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Guest Blogger Cousin Gene Edition #7 … “The Day of the Grasshopper.”

Several years ago, in the last century, I took a road trip to the plains of our country. While planning this trip, I was looking over a map and discovered a town in Kansas with the very same name as my home town in Kentucky. So Russell Springs became one of the scheduled stops of this trip.

While driving through Kansas, I made my way to State Route 25 and headed south into Logan County. It seemed to me that most of the back roads in Kansas were straight, two lane, and either paved or gravel. This one was paved. I drove for several miles, before I came into the town of Russell Springs. There wasn’t a lot there, because it was a very small place. At one time in its history, Russell Springs was the Logan County seat of government. A cattle drive trail, The Butterfield Trail, came straight through Russell Springs. But, alas, progress moved the government to another town, closer to the big highway, and cattle drives stopped. The local school closed and kids were bused to other towns. Residents would leave and seldom return, except to visit. A lot of small towns in America end up like this one. What a shame!

There were a few houses, a former school building, and a large two-story former courthouse that was now a museum, open only Memorial Day to Labor Day. (I was here in late September.) Most of the residents seemed to be cows. I had been here a little while and was planning to take a back road to another town, but I was wondering if a particular route was a good idea. So I decided to knock on a door and ask.

I pulled into a driveway near the museum, exited my pickum-up truck, walked up to the house, map in hand, and knocked on the door. It soon opened and I was greeted by an older lady. I asked her my questions, which she pleasantly answered, and then she asked me about my trip. I told her briefly about my home town of Russell Springs, KY., and about my trip. Another older lady came to the door and listened to the conversation. (Unfortunately, I do not remember either of their names.) The first lady asked me if I wanted to tour the museum. As it happened, these ladies were “keepers of the museum” and offered to open it up for me.

"The Grasshopper"

“The Grasshopper”

So we got into our respective vehicles and drove about a hundred yards to the building. They opened the doors and we entered. The ladies gave me permission to go anywhere in the building. The museum was, at one time, the Logan County Courthouse, and held other county offices. It now held relics from a time long ago, as any historical museum does. Clothing, tools, photos, documents, and other museum-worthy items. No elevator, so the ladies did not go upstairs with me. The courtroom was upstairs and still looked like an old courtroom. After a little while, I returned to the lobby where the ladies waited for me.  We left the building and the ladies locked the doors and we went back to their house. I gave them some money as a donation for the museum and they gave me a grasshopper. What you say, a grasshopper?

Cousin Gene ... A Unique Fashion Statement

Cousin Gene … A Unique Fashion Statement

Yes, a large dark brown colored metal grasshopper. Almost 5 ½ inches from the tip of its antenna to its back-end. A little over 2 inches wide from foot to foot. And 2 ½ inches from bottom of its feet to the top of its hind legs.  A whopper for sure! Grasshoppers (sometimes known as locusts) did do a lot of damage to crops in several states in the Great Plains in the late 1800’s. (And around the world at various times in history.) They even grew much larger than mine and invaded Chicago. (See “Beginning of the End”).

Well, I thanked the ladies for their kindness and generosity and off I went to continue my adventure, with pet grasshopper “Hoppy” at my side and Mountain Dew in my cooler.

Grasshopper Exploration

Grasshopper Exploration


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The Old Guy . . . A Ways From Home . . .

There was a lot of conflicted thinking swirling around inside my head as I drove down the old two lane highway. It wasn’t as simple as driving my Sweetheart from the hospital in Lexington to a nursing facility in Columbia, Kentucky. The two and a half hour journey through rough city traffic giving way to quiet green fields and winding country roads afforded me far too much time to think. And I knew … everything seen, talked about or shared between us would not be remembered in a few short hours.

She sat quietly staring out her window …


A Quiet Time . . .

My heart was breaking because she wasn’t coming home. The practical side of me argued hopeful logic for miles-on-end, but realized this ‘relocation’ as the best course of treatment. The selfish side of me urged the inner me to keep driving and not look back until safely home. Back and forth ideas, strategies and wishful thinking lived for yet a brief moment before being replaced by the next series of considerations.

I felt a failure for not being able to take care of her despite her physical condition. I should have done more, tried harder or made an extra effort to be a better man, but I also was at the frayed end of my rope and … the hospital confinements were coming one after another within a shorter time frame. I couldn’t keep up with the pace. I was falling short and at a loss for what to do next.

When not caring for my sweetheart, I would, and still, lay on the living room floor in an effort to ease the diabetic nerve pain in my feet and legs. It was a trying time for the both of us … physically and mentally. During the night or early morning hours, I would occasionally drift off to sleep. My Sweetheart, who had become nocturnal in nature, would on occasion try to get up and quickly fall. Despite the fact she could hurt herself badly, she would not ask for assistance or call out for help. Several times, I would awake suddenly and find her sprawled out on the bedroom rug or bathroom floor. In the hospital and nursing home, she was safer.

A strange and foreign place …

I think my Sweetheart’s dementia softened the shock of her situation. She was in a strange and foreign place without her chair, her bed, or her Gretchen dog to sleep on her legs like a soft but cushioned hot water bottle. Her questions were addressed with diplomacy and kindness. In her weakened condition she didn’t say much and seemed very accepting and accommodating. That would later disappear as she gained strength. For the moment, she was there for ‘rehab’ and the possibility of long-term care was not broached.

The days are now divided by being dialysis days and non-dialysis days. They are highlighted by exceptionally early morning travel times to the clinic and back, with nursing home lunches together. Or … there are long periods of quiet time where no words need be exchanged between us. For myself, a semi-regular routine has been established. With my Sweetheart’s dementia, any strict structure or time-table routine is difficult but not impossible. We have about times . . . and play it mostly by ear.

For right now, she is making remarkable progress and that is a grand accomplishment.


Next Week … Something Interesting or something current …

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