Ociee on Her Own
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by Milam McGraw Propst
Category: Children's Fiction/Young Adult
Description: Ten year old Ociee Nash is back for more adventures, trouble and laughter in the sequel to Milam McGraw Propst's award-winning young adult novel, A FLOWER BLOOMS ON CHARLOTTE STREET. Growing up in turn-of-the-century America, Ociee returns home to her family's Mississippi farm after her exciting time living with Aunt Mamie in the big city of Asheville, North Carolina. But things have changed.
eBook Publisher: BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: August 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [299 KB]
Reading time: 183-256 min.
Atlanta author Milam McGraw Propst was awarded Georgia Author of the Year and a national Parent's Choice Award for the first book in the Ociee Nash series, 'A Flower Blooms on Charlotte Street, which then became an acclaimed film in 2003 as THE ADVENTURES OF OCIEE NASH, starring Skyler Day, Keith Carradine, Mare Winningham, and Ty Pennington Tom Sawyer. Huckleberry Finn. Anne of Green Gables. Pollyanna, Laura Ingalls Wilder. In the tradition of those classics and others, Bell Bridge Books proudly presents the sweet, funny, poignant and mischievous adventures of ten-year-old Ociee Nash, a likable tomboy who turns her grief over her mother's death into a talent for recognizing lonely people who need a friend. Travel with Ociee as she spends time in the big city of Asheville, North Carolina, where she struggles to become a lady under the tutelage of her Aunt Mamie; then as Ociee returns to her Mississippi town for more daring-do as she be-friends a Gypsy, and now as she, Papa, and brother Ben move to the bright lights of Memphis, Tennessee, where a "witch woman" captures Ociee's tender heart.
* * * *
"Elizabeth Murphy, you are my very best friend in all of North Carolina, but I do declare, you can be so lazy!" I dipped my brush in the whitewash and splashed more paint on the front seat of Mr. Lynch's carriage.
"I am not lazy, Ociee Nash!" She frowned at me. "I'm cold is all." Ignoring her complaint, I pleaded, "Oh, Elizabeth, please get busy or we won't be done when Mr. Lynch comes by to get his buggy."
"I'm busy enough, Ociee. Fact is I'm freezing almost to death. See how the whitewash is frozen to my brush?" She tried to prove that by showing how the bristles wouldn't bend.
"The paint is drying because you're going too slow. Come on, girl, quit being such a pokey priss."
"All right, I'll keep working," groused Elizabeth. "But I'm no priss!"
"I know that."
With that, I got too much whitewash on my own brush and paint dripped down into the right sleeve of my winter coat. I spun around so Elizabeth wouldn't see and backed into the wet carriage.
"Looks like you're getting as much whitewash on you as on the buggy," snickered Elizabeth.
I stuck out my tongue.
My friend and I were as different as daytime and night. To begin with, we actually looked the opposite. My hair was a mop of curly blond frizz that shot out in a thousand directions. My eyes were soft gray to match my light complexion. A light complexion exactly like Mama's, it was.
Elizabeth had darker skin, olive in color, with the deepest darkest brown eyes. Her shiny black hair was as straight as a fireplace poker. Mrs. Murphy could comb Elizabeth's hair in the morning, and it would stay that way all the day long. I was jealous of her hair, but she was jealous of my age.
I was eleven. Elizabeth was still only ten. Of course, she was quick to tell whoever would listen that she'd turn eleven soon enough. Her birthday was in January, two whole months after mine. I'd been eleven since way back in November. That made her as mad as mad could be, especially since Elizabeth knew she could never catch up with me.
If I told the honest-to-goodness truth about the things heaviest in my heart, I'd have to admit that I was jealous of her, too. I was jealous of Elizabeth because she had a mother. My Mama was dead.
"Drat!" I dripped more paint on my coat. I wrinkled my forehead and sucked air in through my teeth. "Aunt Mamie's gonna get me for this." "Best go slowly, Ociee, and try to paint more care-fulllly," drawled Elizabeth as she dotted my nose with her brush. I whipped around and spattered some paint on her cheek. Elizabeth quickly re-dipped her brush and slung it at me.
I retaliated. "Take that, care-fullllly."
"And another helping for you, Miss Priss!" shouted Elizabeth. Before either of us realized it, we were battling like a couple of those awful boys at our school. Wet and nasty as could be, we rolled down onto the walkway. With the cold all but forgotten, we held our stomachs and laughed wildly. "Ociee, we're whitewashed enough that we match that buggy!"
"Elizabeth, I'm glad Mr. Lynch stabled Old Horse for the morning, or else he'd look like a ghost horse!" We giggled all the more.
My best friend and I were opposites on our insides, too. Elizabeth was cautious and slow to make decisions. It wasn't in her nature to have a whitewash fight, at least not before Ociee Nash arrived in Asheville. I expect I was considered a bad influence on Elizabeth.
I'd try almost anything without thinking very long about it. Aunt Mamie and Papa were fairly concerned about that particular trait of mine. They termed my courage "almost dangerous," but that didn't worry me in the least. I was far more interested in discovering new things than I was in being prudent. I'd learned about courage from my brothers, especially from Ben, who was a year older than me. An occasional bump or setback never had stopped a Nash, and I wasn't going to let anything stop me just because I was a girl.
As we rested, I caught sight of our old Miss Kitty Cat dozing on the porch roof. There she was soaking in the sunshine with not one thing to disturb her morning nap. There Elizabeth and I were, covered in whitewash, having worked ourselves into a near tizzy. It was certain that Miss Kitty Cat had not earned herself a ride in the upcoming parade. I acknowledged that Elizabeth had.
Our neighborhood planned a grand parade to welcome 1900 and the brand new century. With only three days left until January 1, I realized the event would be upon us before we could blink. That was enough to make me anxious. Also, as nice as Mr. Lynch was to allow Elizabeth and me to decorate his buggy for the parade, he had made it perfectly clear that we were to finish what we were doing by noon. He didn't want to miss those good fares over the busy weekend.
George Lynch was my Aunt Mamie's beau. In fact, they met because of me.
Mr. Lynch told folks, "I'd have never won the heart of Mamie Nash without the help of her niece, Ociee." Aunt Mamie wasn't ready to admit he'd won, not just yet anyhow; but he kept saying so just the same. My aunt would roll her eyes and say, "You hush up, George!"
Mr. Lynch was the very first friend I made in Asheville.
On the second day of September in 1898, I traveled all by myself on the train from Abbeville, Mississippi, to Asheville, North Carolina. I was only nine years old. When I got off the train, Mr. Lynch and his fine Old Horse took me to Aunt Mamie's house at 66 Charlotte Street.
I was surely hoping Aunt Mamie would say yes to marrying Mr. Lynch.
Elizabeth stood up, brushed the leaves and grass off her coat and said, "Admit it, Ociee Nash." Her hands on her hips, she pursed her lips. "You are cold!"
"Am not!" I waved my brush at her and paint flew into her hair.
The front door swung open, and my aunt called, "Ociee, what on earth are you young ladies up to now? And what's all over you? Is that whitewash?"
"Just decorating the buggy for the parade is all," said I.
Looking like a stack of wobbling velvet pillows, my aunt scurried down the porch steps. She pinned her salt and pepper hair into place as she got to us. "I've been in the back of the house sewing. All of a sudden, I just knew you girls were up to mischief."
"Oh, no, not Ociee Nash and Elizabeth Murphy." My aunt began to wipe my face with the hem of her apron. "Gracious sakes alive," she uttered again and again as she attempted to scrub us both clean. "I suppose that's the best I can do without soap and water. Now let me see what you girls have done with George's carriage."
"What do you think so far?" I asked as she inspected our efforts. "Oh, Aunt Mamie, it's nearly noon. Mr. Lynch will be along any minute!"
"Hmmm, I see."
Elizabeth and I looked sheepishly at one another.
"Of course, we still need to put on the decorations--the bows, the bells; and we'll add the holly sprigs. Aunt Mamie, will you help us a little bit, so we can finish it quickly, oh, please!" My aunt eyed me. I wasn't sure what her answer would be.
Mamie Nash had run a seamstress shop in her home for nearly twenty years. She had taught me about doing things in a "flawless" manner, often emphasizing the word flawless. Flawless was her absolute standard for the fancy hats and beautiful clothes she created for her devoted customers. Not only did my aunt teach me about sewing, but she also cautioned me about pleasing folks, even those she termed somewhat "persnickety." She frequently commented, "People tend to take notice of what's wrong, long before they notice the first thing about what's right." To my way of thinking, on that particular morning anyhow, my aunt's high standards should have applied to decorating carriages.
"Of course, of course I will. Let's get busy, girls. The sooner we are finished here, the sooner you two can get cleaned up."
I passed the basket full of holly to her. "See, Aunt Mamie, we've shined the leaves with butter just as you taught me to do."
"Very good, Ociee."
Just like Elizabeth forgot the cold, Aunt Mamie overlooked the whitewash we'd spilled everywhere. As the three of us worked together, Mr. Lynch's buggy was wonderfully transformed into a fairytale carriage bathed in whitewash and covered with gold ribbons, silver bells, and shiny green holly sprigs.
Elizabeth said, "I'm sorry, Ociee, but you need to know that most people aren't going to all this much trouble for the parade."
"Elizabeth, you and I are not 'most people!' We are special," I argued emphatically. "Mr. Lynch and Aunt Mamie are special, too. And we four will be riding in a very special buggy, if I have my say about things."
Elizabeth sighed and smirked. Aunt Mamie smiled.
I added, "And don't forget this either. Old Horse is the very finest of all the carriage horses in Asheville. He deserves to be harnessed to the most flawlessly decorated buggy in the parade!"
Elizabeth was silenced.
"Oh, I almost forgot! Since we've been talking about Old Horse, I have something to show you, Elizabeth." I winked at my aunt and said, "I'll be right back." As I hurried up the steps, I turned. "Please, while I'm inside, try to finish tying on those bells, Elizabeth. Aunt Mamie, the holly, oh pleeease!"
Elizabeth groaned. Aunt Mamie laughed, adding, "Be careful not to drip on my floor, child!"
Mama died in the measles epidemic when I was eight years old. A year later, I left our farm in Mississippi and came to live with my aunt. Papa believed his sister Mamie could teach me how to be more ladylike. I was more prone to jumping on moving trains and chasing gypsies. Besides, Papa hadn't been schooled in feminine things. He said in a letter to his sister,
Mamie, dear, I suppose you would be a better teacher for my Ociee girl than is your rugged old brother. I will have to ponder this for a while, however.
Yours truly, George Nash.
Although Papa claimed that he wanted me to go, when I got ready to leave, he was sick at heart. He, my brothers Ben and Fred, and I near about fell to pieces at the depot when we said goodbye.
As miserable as I was about leaving my family and mighty scared, too, it was even worse once I got to Aunt Mamie's. I missed my family something awful. Our farm in Marshall County might as well have been way across the Atlantic Ocean, it seemed so far away to me. And being away from them made missing Mama all the worse.
Even so, things had worked out pretty well in some ways. I was "a charming young lady," folks said. I liked Asheville and Aunt Mamie. I liked Elizabeth, too. Papa and the boys had done all right, too, or so they tried to convince me.
I took the stairs two at a time and scampered down the hall to my room. There it was on the window seat, my great-grandfather's black silk top hat. Aunt Mamie had helped me spruce it up with a spanking new silver ribbon around the brim. We'd tied the ribbon into a big bow, leaving enough to stream down Old Horse's long, thick, golden mane. I'd added a magnificent wispy, bright yellow feather, one my aunt had set aside to make a fancy bonnet.
"The perfect touch," Aunt Mamie had praised me. I was a little worried that she might scold me for "wasting" the feather. But she didn't. She attached a strap so we could secure the hat under Old Horse's jaw. She and I meant for that horse to look as handsome as any gentleman in our parade.
"Turn of the Century," I carefully penned the words in my black leather-bound journal. I always kept it on the table beside my bed. Quickly I scribbled, Noon Friday, carriage is almost ready. Details about our decorations will be added later.
On the page before, I'd written a longer entry:
The old century shouldn't turn too gently. It should sail high across the sky like a shooting star to announce the new century's birth. I hope and pray that 1900 will cover me and all of us Nashes with a blanket of happy blessings. Surely nothing else sad will touch me or my folks.
I was wishing that much of 1897, 1898, and 1899 and the terrible events that those years brought could be washed clean out of my memory the very second the new century was born. I gently touched Mama's picture.
I loved Aunt Mamie, but I did so miss Papa. And as much as I enjoyed Elizabeth, even she couldn't fill up the hole my heart saved for Papa, for Ben and Fred, and for Mama. I truly cared for Elizabeth's folks, too, and along with them, for all the friends I'd made in Asheville, especially Mr. Lynch and Old Horse. But the Ociee in me couldn't help but to yearn for my real home.
Aunt Mamie tried to explain that strong roots never really let go of a person like me. "Ociee, you are a very sensitive person. You have a great gift, one which you will eventually learn to treasure."
"Why does my gift have to hurt so much?" "Because it's growing ever deeper, dearest."
I wanted to understand. Maybe I did. I knew my roots had a mighty long way to stretch, all the way from my home in Marshall County, Mississippi, to 66 Charlotte Street in Asheville, North Carolina.