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Chuck Hinman: IJMA. The Counterpane

Chuck Hinman: The Counterpane. Chuck tells the story of the sad end of Grandma Miller's masterpiece, a counterpane, used in desperation on a play-pen floor.
Next earlier Chuck Hinman column - Gravy Over All

By Chuck Hinman

The Counterpane

Hinman family lore has it that dad's Grandma Miller was a bitch, a mean-spirited old woman. She was best known for having made a bed-covering masterpiece, a counterpane, a piece the likes of which were unknown. It was indeed fabulous!


It was a hand-woven creation featuring eight peacocks facing each other up and down the center, four on each side. The colors involved were red, blue, green, and white. It amply covered a full bed with fringe around the sides and bottom.

Grandma focuses on who should inherit this special piece

As Grandma Miller began to ponder her remaining days, her thoughts became increasingly focused on who should have this special piece when she died. The beneficiary changed, even in the same day, depending on whom she was on the 'outs' with.

The last anyone remembered, she bequeathed it to her grandson, Arley's (my dad's) first son, still unborn. It was to be stored until the beneficiary was able to take possession in his own home. So my Mom, although she had custody, was NOT to use it!

'Company' oohs and ahhs over the bed covering

Well now, can you imagine such an assignment? Being a farmer's wife during the depression days of the 1930s, there was little to relieve the monotony of those dreadful days. And to know there was 'something' in the nearby cedar chest that could provide some momentary relief when guests came was very tempting as you can well imagine.

Mom, while looking over her shoulder, spread this beauty over the bed in the front bed room. In those days, 'company' placed their overcoats on the bed when they came for a party. Naturally, everyone 'oohed and ahhed' over the bed covering not knowing its miserable heritage.

Heir's marriage and receipt of heirloom

Then the time came when my brother married and this heirloom was dutifully, but with relief, delivered by Mom at the wedding!

In the ensuing years, Bob and Lindy had three kids in rapid order. Lindy was kept busy with snotty-nosed kids who always needed a diaper change or something.

In desperation masterpiece put on play-pen floor

In the cold winter months when the house was brutally cold, it was easier to keep the kids warm in the kitchen where she had a play-pen with a covering for them to play on. Apparently one after another of these coverings had become soiled. She needed to wash but the washhouse was frozen over. Finally there was not one thing to put down in the play pen that wasn't already soiled!

In desperation she put Grandma Miller's masterpiece on the play-pen floor BUT only until she could think of something more suitable, when she wasn't so scrambled.

Wool beauty's final end came as if by fate

Although I never knew the graphic detail, this wool-beauty became kid-soiled. It was undoubtedly the worst moment in Lindy's life. But on the other hand it was a moment seemingly driven by fate. She put the soiled piece in the washhouse pending a determination on how to clean it. During the night, the answer came as if by fate -- a fire burned the washhouse and its contents to the ground!

To this day, I have never heard a family-member who criticized Lindy for her judgment. My Mom never said a word! It was as if this piece found its just ending!

Writer's Note: This memory story would be woefully incomplete without the following.
Most of the Hinman family members who ever saw the counterpane or knew of its existence are gone. But in a recent telephone conversation with my sister-in-law, Lindy Hinman, now in her eighties, Lindy chuckled when she acknowledged that a great amount of those eighty some years was happily spent making colorful quilts for a surprise gift to her kids and grandkids when they had their own homes. And that's just part of the story. What about the rest of us who have been the recipients over the years of Lindy's expertise with a needle, thread, and some material.

Thanks -- Lindy Hinman of my home-town -- Liberty, Nebraska -- for lovingly sharing your skills with the needle!
Written by Chuck Hinman. Emailed Thursday, 19 March 2009.



This story was posted on 2013-12-29 06:31:53
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