Wednesday, December 22, 2010

East Texas Oil Museum

Saturday was my birthday. Dad and I had talked about how to celebrate and I mentioned that I wanted to go to a museum. The kids have been asking to go to the East Texas Oil Museum lately and it's an easy drive from our home, so that was the plan.

Then, Friday - Dad was told that he would need to be in West Texas by 9 Saturday morning. So much for birthday plans. As soon as he called me with the news, the kids and I began making plans. Kirk checked out times for the Oil Museum and we decided on a birthday dinner. Okay, maybe not decided today - I have been having the same birthday dinner every year since I was probably 5 years old (the kids want you to know that that was a looooong time ago!). But we did check the fridge to be sure we had stuff to make my Mom's homemade taco recipe.

We slept late and played the morning away. Then we ate out for lunch and headed to Kilgore to the East Texas Oil Museum. Of course, I forgot my camera. But it was so fun.

We haven't been in 5 years but things haven't changed much. In fact they haven't changed much since I went as a child (and you might remember that that was a looooong time ago). The museum is not very big, but it has the neatest exhibit! You enter the museum to see traditional museum-y things: an old vehicle, kitchen items from the 1930's, school desks and books. Then you come to a set of double doors and upon entering are transported back in time.

The sky is cloudy and a little gray - it looks and sounds like it could rain any minute. The street in front of us is a muddy mess with old cars and a wagon pulled by donkeys stuck in the mire. A man is in the middle of the muddy road trying to coax his team of donkeys around the stalled car in front of them. The engines of the stuck vehicles are sputtering as we walk along the wooden sidewalk - grateful that we decided to walk to town today.

Our first stop was the General Store. Prices were up today - apples 14 cents a dozen and potatoes 22 cents for 10 pounds. But the shop owner had plenty of toys for Christmas gifts and lots of sugar for cookies. We wandered on down the street and watched the man in the machine shop working on another tool for the oil field. The barber shop is full and all anyone is talking about is another oil well gushing in. We didn't even stop at the movie theatre. With the rainy day, that place was crowded.

At least the pharmacy was quiet. Well, except for the juke box playing Christmas tunes. I wish we'd had the money for a soda from the fountain. Our last stop was the newspaper office. We bought a paper and it was full of news about...yep, about the oil field. We walked slowly home passing more stuck cars. The donkeys still hadn't got past the stalled car and their owner sure looked fed up and was covered with even more mud if that was possible.

Ok, so I have an imagination. But walking through the Boomtown, USA has always been my favorite part of the museum. I haven't seen anything like it in any other museum. There is one other especially fun part of the East Texas Oil Museum and that is the "Elevator to the Center of the World." Two marionettes: Professor Rockbottom, Geologist and Hank take you on a ride with frequent stops to view the rock layers found in the East Texas area. When you reach the level where the oil is trapped and drill breaks through and they race you back to surface to escape the gusher!

MT was a little nervous about the old town area, and the "Elevator to the Center of the World", but FRitW was completely fascinated. We had to go through all the town buildings twice because he just wasn't ready to leave.

It was a fun birthday activity and maybe just a bit educational (Shh!).

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sky Watching

Tuesday's schedule: school, gift wrapping, hair appointment, workout with trainer, some final Christmas shopping, and a long nap. I don't know how I am going to fit in that nap, but if you call our home that day, you will be answered by a sleepy voice because we are not planning to sleep much Monday night.

In fact we plan to fit in some schoolwork during the night. Sure, waking the kids up around 1:30 am seems a little extreme just to fit in some Science - but I have no choice. Because shortly before 2:00 am CST during a full moon on the night of Winter Solstice, a lunar eclipse will begin. The entire eclipse should be visible in the contiguous United States, assuming the weather cooperates.

The last time a total eclipse took place during the Winter Solstice was in 1638. The next one is predicted to by 2094. That makes this a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of us. In addition the next total lunar eclipse that will be entirely visible in the contiguous United States will be in 2014, so I do not intend to miss this one.

Here are some sites for information about the eclipse:
http://www.livescience.com/space/etc/lunar-eclipse-winter-solstice-meteor-shower-101219.html

I sent an email to our local news station's Chief Meteorologist requesting peak viewing times and information about where and how to view this event. I plan to gather the telescope and some binoculars so we can get some really detailed views!

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