1
Aug

Dead Bush Poker - A short cat story

I live in Dead Bush, a small town in the center of Texas. Our town sports three saloons, a general store, the bank, one church without a steeple, a blacksmith shop and another establishment such as nice folks don’t talk about in mixed company. Modern wooden slat sidewalks was added this spring in deference to the request of those specific ladies who live in the aforementioned establishment.

On Founder’s Day, the local farmer’s wives bake pies and hams and sweet potatoes for a giant banquet and sponsor a square dance out behind the Blacksmith’s shop. Bright and early this morning, neighboring families with all the kids trickled into town looking for a good time.

Not long after, several soldiers still wearing raggedy Civil War uniforms rode into Dead Bush on worn out horses. The soldiers commenced to drink and gamble and ordered steak dinners at the Dry Spell Saloon where, among other things, such entertainment and libation is encouraged.

I sleep in the back of the saloon, ever since the town sheriff found me, the lone survivor of a wagon train massacred by wild Indians.
I don’t belong to nobody, but Shorty, the barkeep saves me left-overs from the day’s leavings. That, added to my hunting prowess, fares me well. Since I’m the only cat for miles around, the regulars at the saloon adopted me as a mascot. I’m a fine figure of a cat, though some would say, somewhat on the portly side. It must be so, as to the validation of the roaming tomcat what comes through town every spring. Up until now, I haven’t given him a tumble.

Cats are almighty scarce and considerable valuable in this county. A number of local farmers have offered Shorty big bucks for me, beings as cats can keep a barnyard free of varmints without half trying. There are some folks from the big cities who haul cats in their saddlebags to small farming towns, assured of a quick sale and a $20 gold piece. The farmers soon learn they don't know nothin' about varmint huntin.'

Well, seems these soldiers what came to town sat and drank well past noon. I caused quite a stir when I wandered through the saloon. One soldier took a notion to buy me, having heard about cats being worth big money up the river. Shorty declined, saying I couldn’t be sold since I was a free spirit and didn’t belong to nobody.

As the gambling and drinking progressed, the soldier plied Shorty with enough palaver and drink that he was finally cajoled into a card game with me as the stakes.

I sat near the potbelly, preening my whiskers, somewhat amused by the stupidity of these humans what thought they could buy and sell another living creature. Wasn’t that decided by the Civil War after all?

The poker game progressed and it seemed my future as mascot at the Dry Spell Saloon was dependent on the turn of their cards.

Four players hunched over the poker table, cards fanned in their hands, empty glasses lined up in front of them. Shorty’s chips were going fast. Holding on to the Dry Spell Saloon mascot didn’t look promising.

The size of Shorty’s chips rose and fell as the afternoon wore on. I sat on a nearby table, commiserating with Mr. Casper, an old codger who operated a small gold claim in a nearby river. The old man was a fool, but he didn’t smell quite as bad as the other miners, as being tipsy a good deal, he fell in the river more often than most, washing away some of his natural man-stink.

In the late afternoon, the neighbor ladies announced their Founder’s Day supper was served. The saloon emptied except for the four poker players who found it harder and harder to sit up straight. Heads lolled and cards tumbled from their hands. More whiskey landed on the floor than in their glasses. Never in the history of Dead Bush had such a game gone on for so long or the stakes so roundly coveted. I was, indeed, a prize.

Eventually, Smitty Rosenblatt passed out. George Waddlebaker went broke. Shorty hung in there, though blurry eyed, he continued to fight for his meezer. Poor Shorty’s stack of chips got even smaller.

Seeing the inevitable handwriting on the wall, I slipped out the front door and headed out of town onto the prairie, intending on being absent for a few days. An occasional vacation is always revitalizing to one’s health and seemed particularly attractive today.

Besides, there weren’t no sense being around when Shorty went broke and the soldier attempted to claim his prize. I didn’t plan to spend the next week strung to the back of a saddle in a burlap sack until the old soldier found a farmer with a rat-filled barn and a $20 gold piece.

I’m the only cat worth her salt in Dead Bush, and I intend to keep it that way. At least until next spring, when that tomcat comes back to town.

19
Feb

Govt. Restrictions: One lb Coffee Every Six Weeks

Research while writing my WWII humorous mystery/adventure, Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, and Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier, led to interesting facts about how folks lived during WWII.:

Rationing: American housewives willingly gave up their precious food, clothing, tires, and other goods to aid the war effort. Ration stamp booklets were issued and many items including sugar and fresh fruit could only be purchased with the appropriate ration stamp.

Due to blockades affecting Brazilian ships attempting to bring coffee and sugar to the USA during part of 1942-43, coffee was rationed to one pound every six weeks per adult. (This alone would be reason to go to war, wouldn’t it?)

Beef was in short supply and costly, as well as eggs, resulting in many resident chickens in suburban backyards. (In Hometown Patriot, Agnes obtains six chickens. Because she has no chicken coop immediately available, she puts them in the bathroom. What could possibly go wrong?)

Tires: A citizen only had ration stamps for five tires during the entire war. By today’s standards, that sounds sufficient, but bumpy roads and poor tires led to multiple flat tires even with speed limits of 35 mph.

Doctors and public safety professionals were allowed additional tire and gasoline stamps. Gasoline required ration stamps and folks were limited to only four gallons per week. Folks relied on car pool, buses, bicycles or had to walk. Men who worked out of town often had to board away from home for indefinite periods of time. (I am the result of my father’s weekend only visits while Daddy worked at the Vallejo, CA Mare Island shipyard. Whoops!)

Such shortages of food and other supplies led to black market ration books or ‘arrangements’ between friends willing to sell extra stamps for highly desired items. (Because of weekly trips to the USO to serve cookies, Agnes has to purchase a friend’s tire stamp. She also discovers a ration book conspiracy and sets out to expose the culprits.)

Victory Gardens: Many items in short supply were rationed. Citizens were almost required to plant a victory garden or appear unpatriotic. Suburban front yards were soon converted to rows of cabbages, zucchinis, tomatoes and carrots. Vegetables with a high yield requiring limited space to grow became the main ingredient of Meatless Monday. Even Mrs. Roosevelt planted zucchini in the White House Rose Garden.

Watch Towers: Ever fearful of another Japanese air attack on the West Coast, and the limited availability of newly discovered radar technology, volunteers became the ‘early warning system’ in watch towers every several miles along the California and Oregon coastline. (Agnes has an exciting encounter while serving at the watch tower in Hometown Patriot. You won’t want to miss this! )

Can you share an account of a WWII event or experience? Are you acquainted with a family member with memories of WWII? Wouldn’t they enjoy reading my novels? Only $3.99 at Amazon. Guaranteed to produce a chuckle or your money back!

Mrs. Odboddy–Hometown Patriot -Available in e-book and print at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv Agnes attempts to expose a ration book conspiracy and deals with the return of an old WWI lover.

Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier –Agnes travels across country by train, carrying a package to President Roosevelt. She is sure it contains secret war documents, and NAZI spies will try to steal her package. Amazon – http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb

Next time, I’ll talk about another WWII event or experience.

7
Feb

Announcing Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier

Announcing the publication of my latest Mrs. Odboddy mystery/adventure, Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier.

It’s 1943 and Agnes and Katherine are preparing to accompany Mrs. Roosevelt on her Pacific Island tour. Agnes carries a package from Colonel Farthingworth to President Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. Convinced the package contains secret war documents, Agnes expects Nazi spies to try and derail her mission, but she is determined to protect the package and put it into the President’s hand, whatever the cost.

Before leaving town, however, she has to find a place for those gol-darned four bantam roosters–- Myrtle, Sofia, Mrs. Whistlemeyer and Mildred!

Agnes and Katherine travel by train to Washington, D.C. Along the way, she meets Irving, whose wife mysteriously disappears from the train; Nanny, the unfeeling caregiver to little Madeline; two black soldiers bound for the Tuskegee airbase to train as pilots, and Charles, the WWII veteran with PSTD who lends Agnes an unexpected helping hand when things go exceedingly wrong. Who should Agnes trust? Who is the Nazi spy? Is there even a Nazi spy or is it all in Agnes’s imagination?

In a final near deadly showdown In Washington, D.C., Agnes faces a formidable challenge and is forced to accept the possibility that she isn’t the hometown warrior she always thought she was.

Can Agnes overcome multiple obstacles, deliver the package to the President and still meet Mrs. Roosevelt’s plane before she leaves for the Pacific Islands? If you’ve read Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, you’ll know that she will do everything in her power as the scourge of the underworld she thinks she should be.

Mrs. Odboddy -Undercover Courier is available at Amazon in paperback and e-book on February 9, 2017.

As a special treat to my loyal fans, and WWII mystery buffs, the first Mrs. Odboddy novel, Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot will be FREE at Amazon between February 9-13.

I'd love to hear from you. Did you enjoy Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot? Would you like to see more of her adventures?

30
Jan

WWII Life in the Small Home Town

Mrs_Odboddy_Full_Front (2)

Posted on January 29, 2016
JAMES CALLEN WEBSITE POST

Today’s guest is Elaine Faber, the California writer who generally has a Faber-2scat as the chief sleuth. She departs from that to bring us a story centered around World War II in her latest novel, Mrs. Odboddy – Hometown Patriot. (Of course, there’s a cat in it.) Elaine is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inspire Christian Writers, and Cat Writers Association.

While researching California WWII events, the following events became an integral part of the plotline for Mrs. Odboddy – Hometown Patriot.

Rationing:
The government convinced the Americans public that giving up their precious food, clothing, tires, and other goods was not only necessary to win the war, but was patriotic.

During part of 1942-43, coffee was rationed; one pound every six weeks per adult. This was due to Brazil’s blockade of ships bringing coffee to the United States, as well as the need to send much of the limited supply to the troops.

A citizen could purchase only five tires during the entire war. This sounds like plenty by today’s standards, but neither roads nor tires were as good in 1942 as today. People were strongly encouraged, almost required, to car pool or use bicycles and motorcycles.

Sugar and other food items were extremely expensive and required a ration stamp which limited its purchase. Beef was in short supply and costly, as well as eggs, which induced many a chicken to take up residence in the suburban backyard.

Victory Gardens:
To reduce the reliance on purchasing vegetables and fruit, it was considered patriotic to have your front lawn converted to rows of cabbages, zucchinis, tomatoes and carrots. Even Mrs. Roosevelt planted zucchini in the Rose Garden. Any high producing vegetable in a limited space became the focus of the weekend gardener and the mainstay of many Meatless Meals.

Watch Towers:
Californians and Oregonians lived in fear of Japanese invasion. Volunteers were stationed in watch towers every several miles up and down the coastline with binoculars pointed skyward.

In Mrs. Odboddy–Hometown Patriot, Agnes experiences rationing, volunteering at the Ration Stamp Office, organizing can and paper drives, tending her Victory Garden and cooking meatless meals, fighting the war from the home front. But this eccentric lady also keeps an eye on her nefarious neighbors, some of whom MUST be Nazi spies. She finds herself knee-deep in what is sure to be a black market ration book scam, but when the watch tower burns down on her coast watch shift, she takes the blame to keep a National Security secret.

Toss in the return of an old lover from WWI who wants to re-ignite their romance, chickens in the bathroom and a search for a million dollars in missing Hawaiian money and you have the crux of the story.

When Mrs. Roosevelt comes to Newbury to attend a funeral, and Agnes’s eccentric notions become reality, she must prove she is, indeed, a warrior on the home front.

On Amazon at: http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv

Elaine.Faber@mindcandymysteries.com (e-mail)

3
Jan

Interviewing Agnes's Friend, Jackson Jackson

Today we are interviewing, Jackson Jackson, the Elevator Man at the Court House, Mrs. Odboddy’s friend. Tell us how met Agnes Odboddy?

Sure can. I works at the County Court house. Missus Odboddy, she come to the Po-lice station most every week to speak to Chief Waddlemucker. She says ‘howdy’ to me every time. She jes’ about drives Chief Waddlemucker to distraction with all her tales ’bout the Newbury citizens, claiming they is spies and such now that there’s a war on.

Can you elaborate about the kind of tales she tells?
Uhh…No…

Co-laberatin’ would be gossipin’ and it’s not Christian to gossip. That don’t stop some folks from spreading gossip, ya’ know, but I tries my best to follow the teachings of the Good Book.

I’ll bet operating the elevator at the Court House, that you see all kinds of things.

Yessir. Folks is comin’ in every day for licenses and getting’ married and such. Several months ago, Myrtle Nesbitt opened up a beauty shop; Curls to Dye For… kinda’ cute, huh? She come in for a city business license, but she didn’t have enough money, so’s Chief Waddlemucker, he jes give it to her and say, ‘Make up the difference another time.’.

Katherine, that’s Mrs. Odboddy’s granddaughter, works at the Beauty Parlor. Myrtle bought one of them new-fangled curling machine things with all the wires and gadgets. Imagine, gettin’ your hair all hooked up to that thing? It’s a caution what some ladies does for beauty.

So, what can say about Mrs. Odboddy that you wouldn’t consider gossip?

Well, she helps the war effort, doing all sorts of volunteerin’ around town. Some folks says she’s a little off her nut, but I won’t name names what thinks that, ‘cause that would be gossip. Mrs. Odboddy jes’ sees things different than most folks, kind of suspicious-like.

When my wife took sick and went to the hospital, Missus Odboddy’s society down at The First Church of the Evenin’ Star and Everlastin’ Light where she goes almost regular, they brung us dinner every night for a week. One of the ladies even took my little girl to the picture show so I could visit at the hospital one evening after work.

So how come folks think poorly of Agnes? Do you think they judge her poorly?

Yessir. That’s the God’s truth. Once she was takin’ a bath and saw her neighbor, Milton, in her back yard. Chief Waddlemucker arrested old Milton for bein’ a Peepin’ Tom. Seems it turned out he was in her back yard huntin’ for his cat. Mrs. Odboddy says she jumped to a wrong idear. That’s the kinda’ thing gets her in trouble with folks and they talk bad about her. Oh dear, I wonder if telling’ that story amounts to gossip? It’s not Christian, you know…gossip.

You’re right. That’s all for now, Jackson. Thanks. You’ve helped us understand Agnes. I can’t wait to meet her.

21
Sep

Mildred Haggenbottom - Mrs. Odboddy's Best Friend

c3210.jpg  elderlywomanphotoMrsOdboddy

Today, we are talking with Mildred Haggenbottom. As Agnes’s best friend, she’s likely to have a bit of dirt…rather, some information to add to our character analysis of Agnes Odboddy, the protagonist of the upcoming novel, Mrs. Odboddy – Home Town Patriot. Here’s Mildred now. Thanks for your time, Mildred.

“Won’t you sit down? The kettle’s on and I just pulled a fresh batch of cookies from the oven. I saved my last sugar ration coupon, just for such an auspicious occasion as this. Agnes and I are old buddies. What do you want to know about her?”

On a scale of one to ten, how would Agnes rate as a friend?

“Oh, I think she’d be at least an 11. We’ve been friends for over twenty-five years. She’s the cat’s meow…as the young people say. Oops! There’s the kettle now. Do you take milk or lemon in your tea?”

Sugar, please. How did you and Agnes become such good friends?

“In 1919, it was WWI you know, Agnes and I were assigned to a top secret operation in Berlin. A brave local woman working in a German government office secretly photographed documents and then passed the film to us in a hollowed out book. Sure enough, they caught her, and made her talk. Agnes and I ran for our lives. Wouldn’t you know, that night, the Allies bombed Berlin. We spent three days trapped in a bombed-out building with our handler, Godfrey. After our rescue, due to the chaos in the city, we made our escape. Believe me, after being trapped together for 72 hours in a life or death situation, you come out either hating someone’s guts or friends for life. Godfrey and Agnes…well, that’s another story…”

It sounds very exciting. Can you tell us about Agnes’s peculiarities?

“Indeed, after the Berlin episode, Agnes changed. She became a bit paranoid, fanatically patriotic and determined to root out injustice, regardless of the consequences. Thing is, Agnes has an over-stimulated imagination regarding patriotic issues, particularly during a time of war. More lately, her determination to right wrongs has become…I hate to say it…, well-intentioned, but sometimes misguided.”

How exactly do you mean…misguided?

“Let’s just say, Agnes tends to see conspiracies where there aren’t any. She believes Nazi spies have infiltrated Newbury, and she acts out on such notions in peculiar ways. She’s usually wrong, but her heart is in the right place. People have come to believe she’s a bit tetched’ in the head, if you know what I mean.

Does Agnes have a family?

She was married during WWI. She lost both her husband and her son not long after our Berlin adventure. There was a granddaughter, thankfully. Katherine lives with Agnes now. Most of the time, she keeps Agnes on an even keel…. And, they have a very loving relationship. They’re the best of friends, despite the difference in age. Agnes is a wonderful woman despite her peculiarities. She’s a true home town patriot if there ever was one.”

Thanks, Mildred. Any final words?

Just this... Fair warning to the Nazi spies out there. If you really are skulking around Newbury and you’re reading this, I suggest you peddle your papers somewhere else, because if Agnes stumbles onto you, between her and Chief Waddlemucker, your name is toast!

10
Sep

Interviewing Chief Waddlemucker - Mrs. Odboddy's Friend

VILLIAN

We’re here today, interviewing Chief Waddlemucker of the Newbury Police Department, seeking information about Mrs. Odboddy. Tell me, Chief, what can you tell us about Agnes Odboddy?

Mrs. Odboddy? She’s a kook, but she’s the salt of the earth; volunteers all over town, knitting socks, winding bandages, collecting papers and cans. She even takes a shift out at the ocean, doing coast watch, but, if you ask me, she is a bit of a queer duck. Everyone knows she’s a bit off her nut, quite eccentric and outspoken. Doesn’t give a hoot about what she says or who she offends. Don’t misunderstand me, she’s my dearest friend and I have great respect for the woman. She does a lot for the war effort, but she does test my patience at times. God bless her.

How is that? She tests your patience in an official capacity or personally?

I’m not one to spread gossip, but I swear, Agnes is in my office every week, either accusing someone of being a Nazi spy or talking about the Black Market or some such nonsense. I see her walking through the door and my head starts to ache. Sometimes I even think my ulcer is directly attributable to that woman.

How long have you known Mrs. Odboddy?

Oh, we’ve been friends for years. She moved to Newbury in 1928. Came directly from Los Angeles where she says she worked with Walk Disney at the Disney Studios when he created the cartoon character, Steamboat Willy. Apparently Walt fired her for some reason I haven’t been able to weasel out of her. Now, tell me, can you believe that story? They show that cartoon at the movies every month. But, she tells all sorts of stories, and with Agnes, you can never determine fact from fabrication.

What other kind of stories have you heard? Care to share?

I never repeat gossip, but she claims to have worked for the government during WWI as an undercover agent. Claims she was in Berlin on some sort of secret mission involving German high government officials in 1919. She brags about this all the time, but I don’t believe a word or it.

Sounds like Agnes is quite a character. Does she have any family?

She lives with her granddaughter, Katherine, a lovely girl. Works at the Curls to Dye For Beauty Salon, but I hear she’s going to start moonlighting down at Whistlemeyer’s mortuary, doing hair and make-up on the dearly departed. That should be interesting.

Thank you, Chief Waddlemucker, for talking with me. You’ve given me some great insight into the real Mrs. Odboddy.

Ahem… Well, everyone knows I have a reputation for being the soul of discretion. I would never consider spreading gossip about the private lives of Newbury citizens.

By the way, if you print one word of what was said here today, I’ll disavow it and toss you in the clink for slander and jaywalking. There’s the door. Give Mrs. Odboddy my best regards, won’t you? I’ve always been quite fond of the woman.

3
Sep

Introducing Mrs. Odboddy

Mrs. Odboddy – Home Town Patriot – Scheduled to be published Spring-2016. oddboddycollage.1

Can you tell us a little about yourself, Mrs. Odboddy?

"Mrs. Odboddy sounds so old. I’m only 70. My friends call me Agnes. I live with my Siamese cat, Ling-Ling, and my granddaughter, Katherine. She lost her fiancé on the Arizona, at Pearl Harbor last year and she’s still a little bit lost. She works in a Beauty Salon here in Newbury. My volunteer work keeps me busy, and, as I’m sure you’re aware, every citizen must to be a home front warrior. There are Nazi spies and conspiracies everywhere."

Besides looking for Nazi spies, what kind of volunteer work do you do??

"I volunteer at the Boyles Springs Military Base USO several times a month, just up the Northern California coast. I also roll bandages at the hospital and work on the paper drive. Our ladies’ group at the church knits socks for the military. Probably my most enjoyable service to the war effort is on the coast watch every other Wednesday. As for Nazi spies, I’m sure that Sofia Rashmuller, the new gal in our knitting circle at the First Church of the Evening Star and Everlasting Light is a Nazi spy. Her dyed red hair is a dead giveaway."

But, Agnes…Your hair is dyed red.

"I beg your pardon! I do NOT dye my hair. I may freshen it from time to time with a henna rinse but I would never dye my hair. Fast women and European spies do that. I should know. I saw enough of them during WWI when I worked as an undercover agent for the USA. Of course, I was much younger then, but we saw some action, and I lived to tell about it."

Can you tell us about your WWI adventures?

"Of course not. If I told you the details, I’d have to kill you."

Did you ever kill anyway?

"Don’t be ridiculous… Well, there was that one time… Never mind. Next question?"

Okay. I can see that’s a sensitive subject. Let’s talk about these conspiracies you mentioned. What kind of conspiracies?

"Did I mention that I also volunteer at the Ration Book Center, addressing and sending out the ration coupon books to the neighborhood? Rationing is really terrible. Imagine. Only one pound of coffee per adult every six weeks! And the price of eggs! Actually, I’ve solved that problem."

Agnes? You were telling us about conspiracies?

"Oh, yes. This week, while addressing ration books, I came across a Black Market conspiracy. Someone is stealing ration books from the mailboxes at empty houses. I’ve convinced my friend, Jackson Jackson, to drive my Model A and I’ll bring my Brownie camera. We’ll catch the thief in the act."

I can see how that might go wrong. Are you sure….

"Really, young man! Where is your adventurous spirit? Where were we? Oh yes. Chickens. I’m getting six free chickens this afternoon. I’m not quite sure what we’ll do with them until Saturday, when Jackson is building us a coop. Guess we’ll just have to stick them in the bathroom."

In the bathroom? Really, Agnes. Are you sure that’s such a good idea?

"Why not? I’ll call them Mrs. Whistlemeyer, Sophia, Mildred, Clara, Abigail, and Myrtle, after my friends and associates. They’re just chickens, after all. What could possibly go wrong?"

What, indeed? Thanks, Agnes. We’ll continue this conversation another day.

"Delighted. Would you care for some tea? We’re completely out of coffee until next week."

Back to Top