Connie Kuhns and the Last Day in Cheyenne
Kuhns reflects on memories and questions of mortality in the final days of her father's life @ Geist.
How do you remember someone’s last days on earth?
A woman got on the bus at Johnson’s Corner. She sat next to me, although I offered her the seat behind me because there was more room. She was old. I helped her with her seatbelt. I didn’t feel like talking.
Her short white hair was brushed back like a rancher’s wife. The silver ring on her left hand was huge. I think it was a black stone. She was glamorous in that Georgia O’Keeffe kind of way. I stared at her hands as she placed her black leather jacket across the seat in front of us. I asked her if she rode motorcycles. Not since her husband died, she said.
“Are you coming from the airport?” she asked.
She had been visiting her sister in Colorado and was heading home. I told her I had just flown into Denver from Vancouver and was headed to Cheyenne. She said she was from a small town in Nebraska “that you’ve never heard of.” I knew what she was going to say.
Alliance, Nebraska. Cattle Capital of the State. KCOW: the greatest call letters of all time. When we had a dollar to spare, Patti Nicholson and I would ride our bikes out to the radio station to buy demo 45s for ten cents apiece. Andy Williams. Maxine Brown. The park had a lily pond and a magical shooting fountain, which was restored just last year. Bulldogs. Football. Box Butte County.
I reached over and took her arm. “I was born in Alliance,” I said. “You look like my mother’s friend, Jean Schafer.”
“My name is Jean Schafer,” she said, as if there could be two.
“I’m Connie Kuhns, Dean and Wilma’s oldest daughter.”
“How is your dad?”
“That’s why I’m here. He’s in a hospital in Cheyenne.”
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