It was a simple contraption.
Weathered wood and rusted metal, originally designed to humanely trap pesky mice, sat on a shelf Tuesday in the Wyman Museum, looking as if it ached to be used.
But to Wyman Museum owner and lifelong Moffat County resident Lou Wyman, a 19th century mousetrap is a source of joy and enthusiastic intrigue, just like the rest of the countless artifacts that fill his museum and represent a broad picture of his county’s history.
Wyman puts thousands of dollars each month into the museum and various community events, such as last weekend’s Winter Festival that drew thousands to the museum east of Craig. But his dedication to preserving the past, present and future goes well beyond the bounds of a bank account.
“I just want to give it to the community,” Wyman said, sitting in his museum Tuesday. “That sounds corny, doesn’t it? But it’s been a dream to do this. The land, everything.
“It’s all for the community.”
His dedication to community and its history did not go unnoticed.
At Friday’s State of the County event, Wyman was named the Craig Daily Press/KRAI Citizen of the Year.
Al Shepherd, a longtime friend of Wyman’s, presented the award at the end of the evening.
Shepherd’s introduction of his friend of 75 years began with tales from the 1930s, when two little boys lived near one another.
Wyman started collecting things at a young age, Shepherd said.
When the World War II effort required families to donate extra metal for equipment, Wyman and Shepherd would go out to Wyman’s family homestead, which was empty by then, and salvage old iron tools to donate to the war effort.
His love of tinkering continued into later years when the two would go out looking for abandoned vehicles to rebuild.
“We’d be driving down the road and I’d be looking at animals,” Shepherd said. “And he’d see a piece of rust with sagebrush growing right through it and he’d say, ‘Oh, we have to go look at that.’”
But Shepherd, along with the rest of the community, was not surprised by how a collection of junk turned into the Wyman Museum.
“Junk grows on you,” Shepherd said. “It becomes alive, and it becomes history, and you begin to understand what history’s all about with this stuff.”
Wyman was born in Hayden in 1933. His family moved to a ranch east of Hamilton, where he grew up raising sheep.
For 30 years of his life, he raised elk on the farm, providing meat for restaurants, making jerky and exporting ground up antlers to foreign countries.
“Too bad I didn’t write a book on it,” Wyman said. “I’ve got some really good stories. I know some really good characters.”
Instead, he documented in his own way.
Throughout the years, he held onto old tractors, cars, tools and anything that documented the evolving essence of Moffat County life.
From original photos of Teddy Roosevelt hunting in Moffat County to stuffed mountain lions and elk, there always is a story behind the item, and it’s up to Wyman to learn each one.
He could describe to any visitor how self-cleaning outhouses worked, or how to use a 19th-century potato cutter efficiently.
“You’re supposed to learn something every day,” he said. “And I think I do.”
For Wyman’s grandson, Isaac Jacobson, 24, his fondest memories were created on weekends away from his home in Denver, working on his grandfather’s land and learning the area’s history.
When Jacobson moved to Craig more than a year ago, he learned even more about Wyman’s attachment to his community.
“In this community there is a strong presence of people who want Craig to succeed and who care,” he said. “My grandfather puts in the effort, by being at events, hosting events. Whenever there is a community event, he is always one of the frontrunners.
“He takes pride in Craig and he’s proud of this county. There is a lot of history here, and he wants to represent what it means to him and preserve the values of Moffat County and Craig.”
Jacobson said the opening of the museum in 2004 was a dream realized for his grandfather.
“He wanted to give the community something so they can see what Moffat County is about,” Jacobson said.
But more than providing services, education and recreation for the community, he also is a husband, brother, father and grandfather. And the human side of Wyman has also touched countless people.
“When I see him, he’s always smiling,” Jacobson said. “When he passes me in his truck, he gives me a wave and a huge smile, and I just see the happiness of a 6-year-old boy.
“I see caring in his heart.”
As Wyman got up to accept his award Friday night, guests at the State of the County gave him a standing ovation.
Wyman’s acceptance speech was short.
“I really appreciate this,” he said. “And there’s no way I could do it without everyone’s help.
“People help in all kinds of ways. They bring us things. Junk. And it’s wonderful.”