When Edie retired at the end of the last school year, we vowed that we would take day trips together to places we have always wanted to go but haven't. Because we worked in a job that meant when we were off, so were all the school-children in America, and who wants to go places at a time when we have to step over little people and knock them down to get in line for ice-cream?
On Tuesday, Edie and I went to Cartersville to see the Booth Western Art Museum, and embark on our first field trip.
When Edie presented the idea, I said, "Never heard of it."
Edie: Me either, but I have heard it's good.
Me: Count me in. I'm retired.
After following directions provided by the Booth Museum's internet site, I parked my car at the Tabernacle Baptist Church (I love when the word "tabernacle" is in the name of a church!) across the street from the museum, but turned the wrong way, mis-guided by a sign on a back of a red brick building that read "Bartow Museum of History." Not sure why I thought that said "Booth Museum of Cowboy Art," but I followed the alley beside it and arrived on a small downtown street, totally in the wrong place.
Was it because I was halfway paying attention to the name of the museum?
As I looked up and around me like a lost tourist, I heard Edie yell my name. I turned around a couple of times, expecting her to be right beside me, but she was up a ways and in front of the museum. It did take me a moment to find her since I was convinced that I was somehow standing in the right spot.
The Booth Western Art Museum, a commanding structure of white stone, sits atop a small rise behind a tall wrought black iron fence, and its contemporary design makes it a little obtrusive among Cartersville's careful preservation of older buildings in the same vicinity. Some of the buildings around the museum date back to the early twentieth century. Like most small towns now, Cartersville understands the draw of refurbishing and renovating old buildings to turn them into offices, galleries, shops, or restaurants.
As we approach the building, Edie says, "I don't know why we came. I don't even like cowboys."
We admire the building; it's beautifully designed, well-kept, and huge. Obviously, its benefactor has deep pockets.
I think that might be Mr. Booth.
We pay our ten dollar admission and receive a map of the facility from a pleasant, young lady, and we take a turn to the left for no apparent reason. We have to start somewhere.
The main level offers two galleries, a cafe, a store, and the "Orientation Theater," which runs a fifteen minute movie every twenty minutes titled "The American West."
Me: Look, we can watch a movie. Bonus points!
Edie looks at her watch: It starts again in eleven minutes. Let's go to this part first.
She points to the small sculptures in the atrium.
Me: Just keep up with the time. We don't want to miss it. LOL
Edie: I think, we could just catch it on its next loop.
Me: This is why I will go on field trips with you. You're smart.
We perused the sculptures, which were very good, but apparently by all the same sculptor. Not that that is a bad thing or anything.
Edie: Mmm. Lots of cowboys. Did I tell you that I'm just not that in to them?
Me: Yes, you did. I like cowboys. Wingate used to do a unit on them when she taught American history. I find them very interesting.
Edie: I'm all ready ready for the Presidential letters.
We saw the time neared for the movie so we headed to the Orientation Theater. As we opened the door to the theater, an elderly couple made their way down the steps, the only viewers of the previous show.
Elderly man: Hope you get a good seat.
The theater had no seats, just backless covered risers. Edie and I watched the fifteen minute movie all by ourselves. We sat on the back row, our backs up against the wall like a couple of teenagers skipping school, and propped our feet on the riser in front of us.
When the film began to roll, Edie quipped, "This looks like a movie for school."
Me: I'd hate for us to learn something.
"The American West" narrated mostly about what was in the museum -- and there was very little "new" information about the West. It had an annoying artist's pallet, I think, at the bottom that kept both of us trying to figure out what it was. We, of course, made comments throughout cause that's what we do.
BTW: We could never be quiet at faculty meetings or Power Point presentations during teacher in-services. We should have been separated by the principal. I also thought that I should have my own show like Mystery Science Theater, but whatever.
Edie: Well, okay. That was that.
Me: Let's go the "War is Hell" gallery. That sounds promising.
"War is Hell" gallery featured contemporary Civil War art. Good stuff -- but I don't think of that as "western," but I'm not a curator.
We crossed paths with a handful of other museum visitors in there, some surreptitiously taking photographs, even though the "Help Us Protect the Art" rules listed "Please No Photographs except in Sagebrush Ranch" as number 2, right after, "Please Don't Touch."
I would break rule number 2 myself when I got upstairs and came across a horse made from stuff my mother used to throw away.
I thought a museum guard watched me take the picture, but he was wax. Neither Edie or I knew that until we got up close, but I blame it on being married. I don't know what was her excuse.
When we came out of the "War is Hell" gallery, we almost ran into a contingent of retirees getting a museum tour. Apparently, their sagacious guide thought they were right off the bus from the local elementary school as she was using a white board to draw lariats and cowboy hats -- at one point she made a sound like a horse gallop and then proceeded to ask them "Do you know what that is?"
Edie and I stifled the giggles and pealed off in the opposite direction.
We headed up a stair case to the upper level, past a another pretty impressive sculpture, and six more galleries. These galleries ranged (no pun intended) from western illustration and movie posters to portraits, artwork of cowboys, and depictions of Americans on the move. The most jaw dropping item we saw ----an original 1865 stagecoach.
The stagecoach, restored and made of wood, metal, and leather, seemed unreal. Apparently, it spent its days running in between Kansas and Colorado.
Me: I wouldn't even want to do that on an airplane. I just can't imagine.
Edie and I circled the stagecoach like the Comanche, noting the small size of the seats, the skinny wooden wheels, the fact that it carried nine people -- astounded, we admired its condition and preservation. We laughed because we assumed it was a luxury model, since the passengers sat on leather seats and had foot stools.
We also saw a "medium" of art, paper casting. The artist, Allen Eckman, had several pieces in the gallery, but the one that amazed me the most was of the Plains Indians. The artwork, encased in Plexiglas about the size of a large fish aquarium, included twelve human figures, several horses, a dog, a campfire, trees, a cave -- all cut from paper.. in magnificent detail.
I followed the rules, and I didn't take a picture.
I was tempted though. A man, who saw us admiring it, told us all about that particular kind of art, but we had no idea what he was talking about as he used words like "porous," "wood molds," and "calicum carbonate."
Edie and I nodded politely, but after he was gone, both admitted we had "no idea what he was talking about."
Me: It's the way I got through Trignometry in high school. Nodding like I understood.
It was on this level of the museum that we saw a horse made out of --- well, let's just say I saw one of my mother's pewter platters.
I guess the exhibit that held our attention the most was the Presidential Gallery. In this room of dark wood, low lighting, and solemnity were original one-page signed Presidential letters and a photograph of each President. Included were four silly facts like -- "first president to ride in a car" or "only president who didn't have a dog in the White House." I found those little tid-bits quite humorous. They also reminded me of the fun-facts that Wingate used to pepper her American history lectures.
*hugs and waves to Wingate*
Each signed letter had beside it a typed version ---since on most of them, the ink was faded and words were illegible. These letters somehow made them seem so human as they responded to strange requests, answered questions, or wrote short thank you notes. I found their penmanship alone fascinating -- :)
Only the current president had no letter, even though the museum noted that he had been notified.
I'm sure he's busy.
Edie and I ended our tour of the Booth Western Art Museum with those letters. We were hungry, or we may have spent some more time there. Or not.
As we headed out, we did check out the museum store which was full of the usual -- mugs, key-chains, post-cards, and miniature wooden cowboys.
I wasn't even tempted to buy something as a joke. Usually silly stuff like that ends up in someone's Christmas stocking.
When we exited, the Georgia sun blasted hotly, and the air felt muggy. I regretted that I left my sunglasses in the car. We headed over to Appalachian Grill for lunch, and as the speaker system blasted blue grass, Edie and I grinned over our French fries and looked forward to September and Field Trip 2.
Blog readers: Oh, goody, I can't wait.
Me: What? Did I hear sarcasm?
Edie: I still don't like cowboys.