But what, you may be wondering, has any of this to do with our trip across Iowa. Well, you see, that lonely goatherd nows calls the MacNider Art Museum in Mason City, Iowa home. Dad knows how much I love those goats so we just had to stop. Bill Baird, the American puppet master who created these puppets. was from Mason City. The MacNider collection of Baird puppets is the largest holding of the late puppeteer's work to be found anywhere. I can't tell you how disappointed I was when we found the museum closed.
But, on our way out of town, we discovered another hidden gem in Mason City, The Music Man Square. You see, Meredith Willson, the man who created The Music Man and The Unsinkable Molly Brown and a bunch of other now classic entertainments, was also from this small town. In his honor the town recreated the town square of River City, the town in The Music Man which is based entirely on Mason City. Well you won't believe it, but when we entered the square, confetti and streamers fell from the sky. Seventy-six trombones led a big parade while a chorus sang "We Got Trouble Right Here in River City." Debbie Reynolds did a sexy soft-shoe while Shirley Jones jumped out of a flaming cake. You see, we were the 500,000th visitors to Music Man Square which opened in 2002. We were a bit scared, but intrigued by the spectacle. Then the mayor of Mason City came over to us and placed the key to the city around my neck on a beautiful gold chain. Debbie Reynolds danced over sideways, looked right at Rufus and me and exclaimed, " I just have to have me one of them!" Dad searched around for one of his business cards, but as usual he couldn't locate one.
Above: The Incomparable Ms. Sharon Olson
Well, I don't want to disappoint you, we weren't really the 500,000th visitor. We were told we were two weeks too late for that. But we did visit the square and were lucky enough to meet Ms. Sharon Olson and a bunch of other VERY FRIENDLY folks in River City. Now, Sharon Olson is an elegant dame and she knows more about Meredith Willson than just about anybody. She gives tours of Meredith Willson's Mason City home which sits next to The Music Man Square. At the end of our visit, Sharon walked with us to our car to say goodbye. Right before we left, she held Rufus' little face and sang, in the most beautiful voice, " We got trouble right here in River City." That begins with 'D" and it ends in "G." And there's an 'O' in the middle.