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'Prairie Diaries': Oretha Ruetti

Oretha Ruetti
Neva Grant, NPR News /
Oretha Ruetti

On Oct. 11, 2001, more than 5,000 Kansans recorded their daily activities and thoughts as part of a project to preserve the history of their communities. Morning Edition continues its Prairie Diaries series with the story of Oretha Ruetti, who lives on her own -- with help from her community -- despite advancing years.

Ruetti, who for 26 years has written a column for the local weekly newspaper, is a font of knowledge about her community's history. Following are excerpts of Ruetti's "Prairie Diary":

It is 5:45 a.m., Oct. 11, 2001 and my town of less than 900 souls is awake and moving about. Cars passing by eastward are taking the 6 a.m. shift of nurses aides to their work at the Frankfort Community Care Home.

Pickups headed westward are taking the fellows who eat breakfast downtown to the diner where they will solve the world's problems and catch up on the latest "they say" gossip.

My daily Topeka Capital Journal has been in my door since 5 a.m. The paper lady stands the rolled up paper by the door frame so I don't have to lean over too far to pick it up. That is just one of the many benefits for an 83-year-old disabled shut-in who is fortunate to be living in a small town where everybody knows your name and where you live.

Another fringe benefit is having a mail carrier who knows an arthritic stroke-damaged hand does not grasp loose envelopes easily. With wide rubber bands he straps the mail into one package, and I don't have dropped letters all over the deck.

And when it snows another good citizen comes with his pickup and blade and clears my blacktop driveway.

Even though our small town of Frankfort is withering, it still has one supermarket grocery. The clerks call those of us who are no longer able to drive or push a grocery cart down a long aisle to get our grocery orders.

Two hours later our groceries are delivered. If I need help with heavy cartons, the delivery lady puts them in the refrigerator or in the freezer. All this service for one dollar.

At 11 a.m. I quit whatever I am doing and get my silverware, napkin, and glass of water to place on the stand table by my lift chair to be ready for my Meals on Wheels at 11:30 a.m....

Today, Oct. 11, 2001, it has been one month since the terrorists' attack on the World Trade building in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. Millions and millions of words have been spoken and written, and I will not add to them.

However, we have been told and warned that our lives have been changed and will never be the same again. I'm waiting for the changes.

But while I wait, the nurses aides still drive by going to work at 6 a.m.; people are still going downtown to drink coffee; the "mums" in many yards are blooming in all their autumnal beauty.

Halloween is coming and I now have my trick and treat candy ready. Our thoughtful librarian has brought an inter-library loan up to my house. My black walnuts for Christmas cookies and candy have been ordered.

Trucks are rumbling into town on Highways K-9 and K-99, taking loads of corn, soybeans and milo to the elevator. U.P. trains are still roaring through town every 20 to 30 minutes, pulling as many as 130 cars of Wyoming coal to nuclear power plants in the Southeast.

There will be a football game tomorrow night and a tailgate party. And my maple and sycamore trees are carpeting my lawn with leaves.

I see no changes -- just the usual October activities in my community. They are the "usual," but never boring. Changes may come to my family in time, and may have already come to some families in our community.

When I count my blessings, living in a small rural town is at the top of my list.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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