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2018 WKMS Short Storytelling Finalist: Susie Fenwick

Susie Fenwick of Water Valley, KY is one of the top four finalists for the 2018 WKMS SHORT short storytelling. Read and listen to her story below.


Eula B Quilted


“I always ate good, got plenty of sleep, and if I ever had a drink of alcohol I didn’t know it,” imparted Eula B Rozzell in regard to her secrets to a long, healthy life.

My grandmother lived to be a couple of months shy of 95.  I think Eula B withheld the real secret of her longevity.

She quilted.

She remembered learning to quilt no more than she remembered learning to breathe.  Eula B learned when she was so small she had to stand on a block to reach the countertop to make morning biscuits.

Her mother, Mammy, a little ball of fire who ruled the roost was a tough taskmaster.  Unhesitatingly and unapologetically, she demanded slipshod stitches to be ripped out by the same tiny fingers responsible for what she deemed substandard workmanship.

Eula B quilted through two world wars and while raising five children during the Great Depression when “making do” was a way of life.  Quilting by hand was a source of great pride with each suture strategically placed for function and design while sewing up her matriarchal legacy stitch by stitch.  By her standards, resorting to machine quilting was a travesty of the craft.

The armistices were declared, the wool was freed along with the soldier boys and the New Deal became the real deal.   Her young‘uns left home and scattered leaving fewer bodies to warm in drafty loft bedrooms with frosty rafters leaking snow, and still she kept on quilting.

A fierce, capable matriarch given to few frivolities, she manifested her intrinsic love for beauty and the finer things through her quilting.  It was the same desire subtly evidenced on rare occasions by work worn hands lubricated with Corn Husker’s Lotion reaching for a bottle of the old drug store classic fragrance Tabu by Dana. The bottle atomized exotic femininity.

Ditto for the ritualistic trip in her ‘51 Studebaker to Lamone’s Beauty Shop in Dukedom for her hairdo.

Through the ‘50s and ‘60s as general interest in quilting waned, Eula B was part of the breed of primarily older quiltersWho had always quilted and kept the art alive.

With freshly preserved jams and jellies glimmering like jewels on pantry shelves and the summer’s bountiful harvest sanitized and safe in Mason jars, the appearance of the pinewood quilting frames marked the season’s change.

Friends and family stopping by for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie witnessed the evolution of her quilting projects. Sneak peaks were given while the TV glowed in the corner with the Lawrence Welk musical family warming up for a night of melodic delight.

With a blue carnival glass candy dish filled with stratified ribbons of hard candy from Christmases past, a box of peanut brittle, a cello bag of marshmallow circus peanuts, and horehound drops sugar-frosted to mask the pure herbal goodness all close at hand; she quilted.

She quilted with her sister in stitchery, Sara Ann. Sitting on ladder-backed, cane-bottomed chairs; they stitched, nibbled, chatted and chuckled.

They lamented over what “that heifer” Lisa on “As The World Turns” was conniving. They never missed a stitch. Comfortable in their camaraderie they basked in the glow of the snapping blue flame of the furnace and were fueled with the fulfillment of creativity

In her nearly 95 years, Eula B Rozzell wore the end out of a lot of thimbles. It never seemed right when she retired her large pinewood quilting frames and replaced them with an overgrown embroidery hoop. Like a threaded needle without a knot, as with her Mammy before her, her breath ran out before the quilt tops.

Decades after her death, the little boy she routinely chased out from under her quilting frames is now an 86-year-old man who uses her quilts on a daily basis and says, “I never pull that cover up on me at night that I don’t think of her.”

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