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Post Info TOPIC: Rail retiree creates canes to help others


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Rail retiree creates canes to help others
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Rail retiree creates canes to help others
THERMOPOLIS, Wyo. Kevin Jacobs doesn't have to walk very far to get to work. Tucked away in a corner of his family room is his little work shop complete with all the tools he needs to make one-of-a-kind walking canes from wood, the Associated Press reports.

To appreciate what he does one should understand where he has been.

Born and raised in Cheyenne, Kevin moved to Thermopolis 18 years ago. He is a retired locomotive engineer from Union Pacific. Twenty years ago he was involved in an accident.

He developed syringomyelia shortly thereafter. Syringomyelia can be a result of physical trauma, disease or chiari malformation of the spinal cord causing pain, nerve damage, loss of control of limbs, body functions and/or paralysis.

Walking with a mild limp Kevin said, "I didn't realize how much spinal fluid can affect your entire body. Mine was completely shut off and it affected my speech and breathing."

Don't pity the man, Kevin will have none of that. Since he could no longer work he was thinking of something to do that could occupy his time.

"I started making canes out of wood a little over one and a half years ago," Kevin said. "I give credit to my neighbor Pete Caballi.

"Pete is over 70 and can do anything," Kevin continued. "He got me into making canes when we were gathering wood. I want to be able to accomplish something while I'm still able and hopefully help someone out."

The canes are made with either Russian Olive, snowball bush, ash or diamond willow; whatever Kevin can get his hands on. Even friends from around the state send him wood.

"Diamond willow is the prettiest, and ash is a good wood to work with," he said. "One stick of wood can have so many combinations of designs, it's unbelievable."

Kevin has built over 60 canes and has donated them to the Basin Retirement Home, VA hospitals in Sheridan, Buffalo and Cheyenne, and the Pioneer Nursing Home. Referrals also come from local physicians who may have a patient or two in need of a cane for balance.

"I've even given a cane to Gov. Freudenthal," Kevin said.

The story goes that the governor was in town to talk at an AFL-CIO meeting. Kevin told the people in charge, "Make sure the governor gets this." The governor didn't realize it was a gift from Kevin and it was a while before the governor sent him a proper acknowledgement and thank you.

Kevin has also given one of his canes to a well-known actor in the basin. Kevin won't take a cent for his cane, absorbing all the costs for materials and shipping.

"I've sent a cane and kit to a man in Georgia who has to be in his 90s," said Kevin. "He loved it so much that he and some of his friends are making canes now."

Kevin strongly believes that when the senior generation have something this unique they feel better.

He carves the canes by hand with the construction done by hand.

"I don't want any machinery touching my work," he said. "I want the satisfaction of doing it all by hand."

Just making the unique T' handle has seven steps involved, which Kevin won't divulge. Twigs, matchsticks or toothpicks seal the seams.

(This item was distributed July 22, 2010, by the Associated Press.)

July 22, 2010


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