Buffalo Bill
Earlene Fowler

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Benni Harper

What Do Quilts and Buffalo Bill Have in Common?

      Quilts are a unique way of passing down individual family histories, which is the true story of our country, the struggle for each family to make its own way.   I was designated the "Keeper of the Quilts" in my family by my maternal grandmother.   She has given me the "path in the Wilderness" and "Double Wedding Ring" quilts made by my great-aunt and great-grandmother Harper (that's where I got Benni's last name -- Harper is my maternal grandmother's maiden name).   She gave them to me because she knew I would take proper and loving care of them and pass them down through the female side of the family.   My and Benni's love of quilts, folk art and storytelling probably came from my mother's side of the family.   They were Southern sharecroppers from Arkansas who learned to create art from whatever resources were available.   They adore long, convoluted stories preferably with a touch of the macabre and always with a lot of humor.

     My and Benni's "get the job done without complaining" trait definitely came from my dad's Western/Midwestern side where great emphasis was put on not quitting, pulling your own weight and toughing it out no matter what kind of pain you were in.   But a bit of flashy Western showmanship comes from my dad's side too, because my great-great grandfather, George Washington Bennett, was first cousins to William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill Cody, the promoter of "Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show," a show that some claim is the precursor to the modern day rodeo. 

      According to my dad's family history book, The Bennett Book, Buffalo Bill attended the wedding of my great-great grandfather, George Bennett and my great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Pauline Nichols.   George and Elizabeth settled in Kansas during the mid 1880s, becoming farmers and raising 11 children, one of whom was my great-grandfather, Hiriam Wakefield Bennett.   A faded, brown-tinted photograph of George and Elizabeth and ten of their children hangs on the wall of the room where I write.
--Earlene Fowler

My great-grandfather is the second one on the left, standing up.   He's the shortest of the boys (it must be where I get my height from).   He's my dad's grandfather.   His name is Hiriam Wakefield Bennett.   This picture was taken in 1902.

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