Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Raspberries in God's Pantry

June 24, 1964

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Do you love raspberries? The kind that grow out in the fields. Aunt Love says those are part of God's pantry. She also says that about asparagus and cabbage. That's a shelf in His pantry I don't care if I get anything off of. Yuck! 

People at church are always bringing us stuff from their gardens. I don't know why they all have to plant so much cabbage. And zucchini! Don't get me started on that. But I'm all for them planting strawberries and raspberries. 

But raspberries don't even have to be planted. You can just go out on the field and find them. You usually find chiggers too but a little scratching is a small price to pay for raspberries. 

Guess you can tell I love eating them. The best way is right off the bush unless a stink bug has been sitting on them. Then cabbage is better. But you just grab another berry to eat and the bad taste is gone. 

And Miss Sally fixed me  up this time with the chiggers too. She had me tie rags with coal oil on them around my ankles. Phew! No self respecting chiggers were going to jump on somebody reeking of coal oil. But the raspberries were worth it. Now if Aunt Love can get me to put any in my picking bucket instead of my mouth we might have pie. 

Have you ever picked wild raspberries?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Eighteen Mile Binoculars and Other Mysteries

June 17, 1964

Jocie Brooke reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. 

How about this neat ad I found in an old comic book? The very thing I need if I'm going to keep an eye on what's going on. The ad says you can see up to eighteen miles. I guess that's if no buildings or trees get in the way. But for sure I might be able to see across the street to the bank or the barber shop. Maybe even up to the hotel where that Mr. Whitlow is staying. The comic book is an old one that I found when Aunt Love made me clean out my closet. I doubt I could still order the binoculars, but I could send fifty cents and see. That wouldn't be much to lose. 

Of course, Aunt Love would tell me that fifty cents is fifty cents and a person shouldn't be ready to throw money away after naught but foolishness. But binoculars that can help you see eighteen miles? That would have to be useful for the newspaper business. 

I could see what everybody in Hollyhill was doing - including that Mr. Whitlow. Lately I might not need binoculars for that. The man keeps showing up here at the newspaper. So I came up with a way to snap a picture of him today when he came in. Zella was practically preening when I suggested a photo of the two of them together. 

Obviously, their Saturday night date was a big success. At least Zella showed up at the office Monday morning with a smile all the way across her face. She didn't even fuss about Cat, I mean Red Spot, leaving a dead mouse on the floor beside her desk. She just said good kitty and then hollered at Wes to come get rid of the mouse remains. 

Wes took his sweet time coming in from the press room. He wasn't all that busy. I'd just been out there with him and he was settled down reading what we wrote for news last week and drinking coffee. But Wes never gets in a hurry to do whatever Zella wants. That sometimes makes Zella want to pull our her hair or at least, uncurl some of those sausage curls. If they uncurl. I've never seen them so much as shift. When I was a little girl, I used to try to come up with reasons to touch Zella's hair to see if it was real or not. But even after I touched it, I wasn't sure. I'm still not sure. Every curl stays exactly the same all day long. Exactly.

Anyway, Mr. Whitlow came in the office before Wes made his way in to take care of the mouse. Suddenly Zella was almost fainting at the sight of the mouse where a minute before it wasn't causing her a minute's concern. Mr. Whitlow grabbed a paper off the counter and scooted the mouse up on it. Red snarled at him from his perch on the shelves behind Zella's desk, but Mr. Whitlow didn't seem to notice as he carried the mouse out to the trashcan on the street. He threw the paper away with it. I kept waiting for Zella to tell him he owed us twenty cents for the paper, but she just oohed and aahed and acted like the man had killed a tiger or something. I thought I was going to be sick and looked around for the nearest trashcan without a dead mouse in it. 

But a good investigative reporter takes advantage of the opportunities given her. So that's when I figured it would be a great time to get a picture of the man. A photo record might come in handy someday. While I was focusing in on them and Zella's smile was getting bigger every second, I sneaked in a few questions for Mr. Whitlow.

"What brings you to Hollyhill?" Not exactly subtle, but direct is sometimes the best way.

"It seemed so peaceful when I was driving through that I decide to stop and tarry a while," Mr. Whitlow said.

Tarry! Who says tarry? Nobody from around Hollyhill, for sure. 

"Where are you from?" I looked at him over the camera. "Just in case Dad decides to run your picture for whatever reason, we can put where you're from."

It sounded reasonable except Dad wouldn't put a picture of the man and Zella in the paper. Now if I'd thought quickly enough, I could have got him carrying out the mouse. On a slow week here in Hollyhill, that might have made the front page.

The man smiled. Showed way too many teeth. "I'm from here and there. Been all around. But this little town of Hollyhill, there's something extra nice about it. Got some really friendly people."

I pushed the shutter button and the flashbulb popped. After that, I stayed a minute to eavesdrop on them, but they weren't saying anything that sounded the least bit interesting. 

It dawned on me that the man might have a twofold purpose in sweet talking Zella. I don't know what the first reason would be, but the second one would be that instead of Zella finding out about him, he had probably found out about everybody in Hollyhill. 

So you see, if I just had those binoculars, I could watch the man and tell the sheriff if he started doing anything the least bit suspicious.

Well, binoculars or no binoculars, I'm watching him. But eighteen miles. That would be like seeing almost to Frankfort. Wes laughed when I showed him the ad. He said they'd have to be Jupiter space-age binoculars to work that good. So guess I'll save my fifty cents.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Caught Eavesdropping

June 10, 1964

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Main Street, Hollyhill. This sign is awful. I took a picture of it to try to convince Dad to start a campaign in the Banner for new street signs. What will people passing through think of a town that has a rusty sign for Main Street? Most of the folks here don't pay any attention to the street signs. It's not like you can miss Main Street or get lost anywhere in Hollyhill for that matter. If you've seen Main Street, you've seen Hollyhill. 

But we do occasionally have a tourist or stranger come through. Take Mr. Whitlow. He's a stranger come to stay, or so it seems. I haven't been spying on him as much. Dad laid down the law to me after I got caught eavesdropping on Mr. Whitlow and Zella. 

Can you believe that the man has asked Zella out to dinner? A real date and everything. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't heard it with my own ears. I heard that much of what they said before Red, the cat, gave me away by mewing loudly as he slid through the crack I'd left in the press room door after Zella told me to get lost. 

Of course, she told Dad I was spying on her. What hasn't she told him about me? Anyway, Dad said I was being way too nosy and ordered me to leave Mr. Whitlow and Zella alone. So I have to, but I still say there's something fishy about that man. And much as Zella irritates me I don't want her going out with an ax murderer. Okay, so I've never seen the man carrying around an ax. Okay, so I've never seen the man even carrying around a big stick. So maybe I am wrong. I guess we'll find out all about him next Monday after Zella goes out with him on Saturday. If she comes to work...

So since then, Dad has been keeping me too busy taking photos of the peewee league baseball games to eavesdrop on anybody except parents talking about their kids being the next Babe Ruth. But Dad knows what he doing. You get a good picture of a kid that age and put it in the newspaper, you're practically guaranteed to sell some extra issues. Put several baseball kid pictures in there and you might sell all your issues.

But I'd rather be in Australia taking pictures. Now that would be neat, wouldn't it? And especially neat today with the partial solar eclipse they're seeing there. The scientists say we'll be able to see one here in July. I can't wait. They say to protect your eyes you should look through old negatives. We should be able to find plenty of those.

The other thing that happened in the big town news was that finally the southern senators ended their filibuster on the Civil Rights bill. At last they're going to be voting on it. Or at least I guess they will. Don't know much about politics. Daddy says if I keep working on newspapers, I will have to keep up with politicians and what they're doing. 

Maybe that's Mr. Whitlow's secret. Maybe he's an undercover politician. But I don't guess politicians are undercover. They want everybody to know them and hear them too. That's the way the mayor is anyway. I can't imagine having to listen to him spout about everything at the city council meetings and then have to write about it. I'd rather write about solar eclipses. Or space launches. Or even new flavors of ice cream at the Grill. 

Yumm! Ice cream. Maybe I'll head up Main Street and have a shake. What's your favorite flavor? I go chocolate all the way.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Wanted Posters at the Post Office

(Photo from Saturday Evening Post)
June 3, 1964

Jocie Brooke reporting from Main Street, Hollyhill, Kentucky. Not much going on in Hollyhill this week except school's out for the summer. That's something, I guess. Gives me more time for helping Dad with the Banner and for trying to figure out what that Mr. Whitlow is up to at the Hollyhill Hotel. 

I checked out the wanted posters at the Post Office. Some kids from town were in there pretending to play cops and robbers. Mr. Smyth, the postmaster, laughed at them as he chased them out. I pretended to laugh at them too while I was buying stamps for the paper, but it gave me a good chance to study those posters without Mr. Smyth thinking anything about it. None of the pictures looked like Mr. Whitlow, but a man on the run who knows there are wanted posters out about him would be doing everything he could to change the way he looked, wouldn't he?

I didn't tell anybody I checked the posters to see if I could find Mr. Whitlow on one of them. Not even Wes. He would have just told me that on Jupiter my nose would be turning purple. That's how Mr. Jupiter makes sure people mind their own business. And Daddy would tell me to stop letting my imagination run away with me, but when I took some papers in to put on his desk while he was back in the pressroom, I saw where he'd written the man's name down on the back of an envelope. His whole name. Kurt Whitlow. Why would Dad write that down unless he was planning on doing some investigating of his own?

It is a mystery. First off, it's not like we have that much worth stealing in Hollyhill. He could be casing the banks, I guess, but he'd have bigger banks in Lexington. Lots bigger. And if he's planning something, the last person he'd want to get friendly with would be Zella. If he were to let anything slip to Zella, the whole town would know about it by sundown. I have all summer to gather more clues. I'll tell you what I find, but you'll have to keep quiet about it. At least be sure not to let anything slip to Zella or my goose will be cooked.

Meanwhile, I did get that story written up about the World War I veterans for last week's issue. The old guys had some pretty amazing stories. Did you know that they fought most of that war down in trenches? Mr. Johnson said there were times that a soldier would lose his boots in the mud in the bottom of those trenches. It would just suck them right off his feet. When it was raining, he had nightmares about the mud sucking him down in it and swallowing him whole. And the best he could recollect, it must have rained every day he was in France. He wanted to move to Arizona when he came home and live where it didn't rain but a few times a year, but Mrs. Johnson was happy here in Hollyhill. He got the saddest look on his face then when he talked about her going on ahead of him to heaven.

"Cancer," he said. "There's all kinds of wars. You remember that, Jocie. All kinds and some them we fight one on one and we don't win. At least we went over the top of those trenches in France and pushed those Germans back. Didn't last, but that wasn't our fault. We did our job."

I gave him a hug then even if he did have that musty old person smell. I guess that's better than what some of the smells are in the nursing home. But I'm used to it. I go with Dad visiting there every third Sunday. He reads some out of the Bible and then Dad and me and whoever shows up from the church sing a few hymns with the old folks. Most of them like getting hugs. As Wes is always telling me, if we keep breathing long enough, we all get old. But I can't imagine being as old as Daddy, much less Mr. Johnson. He told me he was almost eighty!

Maybe I'll ask Zella how old Mr. Whitlow is. She'll know. She probably asked him. Wonder what she told him if he asked how old she is! Not the truth, I'm betting.