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  • Sara

The Story Quilt: A Perfect Medium for Telling Two Sides of a Story

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

Sanborn Road, unfinished, near homestead location

Sanborn Road is rural, paved, and straight as an arrow pointing due west to Colorado Springs from the Eastern plains. This is where my ancestors homesteaded in the early years of Colorado statehood. As the family story goes, the young Sanborn family, possibly newlyweds, settled in the town of Little Horse Creek and set up a sheep ranch. Over the span of a few years, the family grew to include four boys, one of whom was my great grandfather.

I first heard this story from my grandmother when I moved to Colorado in 1987. WHAT? This was news to me! Family roots in Colorado? Not only did I have a million questions, but what really struck me was that this draw I had to the "Wild West" was in my blood! I

come by it naturally.

Yes, this story quilt, titled Sanborn Road, tells my story, but it also tells the story of many families. At the time of statehood, Colorado had a population of approximately 25,000. Just think how many settlers didn't actually "settle" here in the end. Like my ancestors, many failed to make Colorado their home and returned back East, or perhaps went on to points west. This is my story, but I feel the strength of a good story lies in it's ability to speak to many about our shared story.

There is something else that makes my personal his/herstory quilt no-so-personal. One side of this piece tells my story, and the other side reflects on the fact that there were people already here when my ancestors arrived. Native American his/herstories have been brutally over-written by the story of white settlers. I can not tell the tale of my ancestors 'settling the West' without at the very least acknowledging that my story affected someone else's story.

Sanborn Road, Native American side, unfinished

In this piece, the free-motion machine quilting lines that hold these layers together is text telling my family story, spreading across the plains. Legible from one side, the story appears backwards, illegible and intrusive on the other. This side depicts my interpretation of Native American rock art imagery suggesting their preceding presence on this land. One story cannot be told without encroaching on the other. Sanborn Road does not tell two sides of the story, for the Native American story is not mine to tell. It does, however, attempt to suggest the connection and history these stories share, including a passion for the West.

Sanborn Road, almost finished, on display at Muse Performance Space, Lafayette, CO

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