Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quilts on Barns

As we left the RV with brochures, cameras, and a thermos for a day of sightseeing, we were approached by a fellow with a television video camera. “Would you mind taking all your materials and going back to the RV so I can film you leaving for the day?” asked the cameraman.
We did not mind and retraced our steps so that we could “leave” again. After the 15 seconds of taping, we learned that he was from Channel 5 in Bristol. “You may be on the news tonight,” he noted. In fact, we were.
Let’s see, we made the newspaper while camped at our first site (see 7/1 and 7/18 entries) and television while at our second site. Could film be next?

We were off to visit Tennessee's oldest business, the Dungan-St. John Milling Company. The mill of today bears little resemblance to the mill built in 1778 by Jeremiah Dungan.

The original 16-foot high, wooden, overshot, water wheel was shut down and the mill store was extended out over the wheel in the late 1960’s. All the grinding mechanisms were dismantled when federal agencies ruled against further grinding of grains.

“I have to compete against six Wal-Marts that surround me,” said Ron Dawson, the present owner. “So, I sell anything made by local folks that Wal-Mart can’t carry,” he continued. Instead of grinding wheat and corn, the mill now sells locally produced honey, jams, sauces, as well as quilts--all made by local residents--and products to meet the needs of the rural residents--feed, seeds, and saddles.

As if to drive home the point of the challenge he is facing, he showed us a coin trick in which he changed a nickel into a fifty-cent piece.

While the big guys keep their eyes on the half dollar, he has to keep revising his business to make the nickels. We think he has the right idea, so we purchased some of those local food products.

As we left the Mill, we noticed the quilt on the barn across the road. We had learned about the Quilt Trail, and had gathered information about the locations of these barn quilts.

The Quilt Trail is a project of the Appalachian Resource Conservation & Development Council, which consists of a growing number of heirloom quilt patterns permanently displayed on barns in the form of painted murals. These quilt murals are sparsely located throughout the farmlands of the surrounding counties.

Barn quilts are large, colorful wooden blocks. Most are 8-foot square. Later that afternoon, we found two more quilts.

We thought these were really attractive additions to the barns and the countryside. The little reading that we've done indicates that people select these, often historic, patterns for a special reason and apply to be included on the Tour.

I don't know the origin of the idea, but farms in Iowa, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, and West Virginia are at least some of the states that have adopted this beautiful custom.

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