Monday, April 14, 2014

Scent of Lilacs and News from Hollyhill


April 14, 1965

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Not much to report this week. Dad says that's good because it means nothing bad has happened. And I say why can't something good happen that we can report. 

But in the newspaper business, bad sells more papers. Like the wind blowing the roof off of Mr. Dexter's barn last week. Everybody wanted to buy a paper to see that picture. Of course, plenty of people had already driven out there to see the barn roof sitting over in the field instead of on the barn with their own eyes. I took the picture Dad put in the paper. I like taking pictures, but Dad says I have to be careful about using too much film. He's been thinking up ways to pinch pennies ever since he filled out those tax forms last week. So I can't take a picture of every flower I see even if they are signs of spring. And that's good news! But not the kind that sells newspapers. 

But I think spring is good. That means summer is not too far away and school will be out!! Yay!! This time of the year, school just gets too long. Way too long. They start wanting you to take tests every other day and by now, your poor old brain is so tired you can't squeeze one good answer out of it. But you have to anyway because you sure don't want to fail and have to do it all over again next year. I'd run away to Jupiter if that happened. 

Trouble is, Wes tells me they have school all summer up there. That's why they know how to build space ships that run on bug juice. Jupiter bug juice. I think even Wes has spring fever, not coming up with anything but rerun Jupiter stories. You want to know about that one just check back a few issues to the story he told me in February about Jupiterian Fropples. 

Since we're talking about stories, how about those two book covers up top? That's the book where you can come visit us here in Hollyhill and find out about all our secrets. That writer didn't keep anything back. The book cover on the right is the first cover the book had back when it was published in 2005. But now it's back out with the new cover, the one where I'm reading on the steps. Both covers have lilacs. Guess that had to be since the title talks about smelling lilacs. I like lilacs, so that's okay. They budding out here, but haven't bloomed yet. We're supposed to get some cold weather. Redbud winter, Miss Sally says. I'm going to cry if it freezes the lilac blooms. Really, I am. Loud, so Mother Nature can hear and feel sorry.

Anyway, back to those book covers. Which one do you like best? I like the bike, but I guess I have to like the new one best since that's me on it. It's not every day you get to have your picture on a book, now is it?

Oh, and if you have some newfangled way of reading that I can't even imagine, you can get it for free. I thought you had to go to a bookstore to buy a book or order one from a book catalog and then it came in the mail. But Wes says in those science fiction books he reads that they send books right through the air sort of like t.v. shows. I don't know if they have antennas or what. Sounds crazy to me, but if you are way out there in the future and know what he's talking about and you have one of those futuristic gizmos, you can read all about my adventures in Hollyhill without paying a dime. It costs nada, nothing. At least for a while. That's better than the books in the dimestore.

So, till next week when maybe the lilacs will be blooming, happy reading. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Do Not Disturb - Tax Form Headache

April 7, 1965

Jocie Brooke reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Do not, I repeat, do not get close to my father today. He is in the middle of doing taxes. The door on his office at the paper is closed and I don't think even Zella would have the nerve to knock on it. 

"Not even if the press breaks down," Wes says. 

"Not even if the building catches on fire," I say. 

"Not even if gypsies come in the office and steal all the papers off the counter without throwing the first dime in the dish," Zella says. 

That sounds a little crazy even for Zella. What would a gypsy want with a copy of the Hollyhill Banner? But she says when she was a girl, her parents were always warning her about gypsies. Then she looks at Wes like she thinks he might be from wherever gypsies come from instead of Jupiter and at me like she hopes it they do come in the offices, they'll grab me instead of a copy of the Banner.

It was wild enough here last week without any gypsies showing up, after Dad put that piece in the paper about a Yenom Tree. You'd think people would figure out all that was a joke since it was April 1, but Zella says that some people think if it's printed on paper, it has to be true. 

She refused to answer the phones all that day and there were plenty of calls. Even those who knew it was just an April Fools joke called. Some to complain that a newspaper shouldn't print foolishness and others to tell Dad how much fun they had with the story. 

You truly cannot please all the people all the time. And old Abe was right that you can't please some people any of the time. I know a certain woman whose name starts with "Z" that falls in that category. But Yenom. Hold it up in front of mirror. That's money spelled backwards. And even if you didn't figure that you, you surely could figure out that money does not grow on trees.

If it did, we'd try to raise one so that Dad wouldn't have to worry about April 15 and taxes. He says he just can't figure out why we owe taxes when money is scarce as hen's teeth around here. He doesn't want us to answer that and we've learned to keep quiet and leave that door shut until he has the tax form in the envelope, stamped and ready. Then he'll be smiling again and saying how it's a blessing to make enough money to need to pay taxes. But his smile will get bigger when Wes speaks up to ask, "Did you ever notice how you can put the and IRS and it spells theirs?"

Dad will laugh about that tomorrow. Today he has a tax form headache.    

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools Day in Hollyhill



April 1, 1965

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. It's April Fools Day. That means I've got to be on the lookout all day for people ready to pull pranks. Especially Wes. 

Wes says they invented April Fools Day up on Jupiter and the first Jupiterian who visited earth started it up here back in the 14th Century by issuing a warning about these creepy looking Jupiter bugs that were invading from outer space. Wes said nobody expected this fellow of being one of those outer space invaders himself but that they went around examining bugs all day, especially weird ones like that one in the picture. People started thinking they'd never seen that particular bug before and that it was going to poison the water and eat up all the plants. A lot of bugs that didn't scurry under a rock got stepped on as April Fool panic broke out. That Jupiter prankster had to make a fast exit out of there. But he forgot to take his Jupiter bug and so its antennae have grown really long as it tries to find the spaceship to go home. 

Wes says not to worry. The bug lives on air so the earth is not really in danger or anything, but then he'll tell me I have one of them in my hair. I know I don't. I know he's pulling a joke, but I always feel little feet walking around on my head. Wes thinks it's extra funny when I start hitting at my head. I always have to laugh too. That's the fun of April Fools Day. As long as the joke isn't mean. I don't like mean jokes, do you?

Dad hunted one of the pranks from the past years up to report on in the Banner. I helped him look through old newspapers and magazines. We found this one about the Yenom Tree in the VIEW magazine from a couple of years ago, 1963. The story reveals the existence of the Yenom Tree, a "rare perennial" owned by Mrs. Loo Flirpa (better check that out backwards) of Appleton, Wisconsin, which sprouted "Bright, green one-dollar bills with uniformly high serial numbers." In an unusual mutation, this year the Yenom Tree had also sprouted a "flawless five-dollar bill." Mrs. Flirpa had entered into "an exclusive arrangement with the United States Mint to sell Yenom tree seedlings through a system of greenhouses to be operated through local offices of the Federal Reserve System." 

Dad said that sounded like a handy tree to have around and so he's running the story today in the Banner. He says nobody in Hollyhill will believe it, but Zella says we'll get a ton of telephone calls of people wanting to know how to get their own Yenom Tree. She says she's not answering the phone all day and that if Dad thinks that's an April Fools joke, he'd better think again.

Do you know any good April Fools gags? Have you ever had any pulled on you? Well, watch out for that Jupiter bug crawling around on your head. 

Oh, and by the way, somebody says Scent of Lilacs is free if you have an e-reader. I have no idea what that means. I think it must be a message from the future. But they say it's no April Fools joke. Whatever they're talking about, free sound good!

 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Old Houses and Ghosts

March 24, 1965

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. It's finally getting to be spring in Hollyhill. And boy, are we all ready for it! The March flowers are blooming on the hill on Mr. Crutcher's farm next door. He says there used to be a house there, but it got torn down and the pieces carried off to build a new house in a new place. Gosh, if there had been ghosts in that old house, wonder if they went with the planks, beams, windows and doors to the new place. 

Oh, I know some people say there aren't ghosts, and I can't say that I've ever seen any. Of course, there's the Holy Ghost. You can't actually see Him either, but you can feel Him inside you. That's not like the ghosts that might have haunted that old house on Mr. Crutcher's farm. They'd be different. Maybe left over spirits from people who used to live there. Who knows? Maybe something bad happened there. Somebody could have been murdered or died after a terrible accident. Maybe falling off a cliff or something. 

Dad says people don't hang around down here after they die. They go on to be with Jesus. Or not. But their spirits don't linger down here haunting people. I believe Dad, but I've heard plenty of stories of ghosts too. Haven't you? People who see ghosts. 

Tabitha, that's my sister, she said she met a woman out in California who said she saw ghosts all the time. That she not only saw them, she could talk to them. The woman told Tabitha that sometimes the people couldn't go on to their heavenly rewards because they felt they had unfinished business here on earth. This woman claimed to help them take care of whatever was keeping them from going on. One of them, she said, just wanted to make sure her family had the right recipe for Thanksgiving dressing. 

I told Tabitha that was crazy, but we both agreed that crazy things sometimes happen. So who knows? 

Even the disciples weren't so sure there weren't ghosts. In Matthew, it says they thought Jesus was a ghost when they saw him walking across the water that night when their boat was being tossed around on the sea by the winds. It wasn't until He spoke to them and told them not be afraid that they knew who He was. Dad preaches on that sometimes. About how Peter was walking out on the water to Jesus and didn't sink until he took his eyes off Jesus. Dad says we can keep from sinking in life if we keep looking to Jesus instead of letting the winds and storms knock us off course. 

So I don't know if there are ghosts or not. I just know I haven't ever seen one. I haven't seen Jesus either, but I know He lives in my heart. So I don't have to be afraid when I'm back there picking a bouquet of those March flowers on Mr. Crutcher's farm where those ghosts might still be. 

Have you ever seen a ghost or heard anybody else say they have? 

Mrs. Williams at church says she saw her husband after he died in a tractor accident some years ago. She thinks he came by the house to tell her goodbye. I asked her if she was afraid and she said why would she be afraid of her own husband. She was just very sad because she knew he was heading up to heaven and she'd have to wait until the Lord called her home before she'd see him again. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Toads, Warts, and Twins

March 17, 1965
Jocie Brooke here, reporting from Hollyhill. And whew! Am I tired. We had a day off school today and I volunteered to help out the Hearndons by keeping their three-year-old twins. Wow! Have you ever tried to keep up with two three-year-olds? I mean I've taken care of Stephen. He's my sister's little boy and now that he's walking, he can keep me busy. But two who not only know how to walk, but run too!! In opposite directions.Tell me, how do you decide which one to run after? The one headed for the mud puddle or the one chasing the chickens? 

I picked the mud puddle. I figured the chickens would just have to take care of themselves. 

Finally I corralled them and got them paying attention by catching a frog. Not a Jupiter one that runs on bug juice, but a regular Earth toad frog. Do you think they really give you warts? If so, I'm in a heap of trouble. But I'll take a few warts if that helped me keep up with the Hearndon twins. 

So I don't have the energy to write anything else tonight. Got to go to bed!! 

Did you ever catch toad frogs? Did they give you warts?

Monday, March 10, 2014

To Be or Not To Be a Princess

March 10, 1965

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Main Street, Hollyhill, Kentucky.  

Did you ever want to be a princess? Like in the fairytales. A Cinderella or Snow White. But you know, when you think about it, those two had a pretty rough time. Cinderella had to sleep in the ashes and talk to mice, and Snow White had to run away and hide out with the seven dwarfs to keep the wicked queen from getting her. (Quick question - can you name them all? Sleepy, Dopey, Doc, Grumpy, Happy. Oops, I'm stuck. Do you know the others?) 

But forget the missing dwarfs. Back to princesses. Then there was Sleeping Beauty. So okay, beauty in your name has to be good, but not sleeping a hundred years. What's wrong with having a princess who is just that? A princess who doesn't have to have the unhappy before the happy ever after. Oh, I guess that doesn't make much of a story for ordinary folks to read. 

But Dad was telling me about a real story he saw today about a Princess Margriet of the Netherlands. She got engaged. Dad showed me a picture of her. She's very pretty and looks happy and so maybe her happy ever after started the day she was born to a King and Queen. A real princess.

I'll bet she doesn't stumble over her own feet or get chocolate ice cream all down the front of her blouse when she's eating an ice cream cone. She's probably never said something she shouldn't have said or lost her diamond bracelet. 

That's something I haven't done either - the losing the diamond bracelet part. Okay, so what if I don't have a diamond bracelet to lose. I've got other things I bet she doesn't have like a dog with a cock-eyed ear like Zeb or a crazy Aunt Love or a "granddaddy" from Jupiter. 

Wes says I could be a princess on Jupiter. That they need princesses up there, but hardly anybody wants the job because princess dresses are full of starch and jeweled crowns might look all glittery but they're heavy and a girl has to sit like a statue to keep it from falling off. He says no way could a princess ride a bicycle or on the back of a motorcycle. 

He didn't have to tell me all that. I already knew I didn't want to be a princess. I like being who I am. Jocie Brooke.  

How about you? Did you ever wish you were a princess? What do you think you'd enjoy most about being a princess? What do you think would be the worst part?

Oh, and I still haven't heard from Sharon who won my giveaway here. I'll try to contact her one more time and then if I don't hear back from her, I'll pick a new winner. So Sharon, if you see this, check your messages.

Monday, March 3, 2014

March Marches

March 3, 1965

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Not much has been happening here in Hollyhill. School. Basketball games. We actually won one game in the District Tournament. So we had lots of basketball pictures in the Hollyhill Banner. Even one of Valerie jumping up and cheering. I felt especially generous taking that picture. Valerie thinks she's so cute that it makes me sick, but it was a good picture of her actually cheering the team on. I can't help it if her hair did look a little messed. A little. She'll probably corner me the day after the paper comes out and demand we print a retraction. Her hair does not get messed up!!

But there was plenty of news this time last year when Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson, the Jackie Robinson who played Major League Baseball, came to lead a march on Frankfort to try to get a Civil Rights bill passed. 10,000 people came from all over the state to march on the Capital to convince Governor Breathitt to push a bill that had been introduced in the General Assembly but was stuck in committee. It didn't work. The bill didn't pass and so in some places blacks still can't eat inside restaurants or stay at hotels. The day of the march last year the sun was shining but it was cold with sleet and snow flurries coming down at times. That's March weather for you. 

Anyway, thousands of people, black and white, lined the avenue to watch the Mr. Robinson and Reverend King lead the demonstrators down Capitol Avenue. After walking four blocks, the speakers made it up the Capitol steps to the platform, where Peter, Paul and Mary were singing. Dad went down to Frankfort that day and wrote up something about it for the next week's paper. Of course all the big city papers had already reported it by then.  

I read all the reports and saw the pictures, but I really didn't get it until Noah moved to Holly County and began working for Dad on the paper last summer. He knew all about the Civil Rights march because his mother used to ride the Freedom Train in the south. Noah was even part of the Children's March in Birmingham. He said I didn't know anything about Civil Rights and how it felt to be discriminated against because his skin was black. And he was right. 

But I was interested in hearing his story. Dad was too, but he had to make sure Noah knew what kind of paper the Banner was. Here's an excerpt from Orchard of Hope.

    "You might not like what I wrote," Noah told Dad when he asked him if he wanted to write something about school.
    "Then I wouldn't print it." Dad fastened his eyes on Noah. "We might as well get one thing clear right at the beginning, Noah. The Banner is just a small-town paper. We put out one issue per week. We're here to serve the community by reporting on what happens in Hollyhill and Holly County. We don't do national news like what Congress is up to or what's happening in Vietnam unless it has a local handle, such as one of our Hollyhill boys flying the bombers over North Vietnam or one of our senators coming through town. If something like that happens, it would be front-page news for the Banner. But we leave the rest of the national and state news to the daily papers out of Lexington and Louisville."
    "So how do you sell papers if you don't have anything much to write about?" Noah asked.
   "We manage," Dad said. "Folks here want to read about what happens in town and at the schools. They like seeing their pictures or their kids' pictures in the paper."
    "Sounds pretty dull," Noah said. "I thought newspapers tried to come up with controversial stories to keep people interested." 

    "I don't print stories to stir up trouble just for the sake of stirring up trouble."
    "But sometimes trouble needs to be stirred up in order to get wrongs righted," Noah said.
  
I don't think there would be any doubt that if Noah and his family had been living in Holly County last March, they would have been in that crowd marching on the Capital. At least Noah and his mother would have been. Last year, she helped turn us around here in Hollyhill on some of the things we should have been doing differently. 

I can't tell the whole story here, but you can read all about it in Orchard of Hope. Myra Hearndon is quite a woman. Somebody who makes a difference. That's how I want to be when I grow up. I want to do things that matter. I don't know what, but Dad says that's okay. The Lord will guide me to the right things if I let him. 

How about you? You ever march for something you believe needs to happen? And do you think papers like the Hollyhill Banner filled with local news are good or plain boring?

Oh yeah, and I've got to announce the winner of my blog contest. Sharon is the winner. She'll get her choice of one of my books. Thanks a bunch to all of you who left comments and entered to win a book. Maybe we'll do it again soon.