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Big Chuck

October 11, 2010

I Was Just Thinking: A raffled quilt, as luck would have it

I'm not a very lucky guy. But things do change.

Since 1968, I can remember winning only two contests. One based on naked talent, and one based on dumb luck.

As most people around here know, I won the Gong Show in 1977. I sang "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" while buck-naked in a shower, and for some odd reason I won first place. My prizes were four Mr. Coffee machines, $200 worth of Turtle Wax products and 1,000 rolls of ChapStick. That's the naked talent one.

Around 1988, I was driving through Cooperstown and saw a sign for a Glimmerglass Opera raffle. I had never been to an opera, but I had an old $100 bill in my wallet and I liberated it and sprang for a ticket. Lo and behold I won. Big. $10,000 big! I got a new driveway and deck off that one. That was the lucky one.

And that was it. A driveway and a deck more than two decades ago, and some lip balm and coffee makers more than three decades ago.

But like I said, things do change.

I recently attended the Main Street artisans' fair in Oneonta. I walked by a lady who was raffling off a large quilt. She belonged to the Susquehanna Valley Quilters Guild (www.svguild.org). What do I know about making a quilt? Zero. What did I know about the history of quilts? Even less.

But I always like to support area groups, so I bought a $5 ticket. Surprise! I won the quilt! I couldn't even remember what it looked like.

When my prize was delivered, I looked it over. It was beautiful. The handiwork was amazing, the colors were vibrant and the pattern was creative. "Flying Saucers" was its name, reflecting more on coffee cups and plates than alien spaceships.

Now, what to do with the quilt? Throw it on the bed? Hang it from a wall? Pack it away as an heirloom? The kids didn't like the heirloom option. My wife voted for the wall hanging, and the dog and I voted for tossing it on the bed. Luckily we didn't have to make that decision because the quilt's creator called and needed it back. She wanted to enter it in a major quilt show.

OK, now I am starting to feel some real proprietorship to the darn thing. My quilt in an exhibition? That's kind of cool.

On Saturday, my wife and I went to the Major's Inn in Gilbertsville to attend the quilt show. It was packed. I was astounded by the number of quilts on display and the quality of the work. There were dozens of the most dazzling pieces of craftsmanship you've ever seen there. I feigned interest in all of them as I tiptoed in and around the hanging displays.

The quilts looked like entries on "Antiques Roadshow." Stunning. But where was my quilt? I ran into many people I knew who were more than curious as to what Big Chuck was doing at a quilt show. "Oh, you know," I said. "The Mrs. dragged me here." I chuckled nervously as my wife sighed and rolled her eyes. Where was my quilt?

At last I found "Flying Saucers." My heart pounded with pride as I viewed it from afar, watching people go up to it and coo at its beauty. I overheard one lady say, "That's the weirdest quilt I have ever seen." My wife had to hold me back at this affront to my new possession. "It's OK, Chuck," she whispered. "Let it go." I seethed.

So now that the exhibition is over, I've done some research about quilts. How they told the stories of the Underground Railroad. How the quilters brought their amazing talents to America from all over the world, especially Ireland. Of the sheer value of some of the rarest ones of all. In fact, did you know that the most expensive quilt ever sold went for $265,000! It was the famous 1860s "Reconciliation Quilt" and depicted scenes of slavery.

I love my new quilt and can't wait to get it home from its grand and triumphant tour to Gilbertsville. I'll certainly show it a newer degree of appreciation and love, and will care for it with kid gloves. My wife and I have even talked about hanging it for all our guests to see.

The dog, however, is still voting for it to be up on the bed.

I'll catch you in two ...

'Big Chuck' D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at wdosbigchuck@aol.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.

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