Kimberlee pulled her suitcases from under the bed and flipped them open.
“What are you doing, Mama?” (Amanda, four year old daughter)
“Let’s go now. We can visit the elephants tomorrow morning.”
“I don’t want to go,” Amanda whined, clasping Thumper to her chest in a death grip. “I don’t want to weave Fumper. He’s my fwiend. He woves me.” Tears puddled in her eyes. Her little mouth quivered.
Kimberlee put her arms around Amanda and the cat. “We were just staying for a little while to visit, Amanda, and now it’s time to leave. When we get settled, I’ll get you another cat, just like Thumper.” Her smile felt forced, but for Amanda’s sake, she’d do anything to make her smile.
“I don’t want anovver cat. I want Fumper.”
She tried to pry Thumper from Amanda’s arms. Amanda clung tighter. “Don’t you want to see the ocean and the wild animals in the park?”
Amanda nodded. “Yeesss.” She pulled away from Kimberlee’s grip. “But I wove Fumper. Can he go wif us, Mama?”
“Oh, I don’t think so. He belongs to Mrs. Herman.” Kimberlee stared at the cat, looking like a furry toy, his black tail swishing across Amanda’s tummy, his long fur spilling over her arms. As she stared, Thumper’s big gold eyes locked on hers. In that instant, he became the symbol of Herman’s Motor Lodge and Brett and the two-faced jealous twit, Dorian. She trembled.
Mrs. Herman’s ugly voice echoed in her ears. ‘There has always been a Black Cat at Herman’s Motor Lodge.’ She’d been so proud, her chest all puffed up like a turkey gobbler. ‘Why, I think we just might go out of business if we didn’t have our very own Black Cat.’ The old bat!
Kimberlee’s hands shook, her chest heaved. Her heart beat so fast, she thought it might burst through her chest. Go out of business? Hell. The place could burn to the ground for all she cared. Here was something she could do to strike a blow for all the pain they’d caused her. It would serve them right if their precious Black Cat disappeared in the night and the lodge went broke because of it.
“Good idea. Let’s go.” She picked up the two suitcases. Amanda clutched Thumper around his middle and waddled to the door. His long body hung loose, his legs reaching almost to her knees.
Kimberlee slammed the cabin door a little harder than needed and propelled her daughter toward the car. She flung the suitcases into the trunk with a thud and slammed the lid.
She snatched Thumper from Amanda and tossed him into the front seat.
She strapped Amanda in her car seat, slid under the steering wheel and slammed the car door. She glanced toward Brett’s cabin.
His cabin door blurred through her tears. Where was he? He might at least come out and say good-bye. Maybe try to stop her. Maybe not. But, could she blame him after the way she spoke to him? She wiped her eyes on the back of her sleeve, turned the key and gunned the engine. Gravel flew, her tires spun as she barreled toward the street.
At the edge of the sidewalk, she brought the car to a stop. What about the motel bill? They had her credit card. They could charge her credit card for the blasted motel room. Her tires peeled rubber on the asphalt. “We’re going to Oregon.”
Kimberlee glanced in the rear view mirror. She caught sight of Amanda waving good-bye to the lodge. Hadn’t Jack told her about a little girl waving from the back of a yellow taxi? And now she understood how her mother could abandon her house, her friends, everything that Fern Lake represented. She, too, wanted to forget. Mother could not leave it behind. Whatever happened that night had followed her day after day until it destroyed her.
Would she ever forget her father’s sins? Probably not. Could she forgive herself for Jack’s tragedy? Not likely. She pressed the gas pedal to the floor and reveled in the roar of her engine, every minute taking her further and further away from Fern Lake, Herman’s Motor Lodge.
Kimberlee clutched the steering wheel, her head thrust forward, her eyes scanning the road, rocketing down the road toward the freeway and Oregon.
Thumper stood on the seat, his front paws on the window ledge. He leaped over the seat and snuggled down beside Amanda. His purr, a throaty purr, rattled through the car in a steady rhythm that sounded content. Perhaps he understood the symbolism he represented and had aligned himself with the Resistance. For, surely, he had gone willingly with his captors into the night.
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I opened my eyes this morning and found a black and white cat lying on my bed, casually washing first one large white foot and then the other. At first I didn’t think anything of it, and then realized it wasn’t our cat, Boots, but a cat that resembled him so closely as to be easily mistaken. It was Thumper, the cat from my book, Black Cat’s Legacy!
I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. “Thumper? What are you doing here?”
“I figured since Black Cat’s Legacy was due out next month, you should introduce me to your readers.”
For the past three years, I’ve researched, ate, laughed, cried and slept with this cat while working with three different teachers learning how to improve my craft and fine-tune the novel. Thumper flopped next to my hip. “What shall we talk about?” I scratched his back.
“Why don’t we start with my character and explain why I’m so important to your plot.” He lifted his head and blinked.
“Well, your cat family has lived at Fern Lake for generations. Apparently twenty-five years ago, your ancestor witnessed a murder, but the killer was never found. The Fern Lake cats made a pact, that one day, when the chosen one returned, they would help her solve the crime.
Sure enough, Kimberlee shows up at the lodge with her little girl, and your character realizes it’s his legacy to help her solve her father’s murder and unravel several other dastardly deeds that occurred so long ago.
But someone at the lodge begins to harass and make life miserable for Kimberlee with accidents and threats. If it wasn’t for Brett, the charming author she falls for, she would have hit the road the first day. Brett convinces her to stay and help him solve the case.”
“What about Dorian, the pretty cold case detective who also has the hots for Brett? She and her Search and Rescue dog join the investigation. They influence the story line as well. Should you tell about her? “Thumper licked his left shoulder.
“Dorian creates some angst in the story with her; I can’t get over my gorgeous self.”
“Tell that I help narrate the story and the reader gets to view the situation through my eyes.” Thumper pulled his whiskers back in a cat-grin. “We’re going to give Sneaky Pie and Midnight Louie a run for their money with our cat mystery. Where can the reader get the novel?”
“Black Cat’s Legacy should be available on Amazon before the end of March or folks can pre-order it now, directly from our website and get it autographed with my name and your footprint. www.mindcandymysteries.com The folks can send in questions if they want to know more about you or any of the other characters. Maybe we’ll do another interview. What do you think?”
“Sounds like a plan.” Thumper jumped off the bed. “When are you getting up? I’m hungry.”
Isn’t that just like a cat? Even imaginary ones.
To Purchase Black Cat's Legacy, go to the header BOOKs. Special price and free shipping within the USA
Recently I watched the movie, the Time Machine. At the end, as the hero returned to live in a world with no technology, he took along three books. The question was asked, “Which three books did he take back to his ‘new world?’”
Which three books would I want to inspire and teach a new world to become a community such as we have in the USA? (With all the good things we experience, freedom, good food, clean air; not the bad parts such as crime, nuclear threats or poverty). It is my responsibility, remember, to create this entire new society from scratch.
It was difficult to decide on just three books, as my mind went to at least ten ‘types’ of books I think would be necessary to create my perfect world.
1. FOOD: Something about crops, planting, nurturing, crop rotations, etc. Add animal husbandry-how to keep animals fed properly, with the addition of dealing with veterinary issues. To start with, we need at least four chickens, cows, pigs, horses, rabbits, fish, (all kinds) cats and dogs. Must have cats. What perfect world has no cats? Maybe the animal book is a completely separate book. (We are assuming we have means to grow crops, and access to tools, seed and all of our animal species).
2. COOKING – A basic cook book dealing with various ethnic foods recipes, including lasagna, chow Mein, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and a plethora of food choices. The book must have several recipes that heavily rely on chocolate. We want to know how to eat well to stay healthy, right? Our world will have access to all types of food, but we will have to learn to grow our own crops sooner or later…preferably later.
3. SURVIVAL SKILLS; We need a book relating to basic survival skills – building a fire, a shelter, getting water from point A to point B, First Aid, building a trap, a fishing pole, etc.
4. HEALTH: This book must teach about herbs and natural products to use for medicinal purposes. We have no Obama care in our world.
5. RELIGION: The Holy Bible – to build a faith- based society of Judeo=Christian values.
6. LAWS: A copy of the Constitution – We must have law and order.
7. ENLIGHTENMENT: A dictionary, thesaurus, school books to teach reading, writing, ‘rithmatic.
8. ART and SCIENCE: Several good books come to mind: You can only have three or choose your own. a. Don’t Be All Washed Up-Water Colors and You; b. Thrill at the Pottery Wheel; c. What was Einstein Really Thinking; d. Rembrandt–Not Just Toothpaste; e. Weather-Should I take My Umbrella Tomorrow? f. How to Create Electricity with a Potato; g Nuclear Fission-Better Not Go There; h. Was Picasso Really Crazy?
9. HISTORY: Digital Version of Encyclopedia Britannica with Smart Phone Reader.
10. INTERNET: Connections to Amazon and EBay with limited access, only for wise people over 35 for the purpose of ordering Cozy Mystery novels, and chocolate.
What kind of world would you create and what books would you bring if you had this opportunity?
BOMB DROPPED IN BROOKINGS, OREGON: In September, 1942, a Japanese submarine off the coast of Oregon launched a float plane loaded with two 76 kilogram incendiary bombs, which it succeeded in dropping in the Siskiyou National Forest, near Brookings, Oregon. A forest fire ensued. The fire was spotted by a fire lookout tower on Mount Emily and two rangers were dispatched to the site. They were able to control the fire throughout the night until a fire crew arrived the next morning. A recent rain had kept the area wet which helped the fire crews contain the blaze.
According to records reviewed after the war, the floatplane carried two bombs. Though both were dropped, no trace was found of the second bomb.
BALLOON BOMBS: Between 1944 and 1945, the Japanese hatched a new plot to attack and torment the American citizens. They launched more than 9,000 air-balloon bombs, 70 feet tall with a 33 foot diameter made of paper and filled with hydrogen. Each carried an anti-personnel bomb and two incendiary bombs. These were launched during the fall and carried across the Pacific Ocean in about three days via the jet stream at an altitude of 30,000 feet.
Three hundred sixty one of the balloons were found in 26 states, Canada and Mexico. Several were found in San Pedro, near Redding and near Santa Rosa, California. It is likely that more balloon bombs landed in unpopulated areas of North America.
CONSEQUENCES: Some of the balloon bombs were sighted by citizens and dispatched by fighter pilots. Others landed in populated areas and caused some degree of damage by igniting fires. One fatality and 22 injuries resulted from subsequent fires caused by the balloons.
TRAGIC RESULTS: In May, 1945, while picnicking, a balloon bomb was found by a woman and five children. A witness warned them away, but before they could retreat, the bomb exploded, creating a 1-foot deep, 3-foot wide hole and killing the woman and all the children. Their cause of their death was withheld from the public and stated “the six were killed by an explosion of unannounced cause.” Later the site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and a monument built. The six are the only known deaths in the continental USA as a result of enemy action during WWII. Japanese visitors have since visited the monument to plant cherry trees as a symbol of peace.
BLACK-OUT: Due to a press black-out during the year of the attacks, no evidence of the success of the program reached Japan and the mission was considered a total fiasco, thus the program was abandoned.
POST WWII: The remains of balloons continued to be discovered during the 1940’s and 1950’s and two in the 1960’s.
Do you know an interesting bit of history related to WWII? Can you share it on this site?
OWNEY –The Globe-Trotting Mail Mascot - I ran across an interesting story the other day about a little mutt dog that became the nation’s Post Office mascot from 1888 - 1897. Owney, a little mixed terrier, traveled for nine years across the nation’s railways on mail trains, always returning to Albany, PA, a key division point on the New York Central railroad system, one of the two largest railroads in the U.S. at that time. Over the years, he was given medals and citations by various organizations, as the country marveled at the little dog’s dedication to the mail service.
Once, it’s said, that a mail bag fell from a delivery wagon. Owney jumped off the wagon and guarded the bag until a postal worker missed him and the mail bag and returned to find him sleeping on top of the bag, preventing anyone from touching it except a postal worker.
OWNEY’S MEDALS: Over the years, post workers around the country where Owney visited, hung medals on his collar until he had accumulated hundreds of medals. It was necessary to give him a vest on which to pin the medals. He jingled like sleigh bells when he walked.
Occasionally, Owney would jump on an outbound train and disappear for weeks or months until he would reappear in the Albany post office. A train trip into Canada got him into trouble once, when he was detained by the Canadians and held for ransom, demanding charges for his board. The Albany postmen pooled their money and bailed poor Owney out of Canada. He was returned once more to the Albany post office.
EUROPEAN TRAVELS: It is documented that in 1895, Owney traveled via steamship and rail, riding with mail bags throughout Asia and across Europe. He was fed and tended by postal workers along the way. The Emperor of Japan awarded him several medals bearing the Japanese Coat of Arms. His triumphant return to American was covered by newspapers nationwide. He became world famous after the trip.
As the years progressed, Owney’s eyesight and health failed. On orders of the local postmaster in Toledo, Ohio, they detained him (I suppose they thought for his own good) and kept him tied in a basement. The report is that he became aggressive (probably from despair at being held against his will). He allegedly attacked a postal worker and bit him. He was shot and killed on June 11, 1897.
PRESERVED AND HONORED: The nation’s postal workers refused to bury their beloved mascot. They asked that the dog receive the honor of being preserved and taxidermied. His remains were sent to the Post Office Department Headquarters and eventually to the Smithsonian Museum. His remains required an extensive taxidermy makeover by 2011 when the USPS issued a stamp honoring Owney.
Owney has been the subject of five books. His remains now stand in a glass case in the Smithsonian Institute in the National Postal Museum atrium in Washington D.C., wearing his harness and surrounded by many of his tags.
The air grew crisper, the nights longer and the whisper of leaves falling on the roof began to awaken each Christmas tree bird from their yearlong slumber. They wiggled with joy, crinkling the crepe paper walls of their divided cubicles in the ornament box. Soon, the Christmas bird ornaments would be lifted from their crinkly crepe paper beds where they had slept in the attic since last Christmas.
As the special day grew nearer, the thrill of the season crept through their springy wire clips, their porcelain gold and silver bodies and their fluffy feather tails.
The youngest Christmas bird lay in the middle cubicle under Gold Bird, wrapped snugly in soft white tissue paper. “Christmas is coming!” He shook with excitement. Soon, he would be high on the tree with his Christmas bird friends and the round ones, who weren’t nearly as beautiful as his Christmas bird friends with their feather tails and pinchy clips.
He closed his little red eyes and dreamed of Christmas Eve. From the top of the Christmas tree, his family would gather by the fireplace. He could almost hear the music and smell the cookies.
“I’ve been thinking that I am the most beautiful Christmas bird,” he whispered to Gold Bird, who lay wrapped in tissue above him.
Gold Bird’s tail feathers quivered. “Really? What makes you think so? Blue glass bird is made of hand blown glass and has a lovely feather tail. Antique bird is missing his tail feathers, but he’s so fragile, you can see through his porcelain body. Most of us are much more beautiful than you.” He shook as he scolded the young bird.
“I don’t care. The Christmas tree wouldn’t be as beautiful if I wasn’t right near the top.” The little bird twitched all over.
Gold Bird huffed. “It would serve you right if you were left behind this year. You don’t know anything about the true meaning of Christmas. You don’t deserve to hang on the Christmas tree.”
The Christmas bird trembled. That he might not celebrate the season scared him a bit, but not quite enough. His voice trembled. “I didn’t mean to be conceited. It’s not that I think you aren’t very handsome, but my tail feathers are longer and softer and fluffier than yours, and… my… paint is much shinier−”
“Tut tut,” Gold Bird said. “I won’t listen to hear another word.”
For several days, the young bird lay in his cocoon of crinkly paper, haunted by Gold Bird’s words. “You conceited fellow, it would serve you right …” and he would shudder. Unthinkable! Not to be on the Christmas tree? Not to be part of Christmas Eve? He couldn’t bear the thought.
The days grew shorter and the nights longer. Snow blanketed the roof. The wind whistled through the trees, their bare branches just visible through the tiny attic window. The long days of November edged into December.
One morning, the Christmas birds awoke to footsteps clunking up the attic steps. The Christmas bird held his breath, not daring to wiggle. “It’s time! Soon we’ll be on the Christmas tree!”
One by one, his friends were lifted from the cubicles beside him. He heard them squeal as they were hung on the tree. Beneath his tissue coverings, he faintly heard the music. He could hear the children chattering; he could even smell the cookies.
“It’s nearly my turn,” he whispered. But, there was no answer.
Gold Bird’s fluffy tail no longer tickled his nose. He waited. The box was tossed into the corner; empty except for the littlest Christmas bird, hidden under the tissue in the middle cubicle.
His comfortable box now a prison, his beautiful body and fluffy tail lay beneath the crinkly tissue paper. A tiny plastic tear formed in his little red eye. Gold Bird was right. I’ve been conceited and proud, and now I’ve been left behind.
He lay alone in the corner through the entire month of December. The faint sounds of Christmas filtered through his tissue paper. The Christmas season was nearly over and he had missed everything.
On Christmas Eve, the Christmas tree bird imagined the tree with his Christmas bird friends hanging with the others, the ones he had scorned. They may not be as beautiful as I, but they are on the tree, and I’ve been left behind.
He heard the little girl’s voice. “They wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and lay Him in a manger.”
I’m wrapped in swaddling clothes, like baby Jesus. He imagined the tiny baby wrapped sung and warm, lying in the straw, surrounded by the cows. He imagined the shepherds bringing their sheep down from the hills to worship the babe. He thought of the Wise Men who brought gifts to welcome His birth.
He heard the daddy tell how Jesus came to earth as a tiny baby and if we loved and trusted Him, He promised to come again and take us to heaven and we would not be left behind. The Christmas bird blinked back a tear. I know what it’s like to be left behind. How terrible to be left behind from Heaven.
Then, the tissue paper lifted. “Look, Mommy! Here’s another Christmas birdie, all alone in the box. Oh, he looks like he has a tear in his eye! Can I hang him on the Christmas tree?”
The Christmas bird was whooshed up to the top of the tree where his hook fastened to a branch next to Gold Bird. Looking down from his lofty perch, he saw the family gathered around the tree. There was such love in the room! He even smelled the Christmas cookies! At last, he was exactly where he needed to be.
Gold Bird gave him a stern but loving glance. “Did you learn anything, my little friend?”
As he swung from side to side on the pine branch, the light from the fire reflected in the gold tear in the little bird’s eye. “I understand,” he whispered to Gold Bird. “Christmas is not about who is more beautiful or cookies or even the gifts people give to one another. The true meaning of Christmas is God’s gift to the world, the birth of Jesus Christ. When we accept God’s Gift of love, one day He will come back for his children and we will never be left behind.”
Gold bird swung around on his hook. “Welcome to Christmas, Christmas bird!”
In the early 1980’s, when my kids were young teenagers, we had to close our business, leaving us in debt. Collection agency calls came almost daily. I paid my house payment with the Visa card. We gave up a 1972 Cadillac convertible to settle a business obligation. The IRS emptied our meager bank account (without notice) to pay the overdue California sales taxes, resulting in bounced checks all over town.
Christmas came and we were in a bad way, financially. No way was there money for a Christmas tree.
My husband brought home a beautiful manzanita branch, mounted it on a base and decorated it with red Christmas balls. Not the traditional Christmas tree, to be sure, but pretty. We set our few presents underneath.
Hubby and I were prepared to deal with the substitute tree, trusting that things would be better next year. The kids hated it, calling it the Christmas Stick. They were embarrassed when their friends came to visit.
We muddled through that financial disaster, took a second mortgage on the house at 14% interest (true) and paid off all the debts. The next Christmas we were back on our feet and had a real Christmas tree.
I was thinking the other day that sometime in our life, we should all have a Year of the Christmas Stick. A year when we can’t afford to buy the children expensive gifts that break before New Year’s Day. A season where we do without the luxuries we’re used to, Christmas trees, lights in the front yard, presents and expensive holiday outings. A year when we become one with folks out there, by virtue of unemployment, natural disaster or illness, who are without a tree, without gifts, for that matter, maybe without a home with a chimney for Santa to slid down.
It’s been over forty years since the Year of the Christmas Stick. On Christmas Day, as our family stumbles from the table loaded down with turkey and all the fixings and we gaze at our ten- foot- tall Christmas tree with gifts piled high, we’ll laugh about the Year of The Christmas Stick. But we remember its message.
We are grateful for the important things. We are blessed with our families, our health, our faith, all gifts from God. We remember to share our bounty with those who are in need. Folks who might think they were blessed to have a Christmas Stick with a few presents underneath even if it was just sweaters and pajamas and sox, like my kids got that year.
I remember how hard things were when we closed the business and struggled to make ends meet, wondering how we could make good on our business debts, keep our home and feed our kids. We struggled and persevered and made do with a manzanita branch for a Christmas tree. Looking back, I remember and thank God for the Year of the Christmas Stick. We all learned lessons I hope we will never forget.
Saint Nicholas: During the 4th century, in Asia Minor, lived a Bishop of Myra named Nicholas who secretly gave his possessions to the poor. According to legend, St. Nicholas wished to provide dowry money for three daughters of a poor merchant. To keep his identity secret, he tossed bags of gold down the merchant’s chimney. Accidently, it fell into the girls stockings hanging by the hearth to dry. Thus, began the custom of hanging stockings by the fire filled with gifts, fruit and candy. Three gold balls used to decorate pawn shops, as a sign of merchants honoring their patron saint, Saint Nicholas.
St. Nicholas and his Reindeer: Originally, St. Nicholas rode a white horse in his native country of Turkey. As his popularity spread rapidly across Central Europe to the Scandinavian countries, having no horses, they gave St. Nicholas a reindeer-drawn sleigh instead.
Reindeer are relatives of the wild caribou, but are different from any other type of deer in that both male and female reindeer have branched antlers. Their habitat is now concentrated in Canada, Alaska and in the Arctic.
The Night Before Christmas: Both St. Nicholas and his reindeer became famous when Dr. Clement Moore published his famous poem in 1823, “A Visit from St. Nicholas, or The Night Before Christmas.”
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer
Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!
On Comet. On Cupid! On Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!
St. Nicholas was also given some of the characteristics of the Norse god, Thor, who rode through the sky in a chariot wearing a red coat.
He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot
In 1866, the political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, (who drew the characters of the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey for Harper’s Weekly magazine), drew a picture of St. Nick with his pipe, twinkly face and fur trimmed coat that has served as the model for the jolly old elf ever since.
He was chubby and plump, a jolly old elf
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself
A stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth
And the smoke encircled his head like a wreath
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.…
FatherChristmas: In the 17th century, a very old grey-bearded gentleman called Father Christmas also gave gifts to the poor. In the USA, the character of Father Christmas merged with the Dutch settler’s patron, St. Nicholas. He was called Santa Niklaus, then Sinter Klass and finally Santa Claus.
So, whether you call him Santa Claus, Father Christmas or Saint Nicholas, the exchanging of gifts at Christmas dates back to these legendary characters. The Wise Men gave gifts to Baby Jesus. We all give gifts to our loved ones. This Christmas season we must not neglect sharing our good fortune with those who are in need, as was the original intent of St. Nicholas and Father Christmas. As we look around the world and around our own country, there is no shortage of people in need. My family gives to Samaritan’s Purse, an organization that responds world-wide, bringing relief and the story of God’s love wherever disaster strikes. At Christmas, I like to buy a goat and chickens for families in third world countries. How does your family celebrate the season? What ways do you acknowledge those less fortunate?
RATIONING: Rationing during the war affected every American citizen. The government spent a good deal of time and money promoting the idea that Americans should give up certain foods, clothing, tires, and other goods, and that doing so was patriotic and a worthy sacrifice. As most Americans had a son, husband or friend overseas, they readily accepted the deprivations.
COFFEE: During part of 1942-43, coffee was rationed. One pound every six weeks for each adult! This restriction was due to the blockade of ships from Brazil and other countries from bringing coffee to the United States, as well as the desire to send much of the limited coffee supply to the troops. Can you imagine buying only one pound of coffee every six weeks?
TIRES: A citizen was limited to purchasing only five tires during the entire war. This sounds like plenty by today’s standards, but remember, neither roads nor tires were as good back then as they are today. People were encouraged to car pool–not just encouraged, required is a better word. Bicycles and motorcycles were not uncommon.
SUGAR: Sugar was rationed and many other food items were available, but extremely expensive. Beef was costly as well as eggs, which resulted in many a chicken taking up residence in the suburban backyard.
Victory Gardens were encouraged and lawns and backyards were quickly converted to rows of cabbages, zucchinis, tomatoes and carrots. Any vegetable that was a high producer in a limited space became the focus of the weekend gardener and provided bragging rights at the local USO where ladies volunteered to serve coffee and visit with the troops.
It became almost a requirement of a good citizen to purchase monthly war bonds to help fund the war effort. About 18 billion dollars was collected through the sale of war bonds meeting the government's goals.
People lived in fear of invasion and many men and women spent hours with binoculars pointed skyward, watching and reporting any aircraft that flew overhead. Remember, radar was in its infancy and not wide-spread.
Young people spend their Saturday afternoons at matinee movies where, for a few hours, romance or cowboy stories with happy endings could whisk them away from thoughts of war or fear for their loved ones.
In general, Americans accepted rationing willingly. They gave up their coffee, sugar, tires and many other luxury and common-place items so the products could be sent to the war effort. Our citizens felt that by their sacrifice, in some small way, giving up sugar or coffee or driving less might shorten the war.
I wonder how Americans today would react, if the same rationing were forced upon us. How would your life be affected if you had to give up drinking all the coffee you wanted and you could only purchase four gallons of gas each week?
We take so many things for granted. We wallow in luxuries and the ability to purchase whatever we desire. We have come to believe they’ll never be taken away. It happened once. Could it happen again? Something to think about, for sure.
One October weekend, Mom took Sissy and me to the Leger Hotel in Mokelume Hills, in the Sierra Mountains. She left us in the room while she went sightseeing. We stepped through the windows that opened onto the balcony where the prostitutes used to sit, according to the maid, advertising their wares.
Coming back inside, we could just make out the wispy outline of an old guy sitting on the sofa. His face was covered with gray whiskers and he was missing a front tooth. He waved a gnarled hand. “Excuse me. Could I trouble ya’ to help me move on to the here-after?”
My hair stood on end and my tail puffed up. “You’re a ghost! How can we help? We’re cats!”
“Maybe, you bein’ cats and all, you’se just the ones can help.”
Sissy glanced my way, her eyes the size of half-dollars. “Oooooh!”
“Stop being such a scaredy-cat !” I’m the thrill-seeking one. “Let’s hear him out.”
“Name’s Joe Harrigan. Me and my partner had a gold mine nearby back in 1876. They said I kilt him and they hanged me right outside that there windda’. I shoulda’ gone on to the here-after, but trouble is, I was innocent, see, so they couldn’t send me to Hell. But bein’ convicted of murder all official-like in a court a’ law, Heaven wouldn’t take me neither. I’ve been stuck here in this room in the in-between ever since.”
“How come you don’t ask a person to help?” I twitched an ear back, still somewhat skeptical.
“When folks see me, they runs off yellin,’ ‘I seen a ghost!’ and ask for another room. Sometimes they got a dog, but dogs is too stupid to pay attention. They growl and hide under the bed. I’m thinking maybe cats is more understandin’?”
Sissy and I exchanged glances. She nodded. “That’s true.”
The old guy’s aura faded. His hands trembled. “Look, girls, I’m about at the end of my rope…no pun intended. If I don’t move on to my final reward pretty quick, I might be stuck here forever!”
“But what can we do?” Sissy is always so realistic
“Before he died, my partner writ out his Will, tellin’ how he accidently shot hisself. I come to town to aggrieve his death. I hid George’s Will in the armoire, there in the corner before I went down to the bar. I told um’ George was dead and they got to thinkin’ I kilt’ him to steal the gold mine. One thing led to another which culsumated in a rope. Bein’ skunk-drunk, I plumb forgot to tell um’ about that air’ Will in the armoire. So they adjudged me guilty and hanged me dead.
“Oncet’ dead, my head sorta’ cleared and I remembered the Will, but it was too late. I’ve been ‘ahoverin’ ever since, hopin’ someone would find the Will and clear my good name. It’s doubtful I deserve to go to Heaven but I’d like a crack at it.”
Truffie and the Leger Hotel Ghost – Elaine Faber & Truffie
Sissy and I nodded. What kind of cats would we be if we didn’t help a fellow into the here-after given the opportunity? We scratched at the armoire door until it opened and Sissy clawed at the back paneling.
“That’s it! Give it all you got, girls.” Joe’s aura hovered overhead. “It sorta slides in when you push on it. There! See that air’ paper stickin' out? Go for it.” Sissy bit the corner of the paper and eased it out.
“Hurry! You did it!” Old Joe crowed. “I’m saved. Now, can you take it to the authorities?”
Mom came back about then and saw us pawing the paper. “What are you girls up to? What’s that?” Mom picked up the faded Will with teeth marks in the corners.
“Meow!” I explained that if the teeth marks were a problem, Sissy did it, not me…but I don’t think she understood.
Mom read the paper.
“Where did this come from?” Mom spotted the open armoire and the pushed in paneling.
With a faint grin on his whiskered face and a wave of his hand, Joe’s ghost faded and drifted out through the open window.
Mom carried us downstairs to the Manager’s office and showed him the Will.
“My cats found this up in room two. It looks like a holographic Last Will and Testament. Your Historic Society might be interested.”
“Indeed! Room two? Folks often complain of a ghost in room two.” The manager read the paper.
Joe didn’t shoot me. I done it kleenin my gun. I got no fambly and Joe Harrigan gets my shar a the mine. Syned July3, 1876 George Harris
The manager pointed toward the plastic skeleton hanging on the balcony “They hanged Joe Harrigan from that very spot. He’s buried up on boot hill. You folks should go see his grave.”
We drove to the cemetery. Old Joe’s tombstone read, Joe Harrigan Born 1818− Hanged July 1876.
I hear that Joe’s ghost was never seen again at the Leger Hotel.
Someday, maybe the courts will clear Joe’s name. Do you suppose St. Peter gave Old Joe a fair trial when he got to Heaven? I hope so. He sure never got one back in 1876 when the townspeople of Mokelume Hills hanged him by mistake!