. We couldn't have got there later than 10:00 or 10:30, and we stayed until they closed at 4:30, and still didn't see it all. Harold Warp made his fortune on plastic products, including, but certainly not limited to windshields for boats and snowmobiles
and that thin plastic stuff you can put over your windows in the winter. He built quite a successful business for himself, and wanted to preserve American heritage for future generations, and so opened his non-profit Pioneer Village for people to visit.
Among the buildings he preserved are his childhood one room school house, a sod home, the towns old Lutheran Church, a Bureau of Land Management Office, a General Store, and many others. He also preserved as many tools and vehicles of man as he could, so you can walk through one building which catalogs vehicles from the ox-cart to the buggy to the first horseless carriages. In other buildings you can walk down aisles of cars sorted by make and chronological order. In still other buildings, you can walk down rows upon rows of tractors, farm equipment and trucks. In still other buildings, you can look at American art, china, furniture, appliances, and everything. It even has Warp's yacht, which was commandeered during WWII and used in anti-submarine patrols. It is, in fact, one of the only, if not THE only civilian vessel credited with sinking a U-boat.
It is the epitome of what I've sometimes
called the shotgun approach to a museum, with one important exception. Unlike most of the small-town shotgun museums I've seen, this one was massive, and despite this, actually organized. Each building in the complex is fairly specific as to its contents, and within the building, they're sorted pretty coherently. Still, it's such a colossal collection that you had best plan to spend a lot of time there. And dress warmly if it's winter. They're open 364 days a year, but warmer times are obviously better to visit.
Eventually they wanted to lock up, and we left. They'll actually give you a pass to come back for a second day, if you didn't see enough on the first. We thought seriously about this, and took the pass. There's a nearby motel that will give you a discount if you have such a pass, and their rates weren't bad. We contemplated our plan over dinner at a local steak place, which was pretty good, and eventually decided that we should keep moving west, if we wanted to have any time to spend in Colorado and Utah. We left town and headed up to Gothenburg, where we knew there was supposed to
be an original Pony Express Station. We found a fairly cheap and fairly nice motel there, and spent a comfortable night out of the single digit cold.
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