Leaving a legacy

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There's a road sign that hangs in the Lou Wyman Living History Ranch and Museum that is especially favored by museum benefactor Lou Wyman. It's a simple "S curve" sign from the 1920s that once marked a Northwest Colorado roadway.

"Dean Visintainer gave it to me. He found it in his garage in the 1940s," Wyman said. "It's in good shape. It only has one or two bullet holes in it."

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The old porcelain sign represents everything Wyman loves about collecting "old stuff."

"I enjoy looking at it," he said. "This is for everybody."

Wyman started the Craig museum with a dream of showing off not only artifacts from the town, Moffat County and Northwest Colorado, but also demonstrating the way things worked back in the day they were made. And the way new advancements in technology changed life for those people choosing to live the life of a homesteader or pioneer.

"My father homesteaded in Northwest Colorado in 1900," Wyman said. "My appreciation of the old ways of doing things comes from him."

The museum features thousands of antiques and collectables, from steam tractors to old chainsaws, but it also contains a way of life experienced long ago.

Wyman proudly shows off the museum's carpenter shed, which will soon run a half dozen, century-old shop tools from one power source.

Crafts persons sit in the old Pagoda General Store that originally supplied homesteaders and farmers with necessities more than a hundred years ago.

Wyman also would like to see people enjoying the museum displays a hundred years from now.

"Before Paula and I sold the ranch, we gave part of it to the 'Wyman Charitable Remainder Trust' so the museum will have a monthly income," he said. "I can set the direction, but I can't take out the money and do anything with it."

A board of six directors -- Arthur Wyman, Frank Sanborn, Louis Wyman, Neil McCandless, Al Shepherd and Gerald Culverwell -- meets monthly to oversee the trust.

The first three include a child of Wyman's, a child of his wife, Paula's, and an offspring of Wyman and Paula's.

Wyman wants to assure the public that when he and Paula are gone, the museum will live on.

"People think when I die, this will go away," he said. "When I'm gone, this will belong to the public and the community."

Profits from the museum's share of the ranch sale go into a fund to support the Wyman Museum project.

Many of his friends have asked Wyman why he would part with his money to leave behind a museum. Wyman responds, "I suppose I've liked old stuff all my life, I like to preserve things. I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing people enjoy it."

Wyman said he has been collecting items since 1948, and he was worried about the auctions that he sees after someone dies where everything is sold-off.

He didn't want that happening to his collection.

"There's no catch here. No scam. The kids got enough money," he said. "If the museum goes broke, it will go to another nonprofit. We can't sell it someday."

The ever-changing museum begins a new project this spring, as work gets underway for a fishing pond made from an old Yampa River oxbow located on the property.

The pond, open to youths 16 and under, as well as seniors and the disabled, will hopefully attract visitors to the museum and to Craig.

Nicky Boulger, office manager at the museum, is leading the project.

"We are asking for grant money to improve the museum's oxbow project," she said. "We want the community behind us."

Meanwhile, Wyman continues to make improvements to the museum, often working even through the weekends, preserving the "old stuff" for future generations.

"I save stuff thinking, 'someday there will be a need for that.' I'm having fun," he said. "I'm doing what I want to do. Everyday is Sunday for me."

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