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Why You Should Question Your First Reaction

I'll kill you all!

I'll kill you all!

I’ve described Elko before. As Lands of Enchantment go, it ranks poorly. But Elko was where I grew up. And so it follows that Elko is where I learned many of my Life Lessons. Here is one:

Your First Reaction May Be The Wrong One

My family had a paper route in Spring Creek, just over the hill from Elko. The area was rural enough that you had to drive if you wanted to deliver the papers. Mailboxes resided in ugly clusters every mile or so.

Usually my mom took care of the paper route. This meant smooth sailing. One fine day, my sisters had to deliver the papers. This means mayhem. We all expected it to go badly–everyone did but the sisters–but by nightfall, that fateful trip would have exceeded all of our wildest doomsday predictions.

Nobody has ever accused her of being rational, but this…

Here is how the paper route worked. You would drive up to a cluster of mailboxes and put the newspapers in them. Sometimes you had to get out of the car, most times you didn’t. The end…usually.

My sisters were driving down one of the many rutted dirt roads. They are barely wider than one lane and so pitted that you can’t get above 30mph without shaking your fillings out.

While they were on this road, a grasshopper jumped up from the floor board onto my sister’s vulnerable chest.

Things you might do in the same situation:

  • Swat it away
  • Roll down the window and let it out
  • Ignore it
  • Slow down and open the door to shoo it out of the car
  • Smash it
  • Curse

Here’s what she did

One milisecond after that murderous grasshopper “went after her throat,” my sister was rolling over and over on the rutted roads. She leaped from the moving car at at least 15mph, possibly more. The car went into a ditch and hit a pole, my other sister still inside.

Do you think it followed us?

Do you think it followed us?

Hearing her version of the events is a fascinating study in knee-jerk madness and delusional rationalization.

“What was I supposed to do?” she still says.

“It was a grasshopper!” she still says.

When we ask why she didn’t consider the fate of her sister, still in the car when she abandoned it: “Better her than me. It was a grasshopper!”

Perhaps I’m being unfair. I don’t know what grasshoppers are like where you live. In Spring Creek, Nevada, they are about one inch long and are usually pretty good at sublimating their murderous urges into more productive pursuits, like eating the farmer’s eggplants. I take it back…I am being fair.

The power of visualization

If confronted by such a creature, would you have behaved differently? Could you have behaved any differently? You might do well to scrutinize your first reaction in certain situations. If you know how you’re likely to react, get yourself some visualization exercises. It’s never too early to start mentally rehearsing how to cope with that first grasshopper assault.

“I won’t jump out of the car, I won’t jump out of the car, I won’t jump out of the car. I’m a winner, I’m sane, They’re more afraid of me than I am of them…”

Final Verdict

“Go with your gut” is great advice for people whose guts aren’t full of insect dread and lunatic potion.

Stories change over time.  I admit that this one still confuses me and will do so until I am in my grave.

Advice from my sister that you would do well to heed: “Never turn your back on a grasshopper. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Erik Strong May 13, 2009, 10:59 am

    How did I not ever hear ever this story? I can almost visualize the whole scene. I bet that ‘hopper went down in ‘hopper history for his ablilty to immobilize one car a two humans with one move.

  • Josh Hanagarne May 13, 2009, 11:01 am

    I’m surprised I never told you, Erik. I tell that story about every other hour. And yes, if there’s any justice, that grasshopper is now the Lord of them all. Hopefully they wrote some songs about him.

  • Erik Strong May 13, 2009, 11:04 am

    If the grasshopper kingdom hasn’t already taken on the task, we should. Finally, something inspiring enough to write a song about. Hail to the grasshopper king!

  • Megan Horton May 13, 2009, 6:02 pm

    It was actually about 20 grasshoppers Josh. Before any of you judge me, listen to this. One got in my mouth, one was caught in my hair!! I knew Lindsey would be ok. I just knew I could feel grasshopper legs beating against my check and lip. I challenge anyone else to do it differently!

  • Megan Horton May 13, 2009, 6:26 pm

    Yes I am great!! It’s true. I think I have provided more entertaining stories to our lives than anyone else in the family? Do you agree?

  • Adam Glass May 13, 2009, 9:13 pm

    Nice! How did mom and dad like that one?

    • Josh Hanagarne May 13, 2009, 9:20 pm

      My dad has shelled out for so many insane expenses due to his daughter (usually involving car wrecks) that this didn’t phase him much. He has reached the point where he is beyond surprise.

  • Sara July 18, 2009, 2:54 pm

    Freaking hilarious!! I myself am not a native to Elko but rather was transplanted here by my wonderful Hubs David. I do believe he went to school with you and Megan.
    I do have to say that I have a strange yet very real fear of these predators. In Idaho, where I am from, the grasshoppers are of a slightly less aggressive breed however are equally terrifying. When I was, I would say around the age of 6 or 7, I was sitting on my fathers lap driving the old Ford truck that we had at the time. We were on our way back from a camping trip, on a dirt road. Looking to our right was a wall of rock and directly to our left was what seemed like a 100 foot drop off mind you I was 6 or 7 so it would be safe to say it was in reality about a 20 foot drop off, which in the instance of falling off neither would be an ok outcome. Back to the story, I was on my fathers lap driving along when a monstrous grasshopper flew in the window and landed on my shoulder. Needless to say I let go of the steering wheel and while frantically screaming and flailing around the cab of the truck, I almost seriously injured my family by driving off of the cliff. Thankfully my Father was able to correct the truck and save us all from the fiery death that was waiting at the bottom of the cliff.
    Quite a few years down the road I am now here in Elko, Nevada where if you dare to venture into any form of brush these nasty bugs will attack you at the first chance they get.
    I have just recently in the last year or so been able to understand this fear that I have for the grasshoppers. I have come to understand that it is their erratic behavior and unpredictability that I fear.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 18, 2009, 3:04 pm

      Sara, I cannot believe that you just showed up and validated Megan’s insanity. I’m never going to hear the end of this.

  • Kathy Casey August 2, 2009, 7:27 pm

    Josh,
    So, as you know, I just found your blog and in my spare time I am learning all sorts of things about Tourrette’s and Kettleball. These happen to be two things I knew very little about, and I can’t really understand my current fascination. (Other than besides high anxiety issues I also have my own version of attention deficit disorder which causes me to hyper focus on certain things at certain times.) My point is, I’ve been reading many of the archives, and then I come across this: Of all things- the (according to you) IRRATIONAL fear of grasshoppers. I was, myself, attacked many years ago. I almost killed one of my children by pulling down the live Christmas tree we were decorating when a grasshopper flew out of it into my hair. In South Carolina, our grasshoppers are much larger and have much more murderous tendencies. Luckily my daughter could run pretty quickly at the time – so she was not in fact killed or mamed in the process. I broke most of the ornaments and said some very un-Christmassy words while I pitched a hissy fit about my husband bringing home a tree that was both too large for our den and bug infested. Sorry to take the side of your sister….but hey -they are scary, horrible little creatures!

    • Josh Hanagarne August 2, 2009, 7:45 pm

      Kathy, this is getting absurd. I thought I had proven that Megan was a lunatic, and people keep showing up to say that she actually got it right by leaping out of the car.

  • Josh Hanagarne June 7, 2009, 7:48 am

    Anja, thanks for having the post in your blog carnival. Much appreciated!