J. J. "Mack" McDougal of Amarillo was in Dumas Wednesday to deliver a replica of an 1893 Studebaker sprinkler wagon that he had made to the Window on the Plains Museum. He came by the News-Press on his way, because he wanted to remind people that the museum -- along with its neighbor, The Art Center -- is now open for visitors. "It is free, and it has a lot of neat stuff," he said.
Mc Dougal, who says, "I have a black belt in puttering," has contributed a number of hand-crafted wooden replicas and displays to the museum over the years. His work has been a popular attraction at the annual Museum Day celebration. Last year, he kept children entertained following marbles through his "Marvelous Mesmerizing Marble Machine" that he had originally created for a "Make a Wish" children's' event. Among the highlights of his work displayed in the museum are a replica of a B-17 hanging from the ceiling, a model of the ship his father served on in World War II, and most recently, a six-foot sailing ship. There is a corner of the museum devoted to his replicas of wagons and other vehicles.
However proud he is of his own work, he is passionate about the museum. "I think it is one of the better museums in the area," he said. He encourages locals especially to take the time to visit. "If you live in a town, you don't do the things that people come to your town to do."
Like other museums, galleries, and similar institutions across the country, the museum and art center were closed to visitors for several weeks due to the COVID-19 health crisis. Last month, the governor began relaxing his stay-at-home order and both the museum and art center have reopened. Both are open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday. Masks are not required, but visitors are welcome to wear one if the choose. Hand sanitizer is available as are clean pens for signing the visitor's register. "Everyone has a place to go now," said McDougal. "You are not under house arrest."
In addition to the work of McDougal, the museum has a large array of artifacts from the earliest days of human habitation in Moore County to the present. Displays tell the story of the economic, political, and social development of the community. Last year, a new building opened, increasing the space available for display. Both the museum and art center welcome visitors from around the world every year.
The Art Center, after having to cancel a number of exhibitions, is now featuring works by Stefan Kramar, Emilio Caballero and others from the permanent collection. An exhibition of work by local artist Manuel Franco is still scheduled for August. According to McDougal, museum and art center officials are planning for Museum Day 2020 to take place in September, unless the coronavirus intervenes.
Studebaker sprinkler wagons were originally made in South Bend Indiana by the Studebaker Brothers. The horse-drawn wagons were used for road construction, dust control in cities, fire control, and to deliver water for cattle, according to McDougal.