A QUILT IN NORTH NEBRASKA
by Al “Doc Mehl
There’s a quilt in north Nebraska,
That’s been sewn into the land;
Rolling grass fields are the fabric,
And the batting’s made of sand.
It’s been trimmed at the horizon
Where it’s pinned against the sky;
Ev’ry stock tank is a button,
Ev’ry windmill is a tie.
And the runs of old barb’d wire,
They are the braided threads with which
Nimble fingers sew a pattern;
Ev’ry fence post is a stitch.
Each square tells a family’s story,
Sewn inside a bound’ry fence;
That quilt chronicles a his’try
’Bout the trials of sustenance.
Formed of fabric from those lives,
That quilt will shield us from the storm;
Daytime’s tapestry breathes beauty,
Come the night, ’twill keep us warm.
Pieced a broad mosaic patchwork,
’Tis a blend of life and line;
I should think that some great spirit
Had a hand in the design.
Most folks picture the Almighty
In the image of a man.
But if judging by that quilt,
I’d say God has a woman’s hands.
© 2008, Al “Doc” Mehl, used with permission
Poet, songwriter, and musician Al “Doc” Mehl told us about this poem soon after it was written, and he illustrates relationships among poets:
Several years ago as I was driving into the Sand Hill country of Nebraska to perform at Old West Days in Valentine, I couldn’t help thinking of the finely detailed quilting of good friend and accomplished poet Yvonne Hollenbeck ([a Nebraska native] who lives nearby just across the state line in South Dakota). The rolling grass covered hills of this uniquely beautiful countryside reminded me of Yvonne’s billowy bed-cover creations, and an idea for a poem began to take shape.
As it turns out, a few scribbles on a loose scrap of paper were all that survived that original inspiration, and the cryptic notes languished in a “poems-in-progress” file until recently… Jane Morton was kind enough to present me with a copy of her latest CD titled Turning to Face the Wind. Listening to her recording, I was inspired to revisit my own quilting-poem idea by Jane’s somber poem, “Summer ’34.” In this piece, Jane describes her mother taking up the art of piecing a quilt to combat the loneliness she felt living out on the eastern plains of Colorado. I can still hear Jane’s voice: ‘Mom pieced and pieced and pieced some more, that summer ’34; My mother was expecting, and the wind blew evermore.’
I pulled my former notes from the file that evening, and it seems the original idea had finally come of age; the poem about the Sand Hill country flowed out onto the page.
Doc also shared this photo, which he says was, “…taken by me in the Sand Hills of Nebraska on the ranch where poet Marty Blocker was working at the time.
The happy couple of Doc Mehl and Doris Daley live in Black Diamond, Alberta. They’ll both be at the Bar U Ranch in Southern Alberta on July 1, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering (Prescott, Arizona, August 9-11) and at the Heber Valley Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering (Heber City, Utah, October 25-28).
At the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, Doris Daley and Doc Mehl will join Gary Allegretto, Sally Bates, Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Broken Chair Band, Dale Burson, Marleen Bussma, Don Cadden, Dean Cook, Kevin Davis, Sam DeLeeuw, Mike Dunn, Thatch Elmer, Don Fernwalt, Linda Lee Filener, Pipp Gillette, Amy Hale Auker, Randy Huston, Chris Isaacs, Gary Kirkman, Suzi Killman, Steve Lindsey, Mary Matli, Dave McCall, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Al “Doc” Mehl, Mike Moutoux, Mark Munzert, Old Time Fiddlers, Jay Parson, Jean Prescott & Gary Prescott, Dennis Russell, Rusty Pistols Reloaded, Buck Ryberg, Jim & Nancy Sober, Jay Snider, Gail Steiger, and Barry Ward. Find more at azcowboypoets.org.
Performers at the Heber Valley Cowboy Music and Poet Gathering are Dave Stamey, Waddie Mitchell, Gary McMahan, Andy Nelson, Randy Rieman, Brenn Hill, Doris Daley, Al “Doc” Mehl, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Randy Huston, Trinity Seely, Kenny Hall, Jeff Carson, High Country Cowboys, Ryan Fritz, John Anderson, Suzy Bogguss, Bar J Wranglers, Max T. Barnes, Hot Club of Cowtown, Jack Hannah, Ed Peekeekoot, Dyer Highway, Many Strings, Stacy Despain, Nancy Elliott, Charley Jenkins Band, Stewart MacDougall, In Cahoots, Kristen J. Lloyd, and the Heber Valley Orchestra. Find more at hebervalleycowboypoetry.com.
Also find Doc at other venues, including the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Durango, Colorado, October 4-7) where he’ll join Dave Stamey, Jay Snider, Floyd Beard, Curt Brummett, Kristyn Harris, Sam Noble,Ken Overcast, The High Country Cowboys, Vic Anderson, Sally Bates, Colt Blankman, Jack Blease, Rick Buoy, Patty Clayton, The Cowboy Way, Sam DeLeeuw, Thatch Elmer, Nolan King, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Susie Knight, Maria McArthur, Slim McWilliams, Gary Penney, Hailey Sandoz, Lindy Simmons, Gail Starr, Washtub Jerry, Cora Rose Wood, and Laurie Wood. Find more at www.durangocowboypoetrygathering.org.
You can even catch Doc playing cello with the “new-grass” group “Highwood;” watch for dates on Doc’s website, DocMehl.com
(Please respect copyright: You can share this poem and photo with this post, but for other uses, please request permission.)