Monday, January 26, 2015

A Day Off from Church and School

January 26, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. It snowed on Saturday. The roads were too slick for us to have church at Mount Pleasant. Dad says it's better to be safe and cancel church rather than have some of the older members maybe slide off the road and get hurt or sick trying to get their cars out of the ditch. Besides, the parking area is all gravel. It's hard to shovel snow off gravel. Dad told everybody to just read their Bibles and say their prayers at home and make one of the prayers that the roads will be clear next Sunday. 

I like going to church okay, but it's fun having a day off too. Especially when the day off keeps going and school is canceled on Monday the way it was this week. A few inches of snow slows things down in Hollyhill. Dad and I still make it to the newspaper office and so does Zella but she does complain mightily about the people who don't shovel their sidewalks in front of their houses in town. I don'r know why she gets so upset. It's not like she doesn't have boots. And of course, Wes lives in the apartment over the newspaper office, so all he has to do is come downstairs to work. Dad says the news is like the mail - neither rain nor snow nor dark of night will keep it from making it out to the people of Hollyhill. Or something like that anyway. 

On Sunday, I walked over in Mr. Crutcher's field next door to our house and took some snow pictures. I love taking pictures. I'd take hundreds if film wasn't so expensive. Do you like taking pictures of snow? Dad says snow scenes are okay but the pictures that get the most attention in the paper have people or animals in them. Monday, he told me to walk around town and find some kids making snowmen. That's always good to put in the paper. 

I made a snowman myself, but I didn't take a picture of mine. It wasn't that good. A little lumpy and sideways, but fun anyway.  

No church and no school gave me extra time to work on Bailey's Bug. Last week you remember Bailey was shutting his eyes and thinking about his boy, Reid, while he was walking along with Skelley and Lucinda. Then Skelley yelled a warning. So what happened then? Read on to find out. And remember, the whole story is under Bailey's Bug up top.

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

Bailey opened his eyes, but not quick enough to keep from banging into a tree. He bounced back on his haunches.
   "Be ye all right, lad?" Skelley looked at him with worried eyes.
   "What happened?" Bailey's head was spinning.
   "You ran into a tree." Lucinda jumped up on a branch above him. She had no sympathy for his head at all.
   Bailey looked up and saw two black cats on limbs that wavered and shook. He tried to stand up, but that made everything shimmer and shake even more. He sank back on his haunches and shook his head until his ears flapped.
   Skelley leaned over to sniff Bailey. Bailey saw two noses and four black eyes. It was too much. He lay down and put his paw over his eyes.
   "I think the lad has hurt himself." Skelley touched Bailey's back with his nose.
   "He's knocked himself silly," Lucinda said. "And what are we supposed to do now? Out here heaven only knows where."
   "Could be the lad merely needs a minute or so to come to his senses."
   "He does't have a lot of sense to come to." Lucinda let out a sigh. "I guess I don't either or I wouldn't be out here with him in the middle of nowhere."
   "Now, now, Miss Lucinda. Ye did what any true friend would do. The lad needed you along. He needs the both of us."
   "And I need a saucer of milk. And you need a truckload of food."
   "I've always been on the lean side." Skelley sat down beside Bailey. "That's how I got me name, you know. Skeleton, it is, but me master shortened it to Skelley. I always favored that name best."
   "Being bony doesn't mean you don't get hungry," Lucinda said.
   Bailey wished she wouldn't talk about being hungry. It was making his stomach rumble and he was having enough trouble trying to keep his head from floating clear away. Even with his eyes tight shut, the ground was rocking under him. Not only that, but Lucinda and Skelley sounded faraway even though he knew they were right beside him.
   Skelley was still trying to reassure Lucinda. "Don't be worrying, Miss Lucinda. I mind the time I fell off old Asaph one night. Knocked me out cold for a bit, and then it was some time before I could think straight again. We'll just rest here a spell until the lad comes around."
   They quit talking and Bailey thought he should open his eyes and tell them he was okay. He was okay. His head wasn't spinning now and felt attached to his body again. When he peeked out past his paw, the trees were no longer dividing into twos. Everything looked the way it was supposed to look. But he didn't sit up.
   He kept his paw over his eyes and tried not to think about why he didn't want to open his eyes. Instead he thought about food, but that made his stomach growl. He thought about how the thorn in his foot hurt even when he wasn't walking on it. He wanted to lick his foot again to see if he could get rid of the thorn, but he didn't. Then his ear started to itch, but he didn't sit up to scratch it.
   Finally he thought about Lucinda in the tree over his head. She was why he didn't want to open his eyes. The hum wasn't sounding in his ear anymore. It was gone. He couldn't hear it at all no matter how hard he listened. 
   How could he tell Lucinda that? 

(To be continued.) 

Monday, January 19, 2015

What's Freedom Mean to You?

January 19, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. What does this picture make you think of? Mr. Brown, my social studies teacher at school, told us to look at this picture and write a paper on what freedom means to us. Not to the country or to somebody else, but to each of us as individuals. 

Mr. Brown is always giving us hard assignments, but Dad says it's good to have to think about things like this. He says there's a lot about freedom in the Bible. Dad told me to look up Galatians 5:1. "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."

Noah, my friend that I met and you got to know too in that book about us, Orchard of Hope, says freedom is what the Civil Rights movement is all about. I do want everybody to be free in America. That's what America stands for. Freedom. Liberty. 

So I wrote about how great it is to be free to go to church without having to worry about somebody saying we can't like they do in Communist countries. I wrote how the Constitution says all men are created equal and that when it says "men" that means women too. I wrote about Noah and his little sister, Cassidy marching in the Children's March and how that was their way of fighting for freedom even though it turned out not so good for Cassidy. She ended up afraid for a long time after that. But in America everybody should be free. 

Dad says I should remember that being free doesn't mean I can do anything I want. That my freedom stops where somebody else's begins. I'm not real clear on what he means by that, but I guess it's something like I'm free to sing as loud as I want to at the newspaper office. That is, until Zella tells me to hush because she can't think. Do you think that's what he means?

What does freedom mean to you?  

Freedom means a lot to Bailey in Bailey's Bug too. He's free now but sort of wishing he was back in a safe backyard with a fence all around and food in his dish every morning. 

Bailey's Bug by Jocie Brooke
  (Continued from last week. All the story is under Bailey's Bug up top of the page)

   Bailey shook the hair out of his eyes and looked Skelley gratefully. The old dog's bones were sticking out on his sides, but he never complained even when they had to go all day with nothing but grasshoppers to eat.
   Bailey looked at his own sides and was surprised to see his ribs beginning to show up even under his shaggy coat. Reid's mother always took him to get his hair clipped down to the hide when it started getting long.
   Even Lucinda looked different. Slimmer. And not nearly so sleek as when she spent most of her day washing and smoothing down her black fur between naps.
   "I'm sorry, Lucinda," Bailey said. "I didn't think it would take so long to find Reid." He looked over at the old dog. "And you too, Skelley. If it weren't for me you'd be in the city where you could find lots of food in trashcans."
   "Be I worrying about trashcans, lad? Nay, the three of us are having a grand adventure."
   "Some adventure." Lucinda snorted and stood up. "Whatever it is, we best be getting on with it. Which way does your bug say go now?"
   So Bailey led the way past the cows, under a fence and across the way to another tree covered hill. He could hear the hum just fine, but for the first time he wasn't sure it was going to lead him to Reid. Bailey was tired and hungry. Especially hungry.
   Skelley started telling a story to try to keep their spirits up.
   "You know once when I was in the circus, they lost an elephant. Can ye imagine that? Losing an elephant. Of course, it was dark when Anne Marie went missing. Night isn't the best time for searching for elephants, being as how they are gray and all. Be that as it may, we poked around in folks' backyards and such for hours. Then, come morning, there she was waiting by her truck. Claimed to have been there the whole time, but we figured she wasn't telling everything about her escapade."
   Bailey liked Skelley's circus stories, but this time he couldn't keep his mind from wandering off to think about how many more hills, how many more nights of coyotes howling, how many more days trying to nose out something to eat until they would find Reid. 
   Bailey shut his eyes for a minute so could think about Reid. And there his boy was, laughing and throwing the plastic toy. Bailey shut his eyes tighter to see Reid better.
  "Watch out," Skelley warned.

(To be continued)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Did You Ever Get a Grab Bag?

January 12, 1966

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. It's January. Do you like January? Dad says you should like every day. That every day is a gift from the Lord, but somehow January days can feel like grab bag gifts that don't have anything in them but broken crayons. I got a grab bag like that once. It was at the school fall festival when I was a little kid. They had this bunch of brown paper bags in a big box. For a quarter, I got to pick one of the bags. 

I imagined the most wonderful things in those brown paper bags. Perfume that actually smelled good. Or maybe a miniature doll. A set of jacks. The prettiest marbles in the world. Or maybe a gold locket or an ID bracelet. I'd always wanted an ID bracelet with my name engraved on it. I don't know how I thought my name would be on a bracelet in one of those bags, but nothing seemed impossible as I looked at those brown paper bags full of imagined treasures. 

I didn't imagine broken crayons. Judy Wilson's mother was working the grab bag booth when I made my unlucky pick. She said surely the crayons weren't broken when they were put in the bag, but even unbroken, the crayons wouldn't have lived up to my expectations. I looked at the crayons and burst out in tears. It was so embarrassing, but you've got to remember that I was just a little kid then. Only six.  

Mrs. Wilson wanted to let me pick another sack, but Aunt Love said no. Said I should be happy with whatever prize I got and it would be a good lesson to teach me not to let my imagination get carried away. 

I thought Mrs. Wilson was going to cry with me then, but what could she say with Aunt Love so determined to teach me a lesson about not getting my hopes up so high? Mrs. Wilson knew about my mother going off and deserting me and I guess she thought that was enough lesson about how things can go wrong. 

She didn't give me another bag, but she did take my hand and walk me over to a different game. One where you picked up ducks out of a tub of water. I was much luckier with that draw. Mrs. Wilson looked at the number on the bottom of the duck and dropped it back in the water without me seeing what the number was. She said it was for the best prize there. A necklace with a glass heart that sparkled in the light. I don't know if she cheated on the number or not, but I did know that I'd been given a gift of kindness. Even then when I was just a little kid. 

Have you ever been given a gift of kindness like that? After you got a grab bag of bad luck?

Are you ready for the next part of Bailey's story? Well, here goes.

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

Chapter 10

   The country went on and on. During the day, they walked until their feet hurt, then napped in the sun. At night, they stopped wherever Lucinda found a tree with good limbs for sleeping because the coyotes made her nervous.
   Bailey was used to the coyotes' howling now and to the owls that hooted and screeched. Once he quit jumping at shadows and got used to the woods being a noisy place, he slept almost as good out in the open as he had on his rug back at the Robinsons' house.
   When a noise did wake him, he blinked open his eyes, sniffed the air and tried to sort out what made the noise. They had been in the woods a couple of nights when Bailey decided  silence was the noise to worry about the most. As long as the frogs and bugs kept singing, everything was the way it was supposed to be. When they fell silent, that's when Bailey got up, a growl deep in his throat, just in case something was out there in the dark.
   The daytime held dangers too, both in the woods and in the wide open fields where what Lucinda called cows ate grass. Lucinda made them walk wide circles around the big clumsy looking animals. 
   One day when they forgot to listen to Lucinda and walked too close to the cows, one of them lowered its head and ran at them faster than Bailey thought possible. He skittered out of the way, but Skelley wasn't quick enough. The cow gave the old dog a good toss.
   Bailey barked at the cow who shook its head at him and went back to eating grass. 
   When Skelley caught his breath, he stood up and shook his skin back in place over his bones. "I'll take an elephant any day. Ye can reason with an elephant."
   "I told you to stay away from them," Lucinda said. 
   "It appears you were right about that, Miss Lucinda." Skelley looked around. "Do ye see where my baton might have landed?"
   "I'll find it." Lucinda was off before the dogs could stop her.
   Bailey and Skelley inched along behind her, ready to charge to Lucinda's rescue, but the cows paid no attention to the cat. She found the stick and dropped it at Skelley's feet.
   "I do thank ye, Miss Lucinda. I wouldn't be wanting to go on without me master's baton." He ran his nose up and down the stick to make sure it hadn't been damaged by the cow.
   "I don't know why any of us are going on." Lucinda sounded cross. "We've gone miles and miles and what have we found? Cows and coyotes. Dirt and thorns." She licked one of her sore feet.
   She stopped and stared off across the field. Somehow Bailey knew she was thinking about cushions in windows.
   He wanted to tell her they were close, but he didn't know whether that was true or not. The hum in his ear was steady, always in his head except when thunder boomed above them and crowded out everything but the need to find a place to hide until the storm blew past. 
   Bailey wanted Reid to be close. Each hill they came to, he hoped Reid's new house would be just on the other side. But then there would be another hill. He looked across the field to where the trees met the sky. "Do you think we're in another state yet?" 
   "I wouldn't be doubting it," Skelley said. "The states, they just run one right into another, and I never knew how me master could tell when we were in a new one, but he always knew."
   "Then we're probably almost there." Bailey tried to sound as sure as he could.
   But Lucinda knew him too well. "You don't know where we are. We're probably going in circles."
   "He's not doing that." Skelley took up for Bailey. "We've been heading toward the sunrise every day. Never the sunset. We're keeping a straight line, for a truth."

(To be continued)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Starting 1966 Off with a Whisper

January 5, 1966
Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Can you believe it's 1966? Wow! In a few years we'll flip the decade and then it'll really be hard to write the right date for the year. I'm getting fairly good at changing a 5 into a 6 on my school papers. 

Yeah, it didn't snow, so we had to go back to school. Not very fun. Although I did like seeing my girlfriends again. They were all sporting new sweaters they got for Christmas. I was too. The one Leigh gave me. Leigh knows what's pretty and doesn't make the mistake of buying girlie looking things for me. I am not a ruffle type girl! 

What did you do to celebrate the New Year? Daddy let me sit up and watch the new year in on television. He says he can't see why anybody would want to watch a ball drop in Times Square, but if I wanted to waste my time watching that nonsense, he supposed one night a year it wouldn't hurt me to sit up till midnight. I took a picture of the television screen at midnight when 1966 showed up. 

I jumped up and down and shouted sort of under my breath because everybody else was already asleep. Even Tabitha. You'd think at her age she wouldn't be too old to want to see the old year out and the new year in. She said she would have if Robert was there. That's her fellow. But he wasn't and Stephen, at one year old, doesn't know anything about new years showing up. She said he'd be up and ready for his breakfast at seven sharp the same as any other morning. 

I guess she was right. For sure she was right about it being more fun to celebrate a new year showing up if other people were around. Too bad I couldn't have watched the old year out with Wes. He'd have had a dozen Jupiter New Year's stories to tell. I'll have to ask him to tell me one tomorrow when I go by the newspaper office after school. If he does, maybe I can share it with you next week.

Meanwhile, it's time to see what Bailey, Lucinda and Skelley are up to. We left them last week with an owl about to swoop down on Bailey and scare him silly. Lucinda would say he's silly already. But if a big old owl was diving at me, I'd be scared. Wouldn't you?

BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke
  (Continued from last week. Read it all at Bailey's Bug.

    Bailey cowered against the ground as the bird's talons skimmed his back. Then as suddenly as it had appeared, the owl flapped away to a quieter perch in another tree. 
    Barking, Bailey ran after the bird. That started the coyotes up again. Bailey jumped around in a circle trying to figure out which direction to chase after the noisy coyotes, but their barks and yips seemed to be coming from every direction.
   "For mercy's sake, Bailey," Lucinda hissed from the tree over his head. "It was only an owl, and I told you owls don't eat dogs. It was trying to scare you away."
   "And those coyotes?" Bailey stopped hopping in circles. 
   "They mostly don't bother dogs like you either. I told you nothing normal eats dogs." Lucinda emphasized the word normal. "Now go to sleep."
   "Miss Lucinda is right, Bailey me lad," Skelley said. "We need our sleep for the journey tomorrow." The old dog promptly curled up in the hole he'd dug out next to the tree trunk.
   Bailey stayed on his feet, studying the shifting shadows long after the coyotes fell silent once more. He had the feeling eyes were watching him even though he couldn't see anything. Great saucer eyes. If only he could climb up in the tree with Lucinda.
   He wanted to bark again. That was what he always did when he didn't know what else to do, but Lucinda would yowl at him if he woke her up. So instead of barking, he growled real low to let anything that might be out there in the dark know that he wasn't a dog to be messed with. Hadn't he stopped a monster bulldozer? Hadn't he crossed the river of car without getting mashed? He could fight off a few coyotes and an owl. He could.
   He kept his growl rumbling down in his chest for a long time until his feet began to hurt. At last, still watching on every side, he eased over to where Skelley, his nose on his baton, was sound asleep. 
   Bailey eased down close beside the bony dog, but he kept his eyes open until they burned. He spotted mice creeping from the cover of one leaf or bush to another. A gray ball of an animal with a skinny tail trundled by. Another creature who looked like it was wearing a mask and who had rings on its tail scurried past. All the woods creatures seemed too busy to give Bailey more than a passing glance. 
   After a long time, when the owl didn't come back and the coyotes stayed silent, Bailey closed his eyes. He shut out the night noises around him and concentrated on the hum inside him until he could almost feel Reid hugging him.
   If he had to, he would walk through a million trees with eyes everywhere to find Reid. If he had to.

(To be continued.)