The Further Adventures of Ociee Nash
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by Milam McGraw Propst
Category: Young Adult
Description: If you like Anne of Green Gables and the Little House books you'll love the Ociee Nash series. Destined to become a classic in children's literature; the series has already inspired a family film, The Adventures of Ociee Nash, starring Skylar Day, Lucas Till, Ty Pennington, Keith Carradine and Mare Winningham. In the newest book, The Further Adventures of Ociee Nash, eleven year old Ociee Nash moves to the exciting city of Memphis, Tennessee, where she makes new friends, including a frightening "witch woman." Set in 1900 Tennessee, Mississippi and North Carolina. Written by Atlanta author Milam McGraw Propst, and based on the stories of her own grandmother. Coming in 2010: Book Four, "Ociee and Ben."
eBook Publisher: BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books, 2009 Ebook
eBookwise Release Date: September 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [212 KB]
Reading time: 126-176 min.
"Heartwarming, fun, sad, endearing--a classic." Deborah Smith, NYT bestselling author
The year 1900
"Jump, Ociee! JUMP!"
Jump? I couldn't budge. Bare feet frozen to the flatcar floor, my legs were as unbending as the trunk of our dead pecan tree. My heart pounded in perfect rhythm with the locomotive's thunderous rumble. With every breath, we roared faster and faster down the railroad tracks.
The empty flatcar should have been carrying pine logs, not me, an eleven year old Mississippi girl.
"Help me, Mama!" I clutched her locket.
The flatcar hadn't seemed high seconds ago when my brother Ben boosted me on it. But how could I be scared? I was Ociee Nash. I'd been swinging on ropes from our hayloft since I was four years old.
Our barn never moved fast as the wind.
People and places flickered through my memory's eye. I thought about every person, every place, and every animal I ever knew. I thought of everything but how to get myself off the almost full throttle train.
Ben grew smaller with my every blink. He was running fast as he could waving and hollering, "Ociee, get off! Get off NOW!"
"You're gonna get your chicken self killed! JUMP!"
"BEN!" I swallowed hard. One foot loosed itself, then the other. Squeezing shut my eyes, I screamed, "Here I come!"
I leapt for the weed-covered bank.
The train's whistle sounded, WOOOOO, Woo!
Head first. I landed hard. I shook my head and spotted our horse, Maud. No wait, it wasn't Maud, it was Old Horse.
"Aren't you dead, Old Horse?"
Sure he was. Hadn't I cried for hours when Aunt Mamie wrote to tell me they'd put him down? Yet, there he was. Old Horse, plain as day, stood contentedly grazing in the shade of an oak tree.
"Old Horse, how'd you get here? Where's Mr. Lynch? Surely he wouldn't leave you all by yourself?"
A familiar voice called out to me. "Ociee, dearest."
I couldn't believe I was seeing her! Mama looked so pretty, exactly like she did in the Gypsy's painted picture, the one I had carried with me to North Carolina and home again to Abbeville.
Mama came closer. Tangled in tall weeds, I couldn't move a finger. Was I frozen, not only my feet, but my entire body as well? Frozen? How could it be? The spring afternoon was toasty warm.
Mama smiled. I always loved her cheery face. When her lips parted to reveal white, shining teeth, Mama's eyes twinkled.
"You're not hurt, Ociee. I'm proud of you for being brave. Even so, my child, it's best not to be so daring."
"Yes, Mama. I'll be more careful."
Not hurt? I still couldn't walk to my mama. How I yearned to curl up in her arms. Was she keeping the truth from me? Were my legs gone? I heard about a train chopping a Marshall County man half in two.
"Come get me, Mama. Please, I need you!"
But my mama, our mama, was dead. She was dead like Old Horse. Measles took her away from us. She'd been gone for so long, too long, how long? Three years long. Why would a bunch of horrid red spots attack a person important to us?
My loving, living Mama drifted away like a summer's cloud.
* * * *
I blinked my eyes, trying desperately to hold them open. Like the rest of my body, they wouldn't cooperate.
"Please, Ociee, please wake up!"
My lips moved, but I swallowed my words.
"I'm going for Papa. I'll run like the wind to Fitch's."
My brother's panic washed over me like cold water. "Wait!"
"What? Ociee, did you say something? Please tell me you're not dead!"
Cold and trembling, I wobbled my head. It felt full of fresh-picked cotton. I raised one hand to my face; the other still clutched Mama's locket. I rubbed my eyes. "What, what happened?"
Ben knelt down beside me. "Are you all right?"
I slowly sat up, brushing off weeds and dirt. What a relief, my legs were attached! I wiggled my toes. Rolling my shoulders, I rounded my neck back and forth. The cotton emptied from my head. "You get me into more trouble."
"Ociee, you're back!"
"Seems I am, no thanks to you, Ben Nash."
"I know you are, Ben, you always are. I'll only forgive you if you tell Papa this was your idea."
"Guess I should."
"Ociee, I gotta tell you, girl, your jump was amazing! You leapt out so far you looked like a crow trying to escape from Tiger. Then BAM, down you went, head first. You crumpled up like an old rotted scarecrow!" He lowered his head. "At first I thought you'd died."
I shuddered. "Now I know what dead feels like."
"Maybe, but I don't feel like telling you."
"You're mad. I don't blame you. Hey, can you stand up?"
Ben attempted to steady me. We both wanted to believe I wasn't hurt.
"Can't do it. I'm dizzy."
As I tried to gather myself, Ben paced about fretting and watching and wringing his hands. Finally, he quieted and sat next to me.
Once my brother settled himself, I got calmer.
"Think so. Ben, there's something I gotta tell you. Mama came to me."
"When I hit the ground." I pointed toward the meadow. "She was standing over there. Everything in me wanted to touch her, Ben, but I couldn't move. She watched over me, the same way she did when I had the terrible fever. Mama was misty, as if she was covered with the lace on the parlor windows."
"Was she a ghost?"
"No, Ben, not a ghost. There wasn't anything scary about her. She was more like an angel. No, not an angel. It was our Mama, the same Mama she's always been."
"I don't believe you."
"I'm not sure I believe me either. But wait, Mama said something. She warned me not to be daring."
"Sounds like her."
"Yes, it does. I saw Old Horse, too."
"Mr. Lynch's horse?"
"Ociee, he's dead. You cried. Don't you remember?"
"He was here."
Ben, undoubtedly eager to make fun of my crazy talk about Old Horse, gave in to his more tender nature because he understood. During the time I was living in Asheville, North Carolina, our beloved pet Gray Dog passed away. Papa told me losing our dog had just about killed my brother.
We had been raised to understand such things. Through the years, when Mama and Papa, Ben, me, and our older brother Fred lived on our farm in Abbeville, chickens, ducks, even pigs, goats, and cows would get sick and die. Papa always taught us, "We farmers must learn to expect losses. Our task is to go on living with courage and with hope."
What we did not expect, however, was for Mama to die. I still get real mad about that. I'm not mad at our mama, not anymore. But I can't help boiling up at those dern measles for tearing apart our family.
I wasn't allowed to say 'dern.'
From time to time, Papa tried to assure us Mama wasn't really dead. He said she was in a better place. Heaven. He insisted we'd be with her again.
"My Bertie was such a perfect woman the Lord needed her more than do we."
I wasn't absolutely convinced our papa saw eye to eye with the Good Lord and His timing. What I do know is when I jumped from the train our mama came to check on me. I only wish she had stayed longer.
Ben patted my shoulder. "You feel like walking home, Ociee? Papa will be getting back soon. We're supposed to be there."
I stood up. "I'm feeling better. Let's go. Ben, I KNOW Mama was here."
"Or maybe, Ociee, you have a big hole in your head. Stop, let me take a look."
"Get your dirty hands out of my hair. I did so see Mama."
"I reckon." He kicked a rock on the dirt path. "I'm sorry."
"You should be, Ben, I could have been hurt."
"No, Ociee, I'm sorry about Mama. I wish real bad I'd seen her."
As I thought back on the afternoon, I remembered smelling Mama's lavender, her sweet scent. I'd never lose that memory of her. Sometimes I'd scratch a tiny piece from a bar of lavender soap and put it under my nose. It brought comfort.
Maybe Mama came down from Heaven to cushion my fall. Perhaps she wanted to check on me like earthbound mamas do for their children. Old Horse was there, too, whether Ben believed me or not. Whatever happened, I was pleased they both appeared, if only for a few seconds.
I was also relieved I didn't break my leg or injure anything else because I was scheduled to return to Asheville in a few days. I didn't want to disappoint my Aunt Mamie. She'd be upset.
I wasn't about to admit it to Ben, but I was actually grateful he hoisted me onto the train.
I had one great ride!