Tiny Stitches

In 1982, Gail’s daughter, Cynthia Ross wrote this poem. She posted it to the Our Echo site which is now offline (hopefully it will return soon).

Gail Lee Martin admiring a vintage crazy quilt.

Tiny Stitches 

My life is patterned
On a crazy quilt
Fabric pieces of my past

Moods pivoting around in
Yellow and red
Mixed with a somber brown

Pulling that crazy quilt
Around my shoulders
Drawing comfort from within

With my hand I will follow
The tiny stitches
Along a textured course

Some stitches are wider
Ones I did as a child
Others more even and precise

Now with age my hand trembles
Cataracts cover my eyes
Leaving me searching for the needle

I’m taking a journey 
Along a fabric trail
One stitch at a time

A small group of ladies in Andover, Kansas get together the first Tuesday of the month to make prayer quilts to be give away to those in need. After nearly 25 years together the bond of friendship we’ve made while quilting has helped each of us through the tough times in our own lives. We are doubly blessed as we visit, share private matters or health concerns, while pulling needles through fabric. Over time our lives have become woven together, friends forever. 

Building friendships while making quilts.

I saved the comments from other writers on Our Echo. Some of the writers are no longer with us.

  • What a lovely poem – excellent job. – Kathy Baker
  • So very nice, Cindy. An apt analogy of the quilting and your life. Women are so fortunate to belong to groups such as the one you mentioned. We build solid friendships in these groups, and they become our support groups when needed. We only need to remember to lean on them at the right times. You’ve been in my thoughts a lot lately. – Nancy Koop
  • My memories are drawn to the quilters I’ve know in our family. Grandma Viola Matilda (Tower) McGhee; Mother, Ruth (Vining) McGhee; my sister, Melba and her mother-in-law; Clyde’s Grandma, Marie (Kennedy) Joy; Clyde’s mother, Cora Myrle (Joy) Martin; Clyde’s sisters, Vivian Stafford and Dorothy Jones. Also Vivian’s daughter, Lorna who had the quilting machine shop. You are following the footsteps of your heritage. – Virginia Allain
  • Cindy, a really meaningful poem that could apply to many of our lives. Congratulations on being able to apply yourself to poetry with all the stress going on in your life right now. I hope to see more soon. – Sabina Benjamin Thomas
  • Such a beautiful poem! Reminded me of a song called ‘Tapestry’ by Carol King. “A wondrous woven magic of bits of blue and gold ” but the beauty of quilting is you can hold it in your hand and share it with others. Thanks for sharing. – Sabina
  • Reply: Thank you for your compliment in comparing it to a song. Many poems & not just my own–I put to song. I find it important to read a poem out loud to hear the sounds, not just see the words. – Cindy Ross
  • I really enjoyed reading your poem. I like the connection to quilting and growing through life. – K.D.
  • This beautifully written poem brought back precious memories of my mother. Strange how a tiny snippet of fabric has the power to instantly take us back in time. – BJ Roan
  • Beautiful poem. I liked the “crazy quilt” analogy very much. – Karen Kolavalli
  • One of our family quilters passed away May the 25th, Vivian Ruth Stafford my husband’s older sister but we know she will soon be finding quilting friends in heaven. As ever, Gail

Tangles with the Wind

Published in Capper’s Magazine, Heart of Home, 28th February 1990 by Cynthia Ross (Gail’s daughter)

Tangles with the Wind

Back in 1952, I had my first tangle with a strong Kansas wind. During a picnic out at the city lake, our family and cousins gathered in a shelter house for lunch. (In Kansas, if you don’t use a shelter house, your food will be blown right off your plate.)

As it sometimes happens, the children became wild as March hares after being fed. The adults usually just want to just talk or take a nap after a meal. I was about 2 years old at the time and had been watching older kids climb upon an arched window opening of the shelter, then jumping the short distance to the grass below.

Before long I decided to give it a try. With my short, baby fat legs, I climbed upon the ledge of the opening. All was going well until a strong northerly gust blew me right back down on the cement floor, breaking my arm in the fall.

Cindy Martin 1952

Cindy Martin, not yet 2.

I learned to respect our Kansas wind. Most of the time I count it as a friend, but I’ll always remember when we tangled some 37 years ago.

I’ve heard many pioneer women were said to have nearly gone crazy by the relentless wind…. but I find the wind rather soothing at times. I especially enjoy the changing seasons we have here in Kansas with the wind almost constant in early spring and fall.

The wind produced by a tornado is something totally different. As you probably know tornados come in all sizes, from a twisting rope to filling the whole skyline with its mass. The tornado that hit Andover Kansas was definitely a monster I hope never to hear or see the likes again in my lifetime.


Tornado photo courtesy of Pixabay


My sister Cindy is quite the poet. I’m not sure where she acquired the ability, maybe through hard work at writer’s workshops. Mom (Gail Lee Martin) was always quite apologetic about her poetry attempts. I don’t feel comfortable in that form of writing either.

pixabay icicles

Icicle photo courtesy of Pixabay

Here’s a poem that Cindy shared in her Christmas letter this year:


From the gutter

A long spear hangs

Cold to the touch


During the night

Icy fingers hold it

Tight against metal


With the morning sun

Iridescent prisms sparkle

Casting an enchanted glow


Warmth loosens its grip

Until it falls crashing

Scattering diamonds on the snow

(by Cynthia Ross)

I expect that with the huge freeze experience by many in the U.S. this week, that there will be many icicles forming. In New England, you may have to wait a few more days with the below zero temperatures there.

Sept 28 – Long Ago Birthday

Cindy was the fourth child of Gail and Clyde Martin. Her birthday falls near the end of September. Here she is for her birthday party, dressed in her best dress and with a curly haircut. I tried to count the candles on the cake, but couldn’t decide which birthday this is.


Mom has gone all out with a festive lace tablecloth, crepe paper streamers, a cake, and presents. This was before the day when children went to Chuck E Cheese for their birthday or had 50 of their closest friends over for an elaborate, expensive party.

The border of the photo says March 1959, so it took 5 months to use up the film and take it to be developed. That shows how sparingly one used the camera in the days before digital and before cell phones. Or maybe it just shows how busy a mother of five children was.

Usually, the grandparents and the immediate family would enjoy the cake with the birthday girl. Sometimes there would be ice cream too. I see three presents waiting to be opened.

Happy Birthday, dear sister, and best wishes for the coming year.

Make a Stick Horse with a Child

The guest blogger today is Gail and Clyde Martin’s daughter, Cynthia Ross. This article first appeared on eHow in 2010.

How to Make a Stick Horse with a Child

This may sound old-fashioned, but making and playing with a stick horse can provide hours of fun for a young child. It’s a simple project, so involve the child in making the horse. Then send them out in the yard to gallop around with the stick horse. They’ll get lots of exercise and fresh air. As you can see in the photo on my book cover, my first stick horse was a 2 X 4 piece of wood with a rope reins. I’ve made several of the sock stick horses for my own children.

Cover for Ride a Stick Horse

Cynthia Ross – The cover for her first book of poetry.

Things You’ll Need:

  • a stick
  • a sock
  • string or light rope
  • something to stuff inside the sock
  • 2 buttons
  • odds and ends to decorate the horse’s head
  1. Choose a stick. A suitable stick horse can be a cut-down broomstick or another piece of wood. It needs to be long enough for the child to straddle it with one end on the ground and the other end about chest-high.
  2. Find an orphan sock and some string, rope or yarn. The sock could be white, black, gray, tan, or brown depending on the look you want for the horse.
  3. Rags make an adequate stuffing for the horse’s head or use some old pillow stuffing. Fill the sock with whatever you have on hand.
  4. Place the sock over the end of the stick. Wiggle the stick up into the stuffing. Add more stuffing if needed.
  5. Use the string, lightweight rope, or yarn to tightly tie the sock’s ankle part to the stick. Even a long shoestring would work. Help the child with this part, as it is hard for them to tie the rope tightly enough that the head won’t fall off.
  6. Tie the rope or string around the horse’s nose (the toe of the sock) and make reins for the rider of the stick horse. You can make a full bridle for the sock horse head if you want.
  7. Decorate the sock horse head any way you want. Glue or sew on buttons for eyes or just add them with a felt-tipped marker. If you want to get more elaborate, give the horse a mane. You can put a line of glue down the neck of the horse and stick pieces of yarn to it. An alternate way is to cut a fringe in a square of fabric, then glue the uncut side to the horse’s neck.
  8. Have the child choose a name for the horse. Now turn your little cowboy loose in the yard with the stick horse. It’s more fun with several children all riding their stick horses around. They can have races or play at rounding up cattle.
Tips & Warnings
  • Be sure the stick doesn’t have any splinters on it and is lightweight.

stick horse pixabay

Here’s a variation on the stick horse. This one has a wooden head with painted features, nailed-on ears, and straps for reins.

E Is for the Eastern Phoebe

I’m featuring today, a nature post by Gail Lee Martin’s daughter, Cynthia Ross. Gail taught all her children to observe, preserve, and love nature. She helped them identify insects, took them on geology field trips, and encouraged them to appreciate wildflowers, lichen, trees, and wildlife.


Birdwatching is one of Cindy’s longtime hobbies. Here’s her post about the Eastern Phoebe.

Early this spring several Eastern Phoebe built nests along the ledges of our house. They line the top of the nest with moss gathered along the creek. They’re a feisty little bird; so it’s interesting to watch them and listen to their song.

The great thing about them is that they are flycatchers, which might explain why we haven’t had a lot of mosquitoes this year. When Larry was preparing to paint, he power washed the house first and accidently hit one of the nests and it fell. I rescued it from being trampled by moving it to the porch.

The other 3 nests have survived and we heard the chirps of baby birds while we painted around them. We tried not to paint next to them for too long a period so the parents could still feed them. These birds are the first to migrate home after their winter travels.

Further, wonderful news is that the Blue Jays are finally back in large numbers. We didn’t see one jay or chickadee all winter. Last week a water turtle was digging a hole to lay her eggs near our small garden patch. I’ll have to check back to see if they hatch.

For the first time in 30 years, I finally got a bachelor button to grow and bloom. Only one tiny flower at this point but at least it is a start. Would you believe I almost pulled it thinking it was a weed last week. For some reason, this flower always reminded me of Grandma and Grandpa McGhee. Plus, I remember they had another pinkish flower vining all along the yard fence, possibly a type of sweet pea.


A white-throated flycatcher (not an eastern phoebe, but similar). Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

You can read more about birds and wildlife at Cynthia’s nature blog, Moss Creek.

Mom and Memories of Canning

Some memories shared by Gail’s daughter, Cindy. “This photo reminds me of all the canning mom & dad did through the years. Their pickled beets were wonderful, plus the spice rings.

Another favorite was when they canned pork roast. I added it to noodles or used it in many different ways. One year I brought them a truck load of pumpkins that didn’t sell at the local church sale. That was enough for them to make pumpkin pies for 10-15 years. I loved snapping beans with mom, just for the visiting time it created.

The Butler county museum asked Gail to put up a canning booth at their special night of the "Good Old Days" So with Tonda Alverez from the farmer's market we really wowed them. Even sold quite a bit of canned stuff. I made all the signs on the computer for it.

Gail Martin and Tonda Alverez at the Butler County Museum’s Good Old Days event.

“The Butler county museum asked me to put up a canning booth at their special night of the “Good Old Days” So with Tonda Alverza from the farmer’s market we really wowed them.

Even sold quite a bit of canned stuff. I made all the signs on the computer and showed off all our old canners and other equipment. A real fun night!” Gail

Tonda (on left) and Gail with their canning display.

Tonda (on left) and Gail with their canning display.

1957-58 Memories of Gail and Clyde

Guest Blogger is Les Paugh Sr. who married Gail’s cousin Treva Mae Davidson. He remembers that he was out of work for 6 weeks when the union went on strike, so he went to El Dorado after hearing from Roy McGhee (Treva and Gail’s uncle) that Clyde needed help on the oil drilling rig.

“I went to work there in November 1957. We only had two weeks of work in November and 1 week in December. We were living with Gail and Clyde Martin at that time. We had 3 kids and they had 4 or 5.

The only meat we had on the table was rabbits that I shot. Clyde had a Kaiser-Frazer car with wide flat fenders.

At night we would go out on the country roads and I would set on the right front fender and shoot rabbits with my 22 pistol. That was all the meat we could afford. We had boiled rabbit. baked rabbit, fried, and any other way Treva and Gail could think of to fix them. Red Drilling Company gave us a turkey at Thanksgiving and one at Christmas.”

He found other work and the Paugh family found a place to live about a block from the hospital. “While I was working on the highway, east of town with the blade operator, a tornado came up on the west side of town. I told the operator that it looked like it hit our area. We both took off and went to the tool shack and our cars. I got into my 55 Packard and he went into the tool shed.

El Dorado Tornado

The tornado turned and came over the cars and the tool shed. My Packard and his 56 Chrysler parked by mine tipped up on their sides and I thought they were going to go over, but they didn’t. The blade operator and about 6 other men came out of the tool shed and they were all as white as a sheet. I asked what had happened. They said that a long piece of 2 X 6 had gone through the shed but didn’t hit anybody there.

I was afraid that the tornado had gone over to Clyde and Gail’s which was closer to the path of the tornado. I started over there and Treva and my kids came out of a house up the block that had a basement. When I saw all of you were OK, I went over to Gail and Clyde’s. The tornado hit about 1/2 a block from them.”

Owen, Susan, Virginia, Cindy, Karen Martin 1950s Image

Back to front: Owen, Susan, Ginger, Cindy, Karen Martin in El Dorado

Note by Virginia Allain: At the time of the tornado, Clyde Martin was in the hospital after a serious car accident. Their sixth child, Shannon was born 10 days before the tornado. Gail left the baby with her sister-in-law while she went to visit Clyde. So they were both at the hospital when the tornado struck the town.

Mom and the Round Robin

Guest Blogger today is my sister, Cynthia Ross:

I’m reading an Amish story that talks about the ‘Round-Robin’ letters like my mother, Gail Lee Martin, used to write with family members.

I enjoyed hearing her read them, telling of the marriages, deaths or just the details of their daily life. She’d then take her old letter out of the envelope & write a newsy letter before mailing it on to the next person on the list.

My sister, Shannon, started something like a family newsletter that kept us up-to-date on what was happening before e-mails/ Facebook became common. Now I wonder what my kids will do with the 2-large shoe boxes of letters Larry & I wrote to each other while he was in college….. Please remember letters & diaries are a window to the past.

Gail Lee Martin

Cindy Ross and Her Mom