Fields of Grasshoppers

Fields of Grasshoppers

Autumn Tetlow1/ 3/21

When I was young I always had the spirit of an entrepenuer. Telling someone where I grew up I always say Palmer Alaska because even though I lived in both Anchorage and Palmer the farm is where I learned and laughed the most. The property in Palmer had been purchased by my great grandparents in the 1940's for $100 through the land rehabilitation act. The house they built was just beautiful in it's simply ways. 

You could tell just by looking at it what area it was built in. The beautiful multi pane windows were slightly weathered and white. The curtains were an ugly mustard yellow tweed from the 70's but the house itself was timeless. A huge hedge in the form of a square stood about four feet tall around the front part of the house. An old garage stood just ten feet from the house as it was the original building they built and lived in until they built the house and moved in on Christmas the summer of 1942. The house was a small two bedroom with a small chimney that was always pouting small blooms of smoke in the winter. 

I had the most fun out there in the summers. I would hunt grasshoppers and my great grandma would hobble out to the garden with me. I remember looking down at her tan orthopedic shoes covered in garden soil. She would have me help her pick pea pods off the vines. " Don't tug on the vines, be gentle, pinch the top and snap it off", she would say. My grandpa told me a story of her going out and grabbing a chicken when he was a child. Picking it up by the neck and giving it a quick jerk rendering it dead instantly for dinner. After her told me that story I always envisioned that horror when she said just snap it. 

One summer it was an extremely hot summer and the whole Palmer area was infested with grasshoppers... they were everywhere like a plague. You couldn't walk five feet without them jumping into your hair. My mom would scream bloody murder and dance around like she was possessed. Two or three small grasshoppers would fall out of her hair. I loved catching grasshoppers anyway so I did not mind it. I loved it. 

My grandpa always found the best ways to entertain a child. He said " Now gal, here is a jar, you go out and catch grasshoppers and I will pay you $.50 per grasshopper....". I was eight years old and the little light in my brain went off ding ding ding, its go time. Time to earn some candy money. Well flash forward from Noon when we struck a deal to close to 11pm. I had burrowed his head lamp from the garage. I remember the smell of motor oil that caked the wooden work bench and looking up at all the, what looked like torture devices, on the peg board. I was out in the field, grass as tall as I was, and all you could see with a small blonde pony tail above the grass and a green glow from the lamp shining though the thicket. 

By the end of the evening they had to drag me back inside. Even my teeth were covered in dirt. I liked like a coal miner when I removed the head lamp. The only visible clean skin was were the band had covered it. I placed four jars of grasshoppers on the counter. I had never really seen my grandpa with a shocked look on his face. There were too many to even count in there, so we estimated. By the end of the evening he forked over $65.00. For an eight year old I thought I hit the jackpot and he just laughed. Probably the most expensive laugh he could buy but he was happy to do it. The grasshoppers were later given to the pet store and we saved several crops in the garden from being ruined, even for a day.