July 12, 2013
To my mind, museums are keepers of our history. Taking a look back to see how we used to live is like dipping into a bowl of warm nostalgia. A visit to any museum reinforces much-loved traditions — to name one of the benefits.
Our keeper-of-history here in Big Timber, Mont., is called "The Crazy Mountain Museum." That's because the Crazy Mountains — snowcapped for most of the year — practically burst up like a shout of joy from Mother Earth. From anywhere in the county, you can see the shining Crazies.
In early days, Big Timber was called Cobblestone City. In 1907 the town boasted a population of 1,000 fine folks and maybe one or two old soreheads. The streets were not paved with gold. They weren't paved at all. Ladies' skirts too often were hemmed with mud. There was a Chinese neighborhood. There was an Opera House. There were stores, stables, residences, churches, a train depot and the Grand Hotel.
The creative imaginations of local artists and crafters produced a replica of Cobblestone City in miniature. It's an astonishing creation. The entire replica is encased in glass. You can view the town, from all sides. Teeny, tiny little buildings; weensy little people, horses, dogs, pigeons, chickens, sheep — all displaying town life of more than a hundred years ago.
From the Museum's Cobblestone brochure: Six years of research, construction and detail work have resulted in the model of Big Timber, as it appeared in 1907, on display at the Crazy Mountain Museum. The meticulous craftsmanship is an historically accurate replica built on a scale of 1/16" and depicts 12 1/2 square blocks of town.
The brochure of this fascinating display further asks you to note: Clothes on a line. Merchandise in windows. Hobo under a tree. Axes in woodpiles. Garden. Tracks for beer. Black smith. Wool sacks. Coal bins. Wheelbarrows. Hay wagon. Manure piles. Scales milk cans. Bars on jail and saloon windows. Pitch fork. A drunk. Swing in apple tree. Red light on porch of female boarding house. Dog in trash can ladders. Hitching posts. Horse troughs. Spokes on poles for linemen. Picture in front of the Auditorium. Towel on wall in back of bathhouse. Flag atop courthouse. Church under construction. Stained glass windows in churches. Stuffed deer in window. Signs on buildings. Bicycle on porch. Picket fences. Bell on firehouse. Children playing.
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For families, Docents offer a particular treat to youngsters. The kids are handed a Cobblestone Scavenger list and invited to go on a hunt for: People walking. The high school. Windmill. Car. Stagecoach. Covered Wagon. Three sheep. One cow. Men at sawmill. Train. Train Depot. Woman with umbrella. Men on horseback. Woman washing clothes. Horse drinking water. Grand Hotel. People on balcony.
When the seeker completes the scavenger-identification list, he or she gets to choose some colorful tumbled rocks as a prize. Kids love the game, not to mention they also learn a bit about the past as they go.
This fall (September), the Crazy Mountain Museum will wind up the summer tourist season with a Cobblestone City Vintage Days Gala. Everyone is invited to dress up in clothing such as your grandparents might have worn, compete for prizes for best outfits, eat homemade goodies, and watch The Mighty Cobblestone Art Players perform the acclaimed comedy-drama: The Edifying Almost True and More or Less Inspiring Story of the Founding of Big Timber, Mont., Territory followed by a Vital, Vivacious, Varied Vaudeville Show.
Ladies: Please remove hats. Gentlemen: No spitting, please. ❖