Thoughts turn to quilts and birds

Published 10:00 pm Friday, March 8, 2013

Sometimes thoughts get scrambled up in my head and don’t seem to have any rhyme or reason.

Most of my serious thinking is done when it’s just me and Maybelle out on the open road. Actually, I can even verbalize my thoughts at times like that because Maybelle is not a gossip.

Driving out in the country the other day, the sky before me looked like the freeway to a buzzard reunion. Forty, fifty or more buzzards clouded the sky.

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My first thought was they must be headed to Hinckley, Ohio, for Buzzard Sunday.

The story – the tale – is that many years ago, packs of wolves were killing all the cows, goats and sheep in the area. So the farmers came up with a plan to rid the countryside of the big, bad wolves. They piled the carcasses of the slaughtered livestock in the middle of a big meadow. They supplemented with meat from a rendering plant. That night, the farmers, with guns in hand, hid in the woods that circled the meadow. When the wolves came to feast, the farmers opened fire and massacred the wolves.

The next morning, the Sunday after March 15, the buzzards came to clean up the mess. Every year since then, at that time, the buzzards come back to Hinckley, Ohio, with great expectations of another fine feast.

Even though, I never saw a buzzard except the one that had been caged for the occasion that’s not to say the buzzards don’t come. I just never saw them but I did so much enjoy Buzzard Sunday, a rite of spring in the hinterlands of Ohio.

There are songs about buzzards and the site of them brought one to mind, “Did the buzzards come, yes ma’am!” It also brought to mind a rhyme about the sighting of buzzards: One for sorrow. Two for joy. Three for a letter. Four for a boy. Five for silver. Six for gold. Seven for secrets that’s never been told.

That rhyme reminded me of that wonderful and legendary storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham. She told that she was driving through the mountains and saw a lone buzzard circling in the distance. One for sorrow. But, if the buzzard flaps its wings, the bad omen will not stand.

Kathryn said she pulled off the side of the road to wait for the buzzard to flap its wings. A state trooper spied her and stopped to ask if he could be of assistance. No, she said. She was just waiting for a buzzard to flap its wings.

Thinking of Kathryn made me remember my disappointment in having to miss the Gee’s Bend quilters at the museum last Saturday. I was away at a storytelling festival. Kathryn Windham wrote about the people of Gee’s Bend long before they became famous. She told many stories about the Gee’s Bend people who lived isolated from the world in that big bend of the Alabama River.

In the early days, the Gee’s Bend quilters sold their quilts for a few dollars. When they were discovered and their quilting was recognized as art, the prices skyrocketed.

At Kathryn’s home one day, she showed me a quilt the Gee’s Bend quilters had given her. She said that she was going to be buried wrapped in that quilt.

Surprised, I said, “Kathryn, do you know how much that quilt is worth?”

She smiled and quipped.

“Well, you CAN take it with you.”

Scrambled thoughts make sense when one leads to another.