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) 


Monday, April 20, 2015

The Legend of the Dogwood

April 20, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. I like April. Do you like April? You can count how much more there is of school by weeks instead of months. You can forget about coats most of the time. You can see everything turn green. You can play out in the rain because sometimes it just showers down without thunder and lightning. It's sort of like going swimming standing up. 

Spring flowers start blooming. Bright colored flowers like tulips. They always make me remember Mama Mae who died planting tulips. But she wouldn't want me to hold that against the tulips. She loved flowers. All kinds of flowers. 

In April, she especially loved the dogwood trees when they bloomed. She told me the legend of the dogwood. She said it might not be exactly true and Dad said the same. He said the Bible doesn't have anything about the dogwood tree. Nothing at all. But that doesn't mean the Lord didn't plan the dogwood tree to remind us of what Jesus did for us. 

Anyway, here's the poem Mama Mae read to me a long time ago. She said nobody knew who wrote it. 

In Jesus' time, the dogwood grew
To a stately size and a lovely hue.
'Twas strong and firm, its branches interwoven.
For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen.
Seeing the distress at this use of their wood
Christ made a promise which still holds good:
"Never again shall the dogwood grow
Large enough to be used so.
Slender and twisted, it shall be
With blossoms like the cross for all to see.
As blood stains the petals marked in brown,
The blossom's center wears a thorny crown.
All who see it will remember Me
Crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree.
Cherished and protected, this tree shall be
A reminder to all of My agony."

So whenever I look at the dogwood blooms, I see what the poem says. The bloodstains on the edges of the four petals and the notches that look like they could have been made by nails. Then the middle part with red berries that could be a crown of thorns marked with blood. Whether the legend is true or not it's still a good story to think about in April when the trees bloom. Mama Mae said it added to their beauty and now that I'm older, I know what she means. Had you ever heard the dogwood legend? Do you like the dogwood trees?

On to the next episode of Bailey's Bug. Are you ready? Do you like Bailey and Lucinda and Skelley?

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

Chapter 14

   Bailey practiced how he might tell Lucinda about the hum while he waited for her to come back from hunting. Maybe he could simply say the bug crawled out of his ear. That could happen, couldn't it? He would scrunch down on his belly and tell her how sorry he was for getting her out here in the middle of nowhere. He'd beg her to pounce on him, bite his ears, scratch his nose or do whatever she wanted to if it made her feel better. He deserved it leading her out here where she had to hunt mice and climb trees to get away from coyotes.
   He aimed to just blurt it out the minute she came back, but when she stepped out of the night in front of him, he lost his courage. Instead, he shut his eyes and pretended to be asleep. Too asleep to even notice when she put a mouse down right in front of his nose.
   The next morning, the mouse was still there. Bailey tried to give it to Skelley, but the old dog shook his head and told Bailey to eat it. So he gobbled it down. It wasn't much but it was something. Would he ever see a full food dish again?
   Maybe he would be like Skelley and spend all his time raiding garbage cans and saving bones that didn't have even one good chew left on them. How would he look with bones sticking out in angles like Skelley's?
   Bones were already in plain sight on his sides in spite of the way his hair had gotten bushy with nobody to trim it off. He was a funny mud color too and didn't look much like the dog that had run away from Mr. Robinson. 
   He didn't feel much like that dog either. That dog didn't think of much other than food dishes and fetching for Reid. This dog he was now had to worry about getting Lucinda and Skelley lost or worse and whether he'd ever see Reid again.
   Lucinda hopped down out of the tree. "Time to be on our way."
   Thick fog hid everything except the trunks of the trees nearest them. No hint of the sun pushed through it. He couldn't go without seeing which way the sun was shining.
   "Maybe we should let Skelley rest a while longer. So his leg can get better." The sun would surely show up in a little while.
   "For a truth, Miss Lucinda, I'm not sure if I can walk on it," Skelley said. "And I'm a wee bit too tired to hop along on me other three feet."
   "We'll go slow," Lucinda said.
   "No, no, Miss Lucinda. I'll not be slowing the two of you down. Twill be better for ye to leave me here and go on your way."
   "We can't leave you here alone," Bailey protested.
   "And we won't." There was no doubt in Lucinda's voice.
   "But you can't stay," Skelley started.
   Lucinda interrupted him. "Let me finish. I'll stay here with you while Bailey goes on to find Reid. Then he can bring him back with him. People know about fixing hurt legs and such."
   Skelley settled his sad eyes on Bailey. He was waiting for him to tell Lucinda about the hum, but Bailey just pulled his tongue up in his mouth and didn't say anything.
   Lucinda went on. "We've gone miles and miles. Too many to count. We have to be in another state. Close to Reid. Your bug says so, doesn't it, Bailey?"
   Bailey stared out toward the fog as though he were hearing something in the gray mist. He should tell Lucinda about losing the hum. He should. But the words wouldn't come out of his throat.
   Instead he kept his eyes on the farthest tree he could see in the fog. "It can't be far."
   Lucinda sighed. "Heaven knows, you've been saying that every day since we left, but maybe this time you'll be right."
   When Bailey didn't move, she nudged him with her paw. "Well, what are you waiting for? Go get Reid. Now."
   "I'll find him." Bailey tried to sound like he meant it as he skipped his eyes over Lucinda and Skelley and headed out into the fog. He had no idea which way to go. One way was as good as another until he got out of sight of Lucinda.
   "It was a grand adventure, Bailey me lad," Skelley called after him. "A grand adventure."

(To be Continued next week. Remember, the first part of the story is up under the title at the top of my report.)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sunrise in Hollyhill

April 13, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Not a lot to report today. Well, Dad says every day holds its own special blessings. Didn't the sun come up today, he'll ask me. If I say of course it did, he'll tell me that some things shouldn't be taken for granted. That the sunrise every morning is blessing. When he was serving on that submarine in World War II, he went weeks without seeing a sunrise. He says you can't imagine how amazing and special the sunrise is until you haven't seen it for a while. 

I like the sunrise. I see it every morning on the way to school. Nobody would be so silly as to say they didn't like the sunrise. That means the gift of another day. But there are days when I'd like to pull the covers up over my head and skip the actual sunrise. I could always get caught up on the sunshine later in the day. 

Aunt Love says sunrises like the one in the picture I took means bad weather's on the way. "Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning." Dad says they say sailors instead of farmers or grocers because sailors are out there on the sea where storms can dash their boats into the waves and capsize them. Like that story in the Bible where the storm is lashing the boat that Jesus and the disciples are in. Jesus is sleeping through the storm and some of the disciples go back and wake him up. Do you think they had to shake him or just speak his name? 

Guess that part doesn't matter. But they ask him if he doesn't care if their boat sinks and they all drown. You see, they know he could do something about it. They're not exactly prepared for what he does do, but they knew who to go to for help. Dad says that's a lesson for us. To know who to go to for help. But anyway, Jesus tells the storm to be still and it is. That threw the disciples for another loop. They weren't prepared for anything that awesome. Dad says the sunrise every morning felt that awesome for him for a while after he came home for the war. Seeing the sun. Being alive to see the sun. So I'll be glad for the sun.

I think Bailey and Lucinda and Skelley will be glad for the sun after their rough time with the storm in the story. Wonder what's going to happen next. Here goes.

Bailey's Bug by Jocie Brooke
(Continued from last week. Remember, you can read it all so far under the title up at the top of this report.)

   It was full dark when they reached the trees, and once they'd settled Skelley into a leafy bed, Lucinda went hunting. She disappeared almost immediately into the night. How many other things were stalking unseen in the darkness?
   Bailey shivered and went over to lay next to Skelley who was shivering even worse. Bailey's shivering slowed and stopped, but the old dog's shaking seemed to come from deep inside him with nothing to do with the cool air.
   "I'm sorry about your master's baton," Bailey said.
   "'Tis a sadness for a truth, lad." Skelley sighed. "It's taken the music with it."
   "The music?"
   "Aye, the music. Ye know I could always hear that music and fine music it was. Circus music. No matter what else happened, no matter whether there was food or not, I heard the music and was ready for the show to go on."
   Skelley raised his head to stare out into the night as if listening for a new burst of music. For a moment he even stopped shaking. But then he dropped his head back down on his paws and his old bones began quaking again.
   "I miss the music."
   "It'll come back, Skelley. You're tired. In the morning, the music will be back."
   "I hope so, lad." Skelley didn't sound as if he thought it possible. "I don't think I can go on with the adventure without the music."
   Bailey shifted uneasily as though he'd just felt a rock under him. Talking about Skelley's music reminded him that he still couldn't hear the hum. The water was out of his ears. The storm was long gone but no hum was vibrating inside his head.
   "Skelley," he said after a moment. "Do you know which way the sun comes up?"
   "Aye, lad. it's in the east, but I need some sign of it shining to point the way." He looked up at the sky. "Me master could do it, night or day. He knew the stars that pointed the way, but I never could make out which ones he said mattered the most."
   Bailey stared up through the trees to the sky. He saw stars, but none that helped him know which way to go.
   The night was suddenly so silent that Bailey wanted to jump up and bark just so there would be some noise somewhere. But he made himself lay still. If Lucinda heard him barking, she'd run back to see what was wrong. Then what would he tell her?
   He thought maybe Skelley was asleep, but then the old dog said, "Ye've lost what Miss Lucinda calls your bug, haven't ye, lad?"
   Bailey perked up his ears and started to pretend. But what good would that do? He dropped his nose down on Skelley's bony back. "I'm afraid so. It wasn't a bug. It was a hum right in the middle of my head. Now it's gone."
   He waited for Skelley to tell him the hum would come back, that he just needed a bit of rest. Bailey wanted the old dog to say that, but he didn't.
   Instead the old dog said, "Miss Lucinda's going to be a mite upset when you tell her, but tell her you must, lad. And soon."

(To be continued)  

Monday, April 6, 2015

True Fans Hate Seeing their Teams Lose

April 6, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Do you like basketball? We're big basketball fans at our house. Well, all except Tabitha who thinks watching boys bounce balls up and down a gym floor is about as boring as watching paint dry. I think she's crazy. Basketball is THE sport to watch. In fact, I'm teaching Stephen how to dribble a basketball. He may not be two yet, but he's catching on. A star in the making. Dad will be putting him up a basketball goal on the side of the garage before you know it. 

Even Aunt Love likes basketball. Every time there's a game on television, she's glued to the set. She can even remember the score. Her forgetfulness goes on hold when she's watching the games or listening to them on the radio. 

That's how it is here in Kentucky. Basketball is the sport. But Tabitha moved around with our mother all those years and never had time to really get behind a team. Not even UCLA out in California. But in Kentucky, we get behind our Wildcats. We thought sure they were going to win it all this year. But they ran into a better team. At least that's what Dad said. Texas Western. They were tall and our guys couldn't shoot over them. We ended up shooting something like 38 percent. That's not too good in basketball. You hit 380 in baseball, you're pretty good, but you've got to hit 50 percent of your shots in basketball to be any good. Sigh. 

Everybody in Hollyhill has been depressed ever since the game a couple of weeks ago. You just look at the guys on the bench in the picture that was in the paper. Sad times. You don't get a chance to win the championship every year. Well, unless you're UCLA. They seem to be there a lot. But it's been eight years since Kentucky has brought home the trophy. I don't remember that. I was just a little kid then. So we had high hopes this year. Sigh. 

The newspapers all made a big deal about Texas Western beating Kentucky because their starting lineup was all black players and Kentucky didn't have any black players on the team. I understand what they are saying. Noah, who works for Dad sometimes, has made me see what discrimination is like, but I didn't think about black and white in the game. I just wanted our team to win. Sigh. 

But Dad says it's just a game and there are lots more important things in life than who wins a ballgame. Especially when you're just on the sidelines watching and not on the team. But it would have been more fun if our team had won. Sigh.

When I left Bailey and Skelley last week, Skelley had just lost his painted stick and was feeling really sad too. Guess I'd better see what happens next.

BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke
   (Continued from last report. The full story under the Bailey's Bug report heading up top of the page.)

   "What's gone?" Lucinda raised her head up to look at Skelley.
   "I dropped me master's baton in the water." Skelley's voice was so low Bailey could barely make out his words.
   "Where?" Lucinda's ear perked up and she looked more like her old self in spite of the way her fur was sticking out in odd angles.
   "Out there." Skelley stared at the water and then dropped his nose back toward the ground. "For a truth, it's gone forever."
   "I tried to find it." Bailey's ears drooped down. "I really did."
   "He did, Miss Lucinda. But some things can't be found."
   Lucinda looked at the water again and then back at the old dog. "I'm sorry about your baton, Skelley." 
   "Don't fret yourself about it, Miss Lucinda. Twas silly me packing it here and there all this time anyway, but it somehow kept me master with me."
   "He'll still be with you," Lucinda said softly. 
   "Aye, I suppose," the old dog said without much conviction.
   Lucinda moved over right in front of Skelley's nose. "I thank you, Skelley, for pulling me out of the water. You're a remarkable dog like none I've every known before or ever expect to know in the future." She touched his face with her paw.
   "And ye be a fine feline, Miss Lucinda. Me old stick was just that. An old stick."
   Skelley tried to sound as though he meant it, but his eyes were so sad that Bailey wanted to dive back into the rushing water to hunt for the stick again.
   Lucinda noticed Bailey looking at the water. "Let's get away from here. I hate water. Please tell me we're on the right side of this river."
   "The right side?" Bailey cocked his head to look at Lucinda.
   "The one your bug says is right."
   "Oh, the right side. Yes, the right side." Bailey stood up, shook some more water out of his coat and started away from the stream. He had no idea which way to go for even though it had stopped raining at last the sun was hiding behind thick clouds.
   In fact, it looked near night. They needed a safe place to rest. Somewhere they didn't have to worry about coyotes surrounding them. Someplace where he could get the water out of his ears so that maybe the hum would come back.
   Bailey stopped on a little rise. Ahead was a line of trees where there would be some bushes for him and Skelley to hide and trees for Lucinda to climb. Maybe they could find some acorns or berries or bugs to eat. 
   He thought of rabbits, and his mouth started watering. He pushed the thought away. Even when his legs weren't feeling so rubbery from swimming in the water, he couldn't catch a rabbit without Skelley's help. But Skelley trailed along behind them without seeming to care about catching rabbits or where the sun might be. In fact, he got so far behind that Lucinda and Bailey slowed way down to let him catch up. Finally Skelley stopped trying to keep up and lay down on the ground. 
   "Me thinks the coyotes must have got hold me leg. It's paining me some. The two of ye go on, and after I rest a bit, I'll come along."
   "It's not much farther. Just over to those trees. We can find a better place to rest there." Bailey pointed with his nose.
   Skelley didn't even raise his head to look. "Aye. I'll be along in a little while."
   "What about the adventure?" Bailey said. "You can't give up on that now."
   "Aye and it is a fine adventure, lad. I'm not quitting it. I'll be along as soon as me leg rests up a bit."
   Lucinda let out a yowl and swatted Bailey. "Stop your nonsense about adventure. This isn't an adventure. It's a disaster, but it's a disaster we're all in together. And if you're going to stay here, the two of us will stay right here with you." Lucinda sat down beside Skelley and started licking the muddy water out of her coat.
   "Ye can't stay here, Miss Lucinda. The coyotes might find us and the trees are much too far away."
   Lucinda looked up from licking her paw. "We fought the coyotes once. If they find us, we'll just do it again." She began washing herself again.
   A bit of the old glint flashed in Skelley's eyes. "I guess you've got me, Miss Lucinda. Ye know I can't let you stay here in the open because for a truth, we may have fought the coyotes but we weren't winning."
   "We got away, didn't we?" Lucinda said.
   "By the skin of our teeth with a bushel load of luck." Skelley clambered to his feet. "Could be, if we take it slow, I might make it to the trees after all."
   They moved so slowly now that Bailey had time to hunt for grasshoppers and to nose over rocks and grab a few crickets. He took some to Skelley, but the old dog shook his head.
   "Ye eat them, lad. Me appetite seems to have left me."

(To be continued)