Have you ever discovered something so odd, so bizarre, that when you do, a giant globule of gobsmack slaps you straight in the face and shouts, "Wake up! Where have you been all this time!!!?"

Welcome to Cleo's Ferry Museum and Nature Trail!

Located on the north bank of the Snake River, near Melba, Idaho, and just one hour by car from my doorstep, Cleo's hid in plain sight!

A leisurely stroll along the trail's one-mile loop inevitably elicits phrases such as...
  • "OMG!, look at THAT!"
  • "NONE of this makes sense!"

At every curve and corner, the wonders of Cleo's just keep coming. And at times it can be a wee-bit creepy, but it always entertains, and I love it!

Grab your stilts and get ready to explore Cleo's Ferry Museum and Nature Trail!

Before launching into the slide show glimpsing Cleo's world, let's get educated via bullet points! Shall we?...

  • The Swayne family came to America as Quakers... as far back as 1709!
  • Our focus on their family tree begins with Samuel Swayne's birth in 1887.
  • Sam became an M.D., was a WWI surgeon, moved to Idaho in 1920, and purchased Walter's Ferry in 1927. Way to go, Sam!
  • Sam married Bertha along the way and together they had four daughters.
  • Bertha passed away at the age of 40. Sam, in turn, married Cleo Ruth (Speicher) Heuck. Her second marriage, and she came with kids as well.
  • Sam and Cleo built most of the buildings on the site and, following Sam's death in 1976, Cleo continued to work on the buildings and the nature trail.
  • Today, the family trust keeps this crazy place going!

There you have it. Two kiosk panels crammed with detail condensed into seven bullet points! Mission accomplished! Besides, when it comes to Cleo's, pictures are worth thousands AND thousands of words!

And so, via the assist of the familiar picture-n-caption format, let's begin... shall we?

Cleo's features dozens, if not hundreds, of bird houses lining the trail, each featuring religious-leaning words of wisdom. It's not crazy religion. It's common sense gospel, like the one here. Did you know this about faith and a small mustard seed? You're welcome.

OK, that makes perfect sense... I'm good with that.

Well... they did have children!

Cleo Ruth (Speicher) Swayne (1913-2008). The matriarch of all that comprises the compound, Cleo and husband Sam created the site's campus and nature trail. Her family continues the effort today. You gotta admit, Cleo rocks those 70s era glasses, right?

The first thing you notice upon arrival at Cleo's, well, other than deer roaming around and the churchy birdhouses, are the many garden figurines. By day they're kind of cute. But by night... they come alive and CHASE YOU!!

"Hey Mister! Can I wash your car? I've got a metal hose that comes out of nowhere and never has water in it, but I'll wash your car! C'mon, Mister!"

"Hmmm... where can I pour my imaginary water? How about on THIS weed HERE. No! Wait! How about on THAT weed OVER THERE! Oh, I can't reach it... I'm a tiny statue that can't move!"

Little did anyone know before now, but Cleo's features a diorama depicting Natalie and me on our first date. Oh how I impressed her with my vast knowledge of the world; unbridled authority reciting fact. She was smitten. Nothing has changed. And that's also a fact.

Well wadaya know?! It's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves... and maybe Bambi? Halfway along the trail, the tone shifts from pious to other fantastical themes.

Not far past Snow White and her entourage, the trail opens onto a field where dozens of life-size bronze sculptures depict kids in various states of play. Here, a girl's flung into the sky on a swing with very short ropes. It's all fun and games until someone reaches the vertex of the parabola... and someone's eye ends up being put out...

Batter up! This softball game has been frozen in time for ages. Another scene of bronze features a small marching band. Really! A marching band! 

What else could there be?

How about Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, and Abe Lincoln chillaxing in the sun?! Go ahead! Take a load off and sit with your fave man-on-a-bench. Many bronze works at Cleo's were sculpted by artist Gary Lee Price. Gary's work can be seen throughout America and beyond.

Yes, that's a life-size fiberglass elephant! There are also giraffes, a rhino, a lion, an ostrich, and, for some reason, a moose! There's a moose on the loose! Oh my! 

But wait... There's more!

Hmmm.... Do you think this friendly being knows anything about our current leader? I don't know about you, but I think if he did, he'd shut that door pronto and launch right back into space! Wait a minute! Maybe I could go with him? Yes! I'm willing to take my chances.

Bring on the creepy naked devil babies! 

Are you still with me?

Yes, we're still at Cleo's!

Like their figurine brethren, these babies come alive at night and can run SUPER FAST! Try as you might, you'll never outrun creepy naked devil babies. The faster you try to run, the slower you go... as your legs... get heavier... and heavier.... and the babies get closer... and closer... and closer.. and...

The fun doesn't end at the outhouse door! Nope! This guy does his best to look the other way, but when it comes right down to it, his job stinks. Still, the outhouse is well kept and well stocked! Oddly enough, two can use this can at the same time... sitting side-by-side in an absolutely not private way (picture not included).

After the whirlwind kitsch of the nature trail, the compound of buildings strike a different tone, such as the Medical Museum. Though small, this museum is well curated. Just another odd twist in this mini adventure!

Iron lung anyone? Invented in the 1927, polio sufferers often had to spend up to two weeks in the device to make them breathe when their chest muscles were unable to do the work. Though I may make light of Cleo's, the Medical Museum reminds me of the serious side of the Swayne's work before there were bird houses and funny figurines.

I've blocked most memories of my time attending Sunday school, but I'm pretty sure there wasn't a peacock wandering through the stable at the EXACT moment of Jesus' birth. Then again, take a look at the size of the baby Jesus. HE IS HUGE! WOW! Immaculate conception? How about immaculate birth!

Register your visit at the parking lot and get up-to-date information. And note that four books penned by Cleo are available for purchase at the store: The Little Chapel by the River, Come Walk With Me, Pappy the Doctor, and Footsteps Around my Doorstep. I'm good with the first three, but Footsteps Around my Doorstep freaks me out. Why? Because those little footsteps belong to zombie garden figurines and creepy naked devil babies that have come to life in the dead of night and are right behind me!


There's just WAY TOO MUCH at Cleo's to deliver in one TourAlongWithTodd Blog post. What didn't I mention? Well, how about the many other sculptures, the three chapels, the Swayne family cemetery, the clock museum, the adobe hotel built in 1861, the albino peacocks, the giant rainbow arch on the hill, and OH!, in December it's all lit with Christmas lights! I'll be going back for that!

Do yourself a favor: Map out 1984 Hwy 45 S Melba, ID 83641 and take a drive to make your own discoveries at Cleo's Ferry Museum and Nature Trail.

Cleo's is open all year long (with special summer hours for museums and winter hours for Christmas lights), but you have to leave your dog at home!

And when you visit, drop $10 or $20 in the donation box. Cleo's Ferry Museum and Nature Trail is worth having here for a very, very long time. It's THAT good...  even with zombie garden figurines and creepy naked devil babies haunting your dreams! 


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