Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Laredo 25th November 2006



Saturday: We were invited to Laredo for a Thanksgiving Dinner; so on the morning of the 25th November we set out to find this elusive place. I say elusive because we have been invited here on several occasions but circumstances had made it nigh on impossible to go. The weather was absolutely atrocious with gusts of wind and incredible downpours. Having run the gauntlet of the elements, falling trees and drivers whose ancestors should never have left the sea, we arrived at Laredo over an hour later than planned.

The moment we stepped through the gate and into the muddy Street of Laredo we felt completely out of place. It was as though we had travelled back in time and forgotten to dress for the part. Ahead of us was a fully functional town with civilians and Union soldiers ambling about.

We found Jolene and after a quick look about we were shown to our lodgings; Laz, or Lars as Staggers kept calling him, ended up in the fire house at the back of the saloon. Cassandra and I had one of the miner’s shacks that had been built by George. We had an hours grace to get changed and I was eager to get out there and look about.

Once sorted I was back out on the street, there was so much to see and we were only here for a day. The first place I headed for was the hotel, a two story building; I went up to the balcony for a panoramic view of the town, it is hard to believe that you are in Kent once you shut out the modern extras such as pylons. Livery, cantina, saloon, houses and church; they are all there and fully functional. It is hard to imagine such dedication to a hobby unless you have been consumed by one yourself, in my case it is the Museum. You soon find that a simple idea takes on a life of its own and then rapidly over your life. At the edge of town there was one anomalous building – real toilets, what a luxury!

I called out to Laz as he gingerly made his way through the mud. He joined me downstairs and we were soon chatting away with various residents of Laredo. I looked around the bar area, like all good hotels of the period there were specimens adorning the walls, a red deer head, a duck, some sort of Mustelid that in a previous existence may have been a large mink, or possibly a fisher, and a very impressive turkey on the piano. There were also enough cow horns to start a stampede. I was told that some one commented on the red deer not being found in America, the wapiti or elk (not to be confused with the European moose...gosh it gets complicated!) is the North American form of red deer Cervus elaphus. Failing that people took Old World things over with them to remind them of home.

Laz and I tried our hand at pool, bearing in mind that he hadn’t touched a cue for about 20 years and I haven’t played for over a year. The game was ‘interesting’ to say the least. We take electricity very much for granted – that “let’s have instant light” thing - so it was interesting playing this game, however badly, in what soon became a half light. Gradually the dozens of oil lamps were lit. Dinner was served early and we tucked into an excellent menu of turkey, sweet corn and sweet taters followed by pumpkin pie, I haven’t eaten this for years so I made the most of it.

After dinner the ladies went off to don their best and we settled down for a social. There was to be entertainment but for a variety of reasons the acts could not make it, except The Grymm Toom Picture Co. that is! So we set ourselves up for a grand indoor show with a real screen, an item that we could have used quite some time back instead of shower curtains and tents. Laz used his rechargeable searchlight thing so we had a wonderful vivid picture. I would love to know how to deliver the funnies; a series of slides for a scenario that take seconds of action can only go as fast as the lanternist can change them so they are never at animation speed. I suppose the concept was so novel that people didn’t really care about speed. Another reminder of the instant soup society we have created!

All went well until we got to ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ when suddenly the first slide faded away faster than we could introduce it; our battery was dying! We didn’t want to let our hosts down so we improvised; Laz told the tale and I mimed bits of it...silly I know but we didn’t want to get tarred and feathered! There seems to be a pattern forming since every time we do a show the ‘Lantern Fly of Entertainment’ flutters into the nearest wall causing a distinct disturbance to heroic story telling! During this recital Mark went off and returned with a new light so we could at least show off the rest of the slides.

Afterwards we just chilled out and socialised, it was great to see the kids having so much fun, one lad looked as though he had been dragged through the mud by a demented mustang. I was remembered from Detling as the ‘man with the fish-monkey’ (mermaid) and another youngster, who appeared as if from nowhere, showed us a rather fine Indian stem point arrowhead. Staggers had set up his faro game and I wanted to have a go but ended up chatting to so many people that he had packed up by the time I saw an opening. We had put our drinks behind the bar so we could just go up and ask for something, there seemed to be quite a few barmen about including Boot.

Sunday was, by contrast, a remarkably fine day which was just as well since it made getting all our stuff to the car easier, although I did seem to take the wheel barrow through what seemed like the grave yard of horse poo...I’m sure it was not all there yesterday!

Laz told me a strange story; during the night some gent deep in the grips of Bacchus stumbled into the little space where he was sleeping and apparently thought it was an outside toilet. Thankfully Laz was missed and the gent, who staggered about a bit and almost sat on his head, managed to stumble back into the saloon.

Laz and I headed for the Cantina where Terri cooked us breakfast, I was being spoiled; this is the first time that I have not had to cook anything! Then it was time to head for home, it probably took us an hour just to say our good byes to Fay, Judge & Alice, Dave the Marshal, the fella we hadn’t seen for about six years and a host of other folks. We will hopefully return next year. In the mean time I would just like to thank everyone who made us feel so welcome at this wonderful place.

This is Prof. Grymm – Way out West