(HOST) Edith Hunter wrote commentaries for VPR for more than a decade,
up to about a month before she died over the weekend at the age of 92.
She had a dry wit, and a thoroughly practical turn of mind. As we think
back over her many commentaries, we’re reminded of the time a few years
ago, when she talked about her new-found appreciation of the cane, and
managed to reflect at the same time, on longevity, stability and utility
– in roughly that order.
When I was in college, my mother began using a cane. I always remember
how critical she was of a friend who refused to use one although she
would have profited greatly by its use. My mother used to say: "Jessie’s
too proud to use a cane."
I’ll be 90 in December and was
feeling unsteady on my feet. Remembering my mother’s words and actions I
went to the umbrella stand in the back hall of this wonderful house to
select a cane from among the umbrellas and canes. There was a
hiking stick made for me by my friend Phil Woodbury to use when I was
leading history hikes around Weathersfield. It was sturdy, but just a
straight stick. Then there was the fancy walking stick. It was
one Aunt Mary had brought back when she was a young girl and the family
had gone hiking in the alps. It had a metal pike on the end for
stabbing into glaciers. It was a little too lethal for my purposes. The
one I finally chose is a great one, made from a piece of strong wood
with a natural curve for the handle.
find the cane is a very reassuring addition to my regular equipment.
But In addition to the primary use of a cane, I have discovered a whole
host of uses not always associated with canes. If two friends
are talking at some distance, rather than rudely shouting out to them, I
reach out and gently tap one of them on the leg. If something has
fallen on the floor at some distance, it is often possible to reach out
and drag it closer with the cane. And if the waste basket seems full, it
is possible to trample the contents down with the cane, without soiling
one’s hands. Very
often after coming through a door if it doesn’t automatically close, I
just reach back with the curved handle of the cane and pull the door
In 1861 the people of Weathersfield decided to remodel
the lovely brick meeting house and put the sanctuary upstairs and the
town hall downstairs. After the brick church burned in 1985, it was
restored exactly as the church had been remodeled in 1861. A
chair lift was installed in 1987. I use the chair lift to ride up to
the sanctuary. The arm of the chair lifts out of the way to make it
easier to sit down. But then it is necessary to get the arm down. I
found that if I snagged it with the curved end of the cane, I could
bring it down easily. So if you are considering adding a cane
to your equipment, go ahead, and I’m sure you will discover even more
creative uses than I have.