October 24, 2012 - 5:39 pm

Quilts for Ike

DENISON, Texas – About this time each year, I pull myself into the big white truck and head south.

I don’t have to think much about where I’m going.  It’s kind of like climbing a trusty horse and counting on her to nose us both home. We get there just fine.

Mom Ida and son Ike.

“Home” this time of year is the International Quilt Market in Houston.  I’m driving a truck packed with our books, our props for our booth (including an iron bed, two feather pillows and two inflatable mattresses), and some odd stuff like order forms, register tapes and foam floor pieces that assemble like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

This rite of October has its benefits. Given the predictable path, I have plenty of time to gaze across Oklahoma’s gentle hills and see the rich red and yellow fabric of fall in the trees. The drought has done its damage, but down here, the autumn colors have survived quite nicely.

Otherwise, the trip is a familiar drill, though one that we always enjoy.

The “we” of this year’s group is a bit different.  Because of scheduling issues, both Diane and Edie had to miss the fall show. This is a rarity, and we’ll miss them.  But, we have ready reinforcements!  Jack Beasley, who is known well by many of our quilt shops because he handles many of our store orders, is driving our quilts down separately.   And Jenifer Dick, one of our quilt-book editors, and good quilter friend Kim Bowlin will be helping as well.

I always stay the first night in Denison, which sits just south of the Red River along U.S. 75, a steer’s breath inside the state of Texas.  Texas makes a big deal out of arriving in Texas, of course.  So there’s a giant Texas star that greets you just past the river, right outside Denison.

A Texas "howdy."

We like stars at Kansas City Star Quilts, so I appreciate the state’s proud “howdy!”

I like Denison for other reasons, though.  I once had a girlfriend who went to Denison University, so I always liked the name.  (That Denison was in Ohio, though.  Plus we split up. Despite that, I still liked the name.)

“Doc” Holiday, who with Wyatt Earp traded bullets with some locals at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, once had an office in Denison.

And there are a variety of Missouri and Kansas connections to Denison.  The city was founded as a transportation hub along the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad – the “Katy” line – because of the Red River connection.

It’s also the birthplace of Dwight Eisenhower, our former president, who would later settle in Abilene, Kan., where Ike’s presidential library is now located.

That birthplace is worth a mention, because it proves my theory that you can find interesting quilt history down pretty much any road in America if you take the time.

The house where Ike was born.

For if you check a bit on Ike’s mom, Ida, you learn that she was an avid quilter. After all, she had seven boys needing not just comfortable quarters but warmth on winter nights as the job requirements of Ike’s father pulled the family from Kansas to Denison and back again to Kansas.

Here’s a nice web site briefly exploring Ida’s quilt collection.

The truth is, this north-south corridor of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas is the very heart of this nation’s quilting legacy.  Ida Eisenhower was not unusual in carting bundles of quilts from house to house.  Those quilts were as valuable as a horse, a cow and chickens in the yard.

It’s also no surprise that many of the greatest fans of Kansas City Star Quilts live along this route. They embrace history like we do.  They know how important quilting was to the women who lovingly furnished the homesteads that once dotted this land. They know that each quilt tells a story.

And so they quilt anew, stitching their own stories.

This morning, I’ll climb up again, say a soft “giddyup” to the white truck, and head south out of Denison, through Dallas to Houston, inspired by the drive, eager to see what new quilter stories await us at the show.

They’ll be plenty, I know.

Always have been.  Always will be.

Doug Weaver, publisher of Kansas City Star Books, is an occasional contributor to KansasCityStarQuilts.com.  Watch Kansas City Star Quilts’ coverage of the International Quilt Market, which starts Saturday, on Facebook. 

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