Roadside museums are part of the American holidaying experience. Who wouldn't want to waste a few hours visiting the Center of the World (Felicty, CA) of the The Spam Museum (Austen, MN)? And luckily for us, just up the road in Polson is another fine example. After a quick look at the hoards of rusting military vehicles outside, and a quick browse of their phenomenal website, we handed over our dollar bills and went inside The Miracle of America Museum.
The word "eclectic" doesn't really cover what we saw. There's sort of a central museum, which has displays on politics, commerce, war, and motorcycles. Outside there are five acres with forty buildings (the lady at the pay desk was excited to tell us) that showcase...well, stuff. Liberally sprinkled around are vehicles of every size, shape and nature - a 1914 Model T Ford, a steam train, a Viking longship, a fighter jet - all quietly decomposing. The buildings are crammed full of things relating to whatever they're supposed to be, from a dentist to a saw mill.
There's a moment when kooky becomes creepy, and then when creepy becomes troubling. Perhaps it was the section explaining why we should all be hunting wolves. Maybe it was the mounted two-headed calf, or the barbed wire display, or when I tripped over a chainsaw that had been left on the floor of one of the huts.
But I wondered: isn't this the miracle of America? Such a disparate, patchwork history of different communities and cultures, governments and conflicts, yet held together by a common belief in the sanctity of nationhood. How can you explain a whole country without showing the million small pieces that, like the people, comprise the myriad lives that stretch from sea to shining sea?
Then I thought: no, it's just a big creepy museum full of decaying junk. When's lunch?
Well, when in Polson!
One of the meeters and greeters.
Not until Obama becomes president!
This is a display about the importance of unregulated free commerce, told through a collection of mouse traps.
Hannah, disturbed and confused in equal measure.
That two headed calf I mentioned. The label said it died of starvation because the heads argued about who would get to drink its mother's milk. Hmmm.
From the section on the dangers of drugs (next to the one on the dangers of drinking).
Who can argue?
A small section of the spark plug display.
This is a leaflet bomb, used in Vietnam. As the label notes, the communist leaflets were designed to demoralize and lie. The American leaflets promised safe passage and a better life under freedom! Yay!
Ah yes, the French.
Finally something that makes sense.
An actual prop from The Wizard of Oz. One of the designers moved nearby and donated it.
Not that this will help you, as kissing is inherently evil.
I've been using this method all my married life, and am very happy with the results.
Outside, and again Hannah gravitates to her happy place. A bald eagle joins her.
A VW ice cream van. Next to a field gun.
Santa's little helpers, in the "Grotto". If I had these three helping me I'd stay out for longer than just Christmas.
Fulfilling a lifetime ambition to fly a Huey. "Charlie don't surf", Ride of the Valkeries, etc.
The barber shop, and firmly in troubling territory now.
Could do with some restoration.
A jet. See, told you!
The old rusting home appliance room.
The old rusting snowmobile room.
Detail from the very large barbed wire display.
Let me out of here!
This might just be an outside toilet rather than part of the collection, I'm not sure.
A Viking longboat, made of hubcaps.
Oh yeah, they also had old pianos everywhere, with invitations to play them. I had a little tinkle.
Old Glacier Park snow plough. You don't want to meet one if you're a mountain goat.
"This chainsaw has been used to dismember..."
From the "saw your own wood" display.
This is where the monster of Flathead Lake ended up.
This visitor seemed quite confused by it all too.