From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hitting the Garage Sale Trail

Saturday morning entertainment


Relay for Life Yard sale at Town and Country
Real Estate in Hopkinsville, KY

Usually I enjoy sleeping late on my day off, but this morning, I got up early so I could go to some Saturday morning yard sales with Keely and my friend Lisa. I picked up Keely at 7:15 AM, and we stopped at a convenience store to get coffee and Whistlestop donuts (breakfast) on our way to pick up Lisa.

Last night, I studied yard sale ads in the newspaper, looked up the addresses I didn't know, and planned a route. We went to most of the sales that were advertised and added a few that we found along the way. Keely and I estimate that we went to about 25 sales in 4 hours.

My rewards for getting up early were a metal rooster doorstop, a set of 10 Bible storybooks (the same set that I read as a child), 3 pairs of brand-new jeans for Dennis ($2 per pair!), and a nice hexagonal mirror I'm going to hang in the bathroom. Keely bought a fiber optic lamp, a set of fairy figurines, and a mushroom-shaped cookie jar. Lisa bought a CB radio and a set of ping-pong paddles.

Most of Hopkinsville's yard sales start at 6 AM and end at noon. We saw one lady packing up her sale at 11:00 AM! I'm not sure why Hopkinsville is fond of such an early schedule. In other towns, yard sales commonly stay open until mid-afternoon.

Next weekend (Thursday through Sunday, June 4-7) is the 400 Mile Sale along Kentucky Highway 68. Dozens of sales will be held in and around Hopkinsville, and many more will be set up along 68/80 through Christian County and beyond.

I read that the Senior Center is renting 400 Mile Sale spaces for $30 each -- in their big multi-purpose room, I suppose. I think that might be a good sale to check. My theory: When people have to pack up their stuff and haul it to the sale, they leave the junk at home and only bring the good stuff.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Whistlestop Donuts

New donut shop in Hopkinsville


Hopkinsville has a new donut drive-through and everyone is talking about it. Its name is Whistlestop Donuts, and it's named for its location on 9th Street, near the train tracks.

Word-of-mouth advertising is working very well for Whistlestop Donuts. A dozen people have told me how good the donuts are. I've read about Whistlestop donuts on the Hoptown Hall. Several of the convenience stores have started carrying Whistlestop donuts. Isaac mentioned that one of the managers had brought Whistlestops to work and put them in the break-room.

Tonight, as I drove a co-worker home from work, I passed Whistlestop's little building. The neon "Open" sign was glowing, and several cars were waiting in line at the drive-through window.

When I came down that street again on my way home, I yielded to temptation. After all, I just finished working six days in a row and taking care of the neighbor ladies' seven dogs for several days. I deserved a donut (or two.)

"I've never been here before, and I don't know what to get," I told the girl at the window. "Tell me what I want."

"You want a dozen," she told me firmly, and she began listing the choices. Donuts, Bismarcks, cinnamon rolls, Long Johns, apple fritters, chocolate, cream cheese, vanilla, raspberry, lemon. They all sounded good. "Just give me an assortment," I finally said.

She took a box and went to the other side of the room. I watched her filling the box from big trays on a baker's rack. Soon she was back. "You're gonna love 'em, honey," she promised, as she gave me the box.

On the way home, I called Isaac who was also getting off work. "I've been to the Evil One," I told him. "What, WalMart?" he asked.

"No, I've been to Whistlestop Donuts and bought a dozen," I confessed. Isaac was surprised and happy. "Really?! I'm going to have some when I get home!" That was my thought, as well.

And I agree with everyone else. They are good donuts. They are more substantial than yeast donuts usually are. They don't have large air pockets.

I think the girl at the Whistlestop window must like chocolate. Half of the doughnuts she put in the box had chocolate glaze. I was a little disappointed that she didn't put in a cream-cheese Bismarck, but that gives me an excuse to stop again, one of these days.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dr. Edward S. Stuart, Hospital Founder

How Jennie Stuart Memorial Hospital began


Edward Shanklin Stuart was born in 1828, near the Antioch Church in the northeastern part of Christian County, Kentucky. His father, Samuel Stuart, died at the young age of 33, leaving his mother, Elizabeth Shanklin Stuart, to raise little Edward who was only five and his brother William.

Early settlers


Edward's paternal grandparents, William and Janet Stuart, were early settlers in the Antioch community, arriving in 1806 from North Carolina. His maternal grandparents, Edward and Mary Shanklin, came from Shenadoah County, Virginia, at about the same time and settled in Todd County, east of present-day Fairview.

Mary Shanklin, was a midwife. It is noteworthy that, in 1808, she attended the birth of Jefferson Davis, future president of the Confederacy, in a little cabin near the site of the present-day Jefferson Davis Memorial in Fairview.

Young Edward Stuart becomes a doctor


Perhaps his grandmother's work as a midwife sparked Edward's interest in medicine. In 1848, at the age of 20, Edward began a year of medical study under Dr. H. W. Darnell of Fairview. Then he attended the St. Louis Medical College for two years and graduated as a Medical Doctor.

Dr. Stuart returned to Christian County and set up practice in Crofton. A few years later, his mentor, Dr. Darnell, offered him a partnership, and Dr. Stuart accepted and moved back to Fairview.

Dr. Stuart's life in Fairview


1858 was a year of life changes for the doctor. Dr. Darnell retired, leaving Dr. Stuart to carry on the practice alone. And Dr. Stuart married a girl from Fairview, Miss Jane E. Vaughn, whom people called "Jennie".

Dr. Stuart and Miss Jennie had two children: May born in 1871 and Willie born in 1877 who died as an infant. (It is interesting that the Stuarts were married for 13 years before having children, but it is quite possible that there were miscarriages.) They also took a foster child, Sally Vaughn, into their home and raised her as their own.

William H. Perrin's History of Christian County, Kentucky, published in 1884, reports that Dr. Stuart owned about 900 acres of land in the Fairview area. It also notes that the doctor was well-respected as a medical practitioner and as a gentleman, that he was a Democrat who had steadfastly refused public office, and that he had been the high priest of the Masons in Fairview for fifteen years.

"Dr. Ed" and Miss Jennie enjoyed a marriage of over fifty years. In 1912, Miss Jennie fell in Hopkinsville while shopping and broke her hip. She was taken to the only nursing facility that Hopkinsville had at the time, an infirmary that a group of doctors had opened in an old house on the northwest corner of Fifth and Clay streets. She passed away there, about three weeks later.

The Jennie Stuart Memorial Hospital


After Miss Jennie's death, Dr. Stuart found around $25,000 that she had saved and hidden throughout their Fairview home. Dr. Stuart donated that money and additional funds to build a proper hospital in Hopkinsville. The brick building was constructed on West 17th Street by the Forbes Brothers and opened in 1914 as the Jennie Stuart Memorial Hospital. In addition to the funds he had already donated, Dr. Stuart willed his estate to the hospital.

The September 1, 1917, issue of the Kentucky Medical Journal included a few words about Dr. Stuart:
Dr E.S. Stuart, the venerable Fairview physician whose beneficience is responsible for Jennie Stuart Memorial hospital at Hopkinsville, on July 21st quietly celebrated his eighty ninth birthday today at his home. Dr Stuart is showing plainly the weight of his years but still enjoying good health and able to walk downtown in Fairview. The hospital which Dr Stuart has given Hopkinsville has proven to he one of the greatest gifts possible to suffering humanity. The splendid service it makes possible has been the mean of saving many lives.

The Jefferson Davis Memorial was built in Fairview just a block or two east of the doctor's home over a period of years beginning in 1917, and Dr. Stuart enjoyed watching its construction. This was the reason for many of his walks to downtown Fairview.

Dr. Stuart spent his last days in an apartment created for him at the Jennie Stuart Memorial Hospital and passed away there in 1922 at the age of 94. Today, Hopkinsville's Jennie Stuart Medical Center still honors the frugal Miss Jennie Stuart and the generous Dr. Edward Stuart in its name.

The Dr. Edward S. Stuart House


The Stuart house can still be seen in Fairview, KY. It is located about a block west of the Jefferson Davis Memorial on old Highway 68. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. If I am interpreting the Register correctly, the dates of construction were 1850 and 1870. The back part of the house, a story and a half, was built first. Notice the recessed entry.

It seems likely that someone else built the house, and Dr. Ed and Miss Jennie bought it sometime after their marriage in 1858. The two-story front section of the house was added in a second construction, probably by the Stuarts. The east end of the addition contains the halls and stairways and the west end contains the living areas. Heat was not needed in the passageways, so only the west end has a chimney.

- - - - - - - - - -
Read more on the web:
Todd County, KY, Family History Book, see page 294.
Who was Jennie Stuart?
Jennie Stuart Hospital

Related articles on Prairie Bluestem
Jefferson Davis Memorial Park photos
The Fairview School, built in the early 1900s

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The 2 Kates at Elkton, KY

Eating Out in Elkton



A few weeks ago, two of my lady friends took me out to eat in Elkton. We went to The 2 Kates on the square. It's located across the street from the Jefferson Davis Hotel in an old building that used to be a drugstore (as I recall.)

The room is filled with interesting things to see and buy. There are fine antiques, jewelry, little dresses and gowns for children that appear hand-sewn, gift items of all sorts, and works by local artists and artisans. These items are displayed at the front of the room and along the walls. The dining tables are in the back of the room, behind a large, antique cabinet that serves as a room divider.

I had a small bowl of the best tomato soup I've ever eaten. Then I had a great salad and a Kentucky Legend ham sandwich. The sandwich had thin slices of apple in it. Everything was delicious.

Plan ahead if you decide to visit The 2 Kates. The hours are limited.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tennessee Renaissance Festival 2009

Another memorable Tenn-Renn


It rained Friday night but the clouds seemed to be dissipating on Saturday morning. We rendezvoused at the Clarksville Books-A-Million and took two cars to the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. Isaac drove the guys, and the girls rode with me.  (At left: Taurus at Books-A-Million, wearing his kilt and his Indiana Jones hat.)

One glance at the Tenn-Renn grounds told us that an excess of rain had fallen recently. The grassy field that serves as parking lot was a maze of muddy tire tracks. "Park at your own risk," signs along the edge of the field warned. (The real meaning of the signs: Tenn-Renn will not get your car out of the mud for you.)

We drove into the field and parked as directed in a long double-row of cars, half-a-dozen rows from the bottom. Then we walked down the long hill to the ticket booths and fair gates, avoiding the mud as much as possible.

The fairgoers were enjoying the shows, food, shopping, and other attractions. It was Pirate Weekend and many people were wearing pirate garb (ranging from slightly to seriously piratical.) I didn't see as many people costumed as fantasy and mythical characters as I've seen previously.

All of the streets at Tenn Renn are graveled. Many of them were a little wet, and some of them were muddy. The heavy foot traffic around the tents in the market brought lots of saturated soil to the surface. The maintenance people had tossed wood chips and straw on the muddiest spots. Still, our shoes were soon splashed and speckled with mud, and we lifted our long skirts to try to keep them dry.

Some of the sights and wonders at this year's Renn Faire:


Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of either my garb or Keely's. I made and wore a silvery linen dress that is long and medievalish. Keely made and wore a black skirt with a beautiful copper-colored bodice.

The weather goes bad


After wandering through the market for a while, we decided to go to a couple of the shows. Afterward, we walked to the area beside the jousting field, and as we left the cover of the trees, I noticed a very large, dark cloud that was nearly overhead. I decided to head for the car and Annie decided to go with me.

As we headed for the front gate, it began to sprinkle. We heard a policeman urging people to leave immediately. A little boy, clutching his umbrella, started to cry. His dad called him back to the shelter of the trees. His grandma said the trees weren't safe and they should head for the car. I don't know what they decided to do.

By the time we got to the car, it was raining steadily. Within a few minutes, it was raining much harder. Very soon, the rest of our group, except Castille, joined us at the cars.

Annie fished in the trunk from the back seat and hauled out our bags. Behind sheets of rain on the car windows, we girls squirmed out of our wet garb and put on our dry street clothes. This was not easy, but it was worth the effort.

Gusts of rain blew against the car. We saw lightning and heard crashes of thunder. We worried about Castille. We hoped he had found shelter and that he wasn't out in the storm, looking for the car.

We also worried about how we would ever drive out of the field. Every now and then, someone decided to leave and drove his car out of its parking place. Most of them paused in the mud. (Why?! We couldn't understand it!) In a futile effort to start moving again, the drivers stepped on the gas and spun the tires wildly. This made the loblolly in the exit route larger, deeper, and juicier. Finally, the people in the back seat would get out and push the car to firmer ground, getting terribly mud-splattered in the process.

Our exit


The rainfall finally dwindled to a steady sprinkle, and we spotted Castille coming up the hill. Taurus got out of the car to reconnoiter. He decided that we should drive diagonally across the mudpit to a grassy spot; from there, cut across to another grassy spot; and from there, stay on the grass directly behind a line of parked cars until we reached the gravel road. We followed his directions and drove out with no trouble at all.

And Castille? He had waited out the storm inside a pavilion and watched a couple of performances. The performers, poor souls, worked in the rain. The stage was not covered by the roof. It seems that this made the belly dancing quite interesting. (Oh, my.)

Gentle reader, if you are following these events with bated breath, please relax. The story becomes less exciting now. We stopped at a gas station so the guys could change their clothes. They were too tall to change inside Isaac's little car. Then we went to Opry Mills Mall in Nashville and spent several hours shopping.

When we got back to Clarksville, we went to IHOP to eat. The food wasn't very good, but we were too tired to fuss much about it. From there, everyone went home in the car he or she had driven there. Isaac and I got home about 11 PM. When I went to bed at midnight, Dennis asked, "How was the Renn Faire?" I was too exhausted to go into detail. "We made it," I said.

Related articles in the Prairie Bluestem archives:
Tennessee Renaissance Festival 2008
Tennessee Renaissance Festival 2007
Tennessee Renaissance Festival 2006

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Christian County Wheat Field

Kentucky's contribution to the breadbasket



This field of winter wheat in eastern Christian County, KY, is a large field for this part of the state. When the wheat is harvested, the farmer will probably plant soybeans. We have a long enough growing season here that the soybeans will make a crop before frost.

I read in the Kentucky New Era, our local newspaper, that some farmers are concerned about the recent  excessive rainfall hurting the wheat. I don't know much about wheat farming, but I suppose mold-like diseases could develop. Also, the wet, heavy heads could bend the stems over, making the field difficult to harvest and cutting the yield.

If the wet, cool weather continues, one of the biggest concerns will be getting the wheat crop out of the field. It's very muddy right now. That's why I took this photo from the edge of the road, getting some tall grass in the foreground, instead of wading out to the edge of the field where the photo would have been all wheat.

Our situation right now is surprisingly similar to the May 28th, 1892, crop report in the New York Times.
 Kentucky -- Rainfall excessive; temperature and sunshine deficient; weather too cool and wet; wheat yellowing; tobacco plants being set rapidly; corn on river bottoms still unplanted; fields weedy and need work; light frost 23d; no damage.

We don't expect a late frost, as was reported that year, but it is chilly. Overnight temps are expected to be in the low 40s, tonight and Monday night.

To my uneducated eyes, the wheat heads (photo below) look like they're filling out nicely. The wheat fields are taking on a yellowish color as the wheat heads form. That color will intensify as the wheat matures and dries. In just a few weeks, we'll have "amber waves of grain."

A report on the 2009 US winter wheat crop



Related posts in the Prairie Bluestem archives:
Winter Wheat
Wheatberry Bread
Mennonite Immigration from Russia to America
Thoughts About My Neighbor's Wheatfield

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Newport, Nebraska: Hay Town

The Gilg family's hay shipping heritage


In the pioneer days of Nebraska, many villages formed and (with luck)  flourished. Many of the little prairie towns had distinct personalities. Farm towns were centers where farmers bought and sold. Cow towns developed along the railroads, as shipping centers for the cattle of the Great Plains. And hay towns were shipping centers for Nebraska's great natural resource, the wild hay of the prairies.

Newport, Nebraska was established by the railroad as a hay town in the early 1880s. Located in the heart of northern Nebraska's hay country, Newport became the largest hay-shipping center in the world within a few years, a distinction noted in various books of the period:

... [A] little northwestern town, Newport, ships more hay than is marketed from any one other point in the world. (Source: The Strategy of Great Railroads (p. 206) by Frank Hamilton Spearman. Published by C. Scribner's Sons, 1904)

As an example of the quality of the lands, Rock County actually ships more hay to market via The North-Western Line from the town of Newport than is shipped to market from any other one point anywhere in the world... (Source: The Open Door to Independence: Making Money From the Soil (p. 129), by Thomas E Hill. Published by Hill Standard Book Co., 1915)

Nebraska is the first State in the Union in the production of prairie hay and grass. The largest hay-shipping station in the world is within her borders — Newport, Rock County. (Source: The Encyclopedia Americana: A Library of Universal Knowledge (p. 25), published by Encyclopedia Americana Corp., 1919.


When prairie hay was marketed, it was tightly packed and tied into square bales that stacked nicely in a boxcar or warehouse. Hay shipping offices weighed the hay and coordinated the supply with the demand. The photo at right, provided by Bob and Elaine Gilg of Newport, NE, shows horse-drawn hay trailers ("hay racks") of baled hay waiting for the train in Newport.

The Gilg family operated a hay shipping business and later, a lumber yard in Newport for over 80 years. Joseph Gilg, hay shipper, is mentioned by Keith Terry in his book Nebraska's Cowboy Trail, A User's Guide (p.67) The hay business was purchased by Mr. Gilg in 1915, a time when Newport was busy with hay nearly every day of the year.

The image below shows the office of Newport Lumber (in earlier days, the hay shipping office) when it was sold at auction several years ago. Elaine wrote that the office interior remains today much the same as it appears in the vintage photos at the end of this article.


Hay was a vital commodity because hay-eating animals -- horses, mules, and oxen -- performed much of the nation's work and provided much of the transportation until automobiles and tractors came into widespread use. The marketing of hay was an important industry, and investors studied the hay market much as they might watch the price of crude oil today.

The vast meadows between O'Neill and Bassett, Nebraska, were (and still are!) some of the most productive grasslands in the world. Today, much of the hay is used and sold locally for cattle on area ranches. Some hay is still shipped to distant buyers, but it is transported by trucks. The railroad line that served Newport has been closed since my childhood.

The Gilg hay office in Newport, Nebraska

Thanks for sharing these images, Bob and Elaine. I should add that the photos were of particular interest to me because I grew up in Rock County, Nebraska, where Newport is located. Elaine is a cousin's cousin to me, through the Davis family. My great-aunt Goldie Clark Davis and Elaine's uncle Paul Davis (of Ainsworth, Nebraska) were husband and wife.

Related articles in the Prairie Bluestem archives:
Before Cars, The Importance of Hay
Reports of Prairie Fires and Wolves
The Hayfield
Remembering Pony Lake School

Credit: Map of Newport's location from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Respite from Rain

Wet spring weather


From the shelter of the carport, looking south across our lawn.
(Check out this nearly identical photo, from a rainy day in Nov. 2007.)

I can barely distinguish one rainy day of this month from another; the days of wetness have merged into one big puddle. However, I think today was our third day in a row without significant rainfall. It's been nice to see some sunshine.

The photo above was taken on a day that I do remember -- last Friday, when several severe thunderstorms passed through our area. We had a long day of many weather warnings, but we suffered no tornadoes or notable wind damage. Rainfall of over three inches was reported in some parts of the county for the day.

Dennis got home late on Friday afternoon from the elementary school where he works. We had a tornado watch at the time the students should have been going home. The buses weren't allowed to go to the schools until the weather cleared up a little.

Cadiz --pronounced "Kay-deez" -- is a small town about 20 miles west of Hopkinsville. One of the girls at work told me about the high water there, following a downpour late on Friday night. Her boyfriend has a law enforcement job in Cadiz. Around midnight, he sent her a text message: the rescue squad was trying to get some cattle out of the river, and they had their vehicles stuck in a muddy pasture. "Only in Cadiz," he noted wryly.

The farmers are hoping for a spell of dryer weather so they can plant crops and mow hay. Today, I saw someone unloading flats of tobacco plants from a truck. I guess he's going to "mud them in", as I have done with tomato plants in the garden some years.

Ah, yes, the garden. I haven't been in my garden at all yet. Well, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are looking a little rainy, so maybe Sunday afternoon.

Let me be clear. I'm reporting, not complaining about, the amount of rain we've had in the past few months. This part of Kentucky gets the majority of its annual rainfall in the winter and spring. We had a dry spring in 2007, and it was the precursor of a long summer of horrible, desperate drought. I'd much rather have a wet spring than a dry one.

A long low shaft of evening sunshine illuminates
the Bradford Square Mall in Hopkinsville, KY
after several days of rain last week.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

To My Mom, Gennie, and all of the other Moms out there.



This is Keely. I'm interrupting my mother's regularly scheduled blog for a very important holiday announcement. On behalf of daughters and sons everywhere, I am here to tell all the moms out there that we love you very much and that one day just isn't enough to thank you for everything you do for us. Especially to my mom, I love you enormously. Thank you for being my mom.

Thank you for teaching me that I am smart enough and strong enough to do things myself. Thank you for teaching me that I can do things even though I'm scared, and that being scared doesn't make me weak. Thank you for being there to listen to me and talk to me.

Thank you for making sure that I knew how to cook and do my own laundry when I went to college. Thank you for teaching me how to have fun in life, like cheating poorly at board games. Thank you for being patient with me, even when I drove you up a wall. Thank you for accepting Taurus and my other friends and Isaac's friends and making them feel like a part of our family.

Thank you for all of the meals you've cooked, the comfort when I was sick, and for picking me up all the times I've gotten stuck. Thank you for always being there and being my Mommy.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Wild Turkey Sightings

Wild turkeys reestablished in Christian County, KY


Wild turkeys in northeastern Christian County

I saw a little flock of wild turkeys a few weeks ago in northeastern Christian County (KY). They weren't frightened enough to fly away. Instead they trotted down the road in front of my car for at least two hundred yards and then ran across the field to a little creek which they followed into the woods.  Every now and then, I could see their heads bobbing along through the tall grass.

Several days later, in the southeastern corner of the county, I surprised another little flock of turkeys on a remote rural road. It was a startling experience for me, too. The turkeys immediately took flight, rising into the air right in front of my car with a great flapping of wings. They didn't fly high -- they were hardly ten feet above the ground -- but they flew fast.

My third turkey sighting of the spring came about a week later. I was driving up the lane to our house, As I reached the top of the hill, where the woods end and the field begins, I saw a turkey with his feathers all spread out -- a tom, I assume. Three other turkeys were with him, and I assume they were females.  They all flew into the woods as soon as they saw me.  That is the second time I've seen turkeys near our house.

According to the Kentucky National Wild Turkey Federation website, a flock of 62 wild turkeys was released in Christian County in 1978. Thirty years later, they seem to be well-established -- at least, in some rural areas that I travel.

Still, the turkeys aren't as plentiful as they once were. In Perrin's history of Christian County, KY, he mentions the stories an old timer told of "enormous flocks of wild turkeys" in the area around Lafayette, in southwestern Christian County.

And in Muhlenberg County, Christian County's neighbor on the northeast, the big birds were so numerous that they were considered pests. People said that a corn crop was in danger of being eaten by turkeys from the day it was planted until the day it was harvested.

In 1845, an effort was made to kill as many turkeys and squirrels as possible within a 60-day-period. It was apparently quite successful; according to the old story, the farmers were able to raise good corn crops for many years thereafter. (Source: A History of Muhlenberg County (p. 100) by Otto Arthur Rothert. Published by J.P. Morton, 1913.)

I've heard some of our farmer neighbors talk about the quantity of grain that the turkeys consume in the fields. I am sure that it can be a problem. From my viewpoint as an interested observer, though, I'm glad the turkeys are back.

Related posts:
A Big Flock of Wild Turkeys
Wild Turkey Breaks Bus Window
Grass, Water, and Trees

Friday, May 01, 2009

Cousin Alta's Quilts

(And some other examples of quilting and needlework)



I drove over to visit my Cousin Alta one day this week. She lives in Tennessee about 100 miles southwest of here. We had a pleasant afternoon of talking about family history and life in general. Alta and my mother, Doris Sees Hill, were first cousins. Alta's mother, Elva Sees Hix, and my grandfather, Harry Sees, were brother and sister.

We started talking about and looking at quilts when Alta's friend came by to return some quilting books. She brought along a pinwheel(?) quilt and an unfinished quilt top that she wanted to show Alta.

The fabrics of the quilt top are vivid turquoise, pink, and purple prints. Alta's friend laughed about her daughter who said, "Mom, that's just not you!" when she saw the colors.

After her friend left, we looked at some quilts Alta has made. I photographed them so the Prairie Bluestem readers can enjoy them too. However, the photos don't do the quilts justice because they don't show enough of the detail.

Alta made many of the blocks for her embroidered quilts when she and her husband went camping. The quilt in the photo at right is edged with eyelet lace.

Two more of Alta's embroidered quilts:


We spread the quilts on Alta's bed, one on top of the other. Alta said she would leave them stretched out there for a few days to let their fibers relax. It's not good for them to be rolled up all the time.

The quilt at left is a friendship quilt that includes blocks made by relatives. Alta showed me this one to give me an example of how I might set together some quilt blocks that my Grandma Nora gave me.

When Alta and her husband first moved to the little village where she lives, she wanted to make a friendship quilt, but she didn't know anyone who could or would make a quilt block. She didn't realize how many quilters lived around there and how friendly they were! The quilt at right is the result.

Alta showed me three Log Cabin quilts that she has made.


I think Alta told me that she made the quilt in the photo at left for a quilting class she taught. The same fabrics are used throughout, but combined differently in each block.

As I was labeling these photographs and getting them ready to post, I wrote that this quilt has a pinwheel pattern, but now I'm wondering if they are windmills instead.

The quilt at right is a Fourth of July quilt. Each star is made of a different, star-patterned fabric. The back of the quilt is a star-patterned Christmas fabric, so it can be reversed for the winter holidays.

After she had quilted for a while, Alta realized that she had a big collection of quilt blocks that she had made as experiments, trying out different patterns and fabrics. She fitted them together and made a sampler quilt. A good name for it would be "The Joy of Quilting."

Alta's mother (my great-aunt Elva) was a quilter, too. Alta has a wedding ring quilt that her mother made. Also, Alta has framed a nice piece of embroidery done by her mother. Alta learned to hand quilt so she could finish some of the quilt tops her mother left her.

When Alta was a little girl, the Omaha World Herald published a quilt block every week, for the ladies to trace onto fabric and embroider. Alta used the World Herald patterns to make her first quilt when she was about ten years old - a Wild West quilt (photo at left).

Every embroidered block features a historic Western character, such as John Brown, Calamity Jane, and Sitting Bull. Alta's mother machine-quilted it for her after she had all the blocks set together.

Another interesting old quilt was given to Alta by a neighbor lady in Nebraska. This neighbor lady was single all her life and known for being grouchy. However, Alta was kind to her and became her friend. When Alta and her husband moved to Tennessee, the lady wrote to her every day for many years.

The quilt was handmade by the neighbor lady. It has an unusual Sunbonnet pattern, partly appliqued and partly embroidered. Alta says she has never seen the pattern in any other quilt.

Alta's current project is a baby quilt (photo at right). She traced the animal pictures from a coloring book and embroidered them.

These photographs don't represent all the quilts that Alta has made. She can't even remember how many quilts she has made and given away.

Related posts:
Friendship Quilt
A Beautiful Handmade Quilt
Crazy Quilt
Old Quilts Need Special Care
Cover Stories Worth Preserving
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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.