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Well, not really. Not the season, at least – not for another two months and two days. However! Autumn the next O.L.D. is here!
On a day in a summer that has been unusually mild and even a little chilly in the evenings, not to mention the first day of RAGBRAI, today happens to be a tad hot and moist here in Iowa.
What is RAGBRAI, you might ask? Well, here you go:
RAGBRAI is an acronym and registered trademark for the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, which is a non-competitive bicycle ride organized by The Des Moines Register and going from west to east across the United States state of Iowa, that draws recreational riders from across the United States and many foreign countries. Held beginning in 1973, RAGBRAI is the oldest and largest bike-touring event in the world.
It’s gone through Rolfe once or twice and is kind of a big deal, almost like having the Olympics come to town, and it lasts a whole week. Lance Armstrong, love him or hate him, rides pert near every year! This year I happen to know a couple of people who are going part way. Good luck, people I know! You know who you are.
But now! Back to cooler climes and cooler times! Autumn is a 21″ composition/cloth doll that I believe was made by the Perfect Doll Company, even though she is unmarked. Because, see? I’ve had her mold before and it’s one of my favorites. What a difference hair and eye color makes!
THAT’S AUTUMN ON THE RIGHT>>>>>
The girl on the left was here and gone long before the Hideaway came into play. I confess to having fond memories of her. So much so that I channeled her dress a little when making Autumn’s clothing.
Even with the time that’s passed, the sentiment behind the clothing and the dolls are the same.
Autumn’s day will be here before you know it. In the meantime, you can see her adoption page HERE.
And just like the season for which she’s named, she looks good coming and going. And then it’s Winter’s turn…
My beady eyes peered into the sunlight. “So, this is what the outside looks like!” I cackled in a creaky, low voice.
I confess, that last week I had a teeny, tiny meltdown. Spring! Ah, SPRING. The ONLY time of year I want to be outside! And this year spring in Rolfe is especially glorious. The temps are perfect, a little warm if you’re toiling, but then in true Camelot fashion, it cools down at night.
So I balked at staying indoors and sewing – even though my brothers had urged me to find minions, so I have no one to blame but myself – and I went outside.
Heaven knows I love my old house, but the thing is falling apart! Especially the stucco. Witness the lower right-hand side of the photo:
The part surrounding that round thing has been missing for a long time. If you look closely below, you can see the slab from the part of the left that just fell that I witnessed.
Time to hypertufa! I retrieved my wheelbarrow from the garage so that I could use it as a giant mixing bowl. I discovered that it had standing water in it, most likely from recent rains.
I suspect my garage roof may have a hidden leak somewhere.
I also suspect it might be leaning ever-so-slightly.
No matter! Time for my wheelbarrow to become a stand. Fortunately (thanks, Mom!) I had an freshly emptied bin to use as a mixing bowl instead. Here’s the peat moss, perlite and Portland cement, pre-mixing:
Of course, this is just the beginning. And it took less than twenty minutes of poking and smashing and molding! Pretty close, huh?
I need to do the rest and there are several other stucco spots on my house that need tending, and then of course there’s the priming and painting…but it works! The hypertufa works! A repair I can do myself! CHEAP. That’s my favorite kind!
Plus, I get to keep my sanity, so there’s that. Therefore, Betty Bell is still doing well, but she’s going to have to learn even more patience! She will be going up for adoption on Sunday, June 15. And I get to keep my sanity! Because a mind is a terrible thing to lose.
In the meantime, Clementine will definitely be adopted! You can view her progress HERE.
It’s begun! A neighbor – well, not actually a neighbor, she lives across town. Then again, with a town this small she’s still a neighbor. Her parents live down the street. They also all lived in this very house at one time! But I digress – has already had two bats this year!
So you can BET I’ll be watching even more closely! And! This oddly makes me feel better, she states that if she sees “ONE …… Even ONE more bat,” she’s putting her house on the market! HAH! Not Just Me, Then!
See? SEE?! SCARY!!
As for the spoilers, these are regarding the latest two chapters, Chapter 32 The Encounter and Chapter 33 Things That Go Thump In the Night. From now to the end of the book I will alert you when I’m posting spoilers. So for those of you who want to wait and read the whole thing at once, read no further!
Okay, for the rest: Both of these chapters are based on a true story that took place in this very house. The broken bottle clues, the pulling back of the curtain, the fainting, the releasing, everything.
Not to mention the constant phrases I’ve heard regarding bats when it comes to them going into places where they do not belong.
Isn’t it funny that Hazel thinks the same way I do when it comes to her first encounter and Dot says the very thing that Hazel’s already heard more than once in her brief time in Iowa?
“It happens all the time! After all, bats can come in through holes the size of – ”
“Pencil erasers! We know!” said Hazel frantically as the bat zipped in and out and around.
“Don’t worry,” Dot said soothingly. “In all those times, we never got bitten once. Bats are harmless! Why, he’s more scared of us than we are of him.”
Marlene had said the same thing nearly word for word. Hazel felt a strange urge to laugh, wondering if there was some sort of course in Iowa called, “What to Say in Case of Bat.” She had visions of Marlene sitting in the front of the class, her arm raised in response to the teacher’s question. “I know! I know! An eraser!” she would say.
“A pencil eraser,” Dot would clarify, earning praise from the teacher and dirty looks from Marlene.
This next is from chapter 33:
“I think he fainted,” Betty offered. Everyone looked at her in disbelief.
“He fainted?” said Hazel. She lowered her lamp – and herself – for a closer look. Sure enough, it appeared the bat was breathing, but he was out like a light.
He looked so helpless and small laying there, nothing like the leathery, huge monster that had swarmed her bed. “And he fainted,” Hazel incredulously repeated to herself once more.
“They really are more afraid of us than we are of them,” she said out loud.
I s’pose! Another favorite Iowa saying of mine. You’ll be talking in a group of people, the conversation dwindles, and one person will say, “Well, I s’pose!” and just like that, the group breaks up and goes their separate ways.
Not that that has anything to do with today’s post, except we have two new color illustrations to premiere and one of them is nicknamed “The Poser” which is *kind* of close to “I’spose!”
Hey, it’s Monday! One does what one can…
First, “The Poser” (see?!) from Chapter 24 Scotcharoo’d. Marlene is trying to make an entrance after coming into the town gas station from the constant Iowa wind. My sketch:
Nina’s, in color!
Ah, that Marlene. She is as lovely as ever.
And from Chapter 25 The Excursion, “Woolworth’s.” On their first drive through town after decades of being dormant, Dot and Betty are recalling how Reliance used to be with the twins who were their first little humans. My sketch:
I love the shadows of the passersby in the foreground and all the details our Nina adds.
Have a lovely Monday! You’re my favorite, I s’pose!
When I first moved to Iowa, there were several words and phrases I’d never heard before, especially pertaining to food. What the heck is “Broasted Chicken”? Why is “Dinner” at noon? What’s a “Made Right”?
But the catchiest new term of all was SCOTCHAROOS. What is it? A cookie? A drink? Turn’s out, it’s a bar! I finally had a chance to have one awhile back and for me it fully captures the essence of Iowa – and most likely, the Midwest – that I love so much: They are Sweet and Old-Fashioned, two of my most favoritest things.
So when the opportunity arose to write an Iowa-centric book, I just had to put some Scotcharoos in there. Guess whose hands I put them in? MARLENE’S, that’s whose! Guess who she’s going to give them to? As if her feminine wiles weren’t enough already…
I am truly a blessed person, for a band of fairies has taken me under their wings! A representative fairy will flit by Bearing Gifts (just like MARLENE – only NICER. Much nicer!) for every holiday or special event. The main theme for Christmas was socks – which I desperately needed.
I am not one who ever thinks of buying socks! Perhaps it’s because you can take the girl out of Hawaii, but you can’t take Hawaii out of the girl. However, let’s face it: while Iowa may be heaven on earth (and it is! I adore it!), it gets a tad chilly from time to time.
The fairies, somehow magically sensing my cold tootsies, came through with flying colors. With socks of all colors! Striped! Polka dotted! Animal prints! Argyle! Socks of every shape and kind, and I shall Never Go Sockless AGAIN.
But mixed in with the wondrous socks and other goodies, there was a neatly rolled something that turned out to be NOT socks. It was…a DICKIE!
“Hmm!” I said to myself. “They still make these? Why, I haven’t seen one of these since the 70’s! Hmm!” I repeated.
Intrigued because of the novelty of something I thought long gone, and because it was in my most favorite shade of black, I tried it on…
A REVELATION! Oh, LOOK how that GLORIOUS long tube of black traveled all the way up my neck and framed my chin! My CHIN, which I haven’t seen as Pointy and SLENDER in YEARS! LOOK! LOOK!
Tonight at midnight! Chapter 9 A Wave and a Whisper.
And another clip from a previous version of Hazel Twigg, when she’s already living in Reliance.
For those of you familiar with Rolfe, she’s at the top of the street, near my house looking south. Perhaps it’s only me, but the bank clock! With the time and temperature in Fahrenheit and Celsius! Secretly, I don’t care about the Celsius, but when I want to know the temperature – or the time – it seems like I’m always at the worst spot of the rotation, and it takes forever to change to the information I need.
Still, I love that clock. Sometimes, on a Sunday afternoon, it’s the only thing that’s moving downtown…
For a moment Hazel simply sat there, looking at the place where the fairies had been, and she blinked. Once. Twice. It took a moment for her to realize that the whole world had gone silent. Not only that, all movement had ceased.
She slowly got to her feet and looked all around her, trying to make sense of what she was seeing and not hearing. She rubbed her ears and hurried as quickly as she could, emerging from the small forest, back around the front of the house and into the town. And all the while her eyes were darting in every direction, so she almost walked right into a bird with a freshly dug and unsquirming worm in its beak, not a feather rustling as he dangled at eight-year-old eye level. Her heart in her throat, she made her way around him and looked up and down the familiar street.
There was old farmer Ferguson on his strangely silent riding mower, grass clippings stilled in mid-air. A single immobile car was on the road with its windows down, the driver’s hand in the midst of a wave to a woman sitting on her front steps, arm poised to rise and wave back. Two people were twenty feet apart from each other on the side-walk leaning away, their faces frozen in laughter as they each pulled at their small dogs who were about to engage in a “who’s bigger” contest.
But nothing was moving. There was no sound at all.
So a single subtle flash of orange amongst the stillness easily garnered Hazel’s attention: the digital clock above the bank that for the past several moments had been displaying the temperature in Fahrenheit stubbornly continued its usual rotation to the current time with a decided click.
And suddenly all movement and all sound resumed as if nothing untoward had happened. Nothing at all. It felt like a deafening roar to Hazel. She was aware, as no one else was, that the world had changed.
And not for the better.
There you have it! See you tomorrow and have a great day!
As I’ve mentioned in the past, there have been dozens and dozens of versions of this book, before it became the current version. For months I had Hazel starting out LIVING in Reliance. Not as a native, but as a transplant who had been there for a few years. And she didn’t have a mother, she had a father. A handsome one at that…
The town of Reliance, Iowa, population six hundred give or take, was the kind of place that upon seeing it – and if it wasn’t your home you wouldn’t unless you had become hopelessly lost – one might wonder who would ever choose to live there. That opinion sat just fine with the town’s inhabitants, who were quite proud to claim it as their own. They would still wave in a friendly enough manner at the rare passers-through, but the “Don’t let the door hit you,” sentiment remained.
Unfortunately for Hazel Twigg, she hadn’t had a say one way or the other when she landed there with her father. They had arrived just in time for the first day of first grade, so while Hazel drew some attention as a new face, nervously clasping her hands together as she was introduced to her classmates, there was so much new to the other children that Hazel herself was hardly noticed at all.
When she and her father moved into the large cream and olive green and burnt pumpkin-colored Victorian, more than one heart had fluttered. Hazel’s father was a handsome man in a place where single men that didn’t have both feet dangling over the edge of a long-dug grave were rare. And right away it was noticed that there was no sign of a woman. Just a tall man in need of a woman’s touch and his poor, motherless child.
So for the first several weeks of the newcomer’s arrival, there was a constant stream of willing, well-meaning females that came knocking. Women of all ages, covered dishes in hand, their faces freshly scrubbed and wide smiles at the ready. When Hazel would curiously run to the front door warily followed by her protective father, the women would greet them with gay utterances of, “Welcome to our town!” directed at him and, “Look at that hair!” supposedly directed at Hazel because they ruffled her honey-colored hair as they spoke, although their eyes never actually looked in her direction after that first quick glance. One by one they would wander away moments later, not quite certain what had happened, only that the town’s newest bachelor had somehow politely but firmly resisted their wiles.
Each subsequent female was certain that she would have more success, that the chatter at the post office, the grocery store, the Tuesday morning coffee at the library, had simply been put out by other predatory females. And even if the rumors were true, such would not be the case for them. Surely not! They left their platters of Maid-Rites, or Ham Balls, or chewy Scotcheroos behind with their names and phone numbers conveniently taped beneath, and they waited in vain for a call. A call that never, ever came.
Hence, the gossip.
“Poor little Hazel,” the townsfolk would say. It wasn’t her fault her father was probably some sort of criminal, living on the lam…
I tried every which way to get this scenario to work. A handsome man for Ruth, just ripe for the plucking! And a good one, too! Most likely. But I’ve learned: if you get stuck, it’s time to try something else (not that the handsome man angle was the main focus in this version. I swear).
Excellent website for all things Rolfe – Ahem! “Reliance”: Rolfealumni.com
All photos are of Rolfe, Iowa. Quite possibly the grandest place on earth.
In Chapter 3 Freedom, Fear & Fireworks, Hazel’s experience on the train at night and how once friendly things can take on an ominous tone mirrors my own experience driving to Iowa for the final move. As usual, I had underestimated my packing skills and all that needed to be done, so by the time we were finally ready to begin the seven hour drive, it was nearly dark.
Everything looks different in the dark.
Adam was riding separately with his dad who was helping us by driving the moving truck, and I followed in my car a good distance behind after cleaning up a few odds and ends back in St. Louis.
By the time I finally crossed the border into Iowa, it was pitch black. There were none of the endless fields and quaint farmhouses that had so enchanted me before. They were there of course, I just couldn’t see them. When I encountered a detour, it was game over. I was hopelessly lost. It made me question my sanity a little. What the heck I was doing, leaving a secure life and destroying a family?
I desperately wanted to call my then husband and say, “I’ve changed my mind! We can make this work!” or “Put cheese sauce on the broccoli! Everything tastes better with cheese sauce!”
But a tiny part of my brain told me that I was doing the right thing, and that’s the part I listened to. So my cell phone stayed on the seat beside me and I turned up the music of my favorite *cd, and I eventually found my way back to the right road.
It was definitely an altered state I was in at that time, going into the abyss of the unknown. Hazel’s doing the same thing, just in a different mode of transportation. And she doesn’t have the option of turning around.
*I’ve loved this album since I was a little girl. Once, when I had the house to myself I mixed up a batch of flour and water to build up a nose and I attempted to do my make-up so I could look just like Barbra Streisand and I painted my nails red. When my family got home, I posed in profile with my nose in the air and waited for them to walk through the door to see my likeness. They looked at me kinda funny.
I was an odd child.
Anyway, growing up I had listened to this album over and over and was so excited when the movie “The Way We Were” came on TV. Finally! I could see the context for all those beautiful, heart-breaking songs!
“Boy, they sure are skimping on the music!” I said to myself when the movie was halfway over. “When’s it gonna start? Where’s ‘Summer Me, Winter Me’? Where’s ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life’? When are they finally going to make an appearance, are they going to cram them all into the second half?!”
Turns out this isn’t actually the soundtrack to the movie of the same name. I know! They fooled me, too! I still love this album, but the movie, well, it disappointed.
I hadn’t listened to it for years but ran across it when I was packing my things. It was a warm and familiar friend on that long, dark, lost ride.
Since there are three days left this week, and since the first three excerpts from the book have been released, I’ve decided to write a about each section for each day and explain a little bit if the background for that portion and the things that led to them. Today’s the Prologue’s turn.
As previously mentioned, this final version of Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway has greatly morphed over the past near two years. I call this the 27th version, but there’s really no way to know for sure. My siblings have been helping me every step of the way with timely suggestions and thoughtful critiques.
Along about version 23, so pretty late in the process, I was asked where the Hideaway was. “In the middle of nowhere,” I answered.
My siblings were surprised. To a person, they imagined it in a town not unlike the town in which I lived. What?! It was my turn to be surprised, because in my mind it was more like a cozy island, where other people, other strangers, rarely show. After all, this was my first (okay, 23rd) stab at a book, and one thing I’ve learned is that the more characters there are, the trickier things get. I knew that having the Hideaway in a town would mean more characters and dialogue to juggle.
But alrighty, then! Challenge accepted!
I am not a native to my beloved Rolfe. Still, I knew there was a bit of history there and I’ve seen signs for “Old Rolfe” (after several attempts, I finally found it!). Enter the Rolfe, Iowa website, and especially the history page. Voila! In it’s history, Rolfe has moved! Because of the train tracks that originally passed it by! This could work. I decided to add a prologue to the book to set the stage, and rather than moving the Hideaway to the town, I would bring the town to the Hideaway.
I also knew that I wanted the town’s name to start with an “R,” and to reflect the no frills, warm and friendly yet keep-to-themselves, salt of the earth people that make up Iowa. And it had to be a name currently not in use for an Iowa town. Enter Reliance.
It’s also true that when the freeway was built, Rolfe almost decided to move once again. I borrowed (with permission) a line from the website, “Too many changes can kill a small town.”
And that my dear and cherished friends, is the History of the Prologue and how Reliance came to be. Otherwise, the Hideaway would have remained in the Middle of Nowhere.
Tomorrow: Chapter 1