Monday, July 29, 2013

Is August too Early to Dream of Christmas Bicycles?

July 29, 1964

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Can you believe it's almost August? We go back to school in August. Groan. We used to wait until after Labor Day, but then it snowed quite a bit one winter and we were still going to school in June. The powers that be decided it would be better to go to school the hottest time of the year, the end of August, instead of the maybe not so bad first of June. June can be a sweet month without the kind of humidity that melts down even beauty queen Vanessa's curls. Vanessa has been known to call her mother and pretend she's sick to keep from being at school with her hair less than perfect.

Not that the boys care the least bit about one of her blonde hairs maybe being out of place. The boys, and I mean ALL, the boys at school run into the lockers after they land their eyes on her. I haven't figured out what's all that pretty about her, especially with wild curls springing out around her face and that frown on her face at any boy except the captain of the football team.

But I'm not reporting on Vanessa. You'd be bored silly. I'm hoping almost August isn't too early to dream about Christmas. Do you see that bike in the Sears catalog? Wow! I could go places if I had a bike like that. (I'm sure Vanessa already does.) But I could ride to Miss Sally's and go fishing maybe. I could ride to school. Groan. I wasn't ready to think about that again yet. I could almost maybe, well, not quite, keep up with Wes on his motorcycle. 

A new bike would be the neatest Christmas present. The very neatest! A bike of my own and not a hand-me-down rusty bike that's been buried under a ton of hay for years in some old farmer's hayloft. Maybe if I start talking now I can talk Dad into it by Christmas. It never hurts to ask, does it? Except Dad is always thinking about how we don't have a lot but we have what we need and some of the people in town don't have what they need, not even a rusty old bike, and how it's our Christian duty to share our blessings. I'm all for that. But I could use that bike. I might even be able to keep an eye on Mr. Whitlow if I had that bike! Well, I could have last week.

Oh, I didn't tell you, did I? He's disappeared. Well, I can't say for sure that he disappeared, but he's left town. Didn't check out. Bill Jackson says his room is paid up to the end of September. Says his clothes or at least some of them are still in his room. When somebody asked him how he knew that, Bill said it was his responsibility to check the room after the man didn't show up at the grill for breakfast two days in a row. The man might be sick or even, God forbid, dead. And wouldn't that cause a stink?! It didn't matter that his car was gone too. A person never knows and it's good to know. I think I like the way Bill thinks.

Zella doesn't know where he is. She doesn't want to talk about it either. She's worse than Cat before Wes feeds her. Snarling at the first word about anything. And she couldn't care less if that man was in town or out of town. Just ask her, if you dare, and she'll tell you. 

But oh, that bike. Did you ever have a brand new bike? Did it have a new bike smell? Or was there something else you wanted so bad that you started wishing for it in August?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Chiggers, Briars, Stink Bugs - the Price of Jam

Hollyhill, Kentucky
July 22, 1964

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Well, from Holly County anyway. We, Dad and Aunt Love and I, actually live outside the city limits. We don't live on a farm exactly, but there are farms all around us. Some of those farms have plenty of blackberry bushes on them and it's blackberry season. 
Do you like blackberries? I do. Lots, but I'm not all that crazy about picking them. But as Aunt Love is always telling me, an able bodied person who doesn't work shouldn't be wanting to eat. And I definitely want to eat. She says that's somewhere in the Bible too. So if Aunt Love hands me the picking bucket and tells me to go berry picking, I go berry picking. I do love blackberry jam on a hot biscuit with butter fresh churned by one of the women out at church. 
But even though I love that jam, picking berries is not all fun and games. Blackberries grown on briars. The best berries are always in the middle of the worst briars! Blackberries are bushy and there's no way to be absolutely certain a snake might not be lurking under those bushes. As if that's not bad enough, what about the spiders? There are always spiderwebs in the blackberries guarding the very best berries. Those big old spiders can have those berries. I'm not putting my hand anywhere close to them! And you have June bugs. I'm not afraid of June bugs, but their major whirring noise when you scare them away from a berry can give a girl a start. Sometimes there will be three or four June bugs on the same berry. It's like a helicopter starting up when they all take off together. 

But June bugs are better than stink bugs. When one of them gets on a berry, it's pretty much ruined for eating off the bush. Trouble is, you can't tell the stink bug has been there until you put the berry in your mouth. Big yuck! Then the only, the very only thing you can do after the stink bug taste is on your tongue is pop another blackberry into your mouth as quickly as possible. Of course, you have to hope the stink bug wasn't on that one too. Don't think I've ever eaten two stink bug flavored blackberries in a row and I hope I never do!! Talk about spoiling the anticipated yummy berry flavor. 

Saturday I got a gallon of berries. Took a long time. Zeb lay in the shade and whined off and on to remind me how hot it was. He was right! It was hot! Dogs don't like blackberry jam. I'm beginning to think twice about whether I do.

When I got the berries home, I had to wash them and get them ready for Aunt Love to make the jam. Then I had to hover nearby because well, Aunt Love is getting forgetful. She puts on a pot of blackberry jam - can't you almost smell it - and promptly forgets it. Last week she forgot to stir it and it boiled up and over the top of the pan down into the burners. What a mess! So Dad says I have to watch the blackberry jam pot boiling. That way I can either remind Aunt Love to check it or stir it myself. I hate stirring it myself. I always get burned. You see when the jam is boiling down and beginning to get thick, it pops in big ploppy circles like those pools out in Yellowstone. Those pops can land hot blackberry juice on your hand. Ouch! But that does mean it's almost done. Aunt Love tests to see if it's done by putting a dollop of the jam on a cold saucer and sticking it in the freezer compartment. Once it's had a minute or two to chill, Aunt Love looks at it to see if it's done. All I can tell is that it's purple. But Aunt Love can tip that saucer up and tell whether to keep cooking or stop cooking by how that jam sample sits on the plate. Or doesn't sit on the plate. At least she used to be able to do that. Now it's anybody's guess what she'll remember or what she'll forget. So far she hasn't forgotten the first Bible verse. I guess that's good if she didn't always hunt some out of her memory to try to keep me in line. And after I pretended to know about jam sliding on a plate and got popped by that jam juice while helping her. If she reads this, she'll give me a hard look and ask who plans on eating that jam.

I've got to go now and think about a way to stop these chiggers from itching. How about you? Did you ever get chiggers while blackberry picking?


Monday, July 15, 2013

The Hokey Pokey

July 15, 1964

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Main Street, Hollyhill, Kentucky. I'm back from 4-H Camp. What a blast! I hardly missed Hollyhill at all. Well, Dad and Wes some. Zella not at all. But she was looking pretty happy when I went to the newspaper office this morning. Guess she had a good week with me out of her hair. Cat came running to meet me. Of course, then he tried to scratch me when I reached down to pet him. He's been hanging around Zella too much. 

I danced at camp. That's pretty newsworthy. Leigh, that's Dad's sort of girlfriend, is always trying to get me to dance, but I have two left feet. She says that doesn't matter. That a person has the most fun dancing when they don't worry about anybody watching. 

Up to now, I just couldn't get into dancing. I'd rather ride my bike, but at camp, you had to dance. They had this big covered area and they played music every night. But it wasn't a couple thing, thank goodness. Everybody got in circles and then we did dances like the hokey pokey. Have you ever done the hokey pokey? It goes something like this. "You put your right hand in, you put your right hand out, you put your right hand in and you shake it all about. You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around and that's what it's all about."

And you know what? That was fun. Everybody holding their hands over their heads and doing little spins. Wes and Dad and I did the Hokey Pokey in the press room when I got home. That was okay, but not as much fun as at camp. There was this guy named Riley at camp. He kept bumping into me when he was doing the turn around. I think he might have been doing it on purpose, but it didn't bother me. He was sort of cute. Maybe guys my age aren't so awful bad after all! At least not all of them. There were some others that I wouldn't have minded if they'd floated their canoes down the river and lost their paddles.

Anyway, maybe dancing's not so bad. Do you like to dance? Ever do the Hokey Pokey?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Off to Camp

July 8, 1964

Jocie Brooke here, but not reporting from Main Street, Hollyhill. It's 4-H Camp week. No time for reporting anything. Been learning to canoe today. Only flipped into the water once and that boy, Jarrod, who was paddling with me, he did that on purpose. He thought it was hilarious. I laughed too. It wasn't so bad. I didn't mind getting wet since it was really hot today. And Jarrod, he's sort of cute. 

Don't tell Dad. He's worried enough already about me being here at camp all week without wondering if I'm thinking about boys. I'm not. Not really. But they do have these dances every night and a girl doesn't want to be a wallflower. Well, the pavilion doesn't have walls, but you know what I mean.

The leader is telling me I have to turn off my flashlight and go to sleep. So no more reporting tonight.

Did you ever go to 4-H camp? What did you like best about it? I love singing those silly songs about being a nut and then doing the hokey pokey. Fun!

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Night at the Hollyhill County Fair

July 1, 1964

Jocie Brooke here reporting from the Hollyhill County Fairgrounds. Once a year, the carnival comes to town and everybody goes to the fair. 

Dad says the fair is one of those good and bad happenings. Good because all the beauty contests and baby show pictures sell lots of papers. Bad because he has to be at the fair every night taking those pictures. The carnival is not my dad's favorite place to be. I tell him he can just drop me off at the gate with lots of film, but he says I'm not old enough to be totally unsupervised at the fair. He at least wants me to check in every hour or so. I guess he thinks I'll get stuck up on top of the ferris wheel or something.

Do you like to ride the ferris wheel? I think it is so neat to get stopped up on the tiptop of the wheel and get to see all around. Guess who I spotted while I was up there. Zella! I can't believe Zella was actually at the fair. Buying cotton candy! But there she was with a big cloud of pink spun sugar. I didn't see that Mr. Whitlow, but he must have been there. Chasing him would be the only reason I could imagine Zella coming to the fair. 

She usually makes a face when she even looks at the pictures we put in the paper of the fair. As far as I know, she has never even gone to the horse show even though that's quite the social event in Hollyhill. People rent boxes and sit right next to the ring where the horses show their paces. 

Once I gave the ribbon to the winner when I was younger. I had to dress up in church clothes and Aunt Love made me polish my shoes until they shone and for what? Stepped right into that dirt ring and the shine was gone. Now I just take the pictures of the other girls handing out the ribbons when Dad has to take a break for whatever reason. That suits me fine. 

Have you ever been to a county fair? What parts did you like best? Did you go fishing for one of those little plastic ducks and win a paper fan or a whistle? Maybe you tried to ring the bell with that big hammer. Or throw hoops over bottles to win a teddy bear. Or what about that game where people put money on different colored squares to bet on which color hole this mouse will run into once the carnival guy lets it out of its cage? Aunt Love says that's gambling and she better not hear that I was even watching that game. I wouldn't have done that anyway. I always save my extra quarters for candy apples. Those great caramel ones with nuts on them. Sticky but yummy! What's your favorite fair food?

Just wait until tomorrow when I ask Zella how she likes cotton candy. Wes wasn't there. He says Hollyhill on a regular day is plenty of carnival for him.