Eighteen Mile Binoculars and Other Mysteries

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, Heart of Hollyhill

June 17, 1964

Jocie Brooke reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. 

How about this neat ad I found in an old comic book? The very thing I need if I’m going to keep an eye on what’s going on. The ad says you can see up to eighteen miles. I guess that’s if no buildings or trees get in the way. But for sure I might be able to see across the street to the bank or the barber shop. Maybe even up to the hotel where that Mr. Whitlow is staying. The comic book is an old one that I found when Aunt Love made me clean out my closet. I doubt I could still order the binoculars, but I could send fifty cents and see. That wouldn’t be much to lose. 

Of course, Aunt Love would tell me that fifty cents is fifty cents and a person shouldn’t be ready to throw money away after naught but foolishness. But binoculars that can help you see eighteen miles? That would have to be useful for the newspaper business. 

I could see what everybody in Hollyhill was doing – including that Mr. Whitlow. Lately I might not need binoculars for that. The man keeps showing up here at the newspaper. So I came up with a way to snap a picture of him today when he came in. Zella was practically preening when I suggested a photo of the two of them together. 

Obviously, their Saturday night date was a big success. At least Zella showed up at the office Monday morning with a smile all the way across her face. She didn’t even fuss about Cat, I mean Red Spot, leaving a dead mouse on the floor beside her desk. She just said good kitty and then hollered at Wes to come get rid of the mouse remains. 

Wes took his sweet time coming in from the press room. He wasn’t all that busy. I’d just been out there with him and he was settled down reading what we wrote for news last week and drinking coffee. But Wes never gets in a hurry to do whatever Zella wants. That sometimes makes Zella want to pull our her hair or at least, uncurl some of those sausage curls. If they uncurl. I’ve never seen them so much as shift. When I was a little girl, I used to try to come up with reasons to touch Zella’s hair to see if it was real or not. But even after I touched it, I wasn’t sure. I’m still not sure. Every curl stays exactly the same all day long. Exactly.

Anyway, Mr. Whitlow came in the office before Wes made his way in to take care of the mouse. Suddenly Zella was almost fainting at the sight of the mouse where a minute before it wasn’t causing her a minute’s concern. Mr. Whitlow grabbed a paper off the counter and scooted the mouse up on it. Red snarled at him from his perch on the shelves behind Zella’s desk, but Mr. Whitlow didn’t seem to notice as he carried the mouse out to the trashcan on the street. He threw the paper away with it. I kept waiting for Zella to tell him he owed us twenty cents for the paper, but she just oohed and aahed and acted like the man had killed a tiger or something. I thought I was going to be sick and looked around for the nearest trashcan without a dead mouse in it. 

But a good investigative reporter takes advantage of the opportunities given her. So that’s when I figured it would be a great time to get a picture of the man. A photo record might come in handy someday. While I was focusing in on them and Zella’s smile was getting bigger every second, I sneaked in a few questions for Mr. Whitlow.

“What brings you to Hollyhill?” Not exactly subtle, but direct is sometimes the best way.

“It seemed so peaceful when I was driving through that I decide to stop and tarry a while,” Mr. Whitlow said.

Tarry! Who says tarry? Nobody from around Hollyhill, for sure. 

“Where are you from?” I looked at him over the camera. “Just in case Dad decides to run your picture for whatever reason, we can put where you’re from.”

It sounded reasonable except Dad wouldn’t put a picture of the man and Zella in the paper. Now if I’d thought quickly enough, I could have got him carrying out the mouse. On a slow week here in Hollyhill, that might have made the front page.

The man smiled. Showed way too many teeth. “I’m from here and there. Been all around. But this little town of Hollyhill, there’s something extra nice about it. Got some really friendly people.”

I pushed the shutter button and the flashbulb popped. After that, I stayed a minute to eavesdrop on them, but they weren’t saying anything that sounded the least bit interesting. 

It dawned on me that the man might have a twofold purpose in sweet talking Zella. I don’t know what the first reason would be, but the second one would be that instead of Zella finding out about him, he had probably found out about everybody in Hollyhill. 

So you see, if I just had those binoculars, I could watch the man and tell the sheriff if he started doing anything the least bit suspicious.

Well, binoculars or no binoculars, I’m watching him. But eighteen miles. That would be like seeing almost to Frankfort. Wes laughed when I showed him the ad. He said they’d have to be Jupiter space-age binoculars to work that good. So guess I’ll save my fifty cents.