As a rule, I'm pretty happy to spend a long weekend sitting on a deck, reading, knitting, and watching the sun set. That puts me in a minority of one in my family. The others simply insist on finding some other things to do. Lucky for me--maybe not so much for them--it turned out our cabin wasn't far from the Kensington Runestone Museum in Alexandria. Yes, I dragged them, on the last weekend of their summer freedom, to a historical museum.
To refresh your memory (or teach you something new!), the story goes that in 1898, farmer Olaf Ohman (three guesses as to his ethnic background) found a stone tablet with strange markings on his farm, with big tree roots growing around it. That's about the only thing that's not disputed in the story of the runestone. Experts on opposite sides of the debate have argued for decades that it was either proof that the Vikings (the Scandinavian explorers, not the football team with that wacky Favre guy) had arrived much earlier than previously thought, around 1362; or it was an elaborate hoax, carved by farmer Ohman himself. Both sides have, over the years, presented compelling evidence and arguments in either direction.
Is it real? I have no idea. Its discovery proved harmful to the farmer, who steadfastly refused that he'd perpetrated a hoax, and who was subjected to decades of jeering. Nevertheless, it's an interesting piece of history to contemplate.
Of course, if that was all there was to see, it'd be a really small museum. The local historical society has rounded out the collection with various artifacts from days gone by in the area (including a preserved dog who belonged to a local woman and was her loyal companion until his death). Outside the museum is a replica of Fort Alexandria, just two blocks from its original home. As a replica, it's extremely well done--most of it looks as if had been built 150 years ago.
They've even added wildflower and vegetable gardens, giving the exhibit a "lived in" feel.
Many of the smaller pieces are originals, and in some of the buildings, the logs were salvaged from old log homes.
A rebuilt Lutheran church offers a view of the corn growing right outside.
An authentic covered wagon. I'm still amazed, in my spoiled-rotten-21st-century mindset, that people traveled hundreds and thousands of miles in those things.
They were shorter back then, though.
That's Teen 2, who at 5' 11" is almost too tall to enter the blacksmith shop.
It'd be a great place for a picnic (those are picnic tables, over by the church). With just a touch of modern touristy-ness.
Across the street from the museum is Big Ole, a 28-foot-tall Viking.
Does he know if the Runestone is a hoax or not? If he does, he's not saying.