Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Break - Time to Read!

March 30, 1966

Jocie Brooke here excited to be reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky because it's SPRING BREAK!! No school for a whole week. We almost had to go to school on Monday and Tuesday, but then the Legislature said we didn't have to make up all our snow days. So the superintendent just tacked on a few extra days to keep us in school until June, but we get all week for spring break. And it's supposed to be pretty weather too.

Thank goodness, Aunt Love says spring cleaning can wait until later or I'd be dusting and washing walls all week. But now things are looking up. No homework. No housework. Well, other than the stuff I have to do every day. But I can do that quick and then go help Dad and Wes at the newspaper. Or go visit Miss Sally out on the farm. Or go to the library. So I can read like Jamie in the picture here. Jamie and I talk books all the time. He reads weird stuff like Wes. Science fiction. I like stories with romance or mystery. Or both. I want to read at least three books this week. At least. 

Maybe I'll see Jamie around town. Maybe at the library. Then I can ask if he wants to go see Wes and borrow some of his books. Wes has stacks and stacks of books. He says they are like old friends. He can't just throw them away, but he can introduce them to new friends. He'd let Jamie have some of them for sure. Maybe Jamie and I can find a great place to read. And we can talk about what we're reading. You know, a boy who likes to read isn't so bad. 

My sister, Tabitha, will laugh if she reads this and say I told you so. But talking to a boy about reading doesn't mean I'm falling in love or anything. Just falling in love with reading. That's all. That's absolutely all! 

Still, it might be fun if we both read the same book so we could talk about it. Do you like to talk about the books you read to your friends?

Maybe I'll tell Jamie about the story I'm writing. See if he wants to read it. I don't know if that would be a good idea or not. What if he didn't like it? What if he made fun of it? It's scary letting somebody read what you're making up. Except for you all. I don't mind you reading it because I know you'll be nice and not tell me it's awful. Thank you. Because I don't want to feel all scared to report here from Hollyhill. 

So on to the next chapter of Bailey's adventures.

BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke

(Continued from last time. The whole book is under Bailey's Bug up at the top of the page.)

Chapter 13 

   Bailey was almost glad when what was left of the barn floating along with them banged into a tree and began crashing down around them. Dodging falling planks was easier than telling Lucinda the hum in his ear was gone.
   "Hang on, lad," Skelley called over the crash of the water. "We'll drift away from the mess of it in a minute."
   Bailey clung to his board and stared over at Skelley balancing on his narrow plank. He was leaning this way and that guiding it through the debris. Lucinda floated along behind the old dog on her own plank. Her back was arched and her tail pointed straight up to get as far away from the water as she could. 
   A pole rammed into Bailey's board and knocked him into the water. He dog-paddled like mad to catch up with the plank, but it rushed away from him. Behind him more of the barn crashed down around Skelley and Lucinda. Skelley shifted away from the falling timbers, but a board slapped Lucinda off her perch. 
   "Lucinda!" Bailey pushed against the water trying to get to her. She wasn't swimming. Her limp body bounced up and down in the water. Bailey paddled harder but the water pushed him the other way.
   "I'll get her, lad." Skelley jumped from plank to plank as though the boards were stepping stones. At last he floated on a board right beside Lucinda. The old dog hesitated as his mouth tightened on the painted stick.
   For a heartbeat, Bailey wasn't sure Skelley would be able to choose Lucinda over the baton. At last he placed the stick on the plank and clamped his paw on top of it. Then he plucked Lucinda out of the water with his teeth. All was well for a moment, but when he lifted the cat up, her weight threw him a little off balance. The board shot out from under him.
   Skelley's painted stick flew up in the air and splashed down into the water. Skelley watched it float away from him with large, sad eyes, but he kept his hold on the scruff of Lucinda's neck. 
   "I'll get it," Bailey shouted.
   With no sign of hearing him, Skelley turned and swam toward the creek bank.
   Bailey swam back and forth, waiting for the stick to float past him. Bits of wood were everywhere, but none of them was the right bit of wood. It must have slipped past without him seeing it in murky water. 
   He hated to give up, but if he didn't make for the bank, he might just float forever. Like Skelley's stick.
   The water had carried him far past the spot where Skelley had gone ashore with Lucinda. Bailey had to rest on the dry ground for a while before his legs could carry him again. He hurried back along the stream to find his friends.
   When at last he spotted them, he gave a little bark of joy to see Lucinda sitting up. She didn't look too good though with her head drooping down. Skelley's head drooped even lower and he was shaking so that the old dog's bones had to be clattering. 
   Bailey caught his breath. "I couldn't find it, Skelley. I'm sorry."
   "That be all right, lad." Skelley didn't look up at Bailey. "I knew it was gone, for a truth, the minute the water gobbled it up."

(To be continued) 

Monday, March 23, 2015

You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd

March 23, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky where not much happens in March. That's for sure. But it is spring and Miss Sally's chickens are getting cute little feathers and it's warm enough for me to ride my bicycle.

Leigh and I have even been digging up a new flower bed. She wants to plant tulips. She says she loves tulips. She never met my Mama Mae, but if she had, Mama Mae would have loved her because she makes my daddy laugh. 

That's a good thing. To marry somebody who makes you laugh. I want to do that too. Someday. Not in any hurry at all. So far every boy I've met is way weird. Leigh says I'll change my thinking on that when I get older, but gee whiz, I'm already 14. 

Lots of girls my age are walking the halls at high school holding hands with some boy. I'm thinking it would be real hard to carry a whole armload of books while you had to hold somebody's hand. Leigh laughed when I told her that. She said the boys were supposed to be carrying the books for the girls. Yeah, like that would happen for me.

Do you like Roger Miller? We watched the Grammy show the other night. Aunt Love said it was all foolishness, but Leigh likes music and records. She has this record of Roger Miller. He won a bunch of Grammy awards for "King of the Road." We got to watch the award show on television and see him sing that song. It's a good thing he wasn't singing "Chug a Lug." Aunt Love would have probably made us turn it off. But I think that song is funny. I can think about it without it making me want to take any chugs out of a moonshine jug. That would a crazy thing to do. 

I like the way Roger Miller sings funny songs. One of the songs on the record is "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd." Have you ever heard that one? It says you can't take a shower in a parakeet cage and you can't take a swim in a baseball pool and can't go fishing in a watermelon patch along with other crazy things, but that you can be happy if you've a mind to. I like that. What other silly songs do you know? 

Guess it's time to see how Bailey, Skelley and Lucinda are making out. We left them in a pretty big mess last week. Skelley had ended up in the middle of a bunch of coyotes before he was swept away by the flood. Lucinda was on a board floating along and you know how Lucinda hates getting wet. Let's see what Bailey does.

BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke

(Continued from last week. You can read it all under the title up top of this report.)

  Bailey had almost given up hope when Skelley's head popped up out of the water in front of him. The old dog's ear was bleeding, but his eyes were full of fire as if the fight with the coyotes had been the best adventure yet. The painted stick floated up beside him.
   Skelley caught it with his chin and pulled it back toward him. "My leap fell a bit short, Bailey me lad, but those old boys weren't so tough." 
   Bailey felt like he'd just been given a whole bag of dog food. He barked and jumped straight up, splashing water everywhere.
   "Stop that!" Lucinda ordered. "You're going to drown me." The cat jumped away from Bailey to a different board. "The water's getting deeper."
   Lucinda was right. The water swept Bailey off his feet. He paddled to stay beside Skelley but the water kept pushing him away.
   "Grab a board, lad. Best try to ride out this flood. Swimming will take too much out of you in this current." Skelley clambered up on a board and balanced there easy as can be.
   Bailey tried to do the same, but the board tipped and dumped him back into the water. 
   "Try to sit light in the middle, lad." Skelley nudged the board back toward him. "You have to shift when the board shifts.
   This time Bailey made it up on the board, but when he shifted, he ended up dumped in the water again.
   "Shift the other way, lad. The other way. For a truth, you'd have a hard time riding a pony." 
   Bailey tried to get on the plank again. He fell off again. He was so tired it all seemed like a dream. The flood. The barn breaking up and floating around him. The planks in the water. Skelley floating away from him. He couldn't see Lucinda. His legs felt like wood. He couldn't get up on the plank. He'd just have to go wherever the water took him. 
   His head went under. It was quieter under the water. Easier. But he needed air. He pushed up above the surface and Lucinda was right in front of him. Her green eyes were fierce.
   "You crazy dog! Get on that board before you drown."
   Bailey pushed up out of the water and got his front legs up over the plank. He didn't try to stand up. Just hung on with his stomach on the board and his paws trailing along in the water. He didn't dare fall off. Not with Lucinda glaring at him.
   "Way to go, lad." Skelley shook his painted stick at Bailey. "There be more than one way to ride a pony, I'm thinking."
   Bailey clung to the board, panting. It wasn't so bad floating along like that. He could move his paws a bit and guide himself through the water a bit. He'd never had to ride out a flood before, but they were all still together even if Skelley did look a little worse for his fight with the coyotes. The old dog's ear would have a new scar for sure. 
   He caught his breath and paddled a little closer to Lucinda. "What are we going to do now?"
   "Don't ask me!" Lucinda snapped. She was wet all over. "This is your adventure. You're the one with the bug in your ear."

(To be continued)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Some Hard Spots

March 16, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. It's four days until the calendar says spring. Then it will be a while longer before I'll see any new dogwood blooms, but I can think about them coming. And all the other flowers too. 

Back when Mama Mae was still living, she would be out in the yard as soon as it was warm enough to dig in the ground so she could start planning all the stuff she wanted to plant. She planted some of it in the fall. Things like tulip bulbs. I miss Mama Mae's tulips. Dad says I could buy some bulbs and plant some of my own, but Mama Mae's were always so cheerful and special. 

Before she died when I was nine, I would get off the school bus there and in the springtime, those tulips would be waving at me. Happy to see me the way Mama Mae always was. It's good when people you love are happy to see you. 

See, it was never that way with my mother. I don't think she was ever glad to see me. But Mama Mae was. She would have a hug waiting for me and some kind of treat. She sometimes made this icing stuff out of confectionery sugar and butter and milk. Then she'd put it between graham crackers. She called them poor folks' sandwich cookies, but I felt rich when I was sitting on the porch beside her with a graham cracker cookie in my hand and looking out at her tulips. Sometimes I pretended those tulips were little girls all wanting to play with me. 

Mama Mae had dogwood trees too. A pink one and a white one. She told me that the dark spots on the center of the ends of the petals stood for the Lord's blood shed on a cross. The petals make a kind of cross shape too. Mama Mae always had ways of making the Bible come to life. I guess she was so good at loving and helping folks know more about the Bible that the Lord decided he needed her help up in Heaven. For the longest time, I had a hard time believing the good Lord might know best about that. Seemed like He would have had plenty of help up in heaven without my grandmother. I needed Mama Mae. But Dad says the Lord always knows best and helps us through every hard spot.

That's where I left Bailey and Lucinda last episode posting. In a hard spot with coyotes surrounding them! Let's see if they can get out of that trouble without losing too much fur.

BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke

(When we last left Bailey, Lucinda and Skelley, they were surrounded by very unfriendly coyotes while the rain was beating down outside and flooding the barn they were in.)

   "What now?" Skelley asked. 
   Bailey wasn't sure whether it was the baton in the old dog's mouth that made his words sound so shaky or whether it was the coyotes edging ever closer to them
   "I don't know," Bailey said. "Do you know some kind of circus trick that might make the coyotes run away or decide we are friends?"
   "For a truth, I know all sorts of circus tricks, but none that would entertain a coyote, I fear." The baton rattled in the old dog's mouth, and he clenched his teeth tighter on it. "Old Asaph's not here for us to leap up on and ride away. Besides, even if standing on me head would help, I might just drown what with the water getting deeper around us. Sorry, lad."
   Bailey looked up at Lucinda.
   "Don't look at me." Lucinda spat out the words. "Even cats can't make coyotes disappear." 
   The coyotes raised their noses toward Lucinda and sniffed. They started yipping and yammering between themselves.
   "I don't like the sound of that." Bailey shook his head until his ears flapped. The water was getting deeper under his belly and pushing him toward the coyotes. He needed to think of something. Fast. He gave Skelley a sideways look. "Maybe you could leap over top of them, Skelley, and get away."
   "Maybe I could, lad, but where would that leave you and Miss Lucinda?"
   "They can't get Lucinda up in the barn."
Bailey ran his tongue out around his mouth. "And if you fly over top of them, they could be so surprised they won't notice me slipping past them." Bailey didn't believe that would happen, but they had to try something.
   "It's been many a moon since I made such a leap. It might be that I will just land smack in the middle of them."
   Bailey looked at the coyotes again with their narrow eyes and snarling mouths. "If you do, I'll jump in there with you and we'll fight them off." Somehow Bailey managed not to let his voice shake. "They aren't so tough and we have to try something. The water is getting deeper." 
   The water was brushing his belly now. 
   Lucinda crept across a pole until she was directly over their heads. "You can do it, Skelley. Listen to the music in your head and remember how you did leaps for your master."
   Skelley looked up at Lucinda. Then he tightened his mouth around the painted stick, shut his eyes, and stepped back a few steps. His head swayed back and forth as if he really were hearing music. Then he splashed through the water and bounded up into the air.
   The old dog sprang so high that for one heart-stopping moment, Bailey thought he was going to make it clear over the coyotes. But all of the sudden, Skelley stalled. He frantically scrambled at the air with his long, bony legs, but it didn't help. He plummeted down on top of the biggest coyote.
   With a silence more terrible than any amount of yips and  yowls, the other four coyotes piled on top of Skelley. Bailey let go of the ground with his toenails and the he was swept into the middle of the melee. Up above him, Lucinda was making a terrible snarling noise unlike anything he'd ever heard come out of her mouth. She leaped down onto the back of one of the coyotes and dug in her claws. The coyote yowled and tried to knock off the cat.
   Bailey wasn't exactly sure what happened next. He kept trying to see Lucinda and Skelley, but with the coyotes biting and pulling on him, he couldn't. Teeth snapped. Mouths growled. And a surge of water pushed him off his feet. He'd be a goner if he couldn't get up on his feet.
   All at once, the barn creaked and groaned just the way the house back in the city had done when the bulldozer pushed on it. Bailey scrambled up to his feet and looked around for the yellow monster, but there was nothing but brown water. 
   "It's coming down." Lucinda leaped away from the coyotes to land on a broad plank. 
   She floated past Bailey as more boards raining down around them. With an awful shudder, what was left of the barn shifted and started drifting on the water.
   The coyotes forgot all about Bailey as they howled and took off for dry ground. They disappeared through a hole in the side of the barn.
   Bailey looked around frantically for Skelley, but all he could see was muddy water. No old dog. Bailey dodged a plank as he fought against the current back to where Skelley had disappeared into the coyotes.
   "Where is he?" Lucinda leaped from board to board back toward Bailey.
   "I can't see him, but he's got to be here. He's got to." Bailey stuck his head under the water, but he couldn't see the old dog. He popped back out of the water and yelled, "Skelley."
   Lucinda was yelling too.

(To be continued)
Remember, the whole story so far is under the Pages title up top of my report here.

Thanks, everybody, for reading. Have you ever been in a hard spot?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Colds are No Fun

March 10, 1966

Jocie Brooke reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Well, actually not reporting. I caught a cold from Cassady at church. Now I can't do anything but sneeze and keep tissues close by. I didn't even go to school yesterday. Even Aunt Love admitted that I must be sick. I am going to school tomorrow even in my nose does look like Rudolf. You know that red-nosed reindeer. But I don't want to get too far behind or I'll be doing homework for a month. Yuck! That wouldn't leave any time for writing.

Colds are no fun. What do you do to feel better? Aunt Love says I need some chicken broth. Another yuck! But Leigh brought me some chicken noodle soup home and that's not bad. Then Aunt Love says I have to smear Vicks salve on my chest. That stuff smells awful, but I guess it does help me breath. 

I'm going to bed and pull my covers up over my head and stay there. Well, until I have to sneeze and blow my nose anyway. Maybe I'll feel like reading later.

What do you do when you have a cold?

Maybe I'll have more of Bailey's story written by next week. If I can quit sneezing. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Did You Ever Buy a Box of Baby Chicks?

March 1, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. I'm out in Holly County today reporting from Miss Sally's farm. To be exact, and Dad says a good reporter should be exact, I'm reporting from Miss Sally's chicken house. Baby chicks are cheeping all around me. Miss Sally just got one hundred baby chickens in a box at the feed store. Can you imagine that? One hundred baby chickens in a box. 

I went with her to pick them up. The heavy cardboard box had round air holes all over the top and sides. Inside the box were four different sections with the baby chicks divided out in them. Miss Sally said that was so they wouldn't mash one other by all piling together in one corner of the box. 

There was still one poor little chick that had ended up on the bottom of the pile in one of the sections and so when Miss Sally and I took them out of the box and put them in the place she had fixed up with a warming light for them, she only had ninety-nine. We took them out of the box one at a time. 

They were soft little fuzzy balls in my hand when I gently picked them up and then set them down on the fresh straw Miss Sally had fixed for them under the lights. She had jars of water turned up on glass trays and little feeding troughs for them. 

Miss Sally likes raising chickens. She says before she got electricity out on the farm she just put eggs under a setting hen and then let the hen raise the little chicks. But it was harder to raise as many then and sometimes something would happen to the chicks. She says you have to have the lights to keep the chicks warm or they'll pile up on one another and more of them will be mashed. The lights take the place of the mother hen that keeps her babies warm and safe under her wings and feathers. 

It was fun helping Miss Sally with the little chicks. She says I can help her feed them whenever I'm at her house. 

Did you ever buy a box of baby chicks?  

Now are you ready for more of Bailey's story? When we left him last week, he was thinking everything was too quiet.

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

Chapter 12

   Lucinda hissing jerked Bailey awake. Eyes were all around him and Skelley. Suspicious, glinting eyes. Hungry eyes.
   Coyotes. He shot a look up at Lucinda crouched on the rafter, her tail rigid and her fur spiked up.
   Bailey stared back at the coyotes. They were like certain dogs he'd seen but leaner with a wild scent about that that made a growl want to rumble in his throat. Bailey mashed his mouth together to keep the growl inside.
   There were five of them, shifting first one way and then the other around Bailey and Skelley. They made no noise, at least none Bailey could hear over the rain beating against the barn and the roar of the stream outside. Water was running through the barn now. The only dry place was the hay pile where Bailey and Skelley were. 
   Bailey slowly got to his feet. Skelley was already up, looking even more worried than when the monster bulldozer had pushed down his house.
   "The look in their eyes puts me in mind of a tiger I knew once," Skelley whispered. "Always hungry, he was."
    Bailey swallowed down the growl that kept wanting to climb up his throat. He flicked his tail back and forth and thought hard of something friendly to say. 
   "We just came in to get out of the rain. We'll be leaving soon." He summoned up the nicest voice he could.
   The coyotes stared back at him. Two of them curled up their lips in a snarl.
   "I'm not sure they speak our language, lad," Skelley said.
   "I guess we should try looking friendly then."
   "Me thinks in their eyes we look more like a meal."
   "That can't be true." Bailey glanced over at Skelley. "Lucinda says nothing normal eats dogs."
   "Are you so sure they're normal?" Skelley picked up his baton and clutched it tight between his teeth. He talked around it. "Me thinks we'd best be making a break for it, lad."
   "Listen to him, you lummox," Lucinda hissed above Bailey.
   Bailey was listening, but he was also looking at the coyotes. Their legs were thin and long. Nothing at all like Bailey's. They didn't look like the kind of animals who would trip over their own feet the way he did.
   He inched backward. Skelley matched his steps. Bailey hesitated when he stepped into the edge of the swirling water, but there was nowhere else to go. So he kept backing up even though the water got deeper with each step and grabbed at his paws.
   Bailey dared a look behind him. Water was pouring in through the barn boards, pushing some of them aside. The barn shuddered and groaned and more boards lifted up to let a new rush of water inside. 
   Bailey stopped moving and tried to dig his toenails into the soft ground. He was afraid if he lifted up even one paw, the water would sweep him right into the coyotes' mouths. The coyotes had followed them to the edge of the water, watching and waiting. 

(To be continued.)