Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A New Place for Jocie's Heart of Hollyhill Posts


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.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Oh no! Cabbage Season Again

June 29, 1966.

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.)

Chapter 17

   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."

(To be continued next week.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Washing Windows Dad's Day Gift

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. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer Time and the Water's Fine

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.)

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Cat Like Lucinda

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.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Memorial Day in Hollyhill & More of Bailey's Bug

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)


Monday, May 25, 2015

Tests are the Price You Pay to Get out of School

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.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Blind Man Healed with Mud

May 17, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky, the town where not much ever happens. Sigh. Dad says I should be glad not much happens in our hometown. Wes says I need to pay attention and see that things are happening all around me. And Zella says I need to quit making so much happen and stay out of her hair. 

Funny, how people see things in different ways. Kids like me generally see things a lot different than people like Zella. Now Wes, he's not like other grown ups. He has that Jupiter point of view that makes everything a little zany. 

Do you think there were zany people in the Bible? There are certainly some sort of zany stories. Like David killing a giant with a slingshot. Now if I told you that story without you knowing it was in the Bible, you probably wouldn't believe it. Or Jesus making mud to put on the blind man's eyes and then telling him to go wash it off in the pool of Siloam. 

Think about that. I don't know how far the man had to go to get to the pool of Siloam but he had to find his way there without being able to see. With mud on his eyes. Can you imagine what he must have been thinking? He was just sitting there begging. In John 9 where his story is told in the Bible it doesn't even say he was asking Jesus to heal him. It says the disciples asked about why he was blind and then Jesus said it was so the works of the Lord could be revealed. And then Jesus mixed his spit with clay and made mud to put on the blind man's eyes and told him to go wash it off in the Pool of Siloam. What do you think the blind man was thinking about then? How do you think the mud felt on his eyes? Cool probably. Maybe he felt the Lord's love in the hands that put the mud on his eyes. Maybe that gave him the courage to do what Jesus said. Because he was still blind. He had to find his way to the pool. He might have had to go up to somebody with mud on his face and ask them to lead him to the pool. Or maybe one of Jesus' followers helped him. But somehow he got there and did what Jesus said. And then he could see. 

When you think about it that's kind of a zany story. Jesus could have just touched his eyes and made him see. He did sometimes, but this time he did it in a different way. Different can be good. And I doubt anything about that day ever felt boring to that man. So maybe I shouldn't worry about things happening and just do what Wes says and open my eyes and pay attention to what might already be happening. Might be something zany.

Poor Bailey is feeling like some zany things and not very good things are happening in his story. Nothing at all like he expected would happen when he finally found Reid. Now what? Time to find out.

BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke
(Continued from last week. The whole story up to now is under Bailey's Bug up at the top of this article.)

   Mrs. Alexander came out the door and swung her towel at Bailey again, but this time Bailey dodged. Reid followed her outside.
   "This is not Bailey," she said. "Look at him. He's shaggy and a funny brown color and his ribs are showing."
   Bailey stopped barking and fastened his eyes on Reid. Reid would know him. Reid had to know him. 
   But Reid's eyes were getting all watery as his mother went on. "You know that Bailey and Lucinda are with the Robinsons. Remember, we decided they had to stay there until we can get a fence built here to keep Bailey in."
   Bailey's tail sagged down to the ground when he heard Reid sigh. His boy said, "I know, but I wish this could be Bailey. Can't we feed him something anyway? He looks hungry." 
   "I don't think we should feed a stray. Goodness knows what sort of fleas and such that dog might have. Now come along. You'll be late for school." Reid's mother reached to open the door.
   Bailey heard keys rattling in her hand. They were going to get in the car and drive away. He had to do something. In desperation, he made a dive to catch Reid's leg to stop him. 
   Mrs. Alexander shrieked and jerked Reid into the house. "That dog tried to bite you. I'm calling the dogcatcher."
   "But Mama, you said I'd be late for school."
   "You'll just have to be late. We can't leave a vicious dog like that on the loose."
   Vicious? She couldn't be talking about him. Bailey wanted to bounce around some more, try one more time to get Reid to see it was really him, but the mouse Lucinda had brought him the morning before was nothing but a faint memory. He felt too tired to make his tail twitch. His head drooped almost the the ground.
   When Mrs. Alexander disappeared into the house, Reid slipped back outside. "Poor old dog," he said. "I know you weren't trying to bite me. You just wanted me to stay out here with you."
   Bailey found enough energy to flap his tail once or twice.
   "You look so hungry." Reid pulled a sandwich out of his lunch bag. "Here. You can have this."
   Bailey gobbled it down in two bites. He'd almost forgotten how good people food tasted.
   Reid laughed. "You eat like Bailey too." Then Reid's smile faded away. "I wish you were Bailey. I miss him."
   Bailey wagged his tail extra fast and tried to lick Reid's face. It did no good. Reid still didn't know him.
   "You're a nice old dog." Reid stood up to go back in the house. "But we can't keep you. Dad is going to build that fence so we can get Bailey and Lucinda again. Lucinda's a cat and she doesn't need fences but we couldn't get her and not get Bailey too. That wouldn't be fair."
   Bailey listened. If only he knew what to do. But he'd already barked until his throat hurt and done his silly stiff-legged jumping dance and gotten close enough for Reid to smell him. But Reid still didn't know him. 
   Before he shut the door, Reid said, "You better run away. Mama is talking to the dogcatcher. She doesn't like dogs much. Not even Bailey."
   Bailey wanted to tell Reid he wasn't afraid of dogcatchers. He wanted to tell him that he'd faced down monster bulldozers and coyotes and almost drowned and gone mile and miles without food to find Reid, but he couldn't say any of that so Reid would understand. All he could do was look at Reid and whine and wish Lucinda was there to tell him what to try next. She would surely know some way to make Reid see that he was Bailey.

(To be continued)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Good Mothers Don't Grow on Trees

May 10, 1965

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky on the day after Mother's Day. Everybody always makes such a big deal out of Mother's Day. I guess that's good. Most mothers need a day when they are a big deal. But I don't much like Mother's Day. You see, not everybody has a good mother. I didn't.

   As Dad likes to say, good mothers don't grow on trees. They're made by God. I used to wonder if that was true how come God didn't make me a better one. My mother never liked me. I was a pest. Unwanted. A bother. She never hit me or anything like that. I used to wish she would since that would prove she knew I was there. But no. She just pretended I didn't exist. 

   Sometimes I wondered if I was invisible. And after I got over my mother wishing I was, I decided being invisible might be fun. That's when I started sneaking up close to people talking in the church yard after Sunday services to see if they would notice me eavesdropping. They hardly ever did, but unfortunately I was never invisible to Dad. I got into big time trouble with that eavesdropping stuff. 

   But even though my mother was the pits, I had a great grandmother. Mama Mae loved me. She wasn't in a big hurry to go to heaven, but I guess the Lord was in a hurry for her to get up there and start planting flowers for Him. She died planting tulips one year. So whenever I see tulips, I imagine Mama Mae smiling down from heaven on me. 

   Aunt Love took over for Mama Mae helping Dad out at the house and trying to make me behave. The two of us have had our rough spots, for sure. I don't exactly act the way Aunt Love thinks a preacher's daughter should. Maybe I don't. But Dad loves me anyway and Aunt Love and I mostly put up with one another. She doesn't hug my neck or anything but she does sometimes say something nice to me now and again. And I try really hard to not get on her nerves. She has enough problems with the forgetfulness without me messing with her nerves too. 

So everybody doesn't have a loving mother. Some mothers don't kiss their kids' skinned knees or teach them prayers at night or tucks them in at night. Some are like me with mothers who never wanted them and just don't like them all that much. What do we do on Mother's Day when everybody else is hugging moms and singing their praises? I guess I remember Mama Mae and think of her tulips. And sometimes I feel sorry for myself and cry.

On to the next episode of Bailey's Bug.

BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke
(Continued from last week)


   The next morning, the big yellow monster bus roared down the street and woke Bailey. That meant Reid would be shooting out the door and down the walk. The bus would stop, open its door and swallow Reid up. It would be hours before it brought Reid back.
   Bailing jumped up and shook to get ready. He had to keep Reid from being swallowed by the bus. Instead he had to get him to follow Bailey back to Skelley and Lucinda.
   Bailey's throat got tight. The bus might be as hard to face down as the bulldozer. The monster bus was always blowing its horn if Reid was a second late coming out of the house. Bailey wouldn't have but a couple of minutes before Reid disappeared into the bus.
   If only Lucinda was there to tell him what to do. She'd know. Lucinda always knew.
   But she wasn't there and the bus was getting closer. Bailey stared at the front door of the house, ready to charge in front of Reid when he came outside. Just the thought of seeing Reid again made Bailey's tail do circles in spite of the bus coming.
   His tail lost its wag when the bus passed by the house without so much as slowing down. It didn't even honk. Bailey stared at the door behind him. Was he at the wrong house, after all? Bailey took a big sniff, and his tail started wagging again. Reid was there. He hadn't come out the door, but he was there, somewhere inside.
   Bailey couldn't wait a second longer. He banged his paws up against the door and barked for all he was worth. The door stayed closed. He ran around to the back of the house. That was how he had to go into the house. Through the back. He found the back door and jumped against it.
   He couldn't quit barking. His ears were ringing. Bailey didn't know the door was opening until Reid's mother was there, staring at him.
   The sight of Mrs. Alexander made Bailey bark even louder. He whipped his tail back and forth and hopped around the porch.
   Reid's mother didn't look happy. She looked mad. She stepped out the door and smacked Bailey right in the face with a towel. "Get away from here, you mangy mutt." She snapped the towel at him again. "Go on. Get!"
   Bailey looked behind him to see what she was chasing away. Nothing was there. She couldn't be intending to hit him with the towel. She couldn't be telling Bailey to get. He must have been making so much noise he hadn't heard her right.
   "I hear a dog, Mama."
   At the sound of Reid's voice, Bailey got so excited his barks were high, yipping sounds. Then Reid was right there in the door. Bailey tried to push past Mrs. Alexander to lick him. Mrs. Alexander swatted him across the eyes and started closing the door.
   "It's just an old stray. I don't know why he's carrying on so." Mrs. Alexander looked back at Bailey. "Get away, dog. Go on now."
   "He sounds like Bailey." Reid was at the door with his books and lunchbox. 
   "All dogs sound the same. Even strays."
   "I don't think so. Bailey sounds different. Sort of like this."
   Bailey barked louder and jumped even higher. Why couldn't they see it was him? 

(To be continued. To read the rest of the story just look for it up above.)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Lucky Debonair Wins the Derby

May 3, 1965
Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky where even though we're churchgoers who don't believe in gambling, we watch the Kentucky Derby. Even Aunt Love. I'm not sure, but I think maybe Aunt Love would put a bet down on a horse if she got half a chance. Just in the Derby, mind you. But still, that has to be way hard to believe about Aunt Love. Gambling is gambling. And folks shouldn't be taking the money their families need to throw away betting on the horses. But the Kentucky Derby seems different somehow. They sing "My Old Kentucky Home." There are all those beautiful horses. 

I rode a horse once. An old workhorse on Miss Sally's farm. It was sort of like riding an elephant without a trunk. Not that I've ever ridden an elephant, but old Jack had a broad back and no spirit. I could have tap danced on his back and he probably would have kept eating grass. Even so, I've always thought it would be fun to ride a horse. A horse that likes to run.

Racehorses have to like to run. That's what makes the Derby fun to watch. It only takes about 2 minutes for the horses to run the race. The announcers do a lot of talking around the race though and show women wearing fancy hats and interview rich and famous people and talk to owners and jockeys. They sometimes even talk about the horses and of course, the betting odds. That last doesn't matter to us. We aren't about to lay any money down on horses. Except maybe Aunt Love if she happened to know somebody going to the Derby.

Lucky Debonair won the Derby this year. Isn't that a great name for a horse? Not as good as last year's winner. Northern Dancer. Now that's a great name for a horse. Lucky Debonair had the 2nd fastest time ever - right behind Northern Dancer who ran it in a flat 2 minutes last year. Lucky Debonair was one second slower than that. 

So we watched the Derby on our little television. Oh to have a color set like some of my friends, but the picture was fairly clear Saturday. We could make out the numbers on the horses and see who was winning. Aunt Love said she knew Lucky Debonair would win. Dad laughed and said we'd had our racing fun for the year and not to talk about betting on anything. Dad has to worry about what the church people might say. But I bet, oops I mean I'm pretty sure most of them watched the Derby too.

Are you ready for some more of Bailey's story? Seems like it's taking me a long time to tell his story. Maybe I should cut out some of the parts, but it's hard to do that until you've written it all down. So here goes. If you remember, last week Bailey finally got up the nerve to tell Lucinda he'd lost the bug or hum in his ear and he was totally and completely lost. And Lucinda says, "You know where Reid is."

BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke
(Continued from last week)

   "But," Bailey started.
   Lucinda swatted him with her paw. "Don't say you don't. You do. You know in your heart, and that knowing was what put the bug in your ear. If you listen, really listen with your heart, you'll hear it again."
   Lucinda flipped away from Bailey and found a shaft of sunlight pushing through the fog. Without so much as a glance back at Bailey, she began to wash her face. 
   Bailey stayed stuck in his spot. He didn't know what to do. 
   Skelley spoke up. "Ye know, lad, me thinks Miss Lucinda could be right."
   "Lucinda's always right." Bailey raised up to look over at her. Lucinda paused in licking her paw and stared straight at him. Then she went back to work on her face.
   "Aye, she's a smart cat for sure and right as rain on this. For a truth, the tree might have knocked the bug, the hum, whatever it was out of your ears, but it's still there in your heart. It would take more than a bump into a tree to knock it out of there."
   "But I can't hear it anymore."
   "Are ye sure you're listening hard enough, lad? With all your heart and soul?"
   Skelley hobbled away to find another spot of sun spreading out on the ground. Bailey was left sitting in the fog alone. The fog wasn't just outside him but inside too.
   Bailey stared at Lucinda washing in the sun and Skelley curled tight in his bit of sunshine but shivering as always. They thought he could do it. They really did. So he would have to try. Again. Bailey blew out a breath that stirred the fog in front of his nose and headed back out into the trees.
   The sun beat back the fog until only fingers of it remained. Bailey spotted birds flying from tree to tree. They were singing and why not? They weren't lost. A squirrel set up a chattering fuss when Bailey passed under his tree. Off somewhere Bailey couldn't see, crows cawed.
   He was listening so hard, he could even hear bugs crawling and hopping through the ground leaves. He could hear everything but what he most wanted to hear. The hum. 
   He tried to imagine he heard it. That didn't help. So he listened even harder and he thought maybe he was hearing the trees stretching their limbs up toward the sun and the worms crawling under the ground. But he didn't hear the hum.
   On he walked. At least he could see the sun now and could keep his shadow in the right place to keep from walking in circles. He did not want to end up in front of Lucinda again. Not yet anyhow. Not until he found Reid.
  But how could he find Reid without the hum? He was listening as hard as he could and there was no hum.
   "Don't listen with your ears, you big lummox." The words were so loud in his head that Bailey looked around, sure Lucinda must have followed him. But she was nowhere to be seen.
   He wished she was there even if she swatted his nose again. He was so lonely out there by himself. He sat down and shut his eyes. How could anybody listen with his heart? He shut his eyes. He heard birds and bugs and the whisper of the wind but then those sounds faded away as he started thinking about Reid.
   He remembered how Reid called him to go play. He sounded different than when he called him to eat. Bailey's tail swept back and forth on the ground. Inside his head, Reid was laughing when Bailey captured the plastic thing. He jerked it away from Bailey and then he stopped playing to rub Lucinda from her ears to her tail. Lucinda purred.
   His thoughts were so good he forgot about being hungry and alone and lost. His tail kept beating against the ground until Bailey was almost sure that when he opened his eyes Reid would be right there with him.
  All at once something chirped a little in his ear. Faintly. Bailey made his tail stop thumping. He listened with every inch of him even to the tips of his fur. Then slowly he opened his eyes. Trees still shot up toward the sky around him, but the chirp had turned to a hum. A wonderful hum in his ears. Or maybe it had always been his heart humming.
   Bailey started barking like crazy and kicked up swirls of leaves. The bug was back. He could find Reid.
   He went faster then. He didn't worry about being hungry. Reid would give him food. He didn't worry about how much farther it was because the hum kept getting louder. Finally, when he came out of the trees, crossed an open field and climbed a hill, the hum was exploding inside him. He stared down at a road with houses all along it.
   He couldn't keep his tail from flopping back and forth as he trotted toward the houses. It didn't even bother him too much when the first people who saw him yelled and threw rocks at him. They were boys like Reid, but they weren't Reid.
   He hurried past them, past all the houses, and across the road. He barely noticed the monster cars honking at him. Nothing mattered but the hum.
   But there were a lot of houses, and by the time he found the right one, all its windows were dark. It was a nice house with a wide railing around the porch where Lucinda could nap in the sun. A round rug was in front of the door that must be there for Bailey. Best of all, Bailey smelled Reid everywhere he sniffed. 
   Bailey started to bark and jump on the door, but Reid's father always got mad if he barked in the middle of the night. So Bailey climbed up on the porch and curled up on the rug. He dropped his head down on his paws and let out a long sigh. Home at last.

(To be continued)


Monday, April 27, 2015

Yum! Banana Croquettes!

April 25, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. It's Monday. A quiet day at school. All the teachers wanted to talk about was finals and that we better study. I do study. Or at least I will before the tests. 

Didn't have much time for studying this weekend. We had a dinner at church Sunday. That meant I had to help Aunt Love cook and stuff on Saturday. Aunt Love has some things she always makes, but since she's gotten sort of forgetful - Dad says it's hardening of the arteries and it happens to old people - Tabitha or I have to be in the kitchen with her when she cooks. We have to make sure she doesn't turn the burner on under an empty pan and then forget it. We have to watch and tell her if she's already put the sugar in her stewed tomatoes although the more sugar the better if I have to eat them. That's one of her most requested dishes. That and pineapple rice. Pineapple and butter does make rice better. And then she makes raisin pies. Not my favorite, but that's okay. Always lots of desserts to choose from at a church dinner. I picked Miss Sally's chocolate cake with chocolate icing. Delicious.

Miss Sally also made banana croquettes. I LOVE banana croquettes. What? You've never heard of them. Well, if you live in the south you surely have, haven't you? Or maybe they are a Kentucky special. Aunt Love won't make them. She says it make too big a mess, but sometimes she lets me do it. It's easy as pie. Well, except for that messy part. 

You take a banana and cut it into sections. Then you roll that around in a bowl of salad dressing or take a knife and slather the stuff on every side of the banana piece. Then you roll that around in a different bowl full of mashed peanuts. I like it better if you don't mash the peanuts too fine. Just let them be chunky all over that banana piece. Yum! Got to be angel food. Got to be. I gave Miss Sally a big hug when she brought a big bowl full of them in. She made so many I actually got to go back for seconds. Everybody else was going for those dressed eggs. I don't understand that. Not when they could have banana croquettes instead.

Did you ever go to a country church dinner on the grounds?

Have you eaten banana croquettes?

Okay now it's time to see what Lucinda is going to do to Bailey when he tells her he's lost the bug in his ear. Oh dear!

BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke
(Continued from last week. The whole story is up top under the Bailey's Bug title.)

   Twas a grand adventure.
   The old dog's words echoed in Bailey's ears long after the fog closed off any sight of him and Lucinda. Bailey had never felt so alone. He couldn't hear his hum. He couldn't hear any kind of bug. No bird either. The fog kept closing in on him.
   When he spotted a smooth round rock that reminded him of his plastic toy, he stopped to rest his chin on it. Maybe that would help the hum come back. It didn't. After a while, he got up and walked some more.
   The fog was beginning to lift when he saw that same smooth round rock. He tried to tell himself it was another rock. Just one that looked like the first one, but then he spotted his paw prints in the soft dirt around the rock.
   He was going in circles. He might keep going in circles all day and all night. Forever. With Lucinda back there somewhere in the fog waiting for him to bring Reid back. He couldn't do that.
   With his nose to the ground, Bailey tracked his way back through the fog to Lucinda and Skelley. 
   When Bailey bushed back through the brush to where they were waiting, Skelley looked up. "I knew ye'd find the courage to do what you must."
   Lucinda was asleep after her night of hunting. Bailey sat down beside her to wait until she opened her eyes. 
   Skelley limped over to poke his nose against Bailey's side. "Best go on and wake her, lad."
   "She gets mad if I wake her up."
   "It'll be okay. She'll understand."
   Bailey gave Skelley a look. He really didn't know Lucinda very well. She wasn't going to understand at all. Not at all. But it had to be done. Might as well get it over with.
   "Lucinda," he whispered. Then he tried a little louder. "Lucinda, wake up. I have to tell you something."
   Lucinda opened one eye, saw Bailey and opened her other eye. "Where's Reid?"
   "I didn't find Reid." Bailey hesitated and Skelley poked him with his nose again. "I don't think I can find Reid."
   Lucinda raised her head and glared at him. "Go on."
   "I don't hear the hum anymore." Bailey pushed his words out in a rush. "I'm lost. We're all lost and I can't do anything about it." He winced waiting for her to start yowling and swat him.
   Instead, she sat very still and sounded way too calm. "And when did the bug crawl out of your ear?"
   "When I ran into the tree. It was just gone. Sudden like."
   Lucinda sat up. "I knew something was wrong, but I thought it was the storm." She was still calm as though she were discussing nothing more important than which tree she might nap in. "Why didn't you tell me?"
   Bailey's ears drooped and he stared at the ground. "I thought you'd be mad."
   "Dogs," Lucinda muttered. She began pacing back and forth, her tail twitching sharply one way and then the other way. 
   "I'm sorry. Really sorry. You were right. We should have stayed at the Robinsons."
   "Of course. That is what we should have done. What I should have done." Lucinda paused a moment in her pacing to glare at him.
   "We could go back," Bailey said.
   "Go back? All those miles? Are you nuts?" Lucinda shook her head and didn't wait for him to say anything. "But of course, you're nuts. We all are. But we can't go back. Poor Skelley here can barely limp. Of all the dog-brained ideas."
   Bailey felt better with Lucinda yelling at him. That's how it was supposed to be, but Skelley took up for him.
   "Now don't be so hard on the lad, Miss Lucinda. He simply wanted to find his boy. His heart was in the right place."
   Lucinda stopped pacing and put her nose right up in Bailey's face. Her eyes glittered greener than Bailey had ever seen them. He wanted to back away from her, but he made himself sit still.
   "His heart, yes," she said softly. "I've wondered plenty of times if he has a brain, but I never doubted he had a heart."
   "I just wanted to find Reid." Bailey wanted to lick her face, but he knew better. "I didn't know all this was going to happen."
   "How could you? No one could have. Not even a cat. Certainly not a dog. But it has happened. We are out here untold miles from the Robinsons. Probably in another state and we have a friend who needs help." Lucinda kept glaring at Bailey. "You couldn't know that. But you do know something."
   "What?" Bailey asked. Lucinda's eyes were getting even greener. And fiercer.
   "You know where Reid is."

(To be continued)