When the winters closed in on those pioneer cabins, most activity was inside where a warm fire blazed in the fireplace. Outside chores were mostly trudging through the snows to the barn to feed the animals. Inside the barn, it smelled of hay and the warm smell of the animals. It was somewhat warmer than outside as the body heat of the animals helped. Water was hauled from the well, to fill the troughs, and the skim of ice broken, so they could drink. Hay was thrown down from above, the cows milked twice a day, with the barn cats getting warm steaming milk poured in their dishes.
Wood was brought in and stacked by the fireplace to keep the fire going. During the day, the children sat at the table, doing their “readin’ ritin’ and ‘rithmetic”. Reading was the family bible; lessons were learned on the slat board with chalk. The wood cook stove was going as mother baked and cooked their meals, adding warmth to the room. After lessons, the children played games or with their toys.
With the children busy, mother dragged to box of scraps from the corner and sat in her rocking chair near the fireplace. It was time for another quilt. Most of the top was done. It was an old pattern taught her by her mother, years ago when she was a young girl, many miles to the east of where she lived now.
The quilt is sewn with memories of the past. The light green pieces came from a dress her grandmother wore; the small blue flowers were from her mother’s dress. Among the memories were a shirt that had belonged to little Robert, the two year old that had passed before they moved west, and a red and white dress that belonged to Eliza that had caught pneumonia on the trail west. She was buried by the trail in eastern Tennessee.
Not all the memories in this quilt are sad. There is
the little yellow dress that Alice has outgrown and Ben’s shirt that had
gotten much too small. There were pieces from the other children’s clothes,
a couple of her dresses, one, the white with gold flowers she had worn to the
farewell party before the family moved west. Included was a blue shirt that
her husband had worn to that same party.
All these pieces of her life she stitched with love and memories into something that would not only keep them warm, but would cover them with memories.
When the top was finished, the quilting frame would come down from the rafters. The wood frame was covered with cloth, upon which the bottom material would be stretched and pinned. On top of this a layer of cotton combed and cleaned, saved from the crop last fall, would be placed, covered by the quilt top of memories. With these pinned in place, mother would set and sew them together in intricate patterns of tiny stitches. As she finished a side, it would be rolled under and the stitching continued. In the evenings, the frame and quilt would be raised so it could be walked under. The frame was suspended from the beams in the ceiling by ropes on the four corners.
After the evening choirs were complete, and supper was over, for a while father would take down his fiddle and play music while the family gathered in front of the fire place. Soon, the children were put to bed; father and mother would sit and talk quietly in front of the fire for a bit, before going off to bed themselves. Tomorrow would soon come; the day’s routine would start again. Outside, the snow was falling again, the wind made a whistle around the corners, but inside, it was warm with love and the small noises of sleeping children as the day ended.
Submitted By Ethel Taylor
June 9, 2004
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