Donley’s Wild West Town — Union, Illinois

For our youngest daughter’s birthday, we let her bring a friend along with the family on a visit to Wild West town. It was pretty dinky, but we did manage to spend $100 very quickly. We wandered around the museum before we entered the town. It’s actually put together rather nicely, although the collection is very general in nature. One display showed about 40 varieties of toy guns. Along a wall was a collection of old phonographs.

The front entranceMain StreetThe gallows from Cook County Jail

In the blacksmith shop, my older daughter bought the girls rings made from horseshoe nails. She got a dollar off the price because I correctly guessed the purpose of a contraption hanging on the wall — a device to hold horses mouths open so their teeth could be worked on.

We panned for gold in sluice boxes full of gravel. In 20 minutes, we found about 50 small pieces of pyrite, the largest about the size of a pea. As worthless as this was, there was something compelling about it.

Panning for The showPony ride

The girls went on two pony rides. The ponies were led around a small yard by workers at a slow walk. It was so boring they didn’t even want to use their third coupon. They did enjoy riding around a loop in hand carts, propelled by cranks. It looked like a lot of work to me, but they wanted to do it again and again.

At noon, we went to the arena to watch the Wild West Show. Four teens put on a pathetic exhibition that began with a speech against guns. The show consisted mostly of stupid jokes and guys falling off a porch onto a hidden mattress. The best joke: The deputy said, “You guys are outlaws.” One of the bad guys gestured to the other and said, “Actually, him and me, we’re in-laws.”

We tried archery, but the bows were unusable — mine was left-handed — and the suction cups didn’t stick to the target animals.

We ate at the steak house next to the town. The food was reasonably good. Later in the day, we also had ice cream.

Hand-cranked trainCreating our own fun on the train.

For a finale, we took the train ride. The tiny train crawled around half the town and through the back lot while Engine Joe pointed out hightlights, such as trees and the horse corral. Lindy spent her birthday money on a stuffed dog.

I’m not sure how we managed to spend six hours there, but we did. The birthday girl had a great time, which was the whole point, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend the place to anyone (unless you’re attempting to complete the list of things to do in McHenry County).

The most exciting part of the park for me was the shooting gallery where we tried to knock rings onto bottles by shooting corks out of guns.

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