Quilters' Rage Rattles Rim Country

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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Let me say right up front that I have been to hell and back. I'm not talking about war or divorce, although I made up for missing the former with several of the latter.

And although I'm from Michigan, I've never had an encounter with a Teamster. In fact, I have an "in" with the Teamsters -- a buddy who works for them. And living in the Midwest and Arizona, I've never tried to ride out a hurricane.

I've never even tried one of the Jim Croce trifecta -- tugging on Superman's cape, spitting into the wind or pulling the mask off the old Lone Ranger.

But let me assure you, I have been to hell and back -- in the collective person of the Rim country's quilters.

It began innocently enough with a column about ways to spice up local fund-raising events inspired by that lovable local baseball team with the world's worst relief pitchers, your Arizona Diamondbacks.

Looking for new sources of revenue to bolster sagging attendance, the Diamondbacks are selling "ultimate" ballpark experiences for big bucks. They range from $400 to $4,000 (for throwing out the first pitch).

You can even get married on the field for market price, the same as you pay for the fresh catch of the day, although it doesn't include a guarantee that your marriage won't soon stink to high heaven.

Anyway, as I was writing the column, my material for Payson fund-raisers thinned precariously, forcing me to reach deep into my bag of depleted ideas and pull out raffles. What, I asked myself, is the most raffled item in the Rim country?

Quilts, I answered with wide-eyed innocence. To boost sales and add new zest to raffles, we need to find something sexier than quilts to raffle, I thought to myself.

I know, you're already cringing.

But then, just to make sure I had blocked all escape routes, I wrote, "I mean, really, what are you going to do with a quilt?"

That did it.

Throughout the Rim country, aroused swarms of rabid quilters descended and struck -- with phone calls, letters to the editor, and other assorted mayhem. In one letter, and this is no joke, Marlene Bonney pointed out that quilts are not only America's gift to the world, they also "represent American possibilities and opportunities of freedom, democracy, equality, home, community and individual expressions."

In short, boys and girls, it was quilts -- not George Washington, Paul Revere, or Benjamin Franklin -- that made this country what it is today.

Of course the fact that my columns eventually poke fun at just about every aspect of Rim country life was lost on these rabid quilters. As was the fact that I had regularly supported their museum exhibits and other quilting endeavors in the past.

But to make amends, I decided to boldly go where no man had trod before -- to the Strawberry Patchers Quilt Show at the Pine Cultural Hall. I was immediately "greeted" by the three ladies whose letters appeared in the June 7 issue of the Payson Roundup -- Mitzi Paul, Kris Lovetro and none other than Bonney herself.

I must say I gained a whole new appreciation of quilting. I mean, how can I say quilting isn't sexy when the three winners in the small quilt category were titled "Anticipation," "Masquerade," and "New York Neon."

After "patching" things up with the letter-writers, we posed for a picture, and everybody seems to be living happily ever after.

But you mothers out there, please heed my warning. To the normal admonitions a mother gives her sons -- never swallow your gum, always wear clean underwear and don't grow up to be a cowboy -- add a fourth: don't ever, ever mess with quilters.

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