DENISON — Ute man Deryl Hennings had a problem. He was running out of room for cars in the garage at his house in Ute.
“I couldn’t put my three cars in a two-car garage,” he said. “My wife’s car was standing out with ice on the windshield when she wanted to use it. So I had to build a building.”
He and his wife, Joanie, are retired from farming and live in Ute.
“My dad farmed and I inherited the job,” Hennings said.
His new building sits behind his house, which is just south of the Ute convenience store on Highway 141.
The most notable residents of the building are three Ford Mustangs.
An immaculate black 1964 Mustang sits toward the back. It’s a replacement for the one Hennings traded off when he and Joanie were married.
“It was just a simple car back at that time — not expensive,” he said.
The replacement car sometimes goes out for parades, but that’s about it, he said.
What they really wanted was a convertible, so a second Mustang joined the collection.
“It was about 20 years old and it wasn’t really very expensive. It’s not a classic,” Hennings said. “That’s the one we drive about every night over to the truck stop to have coffee.”
A shiny white 2013 model is the latest addition.
Hennings said the cars are nothing special.
“They are pretty much plain-Janes,” he said. “Most people, when they get a Mustang, get fancy rims and everything, but mine are pretty much just the way they come.”
The rest of the space in the building houses an eclectic collection of memorabilia, from old matchbooks to humorous paintings.
Much of the collection is centered on Ute’s history, but many items are things that Hennings found to be amusing.
“When people found out I had a little museum they loaned me stuff,” he said.
A version of the “Last Supper,” with Richard Nixon at the center of the table and surrounded by the characters of his time, hangs near the entrance — above a three dollar bill with the likeness of Hillary Clinton.
A collection of amusing coffee mugs takes up part of a wall above the “Liars Bench.”
“I can’t get anyone to sit in that,” Hennings said, though he does have pictures of people sitting on the bench elsewhere in his museum.
A picture near the bench is of the doctor who delivered Hennings on the family farm.
Not too far from that, on the floor, is a drum made for a fallout shelter.
“It was filled with water and then you use it as a toilet, later,” he said.
Hennings was involved in civil defense as a teenager.
A collection of old iron farm items lies on the floor near the drum.
One is a spiked weaning collar for calves.
“(It) goes on the calf’s head and pokes into the cow and she would kick,” he said.
Hennings wasn’t sure about the purpose of a long-handled device with metal coils on the end or of a chainmail sleeve about the size of a person’s thumb.
A wire device to protect a farm’s best ears of corn from mice hangs near the newest Mustang.
The saved corn was then used for spring planting.
“That’s before they had hybrid corn,” Hennings said.
A yellow stop sign and a traffic fatality road sign are parts of the collection.
Another wall has 1943 pennies arranged to spell “UTE” on a magnetic surface.
“In 1943 they didn’t have the copper, so they had different types of pennies,” Hennings said.
The rest of the collection ranges from an original 48 star flag to a small statue of a housewife literally working herself to the bone to a stuffed raccoon in an old mailbox.
One displayed piece started as a rock with two indentations on it. Hennings put marbles in the indentations for eyes — and then his granddaughter painted a monkey face on it.
A small team from Iowa State University traveled to Ute for an archaeological dig on his family farm about two miles west of Ute a few years ago.
Hennings has pictures on display of the dig and a piece of a bowl and a wooly mammoth vertebra that the team uncovered.
Many of the other items are from the history of the town and local area.
He has a collection of matchbooks from area businesses and an original Ute High School basketball team jersey worn by a mannequin.
“When the school closed, everything went to Charter Oak’s colors,” Hennings said. “I asked a lot of ball players if they got to take the uniform and I finally found one person who had one.”
Another mannequin is dressed with a young woman’s clothing from the 1950s.
Hennings has collected signs and caps from area businesses that are long gone or have different names today.
A large display features 72 pens from local businesses and individuals.
One pen says, “Elect Neal Gorham.”
Gorham was from Soldier and was a good friend of Hennings.
When Gorham died in 2015, Hennings asked for his Army uniform, which he was given and now displays in his museum.
Hennings said he has offered to pay for bits of Ute memorabilia, but most often people offer it to him for free.
He’s still on the lookout for more bits of history and funny and interesting pieces.
“I’m trying to keep that stuff for people to see,” he said.