The museum that dad built

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Childhood was interesting. I had things like orphaned baby owls and moose as pets. We ate roadkill. Drunk men called our house at 1 a.m. wanting to settle bets over wildlife knowledge. I learned how to identify ducks and cross a barbed-wire fence holding a 12-gauge shotgun.

If you haven't guessed it by now, my dad is a retired North Dakota game warden. While working, he had one of the biggest coverage areas of any warden in the United States. And, man, did he work long hours; he is the epitome of a passionate conservationist - and a great dad.

Hit a deer on the road? He cleaned it up, hoisting a couple hundred pounds into his pickup.
Needed hunters' education? He patiently taught you, making classes fun with pelts and jokes.
Had a wildlife question? He answered hundreds, no, thousands, of phone calls every time of day.
Poached out of season? He nabbed you, in his gentle and courteous way.
Got in an accident? He responded, helping on the road until an ambulance arrived.
Required animal test samples? He got them, often storing things like deer brain in our freezer.
Felt down-and-out? He listened; he helped; he gave the shirt off his back to anyone who needed it.
Wanted a museum built? He raised the money, even procuring exhibits for the darn thing.

A museum?!

Yep - dad was instrumental in getting the North American Game Warden Museum to come to fruition. Isn't it regal? It opened in the International Peace Gardens (on the U.S./Canadian border) in 2005 but this was my first time seeing it; it was one of the few things I wanted to do on our trip home to the U.S.

From the museum's web site:
"With human populations exploding, our planet is becoming crowded, polluted, more civilized, less wild, how can natural gifts be preserved for future generations? 
On the front line of natural resource protection, often working alone, routinely facing dangerous situations are GAME WARDENS. Risking and sometimes sacrificing their lives for conservation, they are NORTH AMERICAN HEROES.
Our project, the North American Game Warden Museum, has two missions: 
- to HONOR these heroes and 
- to EDUCATE the public about their work and the natural resources they protect." 

It was closed the day we arrived, but dad, being an honorary lifetime member, got access. The place was all ours, and it's fascinating.

Inside, there's an extensive collection of confiscated animals and skins, as well as educational exhibits, an assemblage of official badges and pins, a reading nook, art made by game wardens, a conference room and child-friendly activities.

The museum is hoping to expand; this is evident in the storage space, which has a slew of in-progress projects.

I found a photo of Claude Dallas, the infamous mountain man who murdered two game wardens in cold blood in 1982 in Idaho. Apparently, he was released after 22 years for good behavior (although he escaped from prison and was on the lam for a year).

Outside, there are somber memorial markers for the men and women who passed away in the line of duty, organized state-by-state.

You can also purchase a memorial paver; these are displayed in long rows around the whole museum.

Here's dad's!

If you go, drive straight north of Dunseith, North Dakota, until you hit the Canadian border or straight south of Boisssevain, Manitoba, until you hit the American border.

Days and Hours of Operation :
  • May (weekends only) 11 am - 4 pm
  • June 1st - September 3   11 am - 5 pm
  • September 4th - September 16   11 am - 4 pm
  • Winter hours by appointment only in coordination with the
         International Peace Garden.

(Linking up for Travel Tuesday.)

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