Not much is known about the Arkansas Traveler quilt pattern. It is a fairly old pattern most likely dated by quilt historians through its name. ld"Arkansas Travelerrd" was a popular folk song and skit whose origin has been traced back to the middle of the nineteenth century. It is usually credited to Colonel Sanford ld"Sandyrd" Faulkner, a Little Rock plantation owner who claimed the tale was inspired by a real conversation with an Arkansas backwoodsman. The Arkansas Traveler quilt pattern is actually more than one pattern-one is a spool-like design, the other is a four-pointed star made of diamonds.
If your image of quilters is that of old ladies whiling away the hours in rocking chairs or at looms, then perhaps you've not met Benni Harper, the frisky director of the Josiah Sinclair Folk Art museum in San Celina, Calif. In her eighth winning outing (after 2000's Seven Sisters), Benni returns to her hometown of Sugartree, Ark., accompanied by her friend Elvia, and finds relatives and friends embroiled in racial, religious and romantic rivalries that turn their reunion into disunion. Sugartree, population 5,000, has its share of bigots, hidden and overt, and two events have already stirred them up. Benni's friend Amen Tolliver, a black woman, is running for mayor against wealthy white incumbent Grady Hunter. And Sugartree's two Baptist churches, one black, one white, are discussing a merger that has deeply divided both congregations. Being Hispanic, both Elvia and Benni's husband, Gabe Ortiz, attract unwelcome attention after Gabe's arrival, threatening the blooming romance between Elvia and Benni's cousin Emory. When the ugliness leads to murder, Amen's election chances are jeopardized and an innocent young man is arrested. However, there are also plenty of decent people in Sugartree and a lot of great food, memories and humor. Benni needs all her vaunted spunk to solve a killing that threatens to scar the town she loves, as Fowler delivers cozy entertainment without resorting to unrealistically syrupy solutions. (Apr. 10) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 09, 2001
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Excerpt from Arkansas Traveler by Earlene Fowler
The big-chested man sitting at the crowded Waffle House counter wearing the red plastic hog-head hat grinned and winked at Elvia. Her full lips, painted an eerily similar shade of crimson, shot him a frown worthy of Queen Victoria. He chuckled and whispered something to his friend, who wore not only a hog hat, but a red-and-gray sweatshirt stating, BEWARE, I HAVE HOG MANIA.
"I've had enough," Elvia said, pulling her beige cashmere cardigan closer around her. "You can take me home now."
I laughed and eagerly perused the sticky plastic menu. It had been way too long since I'd eaten a gut-busting Waffle House breakfast. When we pulled out of Little Rock's airport parking lot, my first glimpse of the towering black-and-yellow Waffle House sign caused me to cajole my friend into the restaurant's pure plastic interior. Waffle House restaurants were a Southern staple, something of a cross between a Denny's and a donut shop. I loved their unadorned, stick-to-your-ribs, grease-is-good workingman's food. Truth be told, there were cold mornings fixing fence in San Celina when I'd trade my best broke-in Justin boots for a mess of their hash browns.
"We just landed an hour ago," I said. "Give Arkansas at least twenty-four hours before you hightail it for the hills."
"Benni, we are sitting in a restaurant, the term loosely applying, being gawked at by grown men wearing plastic pig faces on their heads. Need I say more?" She grabbed a napkin from the dispenser and irritably scrubbed at a dried eggspot on the table. "I can't believe I agreed to come with you."
"Elvia, it's October. Hog hats are a fashion statement this time of year. No one looks twice at anyone wearing one. It's football season, and they're probably still high from yesterday's triumph over 'Bama."
"What's a bama?"
"University of Alabama. The Arkansas Razorbacks kicked their Crimson Tide butts 27 to 6. The tide is ebbin', and I can't wait to lord it over Amanda." I stirred my coffee, licked my dented spoon, then pointed it at her. "Even the most sophisticated Little Rock executives wear their hog hats with pride." I didn't dare let on that her beloved Emory, of the Perry Ellis suits and Hugo Boss ties, my own dear cousin who we were about to see in the next few hours, had a deluxe, custom-made hog hat that he treasured and wore to games and football parties without an ounce of embarrassment. The eyes lit up and glowed red when he pressed a hidden button. He was the envy of all his equally fanatic Razorback friends. "Besides, you said you wanted to see Emory on his home turf before your relationship went any further. Razorback football is a muy grande part of his turf. But I promise it's not the only thing. You'll love Sugartree." I gave her a reassuring smile.