A “Groundhog Day” for Us with Western History Galore + a Flock of Sprightly Kites

This past winter, during a trip to Florida to sail on some friends’ sailboat, I bought a membership at a museum—a membership that includes reciprocity at over a thousand other North American attractions and museums. This membership has proved to be a great investment. Not only has it paid for itself in various museum visits, it has also introduced me to places I would not otherwise have sought out. Yesterday, this membership introduced me to Galveston’s Bryan Museum.

For someone who grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, Will James, and Frank Waters; for someone who spent lazy evenings in Tijuana looking at charro saddles with her dad; for someone who’s spent this year with James Donovan’s The Blood of Heroes and SC Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon; well, the Bryan Museum is a “must stop” on the island. It certainly brought to life this Libbie Custer bio I’m reading (I’m nearing the end, and she’s battling controversies that linger about George Armstrong Custer’s last stand).

The museum features Texas and Western history, artists like Albert Bierstadt (whose work Libbie C. apparently admired), even an Andy Warhol Custer from 1986. Buffalo Bill Cody (there’s a silver trowel he received) and Annie Oakley ride through. We ran into Bill Pickett again, the African-American bulldogger we “met” at the Fort Worth Stockyards. So many “familiar” faces.

A brief saddle-making video that was part of a special exhibit took us back to the King Ranch saddle shop we wandered through when we visited the ranch in January while taking a short tour in the Pryde trailer. And a likely prisoner-made horsehair bridle brought to mind Tom Russell’s song “The Sky Above, the Mud Below.” (We enjoy country singer-songwriters!)

Even the building itself has a story. An orphanage from 1895 to 1984, it has survived the big storms, and now offers little visitors a really cool kids’ pirate cave to play in. In the courtyard, a museum store features numerous small-press books of local interest (the Bosun picked one up).

Interestingly, the museum includes discussion about capturing a West that’s gone. Over a hundred years ago, Libbie Custer noted the fall of the West she’d known with George Armstrong.

Overall, our visit was a big win. We also enjoyed the Strand, a visit to my favorite Galveston Bookshop, and several great beach and seawall walks, one of which gave the Boat Dog lovely views of a flock of giant kites: an octopus, a shark, flags, and more, all afloat in the sun that finally peeked out.

The day ranks as a “groundhog day”: one we’d gladly repeat over and over!

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