You know what? Ona looks just like the Miss Birdie in my mind. While my Miss Birdie's voice and character draw from my own neighbors -- Grace Henderson, Mearl Davis, Dessie Wilson --- and from fictional characters -- you can find Birdie's kin in Lee Smith's Fair and Tender Ladies, in Kathryn Stripling Byer's Black Shawl or Wildwood Flower, and in The Foxfire Books, to name only a few -- I've never pictured Birdie as looking like any one I know. And now, here she is.
When Louise knew her, Ona Blankenship was in her eighties and living alone. In spite of failing eyesight and arthritic fingers, she created beautiful crazy quilts, Louise tells me.
The quilt in the picture isn't one of Ona's. It was made by Ollie Payne, the mother of the woman from whom we bought our farm. Ollie was almost 100 the only time I met her and was a bed-ridden invalid, covered by numerous quilts of her own making.
These wonderful, fierce old women -- everywhere I go I hear their stories. Only last night a new acquaintance told me about her octogenarian aunt, up on the roof hammering down shingles. (Didn't I have Aunt Omie doing something like that in Dark Season?)
So many stories waiting to be told -- in my family and yours, in my county and yours. Let's hear it for fierce old women!