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Warnke dioramas enliven museums

Sheridan resident Tom Warnke takes the term “history buff” to an altogether different level.

A diorama builder for more than 25 years, Warnke dedicated his latest last month, the Apacheland Movie Ranch in Apache Junction, Ariz., at the Superstition Mountain Museum.

The western village burned in 2004. It was the longtime set location for television programs like “Have Gun Will Travel,” and “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” and movies such as “Charro” and “The Ballad of Cable Hogue.” Warnke spent more than 500 hours painstakingly recreating the village through photographs and personal recollections. Said one museum staffer of Warnke’s effort, “The diorama is another treasure of Superstition Mountain.” A stickler for details, it is a marvel.

Tom and I spoke by telephone Monday where he was enjoying “hot as hell” temperatures amidst raw winds and blowing snow hereabouts. He’ll be back in Sheridan next month. Most know Tom started KWN Construction in 1965. The company has been a factor in “building” the community – private homes, commercial operations, libraries, churches and many others.

Warnke’s first diorama was the Cheyenne Hunting Camp, built in 1983 for the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library. It is now housed in the Sheridan Memorial Hospital. The next one, number 19, is his most ambitious: the Battle of the Rosebud, the largest battle of the Indian Wars that took place June 17, 1876, and involved 3,000 combatants, stretching for more than 10 miles. Most historians called the battle a draw. (The Battle of the Little Big Horn was eight days later.)

Warnke’s “Rosebud” will be 3-feet-by-8 -feet with more than 500 warriors. Warnke said Monday with a laugh he was finishing up the project with “two rabbits and two rattlesnakes.” This diorama will be dedicated in or around July 4 at the Sheridan County Museum. For more info, call 675-1150; or go the museum’s website, www.sheridanwyoming.org where there is a feature about Tom’s diorama.

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You know spring is coming when:
• Janelle Gray opens the doors to Landon’s Greenhouse and Nursery;

• You see people eating ice cream, right in the middle of the day, at Dairy Queen.

• The Big Horn Homebuilders Association has their big three-day expo, the Home & Garden Show. It’ll be Friday, beginning at 5 p.m. and will run through Sunday at the Holiday Inn Conference Center. There is free admission and the public is encouraged to attend. Plenty of ideas for the home, business and yard therein.

In today’s edition of The Sheridan Press, there’s a special 32-page section on the show and exhibitors – check it out. There will be more than 70 exhibitors.

Stop by the Press’ booth and say hello.

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They Said It

“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”

— Abraham Lincoln, 16th president

About

Tom Cotton

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