Monday, February 23, 2015

Floating on Clouds

February 23, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill. Not much happening around here. The snow melted. We went back to school. I guess I'm glad. Nobody wants to go to school all summer. Better to just get it over with in the winter. And school's not all that bad. One of those necessary things and I like learning stuff. 

I like the winter skies too. Those great looking clouds in the extra blue sky. Did you ever wonder how it might be to float around on one of those clouds? Maybe like being in a hot air balloon. Free to float wherever. Nothing holding you down. You'd have a bird's eye view. 

Of course, Wes says he knows all about that from when he was on that Jupiter spaceship. He says they were up pretty high because it's not good to let the earth people see those flying saucers. They get all excited when that happens. Wes is so funny. Sometimes I think he floats around on a cloud. 

But I do like his Jupiter stories. I like stories period. That's the kind of class I'd like at school. One where you could just read and read and read. Without having to write book reports or look for hidden meanings behind every words. Just a class where you got to enjoy the story for the story. I guess that would be more like a school recess than a class. But I do like to read. Don't you?

Time to see what's going on with Bailey.

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

   Bailey pulled his tongue all the way into his mouth to sniff the air in the barn. Coyotes had been there, but not for a while. He told Lucinda that and then added, "And I do smell mice."
   "Then you catch them," she said crossly. "Cats can't hunt when they're wet."
   With that she climbed higher in the barn. Bailey sniffed around in the hay, but he couldn't concentrate on the smells. He wasn't any good at catching mice anyway. He couldn't creep up on them the way Lucinda could even when the thunder wasn't making his legs all trembly.
   Bailey looked up at Lucinda, but she was hunched in a ball with her eyes closed. Maybe sleeping would make her feel better and then she could catch some mice. 
   Bailey scratched out a hole in the hay close to Skelley. The old dog was already asleep with his nose on the painted stick. Bailey lay down with his head on his paws. He wished he had the plastic toy with him. That might help him hear the hum again.
   Beside him Skelley gave a shiver. Bailey stood up and brushed some of the hay over on the old dog.
   Skelley opened one eye. "Thank ye, lad." Then he went back to sleep.
   But Bailey couldn't sleep. So instead he tried to work the cockleburs out of his fur. Still, he was sort of glad he had the cockleburs to pull and bite on. And when he finished with them, he could worry with the thorn in his foot. That might keep him from thinking about how hungry he was or how the hum wasn't humming in his ears.
   Maybe the hum hadn't really left him. Maybe it was just the noise of the rain and the roar of the stream racing by outside that was keeping him from hearing it. The thunder was fading away, but the rain beat down harder than ever.
   Even if the hum didn't come back, he could just keep walking toward the sunrise. He wouldn't have to tell Lucinda. Sooner or later they would have gone enough miles and Reid would be there waiting for them.
   With that thought, Bailey quit worrying the thorn in his foot and put his head back down on his paws. Water was seeping in around the edges of the barn to join with the rain leaking through the roof. But it was dry where he and Skelley were and very quiet other than the pounding rain.
   For a minute before Bailey closed his eyes, he wondered if it wasn't too quiet. No birds. No owls. No raccoons. Nothing moving anywhere. Everything was probably just holed up sleeping through the storm the way they were.

(To be continued)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentines and Cardinals

February 14, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky on Valentine's Day. Not that Valentine's Day means much to me because I don't have a boyfriend. Thank goodness. Boys are nothing but trouble. My girlfriends are always liking this or that boy and then something happens and there's tears and gripes. But you have to be careful not to agree with them when they're griping about their boyfriends. That's because the next minute they're all "in love" again and you're the bad guy just because you went along with them fussing about the guys. I'm in absolutely no hurry to join that tears and jeers club. 

Leigh says I'll change my mind when the right guy comes along. She sure changed hers when Dad came along. They are true Valentines. So maybe someday I'll be like that. But right now I'll just hug on my dog, Zeb and whip up some homemade chocolate candy and enjoy red cardinals instead of hearts. 

I do love red. I wore red all week. And I made Dad and Wes Valentines with silly verses on them. This is what I put on Dad's.
    Roses are red.
    Violets are blue.
    I'm not sad 
    That you're my dad.

Okay, so I'm not much of a poet . I know I was supposed to rhyme that last word with blue, but nothing fit. I think writing rules can be broken if you want to. Especially for Valentine poems.

So you want to know what I wrote for Wes? Okay.
    Roses are red.
    Jupiter is green.
    You're on earth now
    Part of a new scene.

At least I rhymed scene and green. 

I do better writing stories. You want to know what happens to Bailey next? You remember he lost the hum in his ear that was telling him which way to go to find Reid. What more can go wrong?

BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke
   (Continued from before)

   Just then thunder rumbled in the distance. Bailey's head came up, and his tail almost flopped back and forth. He never heard the hum when it was thundering. So if Lucinda opened up her eyes and noticed a tree she'd already seen, he'd have an excuse. He could say it was because of the thunder.

   He stopped and sat down, his tail brushing back and forth on the ground in spite of his best efforts to keep it still.
   Lucinda looked at him. "You do hear the storm come?"
   "I heard it a long time ago," Bailey said.
   Lucinda's eyes narrowed on him. "Then why aren't you trembling?"
   "I am. Inside." Bailey wrapped his tail up around his body and put his paw on the end of it. He did his best to look afraid even though for some some reason the thunder was just bouncing off his ears without bothering him at all.
   "That knock on your head must have done more to you than we thought." Lucinda glanced over at Skelley who was studying the sky between the tree branches.
   "The lad could have a sore head for sure." Skelley looked at Lucinda and Bailey, then back at the sky. "But I think we best hunt some cover. These clouds put me in mind of a storm once that near blew away the whole circus. Folks were already in the bleachers and the clowns were peddling their balloons and such, but all the while me master kept going out of the tent and muttering up at the sky. He tried to get the ringmaster to call off the show, but he wouldn't. Then the wind picked up the tent and carried it clear away. People scattered pretty quick then."
   Overhead the trees bent over in the wind and the thunder let loose a great clap that didn't bounce off Bailey's ears this time. His tail jerked away from his paw and hid between his legs. 
   The first raindrops banged against the leaves above them and worked down through the limbs to bounce off the ground. Not raindrops at all, but bits of ice. Skelley held his head over Lucinda to shield her.
   "We'd best be getting out of these trees," Skelley said.
   The words were no sooner out of his mouth than the wind grabbed one of the trees and knocked it part way out of the ground. It leaned toward them, catching on the branches of the other trees overhead and then falling again when those branches started giving way.
   Lucinda yowled and took off as another tree crashed down. The hail changed to raindrops that hit almost as hard as the ice had. Skelley and Bailey chased after Lucinda.
   Reid used to tell him that the thunder was only noise and couldn't hurt him, but these trees falling could hurt him for sure. For the first time since he'd run away from Mr. Robinson, Bailey wished he was back there under the bed where it would be warm and dark. It would be better to be under Reid's bed but with the hum gone, Bailey didn't know if he'd ever be safe under Reid's bed again.
   At last they ran out of the trees and found a tired old barn leaning downhill toward a rushing stream of water. Without so much as a sniff to see what might have gone in before them, Bailey shoved aside a couple of the barn's planks and led the way inside.
   The storm didn't seem so loud inside. Bailey shook the rain of his fur and felt better. While the roof didn't hold out all the rain, there were dry spots between the leaks.
   "A fine barn it is." Skelley dug a hole in a pile of moldy smelling hay. "For a truth, we'll be safe and dry in here till the blow is over." He picked up his stick and place it close enough to touch with his nose, then curled up in the hay.
   "Safe," Lucinda muttered. "We're wet and cold. There's not so much as a mouse to be seen and I smell coyotes." 
    She climbed up a pole to perch on a brace up in the barn. Every few minutes she growled as she licked the rain off her fur.

(To be continued)

(The whole story, so far, is under the Bailey's Bug link up top.) 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Dancing to the Tune of Life

February 9, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Did you ever dream of being a ballet dancer? Or maybe any kind of dancer? I don't know how they can stand on their toes that way. I can't. And wonder why they started wearing those stiff little circle? Was it so they might look like a spinning top? 

I'm no dancer. I can't stand on my toes. I can barely spin once without falling flat. I look like a clumsy clown trying to dance. But in my imagination I can dance. 

You know how Aunt Love is most always not too happy with me, but then sometimes she surprises me. Take the time she told me this in one of those books, Scent of Lilacs, written about my Hollyhill adventures last year. This is a talk we had right after she told me about the man she loved getting killed in the First World War. Sometimes what you don't know about people can matter a lot. Anyway if you read this you'll know why I'm thinking about dancing.

   After Aunt Love told me about her lost love, I didn't know what to do. I couldn't hug Aunt Love. I never hugged Aunt Love. It might give her a real heart attack if I did. So I just put my hand on her shoulder and said, "I'm sorry."
   Aunt Love covered my hand with her own. Her skin felt dry and scratchy like oak leaves in the fall. "You should give thanks every day for the blessing of a kind and good father. You and Tabitha both."
   "I do," I said.
   Aunt Love pushed my hand away and picked up her teacup. "Now get on with your chores."
   As I went out the door, I looked back at Aunt Love. Imagining her young and in love was almost impossible. But just because I couldn't imagine it didn't mean it wasn't true. Or that the memory of it didn't still make Aunt Love sad. I wanted to say something make her feel better, but I didn't know what. I couldn't very well say maybe Aunt Love would forget about it the way she forgot other things and then she wouldn't have to be sad. She hadn't forgotten it in fifty years. That memory was probably stuck in there with the Bible verses. 
   A Bible verse might help, but all I could think of was one of the Beatitudes. I decided to try it. "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."
   Aunt Love looked around at me. ""To every thing there is a season. A time to mourn, and a time to dance.' It's your time to dance, Jocelyn."
   "I can't dance," I said.
   And this is where Aunt Love said something really nice to me. She said, "You dance every day to the tune of life."

And so I've been thinking about what she said and how she said I was dancing to the tune of life. Sometimes like an awkward camel. Sometimes like a sleek gazelle. Sometimes the steps are easy and sometimes they are way too hard. But the dance of life goes on and that's the way it's supposed to. 

I didn't get any of Bailey's Bug written this week. I'll be sure to add a scene next Monday if I'm not too busy dancing.  

Do you like thinking about life as a dance?

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Groundhog Day in Hollyhill

February 2, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky on Groundhog Day. Too bad the powers that be don't think that's a day we should get out of school. Sigh. But no, I had to get up before the sun, catch the school bus and spend most of the day sitting inside at a desk instead of hunting down groundhogs to see if they saw their shadows. 

And so what if they did? I looked up the history of Groundhog Day. I knew already that the legend had it that if the groundhog came out of its burrow and saw its shadow that meant we'd have six more weeks of winter and if it didn't, spring was supposed to be right around the corner. Aunt Love laughs at this and says in all her years, whether or not that old critter sees his shadow or not, we always have six more weeks of winter. 

It seems the roots for our Groundhog Day started way back over in Germany. They had an ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas Day when the clergy would bless and distribute candles to bring light to the winter as Jesus brought "light" to the world. 

Anyway, they had this little verse: 
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go winter, and come not again.

Then for some reason that I can't imagine, they brought a hedgehog into the whole tradition somehow to see if it saw its shadow or not. Then when the Germans came to America and settled in Pennsylvania they didn't have hedgehogs and so they decided groundhogs would do. They had plenty of them in Pennyslvania and so do we here in Hollyhill. Starting around 1887, they began making a big deal of it all in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Now they think their groundhog is the best weather predictor, but I suppose groundhogs all across the nation might stick their heads out to see their shadows. 

I asked Dad if he'd ever actually seen a groundhog on Groundhog Day coming up to look for its shadow and he said no. I actually couldn't find anybody in school or town who said they'd seen a groundhog on February 2nd. Dad says he guesses that means we'll have six more weeks of winter for sure. Aunt Love said of course we will unless we decide to move to Florida or Arizona. Since that's not going to happen, I guess I'll keep my gloves and the snow shovel handy.

It's not winter where Bailey and Lucinda are lost out in the woods. Last week, Bailey hit his head and now he can't hear the hum in his ears that was leading him to his boy, Reid. How will he tell Lucinda that? She'll never forgive him. So here's a bit more of the story.

Bailey's Bug by Jocie Brooke
  (Continued from last week)


Bailey lay still. He couldn't tell Lucinda the bang on his head had made him lose the hum they were following to Reid. He couldn't. 
   He didn't want to move, but the itch in his ear went past bearing. He eased his paw off his eyes and lifted his head.
   "Are ye all right, lad?" The loose skin over Skelley's eyes was wrinkled with concern.
   "I think so." Bailey sat up and scratched his ear. Maybe if he dug at his ear hard enough, the hum would come back.
   Lucinda jumped down from the tree in front of Bailey and swatted him with her paw. "Stop that. You're going to tear your ear off and unfortunately, we need your ears intact right now to tell us which way to go."
   Bailey stopped scratching with his paw up in the air. The itch was gone. Now his ear was ringing from too much scratching, but try as he might, he couldn't hear the hum.
   Bailey kept his head turned away from Lucinda as he put his paw down and stood up. "I'm sorry, Lucinda. I just shut my eyes so I could think about Reid and how he looked."
   "You better keep your eyes open or you might never see him for real again." Lucinda muttered something about dogs that Bailey didn't quite hear because of the ringing in his ears. 
   "Now, Miss Lucinda. It might happen to anybody. The lad's merely missing his boy." Skelley put his paw on his painted stick.
   "We're all missing lots of things, but that's no excuse for running into trees." Lucinda twitched her tail back and forth the way she did when she was irritated.
   "I won't run into any more trees," Bailey promised.
   "I should think not." The cat sat down and began rapidly washing her face.  When she was finished, she stood up and looked at Bailey. "So which way does your bug say go now?"
   Bailey swallowed hard. He knew he should tell them the bug was gone, but instead he looked at the shadows of the trees. What was it Skelley had said about how they always headed toward the sunrise? If he could do that for a while, maybe, just maybe, the hum would come back.
   "This way." Bailey took off along a trace of a path through the trees.
   It was easy enough to keep his direction for a while. He just made sure the shadows stretched out behind him. But then clouds piled up on the horizon and soon spilled all across the sky to cover up the sun. Even when the sun did slip out for a peek, the shadows pooled right under Bailey's feet and didn't point out a direction.
   He blundered on, trying to keep up a steady pace even though he wanted to stop and look around every other step. Out of the trees, it wasn't quite so hard. Bailey set his sights on some distant landmark and made a fairly straight line toward it. But then they were back in the trees and the clouds rolled in blacker and thicker. There wasn't the least bit of a shadow anywhere.
   Bailey kept moving tree to tree, but in spite of the way he kept his ears perked up as though he heard something, Skelley began giving him odd looks. Especially after they passed the same tree twice. Or was it really the same tree? Trees all looked a lot alike.
   Lucinda must not have noticed. She had her eyes half closed following along behind them. She did that sometimes, almost as if she could nap while she walked. Still, she would open her eyes all the way eventually and see that he had no idea which way to go. He'd never been able to hide anything from Lucinda for very long.

(To be continued. Check out the whole story so far under the Bailey's Bug title up top of the page.)