Following a Barn Quilt Trail Through Nebraska

Explore Nebraska by Following the Barn Quilt Trail that celebrates the State and its heritage.

| November 2016

In Following the Barn Quilt Trail (Swallow Press, 2016), Suzi Parron, in cooperation with Donna Sue Groves, documented the massive public art project known as the barn quilt trail. The first of these projects began in 2001, when Groves and community members created a series of twenty painted quilt squares in Adams County, Ohio. Since then, barn quilts have spread throughout forty-eight states and several Canadian provinces.

Renae Kamler and I had been corresponding for years, beginning in 2010 when her barn quilt was installed. Renae told me about life on the farm with her husband and children; I filled in with bits and pieces about my travels and my new life with Glen. As soon as I knew we would be traveling, Renae and Fillmore County, Nebraska, were added to the schedule. I was excited to see the barn quilts but also eager to finally meet a woman who had become a friend. Glen and I drove just a couple of hundred miles north to a tiny RV park in Geneva, Nebraska. I’d developed the habit of photographing the welcome signs at each state border, and as this one approached, Glen just had to say it. “Suzi, I’ve the feeling we are not in Kansas anymore.” 

“Hmmm, tell that to the wind,” I answered. If anything, the dusty bursts were growing more and more fierce.

The next day, Renae and I set out to see the barn that she considers “the coolest barn in the county.” I was equally taken with the Tatro barn and its row of what I thought were round windows along the front. On closer inspection, they were actually dark blue circles rimmed with white. The two red and white square cupolas atop the roof were much fancier than any I had seen in the past. Alice Tatro said they had been replaced more than once, most recently in 2012 when one blew off. “It took a brave soul to get up there and put those in place,” Alice said. The number 19 is painted on the left cupola and 05 on the right, representing the date that the barn was built. On one end of the barn, an Evening Star is painted in matching colors to accent the ventilation louvers, with a Morning Star on the other. The barn’s condition belied its age, as the shingles have been replaced multiple times. After a couple of paintings, the sides of the barn had been covered with steel, but the original look remained in place.

Alice and her husband, Ronald, who passed away in 2008, had spent about fifty years on the farm, and the barn was their pride and joy. It was constructed using pegs without a single nail. I asked about those circles, and Alice thought they might have been open at one time but were in their current state when the Tatros bought the property. 

When asked to add a quilt block to the already picturesque barn, Alice was pleased, and the choice of pattern was an easy one. The 4T is a quilt pattern that I had seen before, but it is also the registered brand of the Tatro farm. Each of the T’s was one of the four Tatro daughters, who used the barn for their 4-H lambs. The barn quilt served to grab the attention of travelers and created awareness of the burgeoning quilt trail. “That barn really put us on the map,” Renae said. 

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