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)