Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Texans Are Coming! (Again. I Wish.)

Okay, Dear Readers, part two of What I Did During My Summer Last Week.

Picture this:
The basement is nearly done. New windows, wall, mostly scrubbed down and painted. (Ceiling paint dripping in my hair, while listening to the Smothers Brothers album -- a memory I will forever keep from this period.)

The garden looks glorious. Roses are blooming their heads off, hibiscus and pinks looking perky on the deck. Lawn's freshly cut, and the dog holes filled in. (No thanks to you, Charley & Abby.)

Friend Jo is over, helping. Her car is out front.

And the hail begins. 

Two hours later, much of it groping around in the dark downstairs (we lost power), the garden's trashed. We've spent a bunch of time mopping and moving things. The lecture I'd planned to give outside in the sunshine, with the quilts pinned to the clothesline -- well, I could still do it, provided the Texans wouldn't mind sitting in ankle-deep slush.
    Jo's car is a mass of dents. (Ours gets its share, too.) Our roof isn't doing so good, and the skylight is leaking. (Turns out it's smashed.) This was the worst hail we've ever seen in nearly 30 years of living in Colorado.
    The Brick and I head down to the church to get folding chairs....but we get stuck at the bottom of the street, where the hail is now knee-deep in the culvert. The Cherokee, which normally goes through anything, stops like it's been lassoed.
    Our neighbor's there, too. Within sight of her own driveway.
   Finally, another truck comes by and pulls us both out. (Another vivid thing to remember: guys in shorts and sandals shoveling away hail!) We get the chairs, straggle back, fall into bed.

Next morning, bright and early, come 41 members on the Common Threads quilt tour -- Texans (and a few Oklahoma girls) on the move. They've been sponsored by the Common Threads quilt shop in Waxahachie, TX. (See the shop here -- it's a beauty.) A huge bus pulls up by the house (our neighbors gaping behind their curtains), and ladies come pouring out. They wander around the backyard, looking at the hail. (And the chickens, who are just as curious about them.) They're remarkably tactful about the piles of shredded greenery that decorate everything.
    Down they go, to the basement, where we keep Brickworks' offices and (now) teaching area. It's been crammed to the gills with folding chairs -- and because the morning's chilly, we've lit a small fire in the fireplace. (Polite coughs from some of the audience -- I should have thought to open the dampers upstairs, as well as down. Sigh.)
     Racks full of quilts, feedsacks and tops are waiting for them -- and a lecture on Quilts of the Golden West. I tell them all about how the pioneers used quilt patterns (like the Wagon Wheel) and special fabrics (like California Gold) to remember their long trek west. Money played a huge role, too, including the fight between the gold and silver standards. (You can learn more about this, as well, if you take a look at my book. See sample pages here. )

   Much looking at quilts ensues, including this 1834 Medallion top, signed and dated by Eliza A. Norris. She never finished it, poor girl...I wonder why?

Deep discussion, photos...the Texans have a number of interesting things to say. (I've never known one that didn't.) They especially have an opinion about one of the girls on the Golden West quilt, the Yellow Rose of Texas! We talk about others on the quilt, including Molly Brown, Belle Starr (who took her gold), and my own favorite -- Baby Doe Tabor.
     The rest of the morning is spent having a snack, strolling the backyard, and trying out one of my favorite how-to methods: painting lace -- colorfast and washable. (You can learn the method in my Hanky Panky sequel, Hanky Panky with a Flourish. It will be out soon.) We have a great time, talking and looking at the quilts. One lady says suddenly, "You're barefoot!" (I'd kicked off my sandals absentmindedly while padding around -- didn't want to step on anything critical and get mud on it.)
    All too soon, the ladies are back on the bus and it rumbles out of the neighborhood, on its way to the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden. A few discarded paper napkins, a grape or two and three tired people are left in their wake. (Not to mention the garbage cans of wet things.) I keep the memory of a roomful of people -- bright eyes, thoughtful comments, kindness and warmth that would melt the hail off anyone's backyard.

    They, like pretty much every Texan I've met, leave a hole when they're gone. Come on back anytime, ladies! You can even say "bless your li'l heart" to this bemused Coloradoan. Hope you had a wonderful trip.

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