This time of year in northwest Montana, any glimpse of blue sky has everyone smiling. Even while focused on stitching, the women look up in unison when light through the old school house windows gets slightly brighter with a break in the clouds. January not only brought us a few snatches of sun, but also three new Tobacco Valley Board of History volunteers. Not quite enough for all that needs to be done but certainly a good start. Magdalena is new to the area and a great fit for helping with displays as she wants to learn more about local history. Michelle has the energy to help out with the grounds and the shrubbery once we get into spring. Ya’aqov, a retired librarian, is learning to maintain the archives from Cathryn. And having these three awesome individuals step up, encourages us to think there just might be others in the community who want to help maintain our local heritage.
Perhaps though people have other ideas about what to do with their spare time? Maybe they see maintaining artifacts, photographs and historical buildings from the Tobacco Valley as frivolous. Why think about the past when there are sufficient worries for the present? And don’t even mention the future! But our past has a lot to offer, not only to school children who come each spring to visit the exhibits or the tourists who pass through on summer afternoons, but to all of us.
Some locals lament about lack of business in the area and how the town is going to dry up. The old newspapers in the Historical Village files tell of the same sentiment numerous times throughout the town’s history. But there has always been something new that came along. Eureka was once the Christmas tree capital and there was logging. There were the years when the Libby dam and the train tunnel were built that brought many new people and jobs to this area. There were opportunities and change and dry spells and then new opportunities appeared.
The files show how the Tobacco Valley News, our local newspaper that still comes out weekly, got started. There are articles telling about how the valley first got internet and the volunteers who helped set it up. A computer shop now occupies the building where the office supply store used to be (a business now farther up the road in a larger space), and the same building that used to house the newspaper (which moved behind the bank). Things change for sure but there are things to be learned from the changes. How can we make transitions easier? Where do new ideas for our town come from? How have great additions to the valley come about in the past? What can we use from those experiences to continue to make this a place where we want to be?
Where does summer go? It seemed we just finished quilting in May and now we are already sliding into August. The volunteers at the museum are busy every afternoon greeting visitors and telling them about the history of this valley. Other volunteers did some work on the playground so the area under the swings and slide won’t get so muddy in the future. It is temporarily fenced off but will be available soon for all the children who enjoy playing there. Last week four of us got together in the morning to give all the buildings in the Village a good dusting and sweeping so they continue to look their best for the summer season. And of course other Historical Village fans are busy planning the annual Dinner on the Lake. The lovely fundraiser for the Tobacco Valley Board of History is always a treat for the forty people who attend. This year’s menu includes a four-course meal featuring French cuisine and wine. Imagine eating this scrumptious meal while looking out over Dickey Lake in the evening on August 13th. Tickets are already sold out but Carol does have a waiting list if you are tempted. Call her at 889-3427.
As always, I am astounded by the time and energy people give to maintaining the Historical Village. They recognize that this is not just a museum but our heritage. It contains the history of the people who settled here, the lives that created this community and those who give it their heart to continue. Perhaps you will have time this summer to stop by and amble through the buildings, or give Carol a call to attend the Dinner on the Lake, or maybe think about how you can help to make the Tobacco Valley Board of History even stronger. Thanks.
It starts with a seed. Actually cotton comes from many seeds planted in the spring, gradually producing flowers that when pollinated produce fruit. The flowers emerge pale yellow but once pollinated they sharpen into pink and gradually a bright fuchsia. And the fruit that is produce from the flower isn’t your typical fruit like an apple or a mango. It’s a fruit that is a boll, a tough outer shell that contains soft white fluff and seeds. Between when the seed is planted in the spring to the boll harvested in the fall, the cotton plant grows to be about forty-eight inches and it puts out those lovely fuchsia colored flowers because it is related to the hibiscus after all. And then the bolls are harvested, the cotton ginned which separates fluff from seeds, its put into gigantic bales and sent off to be made into thread and then into cloth.
Of course there are numerous steps from the bales arriving to the bolts of cloth being shipped out. The cotton needs to be combed and carded. All the fibers need to be aligned so they can be spun into thread. And then all those thousands, millions of miles of thread are woven into cloth. The cloth is dyed mauve or turquoise or that creamy yellow that Carmen likes. Perhaps it is printed with the small floral designs that Judy prefers or bright fanciful animals that Cathryn will use for the baby quilts.
This is only a very quick glance at the process from seed to fabric bolt. There is no rumbling of machines planting cottonseeds twelve rows at a time under a southern sky. Nor the grumbles of Eli Whitney who invented the cotton gin and never made money from it. Can the body-shaking vibrations in a factory full of machines spinning that fluff into cotton threads at more than 2,500 revolutions a second even be imagined? And those looms! Not just any loom will do but looms called Sulzer shuttleless weaving machine or a water-jet loom. Acres of factories producing acres of cloth. So many acres of cloth that it is counted in tons, yes metric tons, rather than the sensible yards measured out at the fabric store.
It starts from a seed and transforms into that bolt of fabric that the slightly older woman with a pair of glasses hung around her neck measures and cuts into lengths at the shop. It will be taken home and cut again into smaller pieces and sewn into a pattern that becomes the top of a quilt.
I like this photograph of Cathryn showing Nikki how to quilt. A few weeks back, we were finishing up the quilt that belonged to Nikki and before it was absolutely done, she stopped by to do a bit of sewing on it herself. The moment was perfect and the sunlight on the quilt helped to capture the magic of Cathryn passing on the tradition. It seems ideal as we begin the new year to think of new things that we each can learn. Bev is mastering her smart phone. Renata explained how to do ice dying. Mary Louise is bravely taking on a major renovation to her house. I set 2016 as a year I am seriously going to focus on improving my writing.
Nikki’s quilt is finished now so we began a new one. Bonnie pieced it and as always, it’s lovely. We are still discussing how it will be quilted but I have no doubt the final decision will be a good one. In the meantime, we have some items from the bazaar that we are selling and raffle tickets for the floral quilt to those visitors who stop by the old school house. You might think the cold temperatures and snow drifts would deter them, but nope. People still come in to see what we are working on, perhaps pick up a few belated gifts and catch up on news. I could surely relax into the calm pace of our Friday quilting but inspired by the other older quilters, I am determined to improve this year.