Monday, March 25, 2013

Girl Wins Baby Chicks

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Holly County, KY. I'm not on Main Street tonight, but actually visiting Miss Sally. Miss Sally is the sweetest lady you'd ever want to meet and we have her in our church out there at Mt. Pleasant. Daddy wishes he had a whole church full of Miss Sallys. She's always volunteering to do whatever needs doing and doesn't ever care who sits in what pew. She says that none of the church pews have anybody's name engraved on them and all she wants is to see them jam packed with people listening to Daddy preach the Gospel. She knows that some of the folks contributed to buy the pews a few years back, but that didn't give them ownership. No sir. It's free seating at the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church and if you think different then you'd better be talking to Miss Sally.

But I'm at Miss Sally's because of chickens. Yes, you heard me right. Chickens. My chickens. Well, they were mine before I gave them to Miss Sally. I couldn't very well keep chickens. You've got to have a chicken house for that and special lights to keep them warm and these saucer like things you turn a mason jar upside down on so the water trickles out to fill the saucer without running over. You have to tip them over really fast after you fill up the jar. The first time I tried it, I spilled water everywhere, but Miss Sally just laughed. Miss Sally never got married to have kids of her own, so instead she just adopted every kid at church as hers. So it made sense to let her adopt my chickens.

Now you might be wondering why I had chickens to put out for adoption. That's one of the strange things that has actually happened here in Hollyhill. I won them. Well, sort of won them. Maybe I earned them. I don't know. But what happened is this. I went to this 4-H meeting. Dad's always wanting me to join clubs and I thought why not. If nothing else, I could snap a few pictures for the newspaper while I was there even if I didn't want to learn to sew. I already know how to cook popcorn, eggs and chocolate chip cookies. When I told the leader, Mrs. Casey, that, she laughed and said there are lots of other projects I can take. I figured it would be rude to say I wasn't interested in those either, so when she started talking about this contest where you could write an essay about why you wanted 100 baby chicks, I said why not. I didn't expect to win the chickens. I was just making Mrs. Casey happy. I like keeping the people around me happy. Except for old Zella. Nobody could keep her happy!

Well, lo and behold, I did WIN those baby chickens. I have no idea what I wrote about taking care of them, but whatever I made up must have been good. 

Last week the chickens came in the mail in a box with holes in it. Can you believe that? Not the holes. Of course, you can believe that. Even little chickens have to breathe. I mean them coming in the mail like a letter. One noisy letter. You should have heard them cheeping when Dad took me to the post office pick them up. I suppose it is too much to expect the mail carrier to stuff them in our mailbox. Our mailbox wouldn't hold them anyway.

Dad and I took the top off the box and looked at those baby chickens after he put them in the back seat of the car. "They're cute," I said as I very carefully scooped one out of the box. "And soft."  

"Aunt Love won't like them in the kitchen." Dad stared at the chickens. 

"And Jezebel would probably eat them." I let the chick escape from my hand back into the box with his friends. The box was divided into four squares. Dad said that was so the chickens wouldn't pile up on one another and smash or suffocate the ones on the bottom of the pile. With them divided into four places, the piles wouldn't be as deep and the ones on the bottom could maybe scoot out. 

"The cat's name is Sugar," Dad said, but more out of habit than caring what I called Aunt Love's cat. 

And so we gave the chickens to Miss Sally who is excited to have baby chickens and who says I can come and feed them any time I want. Then this summer she'll fix us fried chicken.  Somehow I don't think I'm going to have much of an appetite for fried chicken this year.

But anyway, that proves I can make something with my writing. Hope for the future! Did you ever win something by writing an essay? Bet it wasn't chickens. But you might have had chickens. Did you?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Library Doors

March 17, 1964

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Main Street, Hollyhill, Kentucky. It's been a pretty calm week here in Hollyhill. That's about the only kind of weeks we have, so don't let the title of this blog fool you too much. I go hunting strange, but in a little town like ours, most everything is same old same old. I'm thinking strange would be a lot easier to find along the streets in a big city, but Wes says the folks who live there are probably believing strange is more apt to happen out here in Hollyhill. So I guess I need somebody from a big city to show me where it is. 

But I know one place to go where I can find strange and ordinary and excitement and tragedy. I could go on and on and I do sometimes. But through those library doors up there in that picture is a little bit of everything. 

Do you like libraries? Oh surely you do. If you like books. I like books. No, that's not true. I love books! I'd like to be able to read a dozen books a week as long as they aren't school books. Other than that, I'm not picky. I'll read anything. That's why the library lady, Miss Willow, is always giving everything I try to check out the eye to see if she thinks I'm old enough to read whatever is inside. Sometimes she shakes her head and puts the book on the return shelf and tells me to go look for something else. She says there are some things a young girl should not read, especially a young girl who is a preacher's daughter. And since I don't have a mother to watch over me, she guesses it'll just have to be her job to see that I only read appropriate material. Sigh. Sometimes it's like the whole town is making sure I, Jocie Brooke, the preacher's daughter, behaves - appropriately! Sheesh!

I've never exactly figured out why being a preacher's daughter makes a difference, but Miss Willow is very firm with her decisions. So firm that one time when I knew she wasn't going to like one of my picks, I put it under my jacket and took it out without letting her stamp the date on the little card inside. I didn't steal it. Honest, I didn't! I took it back and put it on the shelf in the exact same spot. So it wasn't lost forever by being shelved in the wrong spot. Books get lost that way, you know. Miss Willow would never admit to putting a book back in the wrong shelf, but somebody does now and again. (I'm going to be in so much trouble if Dad finds out about me taking that book without Miss Willow knowing, so please don't tell.) 

You have to know Miss Willow to understand how she feels about a book escaping her library without the date stamped inside. She's not as strange as Zella, but they are big friends. Sometimes Miss Willow gives me that funny smile and says she's been talking to Zella. That's never good! Miss Willow isn't married, or as she says, at least not yet. Zella says she's married to all those books in the library. That Miss Willow, who has been the librarian ever since I can remember, feels as responsible for them as a mother for her children. A few thousand children, I have to say, but I wouldn't be surprised if she knew the names of every one of them. 

Then again, Zella's one to talk about somebody not getting married, but could be, it's not too late for her either. You can't forget those flowers at Valentine's. Nobody has ever owned up to that. Zella pressed one of the red roses. In a book of poetry. I don't think it's a library book.  Miss Willow would have a fit about that, or maybe not if it was Zella and something romantic like roses and secret admirers.

But I'll take books over roses or secret admirers. That book about us here in Hollyhill is making the rounds out in blogging land with everybody reading it and saying what they like or maybe don't like about it. It's not much fun reading about the don't likes, but it's looking like most of the readers are wishing they could come to Hollyhill and visit a while. I wish they would. Might make Main Street more interesting for a few days.  

If you want to know what folks are saying about the first book in the Heart of Hollyhill series check online for reviews of Scent of Lilacs or places like Amazon or Barnes & Noble or I have no idea what any of those are, but that's what they told me to tell you. So I have.

Now I've got to go to the library and see what I haven't read yet. I might have to wear my big coat so I can sneak out another "inappropriate" book. 

Do you like going to the library? 


Monday, March 11, 2013

Jocie's Grandmother Story - Mama Mae

Jocie Brooke here - reporting from Hollyhill. I'm not exactly on Main Street tonight. I'm at our house where I live with Dad and Aunt Love. I haven't told you all about Aunt Love yet, but I will. I did tell you about her cat, Jezebel. Right, I know Aunt Love says the cat's name is Sugar, but I think my name fits her better. You'll understand that if you read my book, Scent of Lilacs. What a cat! But she suits Aunt Love. You have to know my Aunt Love to understand. I don't know who named her Love, but sometimes names don't tell the story. Then again, I don't always know the whole story. I'm not telling you that here, because that would mess up the fun of reading my book. Here I'm just reporting extra stuff. I need practice writing if I'm going to be a writer when I grow up. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to write books or newspaper pieces. Or maybe I'll learn to take great pictures too and go on fabulous adventure writing stories for National Geographic. Wouldn't that be neat? 

But tonight, since we're having that grandmother contest to celebrate my book, I'm talking about tulips and my grandmother.  I had the very best grandmother in all the world. I know you may think yours is best, but mine was best for me. She loved flowers. As soon as it started getting warm in the spring she'd be out there digging in the dirt. After my mother took off, she moved right in with me and Dad and loved me even when I made messes or was too loud or didn't listen. I have trouble with that listening sometimes, but I was always ready to listen to my grandmother when she was telling me stories. Or telling me about her flowers. She especially loved tulips. She said there was something extra cheerful about tulips popping up out of the ground in the Spring and adding color to the world. Red tulips were Mama Mae's favorite. And then one day when I was nine, the Lord decided he needed her up in heaven to plant flowers up there. I didn't know why he needed her more than me. I can't imagine how that could have been, and I'm not sure if Dad understood either. That day when Mama Mae died out in her tulip bed, I had to go get Wes to get Dad back on his feet. Some things are just too hard even if you are a preacher. But after Dad prayed about it and we cried a bunch we somehow came through on the other side of that dark valley. Dad said Jesus was walking right alongside us, crying with us. 

I still want to cry sometimes when I see red tulips, but Dad says I shouldn't feel that way. That I should look at the tulips and see Mama Mae smiling down on me, wanting me to have a great life. Dad says everybody has troubles and while we've had plenty, that we can always look around and see other folks with more. Dad and I, we were doing okay by ourselves. That's why I wasn't real excited about Aunt Love moving in with us after Mama Mae died, but Dad said she needed us and we needed her. Maybe so. But I sure didn't need that cat! 

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. One of the winners turned in her book, so Pam from Kansas is getting to read all about Hollyhill now. People have been giving away copies of my book everywhere. I think that's loads of fun. If you haven't already entered, you've still got plenty of time to enter the Scent of Lilacs Celebration giveaway. Check it out at Ann's website

See you next week. I'll try to think of something funny after I felt a little like crying this week. It's all those grandmother stories I've been reading over on Ann's blog, One Writer's Journal.  You know she's the one that wrote those books all about me and Hollyhill.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hollyhill News - Winners & Interviews

March 3, 1964

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Main Street, Hollyhill. It's March. Basketball tournament time. Our high school team out at Holly County High played in the District Tournament last week. We didn't win. We never win the tournament, but we did win a few games this year. Better than some years.

I took pictures for the paper. I love taking pictures. There's just something about the bright light pop of the flashbulb when I push the shutter button. I even like twisting the knob to get ready for the next picture. Dad's always telling me how much flashbulbs and film cost and how we have to count pennies to make any money on the paper, so I have to be choosy about the pictures I take

I missed a couple of great pictures last week because I got to cheering for the team. For a few minutes in the third quarter, we just lacked a field goal of tying the score. Then we go behind again. So I remembered to take a few pictures of the cheerleaders the way Dad told me to, but I made sure Valerie Givens wasn't front and center. She thinks she's SO cute she makes me sick! Well, she is cute, but she could be nicer to some of us who aren't Miss Homecoming Queen. She never smiles at me - unless I have the camera. Then she's smiling big and saying, "Take my picture. Take my picture!

Everybody wants to see their picture in the Banner. Well, the kids do and the grown-ups like seeing their kids and grandkids in the paper. Dad says that sells more papers than the news. That could be because there's never any real news in Hollyhill. But I don't tell Dad that. He thinks the city council arguing about whether to put trashcans on the street is news.

But I do have news tonight. Two big news items. The first one you're not going to believe! Somebody interviewed me. ME! About me being in that Heart of Hollyhill book, Scent of Lilacs.  You can read all about it Tuesday on Margaret Daley's Blog. Whatever a blog is. It must be something like here where I'm writing my Hollyhill news. But I don't care if I know exactly what it is or not. It was fun answering those questions. All about me! Can you believe somebody was that interested in me? And that book about me and everybody here in Hollyhill. 
Do you think I'm going to be famous now?? This blog lady is even giving away one of the books to one of the people who go over and leave a comment on her blog the way you can leave a comment here. I like hearing from you here and I'll peek over there to see if anybody's talking about me tomorrow. I hope somebody will want to read what I said. I mean that's why you do interviews, so somebody can read them. Believe me, my interview is more fun than Dad interviewing the mayor, but don't tell him that. He'll think I'm getting the big head like Valerie.

That's not all the news. Remember about all those comments you've been leaving to maybe have a chance to win a copy of that book, Scent of Lilacs. The winners have been picked. Lanehillhouse, Laney4, and Maureen Timerman. Trouble is, two of you didn't leave your contact info. Got yours, Lanehillhouse. Laney4 and Maureen, you can send yours to or leave it in a comment here. If Ann doesn't hear from you by next Monday, I'll draw for more winners. She'll be writing about the winners on her One Writer's Journal too. You know she's the one that wrote all about Hollyhill and the one giving away these books. I'm just helping out with the news. That's what reporters do. That and make flashbulbs pop when they take pictures. I'll take your picture if you come to Hollyhill.

That's all the news from Hollyhill tonight. I'd better get to work on my algebra. Sigh. I'd rather be taking pictures or doing more interviews.