|(Photo from Saturday Evening Post)|
June 3, 1964
Jocie Brooke reporting from Main Street, Hollyhill, Kentucky. Not much going on in Hollyhill this week except school’s out for the summer. That’s something, I guess. Gives me more time for helping Dad with the Banner and for trying to figure out what that Mr. Whitlow is up to at the Hollyhill Hotel.
I checked out the wanted posters at the Post Office. Some kids from town were in there pretending to play cops and robbers. Mr. Smyth, the postmaster, laughed at them as he chased them out. I pretended to laugh at them too while I was buying stamps for the paper, but it gave me a good chance to study those posters without Mr. Smyth thinking anything about it. None of the pictures looked like Mr. Whitlow, but a man on the run who knows there are wanted posters out about him would be doing everything he could to change the way he looked, wouldn’t he?
I didn’t tell anybody I checked the posters to see if I could find Mr. Whitlow on one of them. Not even Wes. He would have just told me that on Jupiter my nose would be turning purple. That’s how Mr. Jupiter makes sure people mind their own business. And Daddy would tell me to stop letting my imagination run away with me, but when I took some papers in to put on his desk while he was back in the pressroom, I saw where he’d written the man’s name down on the back of an envelope. His whole name. Kurt Whitlow. Why would Dad write that down unless he was planning on doing some investigating of his own?
It is a mystery. First off, it’s not like we have that much worth stealing in Hollyhill. He could be casing the banks, I guess, but he’d have bigger banks in Lexington. Lots bigger. And if he’s planning something, the last person he’d want to get friendly with would be Zella. If he were to let anything slip to Zella, the whole town would know about it by sundown. I have all summer to gather more clues. I’ll tell you what I find, but you’ll have to keep quiet about it. At least be sure not to let anything slip to Zella or my goose will be cooked.
Meanwhile, I did get that story written up about the World War I veterans for last week’s issue. The old guys had some pretty amazing stories. Did you know that they fought most of that war down in trenches? Mr. Johnson said there were times that a soldier would lose his boots in the mud in the bottom of those trenches. It would just suck them right off his feet. When it was raining, he had nightmares about the mud sucking him down in it and swallowing him whole. And the best he could recollect, it must have rained every day he was in France. He wanted to move to Arizona when he came home and live where it didn’t rain but a few times a year, but Mrs. Johnson was happy here in Hollyhill. He got the saddest look on his face then when he talked about her going on ahead of him to heaven.
“Cancer,” he said. “There’s all kinds of wars. You remember that, Jocie. All kinds and some them we fight one on one and we don’t win. At least we went over the top of those trenches in France and pushed those Germans back. Didn’t last, but that wasn’t our fault. We did our job.”
I gave him a hug then even if he did have that musty old person smell. I guess that’s better than what some of the smells are in the nursing home. But I’m used to it. I go with Dad visiting there every third Sunday. He reads some out of the Bible and then Dad and me and whoever shows up from the church sing a few hymns with the old folks. Most of them like getting hugs. As Wes is always telling me, if we keep breathing long enough, we all get old. But I can’t imagine being as old as Daddy, much less Mr. Johnson. He told me he was almost eighty!
Maybe I’ll ask Zella how old Mr. Whitlow is. She’ll know. She probably asked him. Wonder what she told him if he asked how old she is! Not the truth, I’m betting.