Suggestions from the South Part III
By Chris Cuppett
I have been receiving the Minnesota Bulletin since I joined the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in 1978. Until some point in the mid-eighties, each chapter secretary was responsible for creating and submitting a quarterly summary of the chapter meetings and fundraisers. The report I always read first was "Riverbend News" by Jim Tracy. He always took the time to make his quarterly summaries very clever and entertaining.
At the time that Jim was secretary of the Riverbend chapter, I was living in Minneapolis and teaching Braille at the Minneapolis Society for the Blind, which is now Vision Loss Resources. While I was in my last few months of teaching there, Jim made a temporary move to Minneapolis to receive rehabilitation training. For at least a little while, I had the pleasure of helping him to beef up his Grade 2 Braille. When I eventually moved to Mankato in 1988, I looked up Jim Tracy right away. He was still a member of a very small Riverbend chapter, and he encouraged me to come to the meetings and to make the chapter a little larger.
Jim Tracy lives alone in his own home in rural Kasota, a little town about twelve miles from Mankato. An active member of the NFB Writers' Division, he has recently put together a lighthearted and helpful booklet entitled, Staying Put: An Older Blind Person Can Live Alone. It contains a practical short course in Grade 1 Braille and a section on cane travel. The rest of the booklet is filled with easy kitchen tips, with "different" techniques of daily living, and, finally, with several of Jim's favorite recipes written in his own inimitable style. With Jim's permission, I am reprinting some excerpts from his booklet in this article. As you will soon discover, the wisdom in his brief publication is derived from Jim's personal experience.
I say "different" when I refer to Jim Tracy's techniques of daily living, because many of them are not the same as the skills I teach in my Adjustment to Blindness classes. They still work, and that is all that really matters. After his explanation of cane travel, he does a rather neat segue into a section on techniques of daily living.
"If you goof up and run into something that tears your shirt, you can thread a needle in the following manner: Stick the needle into something receptive, a rubber eraser, a cork, something like that. Squish a dab of carpenter's glue on the ball of your thumb and wipe the last half inch or so of the thread between your thumb and forefinger, rubbing the glue into the thread. Let the glue dry for a few minutes. You can detect the eye of the needle by pulling a thumbnail around the eye end of the needle. Hold the glue end of the thread between a thumb and forefinger until a tiny tip of thread protrudes, and try to slip it through the eye, picking up the thread end with your other hand. (It may take a few tries, but you'll make it. I did.) If you want to know the length of that tear in your shirt, buy a wooden yardstick and find someone with a jigsaw or band saw. Have them cut off the yardstick at each foot, then cut a shallow slot every half inch. Remove some of the wood from alternate cuts, so that the result leaves low, toothlike crenelations.
"If the tear in your shirt is so long that you give up on sewing and want to buy a new one, talk to someone at your bank about raised-line checks. I prefer raised-line checks to carrying a checkwriting guide because I keep losing track of the guide.
"Keep paper money sorted out by folding each denomination differently. I leave the ones flat, fold fives the long way, tens the short way, and twenties both ways. Be cautious about folded bills catching other money in your wallet and letting it drift to the floor. It is generous, but unprofitable. Trust me on that one, too.
"I got lost in my own big back yard once. I got confused in some bushes and was a hundred yards from home before I got straightened out. After that I put a small radio in the porch window as a sort of bellboy. It was loud enough so that I could hear it, but low enough so that it wouldn't annoy my neighbors. Then I found in an electronics store, a new gadget, a remote control doorbell. The push‑button part goes in my shirt pocket with lots of room left. The doorbell part is maybe half as big as my cassette recorder. The box it came in claimed a range of fifty feet. I found the range to be quite a bit more than that, more like eighty feet. The advantages are that while a neighbor may have a radio tuned to the same station that mine is, they aren't likely to have a doorbell that responds to the push‑button in my pocket. My doorbell doesn't make noise until I want it to.
"Another useful gimmick is a recorder. Keep it near the telephone, ready to use. I have my own imitation of a telephone book. One cassette is the yellow pages with my doctor, dentist, lawyer, banker, and such. One is family only, one is friends, and the fourth lists members of an organization to which I belong. Another cassette has recipes. Another has my Christmas list, and so forth. Each of the cassettes is labeled in Braille, so I know what it contains.
"Every state government has a division that deals with blind people, and yours should be able to supply you with a list of places that sell products specifically for the blind. Any of them will be glad to send you a catalog. What you will want from that catalog, I think, will be a Braille timer for kitchen use. Don't get the electric kind, but one on which you just crank the knob around. Mine has two dots every five minutes and a single dot in between for every two and a half minutes.
"They should list talking watches, too. Some electronics shops carry these, also. You should be able to get one for under twenty dollars.
"You will need a long white cane, and unless you saw off a tree branch, this is where you'll have to get it. And finally, you'll need at least one slate and a stylus or two. And that's about it for your shopping list.
"You don't need an electronic float that squeals when your coffee cup is full. Hook the end of one finger over the edge of the cup and pour. When your finger gets hot, stop pouring. You can squeal if you want to. Common sense doesn't run on batteries."
The last part of the book contains several recipes, one of which I will include in this article.
After concluding a recipe for homemade white bread, Jim begins the next recipe by saying:
"Man does not live by bread alone. Sometimes he needs Corn Dodgers.
"Shovel two cups of cornmeal into a metal or ceramic bowl. Sprinkle in a teaspoon of salt, and squeeze in a couple of teaspoons of butter. Heat one and three‑quarter cups of water to boiling. Dump the water over the other stuff and stir pretty good with that old wooden spoon. When it's fairly cool, grease a cookie sheet and pull off lumps of dough. You can form them into just about any shape you want on the sheet, but they have to be thin. You have preheated your oven, of course, chucked them in at that same old 400 degrees, and baked them for about thirty minutes. They should be crisp, anyway. Try one with butter. Then maybe you'll want a few with pork sausage and milk gravy dumped on them. And that's it for recipes. Now start collecting your own and just experimenting."
Cassette recordings of Jim Tracy's booklet can be obtained by writing to: Tom Stevens, NFB Writers' Division, 1203 Fairview Road, Columbia, MO 65203. Each copy is $5.00. Make checks payable to the NFB Writers' Division.