Quilt Stories

Paul and Barbara Krause have written a fictional story based on Jewell Wolk's "Purple Sandwich" quilt. They have taken the various scenes found on the quilt and crafted one story that integrates them. You may read the story on this page or download a version created in Microsoft Word.

Note: The names of the characters are consistent with names you might have found being used in Montana during the period the quilt depicts.

In addition, Paul is creating an animated version of the story. Although the animation is not completed, you can see his progress to date by clicking on this You Tube link: Purple Sandwich Video

The Purple Sandwich - ©2012 Paul A. Krause and Barbara L. Krause (A story inspired by Jewell Wolk’s “Purple Sandwich” quilt) 

Cast of Characters

School Children:

Julia Peterson – first year teacher, twenty one years old

Cowboy suitor #1: Henry (Hank) Talbot – Julia Peterson’s new boyfriend

Cowboy suitor #2: Stephen St. Clair  - Julia Peterson’s old boyfriend

Mildred Williams – School superintendent


desk“You better not do that John Wesley Anderson or you’ll get in deep trouble,” Dorothy shouted. Ignoring his sister, he opened the desk door anyway.

Feigning great fear that soon turned to a smirk, John skillfully placed the red matchbox just inside Miss Peterson’s creaky, ink-stained desk. As he closed the door, George Cavitt whistled his support. “Great going, Johnny. That oughta scare her good.”

Meanwhile the last few clangs of the school bell could be heard ricocheting off the low hills separating the school from the small community of Cut Bank. Within seconds the door to the ramshackle one-room schoolhouse complained bitterly as Miss Julia Peterson pushed it open with the coal pail she held as far away from her calico frock as she could.

“Children, for goodness sake, settle down this instant. Eli, please help me stoke the fire and add some coal.”

stoveEli jumped up and grabbed the dusty pail. He was enthralled by Miss Peterson and would do anything she asked. He wanted to warn her about the desk, but a scowl from John Anderson quickly changed his mind. John was the oldest and meanest boy in class and could not be crossed without dire consequences.


Moving toward her desk, Julia counted heads. It seemed that the class was one child short. “Does anyone know where Charlie is? Of late, that boy is never here on time.”

As Miss Peterson began to open her desk door, the class fell strangely silent. Reaching into the desk, she began to shuffle its contents and spotted the red match box. “What are the stove matches doing in here? Everyone knows they belong on the shelf near the stove.” A nervous giggle at the back of the room caused her to look up.

desk openAt that instant, she failed to notice the gaze of a small creature that had just escaped from the matchbox, having paused long enough to duck under the maze of papers in her desk. Reality set in as fur brushed her hand. All she could see was the blur of the tiny mouse as it leaped from the desk to the floor.

Shrieking at the top of her lungs, she slammed the door with a thunderous bang and then climbed on top of the desk. The room erupted in squeals of delight and horror. The younger girls ran ‘round and ‘round while John and his supporters roared with laughter.  Suddenly Miss Peterson caught sight of the mouse again and jumped from her desk to the table near the window. “Get that thing out of here, get it out of here,” she screamed.

Within a minute, the mouse had found a crack in the floor and was gone. Now safe, Miss Peterson regained her composure and climbed down from the table. Unfortunately, in the jump from her desk to the table, she tore her hem and the children had an unusually close look at her bloomers. “Oh my new dress. What a mess. It will never be the same.”

Although she had a pretty good idea who was responsible for the pandemonium, she couldn’t prove it. More to the point, her new beau, Hank Talbot, was coming to visit over the dinner hour. She needed to make herself presentable. “Well children, we’ve had quite an exciting start to the day haven’t we? The best remedy for idle hands is some school work. So, let’s begin. Take out your Bibles; I’m sure we can come up with a verse that applies to the subject of scaring your teacher.”

student dest

Looking sternly at John Anderson she said, “John Anderson, perhaps you could read Luke 6:31.”

“Yes ‘m. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”

“And what would be another name for that verse?”

“That would be The Golden Rule, Miss Peterson.”

blackboard“Perhaps you could write that on the blackboard three or four times for all of us to see and ponder.”

“Yes ‘m.”

Working at the board, John first erased the tongue twister: big black rubber buggy bumpers on colonial linoleum (try saying that fast).

As John wrote the Bible verse, calm settled over the classroom. The only interruption was the late arrival of Charlie Douglas. Lowering his head and hunching his shoulders to conceal his presence, the tardy student found his seat at the back of the room. Miss Peterson looked up. “You’ve missed a little excitement this morning, Charlie. Hope you’ll be on time tomorrow.”

Charlie glanced up sheepishly. “Yes, Miss Peterson. I surely will.” 

As the children worked, the westerly picked up and gently shook the old boards that clad the one-room structure. Spring had arrived in Montana, and the smell of wildflowers and clover filled the morning air with a scent that touched every little nose and teased the longing of each to be outside running through the prairie grass. As the noon dinner hour approached, they all began to think of their tummies and what their mothers might have put in their pails and tins. For some, a satisfying thought -- for others, not quite so.
Miss Peterson stood by her desk and swept her arm toward the door. “All right children, dinner hour.”

Most of the children grabbed their food pails and headed for the playground, but Dorothy Anderson, her best friend, Mary Martin, and little Lizzie Joy stayed behind.

lizzieLizzie immediately pulled out the Log Cabin quilt she was preparing for her little sister, Mollie, who was confined to her bed.  

Lizzie said she wasn’t hungry, but the truth was she had forgotten her lunch in her haste to get to school to finish the quilt. Cutting a lock of her long blonde hair, the quilt maker had a special plan in mind. She found just the right fabric square and tucked the lock in the corner.   

“There, that will be a hidden reminder of the one who made this quilt and the love she feels for the sister it will keep warm.”

secret pocketSince Mollie had few things to play with, Lizzie had also created a secret pocket along the top edge of the back of the quilt. As Mollie lay in bed, she could unbutton the pocket and take out the little toys Lizzie had made: a red doll and three fabric rings.

When Miss Peterson saw the quilt, she contributed a tiny story book complete with a magnifying glass.


glassFrom what Lizzie could tell, it seemed that her teacher knew a lot more about cowboys than she thought. Once again Lizzie read the book and laughed at the story about the cowboy’s surprising ride.


As Lizzie chuckled, Dorothy and Mary glanced over their shoulders then turned back and began their favorite activity – eating lunch and sharing stories.   

Dorothy’s lunch came in a squat, tin, cut plug box while Mary brought hers in an old lard bucket.

Mary reached in and pulled out a chicken drumstick, a piece of bread and butter and (marvel of marvels!) an apple. Dorothy reached into her tin and pulled out a purple sandwich that looked much like what she’d been eating for weeks. Her family was dirt poor, and all her mother could afford was a few slices of white bread soaked in homemade chokecherry syrup. She looked over at Mary’s food with longing and envy, “I just hate you Mary Martin. You are the world’s luckiest girl and you haven’t any idea how lucky you are.”

story3Actually, Mary was lucky and did realize it. Her parents had agreed to board the school marm during the year and, in return, were given extra provisions for her. This benefited everyone in the family, including Mary. And it was also the reason why Mary’s stories about their teacher, Miss Peterson, were so colorful and gossipy. Knowing how much Lizzie liked their teacher, Mary bent over and whispered in Dorothy’s ear.

“So do you know why Miss Peterson had her best dress on this morning?” Not waiting for a reply, Mary continued breathlessly. “This morning I heard her talking to the mirror about a cowboy that she had danced with at the last social, and how he had promised to come by and see her today. If my ma ever found out about that visit, Miss Peterson would be kicked out of the house in a quick minute. It’s against the rules. Cowboys aren’t to be around here during school hours.”

Dorothy gasped, then replied, “I think it’s romantic. Miss Peterson is so lovely and kind.”

Looking up, like a preacher assigning guilt, Mary whispered, “Oh she’s lovely all right, but that’s the problem. She’s like honey to a cow-bee, if you know what I mean. She’d better watch herself, that’s all I can say.”

story4Meanwhile, the other children were finishing their food and had already begun to play.

The most earnest was Henry Cavitt. He had quite the reputation as a gopher catcher, and his family counted on the modest, two-cent reward that came with each gopher tail he turned in. With luck, he could catch two or three over the dinner hour and proudly deliver their tails to his mother when he arrived home that evening. 

Unfortunately, his most successful method of catching gophers depended on willing helpers. In this case, Linda and Flora Hull. While Flora pumped water, Linda carried water from the pump to the gopher hole over which he’d laid his trap. He promised both of them a penny and a cookie from his dinner pail. Linda had been carrying water for a few weeks and was getting tired of it. She began to think that she was getting the short end of the stick, but relented every time Henry waved one of his mother’s cookies in her face. In the end, the smell of cloves and nutmeg melted her resolve, and she gave in.

story5story6Upon receiving the water, Henry poured it into the gopher hole. Hopefully the gopher would avert drowning by coming up out of his hole. Once his head poked out, Henry pulled the string trap and caught the gopher around the neck. A quick jerk, a stick to the head, and another gopher soul ascended into heaven. So far, the gopher had not appeared, so Henry yelled at Linda to get more water and be quick about it. Linda tried to run, but this only caused the water to slosh out of the pail and onto her socks and shoes.

“I hate having wet feet, Henry Cavitt.”

“So, be more careful” he replied.

story7West of the school house, Henry’s brother, George, and his buddy, Bill Butler, were carving a big heart on the outhouse wall.

“Eli’s going to be embarrassed good,” said George.
Nodding in support, Bill bent over to assess his friend’s artistry. “I hope so. He’s such a teacher’s pet. And that dumb Lucy. I hope she screams when she sees this.”

At that statement, a shout came from the interior of the outhouse. “Bill, I heard that. You’d better stop carving right now, George Cavitt, or I’m going to tell Miss Peterson.”

“Oh, go ahead Lucy,” countered George. But you’d better hurry because Miss Peterson’s heading for the trees. We’ll go find your boyfriend Eli. Maybe he can help you find the teacher.”

“You leave him alone, George. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.”

 “Sure, sure,” said Bill as the two turned away from the outhouse and began their search for Eli.

story8At that moment, the object of their search was safely hidden in the upper limbs of the huge sugar maple located on the north edge of the school property.

Eli was small, wiry, and quick, and there wasn’t a tree in the county that he couldn’t climb with ease.  In the upper most branches, he was invisible to his friends and foes alike. Soon he could see George and Bill approaching.  “Not to fear,” he muttered. “Neither one of them could climb a ladder, let alone this tree.”

story9As he snorted confidently, he noticed something strange happening near the school bell.

“Is that Charlie Douglas? It looks like he’s trying to climb the school bell pole. Even for Charlie, that’s peculiar. And where is Miss Peterson going in such a hurry?”

Miss Peterson was in full flight down the hill toward the weeping willow that graced the south entrance to the schoolyard. Like a bobber on a fishing line, her gaze shifted to see if any of the children might notice her direction. Satisfied that no one was paying attention, she slowed down and took a deep breath. Finally, she noticed him standing in the shade of the willow’s long tendrils.

“Oh Henry Talbot, you do look handsome and thoughtful in that pose,” she mused. “And what are you trying to conceal that has such a pretty yellow bow?”

Hank Talbot was leaning against the broad trunk, checking the state of the fingernails on his left hand, when the object of his affection gently touched his shoulder. In one swift motion he turned and puffed out his chest.   

story10“Why Miss Peterson, you look better than a furry heifer on a straw lead.”

Although she wasn’t quite sure how this might measure the depth of his affection, she nodded, then took his hand and warmly held it.

“Why Mr. Talbot, you have such a way with words.”

This was the second time that Hank Talbot had shown up at the school in the past week; it was clear what his intentions were. He and Julia had danced long and hard at the last school social the week before; since then their feet couldn’t seem to move but toward each other. This was not to say that Julia didn’t have a herd of admirers.  All the young bulls who worked for the Lazy Z ranch could imagine her making a fine wife and mother.
story11In fact, one of them was not far away and could clearly see the enthusiasm with which Julia greeted his rival.

Stephen St. Clair had been courting Miss Peterson for months and, until Talbot arrived, seemed destined to win Julia’s heart. But now jealousy overcame him.

“I’ll fix that Talbot and Julia too.” He kicked the dirt, spun around and was on his horse in a flash. “Wait ‘til Superintendent Mildred Williams hears about this.”

The town of Cut Bank was just over the ridge about a half mile away, so it didn’t take the cowboy long to reach the Williams residence and tell his story of a school marm gone wrong. Everyone knew that the school teacher could never have a male visitor during the school day. It was grounds for immediate dismissal. Of course if the teacher were to marry one of the cowboys or ranchmen, she’d have to resign in any case. Julia was flirting with fire as she needed every bit of the $54 a year that the school board paid her. Superintendent Williams had suspected Julia of poor moral character, and now the silly girl had proven Mildred right.   


story12She jumped in her buckboard, whipped old Ned, and then sped down the dirt path to the schoolhouse. “I’ve got her now. She’ll be finished by sunset. I can hardly wait to see the culprits’ faces when I show up.”

When she arrived twenty minutes later, Hank was gone and the children were no where in sight.  She immediately headed to the school house. Wanting to make a lasting impression on the students and their errant teacher, she barged through the door in a grand entrance. Shocked, she found the room empty. “Where could they be?” she thought angrily. “They should be back in class by now.”

This transgression only made her more determined to mete out punishment.  She whirled on her worn, leather heel and bolted into the yard. Rather than yell for them (after all, she was a polished and very polite woman), she chose to ring the school bell.

Grasping the long rope, she pulled down hard. “This should get their attention.” Next she heard only a dull thud. “What is going on around here?” She pulled again and again, hearing only muffled sounds.

Peering up into the blue sky, she looked like an old coyote baying at the moon. It soon became apparent that the bell clangor was wrapped in an old wool sock. This revelation only increased her anger at yet another violation and she began to pull harder. After ten minutes or so, the fabric had thinned enough for the sock to fall off the clangor, and the bell could be heard loud and clear, far and wide.

She rang that bell with all her might. In her furor, the bell was almost forced off its mount. Within five minutes of ceaseless clanging, she saw the children, Hank and Miss Peterson running, breathing hard and red faced.

The school marm spoke first, “What is it, Superintendent Williams? What is the matter?”

Exhausted by her vigorous ringing, the prim and proper woman collapsed on the ground in a heap. “What is the matter, Miss Peterson? The matter is you and the children are not in school, and this cowboy is on the premises. That is what the matter is. Help me up so I can fire you.”

“But let me explain, Superintendent. Let me explain.” Just as she was about to defend herself and her reputation, Stephen St. Clair rode up on horseback.  Trying to look as concerned as he could, he shouted, “I heard the alarm bell and came running Miss Williams. Are you okay? Is there a fire? How can I help? What can I do? Say, what are you doing here, Hank Talbot?”

story13Suddenly realizing that he and his love might be the victim of a plot, Hank moved toward Stephen with his fists up. “Why you conniving cowboy, what is it to you?”

Before they could come together, Julia raised her voice and shouted, “PLEASE, EVERYONE, LET ME SPEAK!”  Surprised by her volume and passion, the group froze and fell silent.

“First, Miss Williams, Hank Talbot has been teaching the children about all the different kinds of snakes that live near the school, their habits and how to handle them without being bitten. Just last week we almost lost William Butler from a snake bite. When Mr. Talbot offered to come and teach the students, I agreed. I also made sure that Mr. Talbot would instruct the children during the dinner hour so that we would not lose progress with our lessons. I think the children were very impressed with his skills and knowledge.”

At this, each child began to shout with great animation. “It was wonderful, Miss Williams, “said one.  “He can sure whip those snakes-- took the tail right off a one,” said another.

story14Turning to Hank, the superintendent quipped, “I’d love to hear more about snake whipping later, Henry Talbot, but first, I still want to know why the bell was muted? That is not only a violation of the rules, but a danger to the children. What if there had been a fire, and the alarm didn’t’ sound?”

Sensing an opportunity to cast himself in a good light, cowboy Sinclair spoke up. “That’s right. We heard it and came right away.”

Julia looked perplexed. “I’m not sure how that happened, Miss Williams. The bell worked perfectly was this morning when I rang it for everyone to come to school.”

“You better tell them, Charlie” said Lucy Steele, “You don’t want to get Miss Peterson in trouble.”

Peeking out of the crowd was the innocent face of young Charlie Douglas. “I’m sorry, Miss Peterson. I shinnied up the pole a half hour ago. That dang bell is always getting me in trouble. With Ma not feeling well and Pa gone, I can’t seem to get here on time. I thought that quieting the bell would help. Guess not. Sorry.”

Julia bent down and wiped the tears that were beginning to fall on his cheek. “Don’t worry, Charlie; we’ll give you special dispensation until your ma is better. How’s that?”

“Thanks, Miss Peterson.”

By this time, Superintendent Williams was still suspicious yet determined to restore order. “Well friends, this has been quite a day. I suggest we all go home and leave the children with Miss Peterson. And Hank, I think your work as a teacher is finished, don’t you?”

“Yes’m. I suppose it is.”

And you, Mr. St. Clair, I suspect you can demonstrate your civic pride in other ways.   Don’t you agree?”

“Yes, Miss Williams. Just trying to help.”

At that, they all went their separate ways. Each one had a good story to share and each one had learned a little bit about hasty decisions and snake whipping.

Hank Talbot never returned to the school house again. At least not until a few years later when he and his wife, Julia Peterson Talbot, escorted their son to his first day of school.