This one’s for you, Mary Lou

THE AREA where Mary Lou’s Garden will be moved to in the future is right next to the railroad tracks at the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum. Photo / Per Peterson

This year’s BCD button pays homage to Wheels Across the Prairie’s own Mary Lou Ludeman

Mary’s Lou’s Garden is getting some much-deserved attention.

Not only is the botanical centerpiece of Wheels Across the Museum featured on this year’s Box Car Days button, it will soon be on the move at the museum.

“The reason we went with Mary Lou’s garden is that we’re going to move the garden,” said Museum Director Jon Wendorff. “Our project for the next three years is to move six buildings from the back over to higher ground because of water issues.”

That means the garden named after Mary Lou Ludeman, a Wheels Across the Prairie Museum founder, will be moved a hosta, skip and a jump to the north, next to the railroad tracks.

Wendorff is well aware that moving a garden is no easy task. He said the first step will be moving all the decorative landscaping stones that surround the garden and ultimately placing them in a different pattern, since the area the garden will be moved to is on more of a rectangular shape.

Then there are the flowers. The garden is home to hostas, lilies, garden flocks, various peonies, two dwarf Korean lilacs and a Hawthorne bush.

“I’m hoping to move everything,” Wendorff said. “I think it will be OK.”

So what will occupy the area that was once home to Mary Lou’s garden? Well, flowers won’t be the only thing on the move.

The row of buildings behind the main Musuem structure  — the Amiret U.S. Post Office, Murray County School House, The Cottage, Norwegian Hut and Summer Kitchen — along with the General Store — will be moved to where the garden currently sits. Wendorff said the plan is to have three buildings on either side of the gravel road that winds through the museum grounds.

“When they’re all moved, we’re going to put cement down (for the walking trail), just past the last building,” he said.

The big move likely won’t take place until the winter of 2021, Wendorff said. To help with the flooding issues, the museum needs to build up the southeast end of the museum grounds, and it was hoping to get fill material from the street projects in town.


The Box Car Days button is a seven-decade  tradition. According to a story in a 2018 edition of the Headlight Herald, the earliest known BCDs button in a collection at the Wheels museum is inscribed with the year 1944. The two-inch, metal pin shows a white boxcar outlined in red and blue ink, with the message “Buy Bonds at Tracy’s 17th Box Car Day.”

The 1946 Box Car Day button was a round, metal pin, just over 2 inches in diameter, featuring a railroad tramp in front of a boxcar. The round-pin format would endure to the present time, with sizes of up to 3.5 inches.

Last year’s button featured Chauncey Muedeking on his 1936 John Deere tractor.

Buttons are on sale through Labor Day weekend for $6. All proceeds go toward museum upgrades and renovations. Buttons serve as admission to the museum over the Labor Day weekend. This year marks the 34th anniversary of the museum.

“I think giving Mary Lou some more honor with the buttons and her garden is a good thing,” Wendorff said. “After it’s moved, people will be able to see it better, because people who come here say, ‘Where’s Mary Lou’s Garden?’ Well, it’s behind the church. After it’s moved it will be there for everyone to see.”

Wendorff said the museum did get permission from the family before deciding to move the garden, which was planed in 2007, shortly before Mary Lou passed away.

“Before we did anything, the family had to know, and I needed their approval,” he said.