- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

STAMFORD, Texas (AP) - Guessing the function is easy enough with most of the stuff in the Cowboy Country Museum. But every once in a while, you run into a stumper.

Sandra Rhea, the curator, pointed to a rusty contraption on the carpet about the size of fat cat. It was even sort of shaped like a fat cat, if you used your imagination. Big gears at the back end, smaller ones in the front, both connected with a gear chain. A large wooden handle stuck up from back; the front end featured pincers set perpendicular to the floor.

Sandra told the Abilene Reporter-News (http://bit.ly/1b0Ha4D) she’d found it in her daddy’s barn and was told it came from her grandfather. She still didn’t know what it was, so she included a photograph of it in the column she writes for a local newspaper.

“I came back at lunch and there were three men laying here on the floor,” she recalled, pointing down at it. “They said, ‘We’ve figured it out.’”

She took a rusty horse’s shoe from another display and showed how it fit into the pincers.

“It is a horseshoe-sizer,” she said, laying a hand on the lever. “You would mash it down and it would compress them.”

Other items, like a small statuette provided by former District 17 U.S. Rep. Charles Stenholm, are a little more intuitive. On the base, a small plaque reads “To: Charlie”, the line below, “From: Tip.” That would be former House Speaker Tip O’Neill.

What does the figure depict in faux shiny gold? The rear half of a horse. Or maybe it’s a donkey. Being Democrats, you can’t be entirely sure, but safe to say, the message probably the same.

“I think he’s calling him a horse’s butt,” confirmed Rhea with a laugh.

It’s only a fraction of the collection honoring Stenholm’s service. Stenholm served 13 terms, from 1979 to 2005, but lost his seat after redistricting put him up against Lubbock’s Randy Neugebauer. Among other things, Stenholm, whose roots are in Jones County, now teaches at Tarleton State University in Stephenville.

Some of the mementos are pictures of Stenholm rubbing elbows with presidents and other famous people.

“I point that out when I do a tour,” Rhea said. “That he was a local farmer and he decided to run for congress.”

She laughed again.

“I say to them, ‘See what you can do if you leave Stamford?’” she joked.

The Stenholm exhibit only takes up the end of the latest addition to the museum, a large room that nearly doubles the amount of display space on hand. Glass cabinets line the walls. One features Stamford Bulldog memorabilia while on the opposing wall another case shows off weaponry, including an ancient arrow quiver made from a hollowed-out pecan limb and hardened raw hide.

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