Callie’s Quilt


“Callie, wake up!” Mama called.

Callie opened her eyes a little and looked out the window by her bed. She could barely see the outline of the windmill against the morning sky.

A smile lighted Callie’s face. “It’s quilting day!” Callie cried. She hopped out of bed and dressed quickly.

Callie always liked quilting day. Ladies from miles around came to her home. Callie’s friend, Mary Porter, would come with her mother too. Living on the Texas plains prevented Callie from seeing her friends very often after school let out for the summer. And today would be the most special quilting day of all!

Callie rushed to the kitchen. Mama and Papa and her brothers, Joseph and Tom, were already at the table, eating steaming bowls of mush.

“You’re looking mighty cheerful today, Callie,” said Papa.

“It’s quilting day. They’re going to do my quilt today!” exclaimed Callie.

Papa put down his spoon. “I plumb forgot! Was I supposed to put up the quilting frame in the front room, Eliza?” he said to Callie’s mother.

Callie’s heart felt like it skipped a beat. “You didn’t put up the frame?”

Mama smiled. “Now, Henry, don’t tease the child.”

Papa laughed, and so did Joseph and Tom.

“Don’t worry, Callie. The quilting frame is up and ready to go,” said Papa with a big grin.

Callie relaxed. Papa was always teasing.

After breakfast Papa and the boys went to work in the fields, and Callie helped her mother in the kitchen. When she was through, Callie went into the front room. Her Flower Garden quilt was stretched tightly on the frame, waiting to be quilted. Months ago Callie had helped Mama pick the many colored pieces from her scrap bag to go onto the pale yellow background. Mama had brought her scrap bag all the way from Missouri before Callie was born.

Callie ran her hands lightly over the beautiful flowers Mama had carefully pieced together. The Texas plains were too drab. Except for the blue sky, all Callie could see outside were continuous tans and browns. A colorful quilt would brighten the days.

Soon the ladies began arriving in their horse-drawn wagons. Mrs. Porter and Mary were the last to arrive. At first Callie felt shy. It had been so long since she had seen Mary that it was almost like meeting a stranger. Then Mary smiled, and it was as though they had seen each other only yesterday.

Mary had brought her beautiful china doll, Josephine, and a little basket full of doll clothes. “Mama made new clothes for Josephine,” she said.

The girls went outside and sat in the shade of the house. Callie marveled at the array of Josephine’s beautiful clothes. Callie brought out her own doll, love-worn old Sally, and the girls played dolls all morning. By afternoon it was warm even in the shade.

“Let’s go into the dugout,” said Callie. “It’s cool there.”

“Ugh! I hate dugouts. You’ve never had to live in one.”

“Yes, I have,” Callie told her. “In fact, I was born in this one.” She raised the wooden door to the underground room.

“We lived here until our house was built.”

“We lived in one, too,” said Mary. “And I remember how dull and dreary it was.”

“My mama felt that way, too,” Callie said. “But the most important thing at that time was to get the well dug and the windmill built. Everyone around here had to live in dugouts for a while.”

“Well, I’d rather stay up here and be hot than go down there and be cool,” said Mary.

Callie smiled. “OK. Let’s go inside. I want to see my quilt.”

In the front room the ladies were laughing and talking as their nimble fingers stitched the quilt layers together.

Callie and Mary went back outside and played until the ladies began to leave. Mrs. Porter and Mary climbed into their wagon. “You come and see us real soon!” called Mrs. Porter.

Callie and her mother went back inside. Mama laid the finished quilt in Callie’s arms.

“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!” Callie cried, hugging the quilt close to her. She raced to her room and spread the Flower Garden quilt on her bed. The plain room instantly became bright and cheery. That night Callie slept soundly under the new quilt.

The next day things were back to normal around the ranch. That afternoon while Mama and Callie were working in the garden, they heard hooves. Callie stood up and shaded her eyes against the sun. “It’s Mr. Walker.”

Mr. Walker rode up to them. He tipped his hat. “Afternoon, Mrs. Logan. I’m riding around to tell everyone that the Porters’ house caught on fire last night. The family got out all right, but the house burned to the ground. They lost everything. We’ll be taking up a collection at the schoolhouse.”

“Mercy!” cried Mama. “I’ll gather up some things for them. You’re sure everyone is all right?”

“Yes, ma’am. But they’ll be back in their dugout for a while until they can raise another house.”

After Mr. Walker left, Mama gathered things to send to the Porters. “Your papa can take these to the schoolhouse tomorrow,” she said.

All Callie could think of was Mary and Josephine and Josephine’s new clothes. Oh, Mary had been so proud of those clothes, and she’d loved Josephine so much!

Callie had a hard time eating dinner that night. When she went to bed, she lay under her quilt and looked out the window at the stars and the windmill. The sound of the windmill usually soothed her to sleep, but it didn’t tonight. She thought about Mary living in the hated dugout where there were no stars and no windmills to see.

The next morning Callie woke up very early. She got out of bed, folded the precious flowered quilt, and took it into the kitchen. Papa was carrying things out to the wagon. Callie handed him the quilt. “This is for Mary.”

Papa put his big hand on her shoulder. “I’ll tell her,” he said softly.

Callie stood in the doorway and watched him drive away. Her stomach felt funny, and she had a lump in her throat. But she felt good too.

Mama put her arms around Callie’s shoulders. “Callie, I have a new quilt pattern called Texas Windmill. It’s the prettiest, swirliest, most colorful quilt I ever saw. How would you like to help me pick out the colors, and I’ll get started on it right away. I think it would look real pretty on your bed.”

Callie smiled. “I’d like that.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney