A Pilgrimage

Since I was already in Iowa for the IOIA training, I checked to see how far Winterset was from Des Moines. Winterset IA, is a small town about forty minutes away from Des Moines. It’s really only known for one thing, the reason I went there: It’s the birthplace of Marion Morrison, better known as John Wayne.


Last year they opened a small museum near the birthplace home, and I was excited. On Saturday afternoon a classmate and I went to Winterset to see what the birthplace of greatness looked like. It was a picture of small town America, like many small towns in IA.
The museum was a room filled with memorabilia from various films. An eye patch from True Grit, outfits from Big Jake. They even had the the Wayne family station wagon.
There were several letters from various Hollywood actors who knew John Wayne. My favorite was written by Kirk Douglas, who said he only knew the Duke as John Wayne, though many did call him “Duke.” Douglas thought the title was demeaning. “If we give him a title, shouldn’t it be something like ‘King’?”

The house itself was a simple building, a kitchen, one bedroom, and a sitting room. It was similar to the house my own great-grandmother was born in.

In the museum they also had a mini-theatre showing a montage of various John Wayne films. The seats were actually donated by the Chinese Grauman Theatre. Best theatre seats ever!

Since I wouldn’t be able to respect myself if I didn’t, I purchased John Wayne stuff in the museum gift shop:

    • A newly released book, Duke: In His Own Words, a collection of letters, notes, and photos from John Wayne’s life.
    • A mug that quotes “McLintock!” “Don’t say it’s a fine morning or I’ll shoot you.”

My biggest takeaway from this pilgrimage of mine, was a quote of John Wayne’s I had never heard before. “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives, and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”


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