Posts Tagged ‘military heritage’
Tillamook, Oregon is a depressing working class town with two agreeable ways to kill an afternoon.
According to the tourist brochure, the Tillamook Cheese factory is one of the top ten visitor attractions in Oregon. (California this isn’t.) Signage inside reads “nearly 1 million visitors stop at the Tillamook Cheese Visitors Center” (a day? a year? since the beginning of time?)
It’s easy to ignore the many badly-designed, text dense displays; the entire factory —packing machines, conveyor belts, workerbees—is visible behind glass from observation decks. (“Wouldn’t it be great if they piped in Raymond Scott music?” said Ralph.)
“Experience History With A Bang at Canada’s National Artillery Museum in the Central Museum of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery at Canadian Forces Base Shilo”. That’s a mouthful to put on a road sign but we didn’t need to read it; Ralph scoped out the RCA Museum early on and we made a crooked beeline for it when we passed through Manitoba.
I couldn’t have less interest in war lore, but through Ralph I’ve grown to appreciate military museums as an alternative way to connect with the regions we visit. They often house peculiar items found nowhere else and present a different perspective than the usual insipid pioneer museum.
We visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument—a vast area 60 miles from Billings, Montana—on the day after it took place 134 years ago. Ralph “The Master of History” narrated the story of the clash between Custer, his two subordinates (Benteen and Reno) and the 600 men of the 7th Cavalry, and thousands of well prepared Native American warriors as we drove the length of the battlefield and back.
“What happened was this,” Ralph began patiently. “Custer divided his command into three, well, really three and a half parts” (already this account is getting complicated.)
When I moved to Portland twenty years ago I thought the Oregon Trail was, well, in Oregon. I’m embarrassed that I was surprised to encounter historic aspects of the trail (and signs of Lewis and Clark) in almost every Western state we visited.
Fort Laramie in Wyoming is (according to the Smithsonian Guide to Historic America, our roadtrip reference bible) one of the West’s most important forts. As a trading post in the 1840s it became a popular stop on the Oregon Trail, one-third of the way to the promised land and the first place to swap an ox in 300 miles. Today, it’s restored to appear the way it looked back in the day and “provides a glimpse of a bygone military era”.
The state park in Hammond Oregon is near yet another old coastal fort, built to protect the entrance to the Columbia River (sister to the fort on the Washington side at Cape Disappointment). It was bright and clear when we explored Fort Stevens, the little military museum, and rusted shipwreck on the beach. Ripley tirelessly chased seagulls up and down the sand. We vowed to go back next year, and bring our bicycles.
Ralph made a seductive picture starting a fire at the campsite, brandishing a ball peen hammer and using a screwdriver as an awl (“Look at me honey, I’m f’ing Abraham m-f’ing Lincoln!”), cigarillo dangling from his lower lip, bourbon in a plastic cup.
I heard a Fred Meyer ad on the radio, suggesting gift ideas prior to Father’s Day. “What do dads like?” began the announcer, implying that the listener should start a checklist. “Playing sports, and especially watching sports. And watching historical epics.” (Master and Commander or something was just out on video.)
Given. But, why do men love history? And women can take it or leave it (in my case, absolutely leave it)? Yes, of course, some women enjoy history, but even the blog for the American Association of University Women acknowledges this stereotype in a post that fumes about the gender bias of bookstores that sort the history magazines in the “men’s interest” section.