Short cuts are meant to get you where you're going a whole lot faster, but there are some back road rest stops where you’ll want to put on the brakes, catch your breath and savor a unique perspective on Oregon’s past.
Winter’s hold seems firm and lasting across Oregon on a day marked by more fresh snowfall.
The snow lights up the scene across the coast range mountain foothills.
While across the Tualatin Valley, it’s quiet times and the farming life is mostly indoors.
Tom Meier is a life long learner and self-proclaimed ‘protector’ of Oregon’s past at a place you’ve likely missed.
It’s a home for one of a kind farm tools that got the jobs done when ingenuity was born of necessity; items headed for the landfill and irreverent death.
Rescued items like cowboy spurs, old film projectors and even older telephones.
For decades Meier has scoured old homesteads and family estate sales and gathered items that can leave you scratching your head.
Meier said the adventure of it all has left him eager for more:
“When you see an original and authentic antique or artifact that says ‘Oregon,’ believe me, you will know it – it jumps out at you.”
Meier says better preserved at his museum than the local landfill.
“I bought one collection from a farmer who was heading to the dump and I said, ‘No, this stuff has value.’ And he said, ‘Well you get it out of here then.’ I swear if it weren’t for me, this would be buried a hundred feet in the ground and lost forever.”
There are really old political buttons and fishing stuff to catch the big ones in Meier’s massive collection of 14,000 items.
It is a collection that continues to grow each day inside a place that just makes you feel good to see that someone cares this much about our past.
Meier’s friends frequently stop in at the Three Mile Museum; sometimes they show up offering donations.
A neighbor and longtime friend, Jim Shores, admires Meier’s museum.
He recently offered up a unique device that had been in his family as long as he could remember: a small wooden “butter” printer that was at least a century old.
Meier was excited to see the rare item: “I’ll be honest with folks – especially if it’s got little value - but every once in a while we get lucky. This is a real treasure believe me, that’s something you just can’t buy today.
Shores offered, “We’ve become such a throw away society – buy it, use it for awhile and throw it away. But back in those days, the family kept so many things, used them until they were extremely worn out and had no value anymore.”
Tom admits that his 40 years of pack rat-ing Oregon memorabilia selectively. The former grade school teacher is adamant that we risk losing ourselves when we lose touch with where we've come from and his Three Mile Museum is a tie that binds us with our stuff and Oregon’s past with the present.
“I like to have things that no one else has,” boasted Meier with a hearty laugh. ”How many people have a museum in the backyard? Why have these things if I can’t show them off.”
Meier’s word of mouth Three Mile Museum doesn’t require an admission fee, but it does require a reservation to visit; especially for small groups of people. Tom Meier asks visitors to contact him in advance at Thomasmeier@frontier.com