Thursday, November 30, 2006


I hadn't been in the Dane County Veteran's Museum before last week. No interest. Then last Friday I saw at least four busloads of school kids go in there, bringing back memories of field trips from way back, and I had to take a look.

They represent American veterans' involvement in wars through history by standing costumed dummies in dioramas all around the walls. I've always liked dioramas. My Mom thinks they're pretty cheesy, but I like cheese, the more sentimental and cornball, the better.

And I liked that I could look at a diorama and know in an instant what it was supposed to be. I glanced at the scene in this photo, for instance, and recognized the Battle of the Bulge from across the room.

I didn't have much time, so I couldn't linger at the display cases, but I did take the time to gaze long and hard at the model ships.

At the peak of my model-building career I probably owned at least one-hundred fighter planes. I would've given them all up to build something like this. And I would've had to live in a house the size of a dairy barn to display something like this.

It's the USS Wisconsin, naturally. The full-size one was built back just before aircraft carriers took over as the ultimate warships of the high seas. She was mothballed after the world war, briefly came out of retirement to fight in the Persian Gulf war, and I believe she rests in a comfy berth once again.

They made a pretty nifty display out of the model, with the ship's bell and the brass name plate mounted on the other side of the display case. And what display would have been complete without an example of the 16-inch shells fired by those big guns?

Best thing in the museum, though, was the periscope, no contest. Who doesn't go gah-gah over a periscope? Okay, my wife wouldn't, but what guy wouldn't shove his way through a rugby scrum for the chance to look through a real periscope? You can pan it around for a good look at most of the buildings in cap square, but you can't increase the magnification to see if anybody's sleeping at their desks or photocopying their butts. Still, a periscope! Freaking awesome!