After an exciting visit to Hansen Wheel my mind had been left buzzing all night. As with all the shops I had visited so far I had been inspired! Not that I need inspiration to ensure I continue my trade, Wheelwrighting is my passion and my life. Though it is nice to have encouragement from time to time, maybe there is more to the job than just about scraping a living doing something you love?
Today I awoke excited for a busy day at a museum, The Dakota Discovery centre was one of the 1st places on my list when I initially looked into the journey west and it had still made the final cut. Not that any of the places I couldn’t visit looked less desirable, only this place had a great website, was very close to Hansen’s shop and dissected my journey nicely.
One of the great things about this museum was the lovely heavy wagon out front, an instant eye catcher for me (I’m like a magpie for wooden wheels, wagons etc). Inside the museum I was greeted by an extremely friendly and helpful member of staff who not only pointed out the parts of the exhibits that might interest me most but went out of her way to put me in contact with a local Blacksmith. I have found everyone so helpful here in the states, the warmth, kindness and the willingness to share knowledge and experience has been essential to my project so far.
Inside the Dakota Discovery Centre is an interesting selection of exhibits depicting both Native American history and the later history of European settlers. I am finding both fascinating at the moment, especially as most of what I learned at school in the UK looks to have been complete rubbish… There is an interesting timeline theme running throughout the museum, this was great to see as it really put everything into perspective, the history of settlement here is so short. I have tools that I use in my workshop regularly that were around when the settlers on the plains were fighting with the natives.
Part of the collection that really caught my eye was some old felloes (curved outer sections of a wheel) believed to be from one of general Custers wagons from his 1874 Black hills expedition, still just about intact. The thought that went through my mind was ‘finally some attention paid to the wheel’. Throughout history empires have been built with thanks to such humble things as the wooden wheel yet it barely gets a thought when it comes to telling the stories of these great empires etc… Ok Wheelwrights rant over…The museum does have some beautiful wagons on display, all kitted out with provisions for the hard journey west. Add to that an original thrashing machine and I could have spent days there taking notes.
Next stop Clark Martinek’s Smithy (only a couple of blocks away)