Come back to the 1960s and walk with Jocie Brooke and her family and friends down Main Street in Hollyhill, a little Kentucky town where life can be strangely ordinary. Want more - check out The Heart of Hollyhill link.
Find Jocie's Heart of Hollyhill reports every week at a new place. Click on Heart of Hollyhill under Blogs on my website homepage or go directly to Jocie's posts with this Heart of Hollyhill blog. New place. Same Jocie. Still the Sixties.
Jocie Brooke here reporting from Holly County, Kentucky. Oh no!! Look what I spotted in Miss Sally's garden. If she's got cabbage about to start making a head, then I'm pretty sure every other member of the Mount Pleasant Church does too. That's a BIG oh no. I hate cabbage! Who could want to eat that stuff. Have you ever smelled it while it's cooking?? Maybe not as bad as mustard greens, but still plenty yucky. So yucky it draws flies.
The cabbage starts boiling, the flies line up on the screen door to find a way in to get to whatever is making that smell. You have to remember that flies like, actually like, dead things. So to them the smell is probably good. Great even. But not to me!! And then I have to eat it. At least, we do always have cornbread to go with the cooked cabbage. I do like cornbread. Pioneers lived on corn pone, didn't they? So I can make it on cornbread for a day or two.
Sometimes Aunt Love boils a lot of cabbage because everybody at church wants to get rid of a few heads and passes them off to us. I have never understood why they never have an over abundance of strawberries or radishes or corn. Well, they do give us a lot of corn too. That's good. I like corn.
Dad says I should be thankful for the Lord's provisions. I suppose he's right, but I just can't put cabbage on my thankful for list. It's right there on my not thankful for list right below turnips. So when we say grace on cabbage nights, I just think about how thankful I am for cornbread. What food do you have to eat that you don't like all that much? Of course, Bailey and Lucinda would have been thankful for any kind of food on their journey. They say it's a good thing for grasshoppers and mice. Right now they're not thinking much about food. They're thinking about their friend, Skelley. BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke (Continued from a couple of weeks ago. The whole story is under the title up at the top of this article.)
They kept vigil over Skelley's body all night long. They couldn't let the coyotes have him. So, at first light, Bailey dug a hole in the soft ground. Then with care he scooted Skelley into the hole. Lucinda helped him push the dirt in on top of the old dog. Then she found a yellow flower and laid it on top the dirt. Bailey found a stick to put there too. It wasn't Skelley's painted stick, but it was the best he could do. Then they sat there for a long moment before Lucinda said, "I'll miss the old dog. Skelley wasn't like most." Bailey stared at the grave. He didn't feel like talking. He did feel like howling, but Skelley wouldn't want him to howl. So instead he thought about the first time he saw him half in and half out of that big trash thing. He remembered Skelley's circus stories and the way the old dog was always ready for whatever adventure came his way next. Was Bailey ready for whatever happened next? He looked over at Lucinda who had started washing her paws. But then she stopped and just sat there with her eyes shut. He tried to wait until she said something else, but he couldn't. He had to know. "Do you think we can do it?" he asked. She opened her eyes and looked at him, but she didn't look mad. "We have to try. For Skelley." So they started off, leaving Skelley behind, but somehow taking him with them too. He seemed to be running along beside them with more energy than he'd ever had and whispering in Bailey's ear that he could do it. By the time they left the woods behind and began across the open fields toward the town, he was beginning to think maybe they could. When they were halfway across the first field, they stopped for a drink at a little creek. He stared at the water to see if he could see Skelley's reflection. "Why are you staring at the water?" Lucinda asked. "I thought maybe I could see Skelley." "We buried him." "I know, but it's like he's still with us." "Don't be silly," Lucinda said. "You don't feel him with us?" Bailey raised his head and looked around. "Of course not." But Lucinda wouldn't meet his eyes and her tail gave an extra twitch. So he knew she did even if she wouldn't admit it. It was almost suppertime when they got to the town. They stopped behind some bushes so that Lucinda could do a complete head to tail wash before they went on to Reid's house. Bailey rested his head on his paws and watched her. When she had finished washing to the very tip of her tail, he asked, "What if doing the trick doesn't work? What if Reid still doesn't know me?" "It will work," Lucinda said, but she still didn't look at him. "Come on." Bailey stood up. "Do you know how circus music sounds?" "I think it has to be happy music." "Skelley did look really happy when he heard it." Bailey remembered how the dog said his master was calling him. "He did." Lucinda looked up at the sky a moment. "He would say it's music that makes a circus dog step high and do his best tricks." "I'll try to do my best," Bailey said. Lucinda looked over at him and sighed. "Well, just try not to trip over your own feet like you did the last time we tried this balancing act. That's all I ask."
June 21, 1966 Jocie Brooke reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Oh gosh, things have been so busy around here. I thought summer was when you could lie back and be lazy. You know, once school was out. But I've been spinning like a crazy top trying to do everything. I helped Miss Sally plant some late garden and wash her windows. Then Aunt Love said if I could wash windows for Miss Sally, I could wash our windows at home. I have about worn my hands out washing windows, but I thought since I was so practiced at it that I might as well wash the big picture windows at the newspaper offices. I mean somebody might bring in a potato that looks like a face or a shoe or something. People do like to bring that kind of thing to the paper and let Dad take their picture for the paper. Dad says everybody likes having their picture in the paper. Well, as long as it's not something bad, like they died or something. Then I guess they might still be happy if they went to heaven. That's supposed to be the happiest place there can be. Anyway, I've been extra busy. So busy I didn't have time to type up the next scene of Bailey's Bug. Cause did I mention, that it was Father's Day? I had to make Dad a card because he is the best dad ever. My mother might not have been best or even good, but Dad made up for it. So I made him a card and I gave him a hug and I washed those big picture windows at the paper. That was not an easy job. Those windows are BIG. Zella wouldn't help at all, but all Wes did was tell me where I was missing a spots. I guess that was a help. Cat did keep me company by sitting in the window and watching me. Sometimes he grabbed for my window washing rag too. Then people in town started standing in front of the window watching me too. Or maybe they were watching Cat. I thought about passing out window washing rags to them so they could help and not just watch. But I didn't. I just kept cleaning the window because, like I said, I have the best Dad ever and he likes the windows to be clean. Have you ever washed windows for someone as a gift? I'll get back with Bailey's Bug next Monday. We have to find out if they ever get home. I'm still sad about Skelley. But if he was hearing circus music that was good.
June 15, 1966 Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Well, actually I'm reporting from the swimming hole out in the county. A lake swimming hole. A beautiful place to swim and now that school is officially out - Yay!! - I can go swimming there with a couple of girls from church. Their grandparents own a house alongside the lake. Betty and Candace are great fun. And good swimmers too. I took some pictures before I hung my camera up in a tree way back from the water. Then I jumped in too. Took my breath but in a positively fabulous way. I love getting in the water. I'm not great at swimming like Betty and Candace, so I stay where the water's not over my head. Drowning isn't on my to-do list for summer. Swim lessons are. Candace tells me anybody can learn to tread water but first you have to get in the deep water to learn. Seems like to me that makes for a little problem. You know, like drowning in water over your head while you're trying to learn to do something to keep from drowning. So, I'm learning that this summer at the pool. I know I'm kind of big for swimming lessons, but Dad says I can act like an undercover reporter and learn to swim while getting the story. Dad's the best. Anyway, at the pool, you have a side to grab hold of if things get dicey. Like you sinking to the bottom of the pool. I can sort of dog paddle, but I like to imagine myself swimming across the pool with graceful even strokes. I picture some kind of Olympian swimmer. But the imagination sometimes works better than reality. Even a choppy swimmer is better than a no swimmer. I'm using a little more imagination to see what's going on with Bailey and friends this week. They are nearing the end of their adventure. BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke (Last week Bailey and Lucinda had about given up hope. Skelley is trying to straighten them out.) "For a truth, I'm surprised at the both of you." Skelley lifted his head to stare at them. "After all the three of us have come through, ye let one minor discouragement get you down." The tip of Lucinda's tail twitched back and forth faster and faster. Bailey summoned his courage and spoke up before she jumped on Skelley with her claws bared. "But what can we do?" Bailey said. "Reid didn't know me. He patted my head and didn't know me." "Folks have their shortcomings, for a truth. Even me own master had a few. Ye just have to come up with a way to get your boy to open his eyes a tad wider." "How?" Bailey asked. "Do a trick only ye would know to do. Something he taught you. In the circus, we each had our own special trick that nobody else did. Signature tricks me master called them. Me, I walked on me front paws, easy as pie. Always made the children laugh." "But I don't know any tricks." Bailey thought about the red plastic toy he used to chase, but it was back at the Robinsons' house. The tip of Lucinda's tail stopped twitching angrily. Now her whole tail swayed back and forth. "You could be right, Skelley," she said after a minute. "All may not be totally lost." "I knew ye would see the possibilities, Miss Lucinda." Skelley sounded pleased but tired. "Me thinks I'd best lie down a while. I'm feeling a wee bit strange." The old dog collapsed on the ground with a huff of breath. He kept his head up for another moment to stare at Bailey. "Ye do know a trick, lad. Ye told me about it yourself. How your young master taught you the circus trick where Miss Lucinda rode on your back." "That's it." Lucinda sounded like somebody had just given her a can of tuna. "It was such a complete disaster Reid would have to remember it." At the sound of hope in Lucinda's voice, Bailey's tail started swishing through the leaves again. For a few seconds, he thought about how she'd stayed up on the top bookshelf for hours after they tried the trick, but decided against mentioning that. Instead, he started to thank Skelley for getting them to thinking right again. But Skelley's eyes were closed and his ribs were shuddering with every breath. Bailey crept over beside him, but Skelley still didn't open his eyes. "But you have to go with us. We can't leave you here." Skelley eased open his eyes. "Ye won't have to, lad. I'll be leaving you first." "What do you mean?" Bailey asked. Lucinda moved closer too. "We need you, Skelley. To be our ringmaster to make sure we do the trick right." "For a truth, I'd like that. Even without me master's baton." Skelley raised his head a bit to look at her. "But this adventure is over for me. I'm ready to start a new one." "You can't go on an adventure without us," Bailey said. "The two of ye aren't ready for this adventure, Bailey me lad." Skelley raised his head up and his ears perked up. "Do ye hear the music?" Bailey and Lucinda looked at each other. There was no music. Skelley wobbled his head back and forth as though keeping time with some tune and got a dreamy look in his eyes. "Tis our coming on song. I'll be having to go. I see my master waving me on." The old dog laid his head on his paws and closed his eyes. He looked to be asleep, but his bones weren't trembling the way they usually did when he slept. His chest was too still. Bailey gently nudged Skelley with his nose, but the old dog took no notice. Lucinda swiped at Bailey to make him back away. Then she leaned down and washed the old dog's face with her tongue. Bailey raised his nose to the sky and howled once, long and sad. Then he rested his nose lightly on Skelley's back. For just a second, he thought he heard circus music. Bailey shut his eyes and there was Skelley. He looked young as he ran out to jump through the hoops his master held while a host of children laughed and clapped.
(To be continued. Remember, you can read the whole story under Bailey's Bug up at the top of this article.)
June 8, 1966 Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Do you like cats? I like dogs better. But you know that if you've read those books about Hollyhill. I wanted a dog so much I said a dog prayer and the Lord let me find a dog over in the woods and bring it home. I named him Zebedee, Zeb for short, because when he barked he sounded loud like thunder. As soon as we got home and before I had even had a chance to ask, well, more like beg Dad to let me keep him, Aunt Love's cat, Jezebel, had tried to attack him. She doesn't call her cat Jezebel. That's my name for the cat from you know where. But Jezebel is sweet as sugar to Aunt Love and since she's also white all over that's what Aunt Love calls her. Sugar. Take my word for it. Jezebel suits her better. At least around me. She does not like me. So when I started writing Bailey's Bug and came up with my cat character, Lucinda, it could be that I used Aunt Love's cat as a model. Except I made Lucinda be black all over instead of white. But Lucinda has grown on me as I've written Bailey's story. She hasn't exactly turned into a sweet cat. Far from it. She gripes at Bailey and might swipe at his nose, but she hasn't deserted him. And Bailey likes her and thinks she's smart. But is she going to be smart enough to figure out a way for them to be welcomed home? She's tired of having to climb trees to get away from coyotes. If she never has to hunt for another mouse or bug to eat, she'll be happy. Cats need cat food. Out of cans. Or saucers of milk. She wants to curl up in the sun and forget adventures. But when we left her and Bailey last week, both of them had lost hope. Guess it's time to see what happens next.
BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke (Continued from last week. The entire story so far is under the Bailey's Bug title up top of the page. We start here with Bailey waiting for Lucinda to tell him what to do next.) But Lucinda didn't say anything. She didn't even start licking her paw to wash her face the way she always did when she was thinking. She just kept staring at him while some of the light faded out of her eyes. Bailey's tail stopped dead, and his heart sank even lower than it already was. All the way back through the woods and across the fields, Bailey had been sure Lucinda would know what to do next. But now he saw his own lost feeling reflected back to him from her eyes. They'd come miles and miles. He'd found Reid. That should have been enough. When he couldn't stand her silence a second longer, he said, "You could go. They'd know you. Your fur's always short and black." "There are probably hundreds of cats in that town. Half of them black like me." Lucinda sounded very, very tired. "I'd know you from any of those other cats," Bailey said. "Of course you would." Lucinda's voice rose. She sounded cross the way she used to sound when he did something to accidentally wake her when she was napping in the sun. "But people don't look with their noses like you. They'd think I was a stray. I would be a stray." "That's what they thought I was. Mrs. Alexander even called the dogcatcher, but I took off before he got there. But they don't call the dogcatcher for cats, do that?" "For a truth, lad, sometimes they do." Skelley spoke up. "I knew a cat once. Never bothered a soul. Lived off what he caught. Jock did love to hear my circus stories, but one day the dogcatcher caught him in a net and carted him off." That wasn't a story Bailey wanted to hear. "We've got to do something." He looked at Lucinda. The cat was no longer looking at him. She seemed to be seeing something far away. All of the sudden, she let out a terrible yowl. Bailey thought she might be remembering saucers of food and windows full of sunshine. "Reid's got a porch with a railing. That will be a great place for you to lie in the sun." Bailey wanted her to feel better. Lucinda let out an even louder yowl. She had never yowled like that before. Never. He wanted to put his paws over his ears. He didn't want to hear what her yowls were telling him, but he couldn't block it out. It was hopeless. They would never have a family again. They would be strays forever, raiding trashcans for food and dodging the dogcatcher. Worse, when Lucinda got all her yowls out, she was going to hate him. It was his fault they'd left the Robinsons where she had food and sunny windows. Bailey raised his nose and added his howls to her yowls. Bailey didn't know Skelley was beside him until he felt teeth clamping down on his ear. He was so surprised he swallowed his howl and stared at the old dog. He was even more surprised when Skelley let go of his ear to bump Lucinda with his nose. That stopped Lucinda's yowls as she turned to glare at Skelley. All that effort seemed to take all the old dog's energy and he had to sit down to catch his breath. Then he said, "Forgive me, Miss Lucinda, but I did have to get your attention." "You might have asked. Nicely." Lucinda stood stiff-legged with her tail straight up in the air. The very end of it twitched back and forth. Bailey backed up a couple of steps just in case she decided to swat his nose, but Skelley didn't give an inch. "It could be that I was mistaken, but it seemed to me that all this caterwauling the two of you were doing was keeping ye from thinking straight." Skelley stared at Lucinda. "I'd rather not think right now." Lucinda sounded fierce. "Now, Miss Lucinda," Skelley started. Lucinda didn't let him finish. "What's there to think about except having to live out here with the coyotes and never having anyone set out a saucer of milk for me ever again." Bailey wished Lucinda hadn't mentioned food. It made him want to start howling again. (To be continued.)
May 30, 1966 Jocie Brooke reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. This picture wasn't taken in Hollyhill, but you knew that. It's a picture Dad showed me of a cemetery in France to help me think about what Memorial Day really means. It's not just picnics and the local swimming pool opening for the summer and school being out. Memorial Day is for remembering the men and sometimes women who gave their lives fighting for their country. But look at all these crosses. And this is just a little part of the graveyard in the picture. All those people lost to the world. All dying in a war. Fighting for freedom. Dad fought in World War II and I'm so glad he came home. He was in a submarine. He doesn't talk about it much, but he gets really sad on Memorial Day as he remembers those that didn't make it home. He told me we should all say a prayer for those soldiers' families. So I did. But I also said a very thankful prayer that my dad was one of those who did make it home. I went with him to our local cemetery and while we don't have rows and rows of crosses like the cemetery in France, we do have some men's graves there who gave their lives in service of their country. So we took roses from Aunt Love's bushes and laid a bloom on each of those graves and Daddy prayed. I've almost finished with Bailey's story. Right now it's pretty sad for Bailey since his boy didn't recognize him. Do you think Lucinda is going to be able to figure out a way for them to get back with their family? BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke (Continued from last week. The complete story so far is under the Bailey's Bug title up top.) Chapter 16 The sun was going down when at long last Bailey pushed through the bushes back to where Lucinda kept guard in a tree over where Skelley was sleeping. The cat looked down at Bailey from her perch and then beyond him to where no Reid was following. Bailey placed the scraps he'd found on the ground. "I brought some food." Skelley woke and raised his head to look at the meat. "That was good of ye, lad." The old dog's head wobbled a bit before he dropped it back down on his paws. "I'm sure I'll feel like a bite of two later." Lucinda pounced down out of the tree and landed inches from Bailey's nose. "You didn't find him." "I did find him." Bailey scooted back a couple of steps. "It's not far from here. A town. Lots of trashcans." Bailey nudged the scraps toward Lucinda. The cat didn't even give it a sniff. "Then where is he? You were supposed to bring him back with you." "I tried." Bailey felt like a ball losing its air. His tail and ears were dragging the ground, but even worse, his heart had lost hope. "You tried?" Lucinda looked ready to spring at something. "They didn't know me. Reid fed me his sandwich and rubbed my head but didn't know who I was." Lucinda stared at him for a few seconds and Skelley raised up his head again to listen. Finally Lucinda asked, "Did you do your silly hopping dance?" "I tried everything. I hopped and bounced and jumped and barked. I even licked Reid's face, but it didn't help. Reid said I sounded like Bailey, that I ate like him. But I didn't look like him. Too skinny and not even the same color as his Bailey." Lucinda twisted her head this way and then that as if to get a better look at Bailey. Her eyes were glittering strangely in the dimming light as night was creeping closer. Skelley was staring at him too. For a few seconds, Bailey was fearful they were were going to decide he really wasn't Bailey too. Skelley spoke up first. "For a truth, lad, ye don't look the way ye did when I first laid eyes on you behind that trash bin. We've had a lot of adventures between then and now." "Bother the adventures," Lucinda hissed. "You may look different, but you're still Bailey. Are you sure you were at the right house?" "It was Reid. I'd know him anywhere. But he thinks we're still at the old house with the Robinsons. Guess nobody told him we ran away." "Surely they told them. That's been days ago. Weeks ago. A lifetime ago." Lucinda's tail shot up straight into the air. "But we know where Reid is now." Bailey perked up a little. His tail swished back and forth in the dry leaves behind him. Lucinda would think of something. She was the smartest cat ever. "I came back so you could tell me what to do next." (To be continued)
May 23, 1966 Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. School is almost out! Yay!! I really do like school, but I'm always really, really glad when summer comes calling. We have about one more week. Five and one-half day to be exact. We have tests and more tests. You have to take tests or summer can't come. But nothing much else is going on. No field trips. We did that last week. We went to the park over in the next town. Hollyhill doesn't have much of a park. Just some old swings at the Legion Field. And you have to be sort of brave to swing in those. They're getting very old. My dad says he used to swing on those when he was a kid. Anyway we went to a different park for a picnic. I don't know why we went to a playground park. We aren't exactly kindergarten kids. Maybe they wanted us to check out the physics of seesaws and monkey bars. But it was kind of fun and there was a softball field. I am the worst player on the planet. You'd think anybody could hit a big old softball. Most anybody can. But I'm not much of a hitter. I can run pretty good so if I can get my bat on the ball at all, I usually get to first base. May not be pretty, but as long as you get a score, right? And I'm usually not the very last person picked for a team. Almost, but not quite last. A few of the girls wouldn't play. They might get their shoes dusty. Eew-wee. Poor things. Like I said, I'm not the best player by a long shot, but at least I'm playing. Wes says that's what's important in life. Playing whatever game you find. Oh yeah, and noticing the flowers as you pass along the road. That's Queen Anne Lace in the picture. Did you know if you put food coloring in water and then stick the stem of Queen Anne's Lace in the water, that will turn the bloom whatever color you put in the water? Well, it will. You should try it. It's fun. Poor Bailey isn't having much fun. Do you think he's going to find a way to make Reid believe he really is his dog? Last week we left poor Bailey with Reid's mother calling the dogcatcher. BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke (Continued from last week. Remember the whole story is under Bailey's Bug in the menu.) Reid's mother came back to the door with a piece of rope. "The dogcatcher says I should tie the animal to a post somewhere." "Aw, Mama, you can't just tie him up for the dogcatcher to get," Reid said. "He's a nice old dog." "He tried to bite you, remember?" Reid's mother frowned. "And it's the dogcatcher's job to take care of strays and locate their owners or find them new homes." "What if they don't find his home?" "I don't know, but whatever it is, the old thing will be better off. Just look at him." Mrs. Alexander pointed toward Bailey. Bailey flapped his tail back and forth but without much energy. He wanted to look like a dog she could like even if he couldn't look like the old Bailey she knew. But his eyes caught on the rope in her hands and he remembered the awful leash that had tried to yank him under the monster bulldozer. Bailey's neck began to burn, his ears drooped, and his tail didn't have a wag left in it. Worse than all that was how a little growl gathered low in his throat as he looked at the rope. He tried to keep the growl inside where Mrs. Alexander couldn't hear it, but the rope swung in front of his eyes. It taunted him. His growl got louder. Mrs. Alexander stepped back. Bailey knew it was wrong to growl. He knew they'd never know he was Bailey if he growled, but the growl wouldn't stop. It just keep rumbling out of him. He'd come miles and miles. He hadn't had a good meal for forever. He'd crossed wide rivers of roads, dodged monster cars, and braved the unknown in the woods. And now Mrs. Alexander wanted to tie him up for the dogcatcher. That woke up the growl inside him. What would Lucinda tell him to do? Stop growling for sure. She'd probably swat his nose for good measure. Reid watched him from the door. His eyes were sad. Maybe because Bailey was growling. So Bailey swallowed his growl and wished he could think of what else to do. He couldn't think of anything. Nothing at all. Except that he better not hang around and wait for the dogcatcher to get there. He wasn't exactly sure what a dogcatcher did besides catch dogs, but no dog he ever knew wanted to be the dogcatcher's friend. Skelley and Lucinda were counting on him. Bailey looked at Reid and stopped panting long enough to pull in as much of Reid's scent as he could before he turned away. There was nothing to do but go back and ask Lucinda what to do next. Bailey slinked away from the house, his tail dragging in the dirt behind him. He looked back once. Reid was standing outside watching him. Bailey wanted to go back and try one more time. He even stopped and started to turn around, but it wouldn't do any good. The growl started up again in his throat and this time Bailey let it grow until he happened to pass an unsuspecting cat out on its morning prowl. Bailey let out a big woof that sent the cat flashing for the nearest tree. That made Bailey feel just a wee bit better, but he didn't think he would tell Lucinda. Not that scaring the cat solved anything. He was hungry and tired even though Reid's sandwich had been tasty. He still had a long way to go and with no help for Skelley when he got there. He knocked over three trashcans and finally found a package of meat scraps. He didn't eat even one scrap, but instead carried it in his mouth as he headed back out to the woods to give it to Skelley and Lucinda. It was a long walk back. (To be Continued) Thanks for reading.