The cover of this book is quite appropriate for what lies inside. Chasing Jubal, by Bill Thompson is a story about the journey of Jubal Simpson, a young boy growing up in the rural south, in the 1950s. Jubal embarks on a journey, early in the book, to join his brother, who has just enlisted and stationed in North Carolina. Jubal, in utter brotherly devotion, takes off without a clue of where Fort Bragg is or how to get there. He is that determined to help his brother fight, for whatever enemy shows up. The adventure unfolds with every paragraph. Jubal has his fair share of companions on his journey. Rich dialogue ensures, they are everyone memorable-and the journey, is nothing short of an epic adventure.
In a bit less than 300 pages, Jubal Simpson evolves from a young and gullible boy to a noble young man while he is wandering. Nothing that happens is predictable. What does happen, influences Jubal for the rest of his life.
Jubals’ small hometown in Virginia sends out a search party , who in reality, are chasing Jubal from one strange destination to another. They don’t know where they are going either, but they do not escape getting caught up in the same sort of escapades, that Jubal experiences. Somehow, Bill Thompson, weaves all the journeys in to one exciting tale. This is a story where things unravel and then bind up again-and you won’t see it coming.
There is mystery, drama and fantasy in Chasing Jubal, and the elements combine in a seamless way. Raymond, Jubals’ best friend records, the accounts- and he can’t tell the difference either. Raymond, like everybody else, had his own encounters with all sorts of oddities, as he is chasing Jubal.
I started reading Chasing Jubal and was hooked right off. Bill Thompson is an artist with words. He paints pictures with them, and will make you choke on the dust of the back roads and smell the rain that falls on the way. If you are looking for a book that you won’t be able to put down, for love nor money, this is the one. It is a good thing to read a well-written book with a good story- and Chasing Jubal is all of that.
* Chasing Jubal is available at Amazon.com-barnesandnoble.com – the Indigo Sea Press website -or for an autographed copy, contact Bill Thompson at 3815 Sam Potts Hwy, Hallsboro NC 28442
January is more like itself today. There is a cold wind blowing, pruning the winter trees and warning the daffodils all in one breath. I saw a little sparrow puffed up twice his size, trying to make sense of this Januarys’ behavior, when I got home. He was perched on a post in the picket fence and I wondered how he stuck to the place in the fierce wind. Nature never ceases to amaze me.
I did not tarry to the back door of the old house on the rabbit patch. Christopher Robin did not even try to escape this time. Moon Shine, who used to be wild, has never attempted to brave the elements, since his civilization. When the door is open, he runs in a state of panic, to his “spot” as if he needs to claim it all over again.
I have not been at the rabbit patch, on a week-end, in a good while. There is plenty of yard work, if the cold wind stops blowing. Branches are strewn there and yonder . It will take a fair amount of time to gather them, for another fire in the garden, some still, cold evening. There is a large cabinet in the laundry room, that can stand a thorough cleaning, if the wind “stays on like a week-end guest”-so I have a variety of tasks to choose from.
I also have a new book to read. It is “Chasing Jubal” by Lylas’ paternal grandfather, Bill Thompson. I was almost late for work this morning, because of it. I was on page forty, and had lost all desire to make money . There is something so completely satisfying about holding a good book in your hand-and turning a page with great curiosity. January is as good a time as I know of to get lost in a book. A winter day with a cold wind blowing, seems to give you permission to read for hours if you are so inclined-and I often am.
Once, my mom and I were at a yard sale, when she spied an entire box of books written by an author she said her mama loved. I grew up with my maternal grandmother but she died suddenly one night when I was just ten years old- and so I bought the box without a moments’ hesitation and commenced to reading them. They were well written historical novels by Victoria Holt. Somehow I felt like I was visiting with my grandmother as I read them. We went to tea plantations in India, castles in Ireland and royal gardens in England, that summer. I imagine those books were about the only way, Grandma ever got off the farm . I still have them. They are safely stored behind glass- paned doors in an antique cabinet, in the rabbit patch library.
I plan to cook “Sunday Dinner”, this week-end. It has been a while since I have done so at the rabbit patch. It is the kind of weather to cook foods slowly and deliberately, after all. I have a roast that will work nicely and if all goes well, I may bake a pie. Pie is especially good, when mama and daddy are here -otherwise, it is just pie.
I sure hope I can finish Chasing Jubal, before the Sunday dinner. A good book has, in the past, turned my great expectations in to pipe dreams, on occasion. A good book has caused me to burn a pan of biscuits. Once I scorched a pot of beans to the point, I had to throw the pot out, all because of a good book. . . and so, I declare here and now, not to have that book anywhere near me or the rabbit patch kitchen, this coming Sunday- especially, when I attempt to make the meringue for the pie.
The rabbit patch has been full of shine, these last few days. Rain, and its’ cousin fog, seemed to have “hightailed” it off the territory and in its’ place has been bright sunlight . The days have been every bit as mild as an Easter Sunday. It seems that the daffodils and the foxglove too, have foolishly fallen for winters’ “white lies” about the season. The foxglove is well up and the daffodils around the edge of the barn have joined them. I am hoping they do not encourage the peach tree to do the same. Last year, the peach tree bloomed its’ pale pink blossoms-the day before an ice storm. The blossoms are like lovely little pink promises and I especially love them-but they had but a day of glory last year. The morning after their debut-they became brown straw-like flowers-and peaches were scarce in July.
The twilight hour comes a bit later now. The sunsets have been stunning. The world can argue all day long, but the evening sunset has the “last word” on the day. Its’ beauty, is there for the tender hearts and the cold ones too. In this way, we are allowed to agree on something.
When I was young, my family attended church services every Sunday. Mama curled our hair and we wore our “Sunday dresses” and patent leathers. I detested the itchy laces and my hair did not hold curl past the “Sunday School” hour, no matter how hard mama tried. One Sunday, I was at my Aunt Agnes’ house. She had five children and it was quite a battle for her to make sure we all were clean and properly dressed for church. I remember walking out the back door, and the horrible shock on Aunt Agnes’ face , seeing my oldest cousin in “dungarees” and walking towards a tractor. Aunt Agnes commenced to fussing with him, though he never broke his stride. Finally she started pleading and then threatening that surely the crops would dry up and die in light of his sinning. My cousin told her, that she needed to read her Bible. “The rain falls on the just and the unjust” he said smugly. Aunt Agnes let that sink in and then stammered for us to get in the car, before we were late.
My neighbor, Miss Susie, that grows flowers and shares them, tried the apple salad recipe. She used almonds and pecans in her batch. She sent some of it to the rabbit patch-and it was wonderful.
In January, I miss my sons an awful lot. It is the same every year, when Christmas is over. I know well, that children are meant to grow up and find their own way of life-but it feels dreadful at times. I think Christian has moved out, too. He doesn’t have the heart to say it, but he has been “staying” at a friends’ house for three weeks, because they work together-and “it’s just easier”. My sweet youngest son, has always felt bad, that he would be the one that “made me be alone”. Of course, that is an unfair burden and I told him so.
The rabbit patch seems bigger in January and sometimes I get the notion I am “stranded” here. Thank Goodness for sunsets and kind neighbors-for kind words and winter skies. I can only remain grateful under such conditions-and I am glad that the rain falls on the “just and unjust” because I have been both, on occasion.
A lot has happened in this past week of January. I have yet to hear a weather report that was not preceded by some sort of threatening announcements-and so, I have learned to glance quickly at the 7-day forecast, lest I hear how horrible the next story will be. I dare not linger in the produce department, even. All of those years of experience allow me to pick a cabbage quickly and I am glad of it.
On Friday, I went with a friend on an errand. While she attended her business, I opted to wait outside. There was a small patch of woods just behind the shop. On this day it was full of cardinals. The bare trees in different shades of silver helped the redbirds show up in a lovely way. I watched them in the company of a lazy cat who was nothing more than amused with the bright flashy feathers. It was a pretty cat and he did not seem to have a bit of malice in him about anything . I liked him for that.
Friday, was Jenny’s birthday. Jenny is my only daughter and my second born child. She grew up with four brothers and showed signs of a maternal instinct “early in the game”. Jenny was a bright little girl. She was friends with her shadow and on some days she needed to make 100 pies in her little kitchen. Her first doll was a black rabbit in a flowered dress, named “Lady Jane”. ( This was a long time before the “rabbit patch diary”.) She went everywhere with Jenny for many years. I still remember the first time that Jenny got in the car without her. I asked Jenny “Where is Lady Jane?” Jenny said “Oh, she got married.” – so we left Lady Jane home, from then on. That was a long while ago. Jenny has her own little girl now and it will come as no shock to me, when Lyla grows up and “calls her blessed.” While, I watched the cardinals, thought of such things.
On Saturday, Will and Jenny left for Raleigh. Lylas’ “Papi and Mimi” met them there. They took Lyla to a play, set for the youngest children and Will took Jenny out for her birthday. In light of this, I invited my friends, Rae and Jo Dee to come with me to stay with Jennys’ dog, Jada.
We set off early Saturday morning and stopped to pick up a quick breakfast. Within fifteen minutes of our trip, I, attempting to fill a cup with ice, activated a dispenser which sent some sort of bright blue beverage in all directions. Rae, promptly spilt her own drink. It is a typical scenario when we are together and only rattled us briefly.
We made it to Elizabeth City anyway, and in enough time to send Will, Jenny and Lyla off with best wishes. When we had settled in, Jo Dee decided to nap and so Rae and I took off on a long walk. We walked in fog by the river- past all of the cottages and old stately homes, admiring them all. How pleasant it was to walk with a dear, dear friend in winter, I thought and vowed to remember it always.
We went out for a late supper. Jo Dee drove while I gave her directions. For some odd reason, I am always mixed up with “right and left”-I am sure it is some sort of mental malfunction but have always managed in spite of it. Several times I pointed in one direction, but called out the other one. Rae started calling out the direction I was pointing in, so we did end up at the restaurant, after all though Jo Dee was alittle pale, I noticed. On the way back, I wanted to ride by the river and so at the last moment to turn off, I mentioned it. Jo Dee made the sharp turn, and then I realised we were on a one way street and most certainly going in the wrong direction. This seemed to shake Jo Dee up and she drove by that lovely river as if it were an establishment of ill repute. She seemed so relieved to get back to the house and I doubted she would be able to eat her cannoli, that we brought home.
Jenny and her family came in in the early afternoon on Sunday. Lyla loved her play and Will and Jenny had a nice dinner-so all went well in Raleigh. After a “short and sweet” good bye, Jo Dee pulled out of the drive . . . and entered a one way street-once again going the wrong way. It made no difference to her, that she only had to travel a 1oo feet to an exit and the community never has much traffic. She cancelled our plans for a trip to the bakery and we headed home. Even so, we all agreed that we had a grand time and would gladly do it again-and Jo Dee will probably drive.
Lately, the days have been mild and more like April than January. The snow and ice, a few weeks ago have been about the only reason to have a “winter coat” so far. Of course the bird feeders on the rabbit patch are now desolate in the absence of snow. The hearth at the rabbit patch has been cold for a while-and should stay that way for the rest of the week. Of course, there is the rain that falls on a good many days. The sun hasn’t cast a shadow for a long spell.
I made a pot of soup before I left Elizabeth City, on Monday. Will and his mom both have a cold and I think chicken soup is good for a lot of ailments. Jenny was rocking Lyla in the nursery. It is a beautiful thing to see your daughter rock her baby.
I drove home under an almost lavender sky. A flock of blackbirds, at least a mile long flew overhead just as I entered a long stretch of the highway. I noticed the winter wheat fields had greened more deeply . Snow will do that . Soft lights twinkled in the homes along the way and so time passed in a pleasant way as I made my way back to the rabbit patch.
What a commotion occurred when I walked in the back door of the old house. The cats inspected my bags thoroughly with great suspicion, while Cash pranced around and around. The boys were not home and so this was the “welcome wagon” committee-and they were all hungry. It is always the same. Cash, my boxer will run to his food bowl and gobble the food, he left from breakfast as if he were starving. The cats lift a chorus, “singing for their supper” as if they will surely perish before I can get to the pantry. Christopher Robin will sometimes “put on airs” and look at me full of judgement for a while, when I return – but on this day, he did not.
I made some coffee and sat by the morning table. The dog and cats, with their full tummies claimed their usual napping places while I looked through the window at the untidy rabbit patch territory. Novembers’leaves are still scattered about and now Decembers’ branches join them. The “Quiet Garden” lives up to its’ name, especially in January. Flowers sleep in January. The whole countryside was quiet and so I gazed out the window and dreamed “like a big shot” for an hour . . . . or maybe a year.
Winter is often a peaceful time and allows us more time for wishful thinking. We have time to gather our thoughts and decide our priorities. It is a good time to listen for what rings true for our own heart and then consider how to proceed with integrity, in that understanding. To be “true to thine own self” requires a lot of thorough contemplation, after all. The task is not for the faint of heart- nor to be taken lightly, but I take great stock in such things-and in January, while the flowers sleep, seems as good a time as any to do so.
My great Aunt Agnes could play the piano like she was born to do so. It seemed as natural to her as breathing. Her daughter, Faith can too. Aunt Agnes loved flowers and she was as pretty as any flower she grew. Her trademark smile and dangling earrings charmed everybody. My mom inherited Aunt Agnes’ good looks.
Aunt Agnes was quite a cook, too. Her recipes are about sacred in the family. I ate many good meals in her big kitchen. She fed her five children and the farmhands every day at noon. Do not think for minute, we ate sandwiches. She filled the huge table and the top of the “deep freeze” with all sorts of southern delicacies -all made from scratch. . . At Christmas she made an apple salad.
My mom had a notion for it this year at Christmas-so I attempted to concoct one like the one Aunt Agnes made. I will tell you the ingredients sounded like a terrible combination and I just knew it would spoil my own reputation as a decent cook. Still, mama wanted it-and it was Christmas, after all- so I gathered the ingredients and hoped for the best . . and let me tell you it worked.
Of course, I had to taste as I went along with it. What a pleasant surprise I had, when it was better than “fit to eat”. It was good. It was so good, that I have made it since and plan to again tonight. Of course, as always, I do not measure ingredients (unless it is a new bread). The good news is that it turns out anyway. The quantity is easily adaptable. I sent Miss Claudia a single serving and have not heard a complaint, so I suppose , measuring is not of necessity.
4 or 5 large red skinned apples one stalk of celery, diced very fine large handful of raisins-depends on your taste large handful of roasted pecans ( you could use walnuts-maybe almonds) a good dash of brown sugar
Cut unpeeled apple into bite size pieces. Mix ingredients and brace yourself. Use a heaping tablespoon or more of mayonnaise combined with about a cup of whipped cream to coat the mixture. It sounds awful, but do it anyway -you won’t be sorry. I do not make this too much ahead of time, because of the apples turning brown, and me being out of lemon juice.
I would think a number of variations could work with this salad-maybe cinnamon or maple would be a nice flavor addition-and some may try yogurt instead of mayonnaise. I think this would be a good side served with pork, especially. I also think it could be considered a light dessert.
I will tell you from experience, that dishes in general, taste better in the company of loved ones.
This week began with snow and ice at the rabbit patch. The wind caused quite a commotion with its’ chilling gales. On Monday, schools and businesses closed. Snow is as common as a “blue moon” in the south, so in light of that, we just stop things altogether. On Thursday, the weather made you want to plant a garden. It felt like a day in late April. I put the windows up in the old farmhouse because of it. Now it is Saturday and a silver sky is sprinkling us with icy drops of rain- This is why nobody planted a garden on Thursday.
Jenny and Will are taking an overnight trip without Lyla, so I am in Elizabeth City . Jenny took great care to assure Lyla, the family dog, Jada and I would wait in great comfort, til their return. Our food, my coffee, chocolate in the case of desperate hours and written directions on remote controls were all covered . I also got lessons on the various ways to operate each remote. What a complicated affair it is to watch a television. I just wished I could get Lyla “hooked” on Downton Abbey.
I had planned on having Wills’ mom, Miss Claudia over for coffee and pumpkin bread, then later for grilled pimento cheese sandwiches and my Aunt Agnes’ version of a “waldorf salad”. As it turns out, Miss Claudia has an awful cold and is not up to social events, though she assured me this morning she was up to help out, should circumstances demand it-and she would. Too, there is Danny and Michelle just around the corner and they would be here at “the drop of a hat”-or if I ran out of coffee.
While Lyla naps. I am sitting in Jennys’ dining room, at a large table. A beautiful chandelier of cut glass, casts light as the whole day has seemed in a shadow. There are two large windows I face as I write this entry. A crepe myrtle, a camellia and a large empty lot, block the street view and I like that. The lot would be a lovely spot for a summer garden, I think.
The house is especially quiet, while Lyla sleeps. I thought about this weekend in the weeks, before now. I wondered how Lyla would fair, without her doting parents close by. I had hopes of long walks by the river and even a picnic, but you can not depend on doing such things in January and today is proof of that.
Today is the day to watch the winter birds at the feeder from the window in the nursery, while the neighbors’ cat watches as well. It is the kind of day to give your grand child a warm bath after supper and then put a little gown on her, that your own mother gave her. Then you read Goodnight Moon, as you have done a thousand times before-and you are glad of it. Some things , truly, do not” wear out . . . ” nor will “moth and rust corrupt them.”
While Lyla sleeps in her new little gown, I will watch the January moon rise and I will count this day a good one. The day had its’ silver-and the night has its’ gold. . .and I spent it well.
My affair with snow is quickly on the decline. The snow that lingers around the barns, and under the pines is hardly snow at all anymore. It lies in old silvery patches now and pales in comparison to its’ previous form. The diamonds have melted on the trees too. On the drive to work, I saw their last attempt at glory and it was a beautiful grand finale. It reminded me of the verse, about “the trees singing out in joy”. They were this morning, when I saw them.
The rabbit patch territory is an awful mess now. Where the snow used to lay and glisten in the moonlight-is now mud and slush which tracks dependably all over the farmhouse floors. We all leave a footprint, no matter how carefully we tread. It is a good thing that the pipes thawed today.
In spite of the the snows’ uncivilized departure, my affection for it remains. I watched it fall. Sometimes it fell fiercely and then later , it fell like feathers wafting. Snow seldom falls in most southern winters, so I took great notice of the occasion. I have no idea, how to put chains on tires, or even what that means. I bought a snow shovel years ago-very cheap, which we used for goat chow and oats for the little horse. I can not fathom shoveling snow, before you go to work on bitter cold mornings, either. Under those conditions, I may not have counted a snowfall a glorious affair-but for me, at that moment, it was.
I have often complained about the ways of country birds. I have said they were an independent lot and unappreciative of my bird feeders. My friend, Rae lives in town and has named the birds in her back yard. They are on such good terms. The town birds are friendly like that. I took another chance on the ice-and put seed out just in case the rabbit patch birds would change their minds when faced with ice. Moon Shine, who used to be wild, set up camp in a chair by the window. When his eyes began to dart around and a curious look was on his face, I sprang to the window, just in time to see cardinals, robins and a little sparrow eating mightily together. I thought of my grandmother. She loved birds and taught me to do the same.
The farmhouse is almost cold in winter. We will ferry wood on foot for a while, in mud. We will track the mud everywhere, it ought not to be. Rabbit sightings are scarce and nothing growing yields a fragrant bloom in this season-but I have noticed the stars seem bigger in a winter sky and moonlight on snow is enchanting. The hearth is warm with fire brightly burning and sometimes the trees sing out. . . and I think we ought to love the winter too.
This is the coldest morning of the year-the coldest morning in many years, actually. It may be the coldest morning of my life. The lovely snow is ice now. Schools are closed and so I am by the morning table watching the sun light the rabbit patch up. It is a beautiful morning to behold. You can hear a truck a mile away in this silence.
The boys made it home yesterday afternoon. Both of them nearly got stuck in the yard, so wood must be brought in on foot. There are no sidewalks at the rabbit patch, so I expect a good deal of the rabbit patch soil to end up on the floors of the old farm house.
I have an agenda , in spite of the sense that all motion has ceased in the community around the rabbit patch. Soup is on the stove already simmering and if I can get out from under the heated blanket, I will make cornbread. Kyle will convince me to make cinnamon buns, at some point. He, like Moon Shine, must eat all day to stay alive.
I hope to call an old friend today and actually have a leisure conversation. This may be one of the few luxuries that the ice affords. I find it ironic, that before dish washers and dryers, microwaves and instant potatoes, people had time to visit. My mama and grandmama visited “Mama Hodges” and Aunt Agnes every week. Miss Delphie came over too, who could” find things growing on a ditch bank and make an arrangement fit for Sundays’ Church services” so grandmama said. The women talked, traded recipes and probably solved a lot of the worlds’ problems while the children played outside in unhindered free play. That was something nice. The gathering broke up in late morning, so the twelve o’clock “dinner” could be prepared. There were no canned biscuits either, then-and cakes did not come in boxes.
This was really only fifty years ago, and it startles to me to think how things have so dramatically changed. Grandmama had a “saying” she quoted often-“Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” It meant while you were throwing things out or changing something up, you might lose the most precious thing about it-and I fear we may do that – and often. Of course, childhood has changed too. No one worried about training us for the Olympics and we played our ball games in back yards while the adults made ice cream. It is quite an occasion to see an unorganized ball game in a back yard now, I notice. Of course, I grew up in the rural USA, and I take that in to consideration, but still I wonder how people grew vegetables, canned them, hung clothes on lines, tended to their children at home and still had time to visit on a Tuesday morning.
I guess when ice covers the world outside of the back door and as far as can be seen, I remember that I tend to go “kicking and screaming” in to the modern world, on the best of days. I like the great advancements in medicine and communications. I like convenience too-it just seems like we lost something beautiful, on the way to “here” and we might ought to go back and look for it -or maybe Thomas Wolfe was right, after all, when he said “You can’t go home again.”
No matter, how I got here, I hope to always grow tomatoes in the spring and can them in late summer. I will decorate cakes with wild violets and eat on china instead of paper. In this way, I will tell Lyla, and all of those after her, the story of those before her. . . Her great great grandmother Edna was right and so I will do my best, to “not throw the baby out with the bath water.”
I am a long time admirer of “morning shine”, and never so more than now, when it falls on a field of snow . These mornings, when snow is on the rabbit patch, are few and far between- and so when I went out for wood, I braved the icy trek to the quiet field behind the oldest barn. I did question my decision several times along the way. The air seemed brittle and likely to shatter. The ice made every step a challenge to stay upright, but when I saw the field covered in snow, and the morning shine on it, I was not sorry. I was looking at a field of diamonds-and nothing less. I felt like I was at church and that it was a holy day.
I did gather some wood eventually and made it back to the old and cold farmhouse. I have never been good at starting a fire, but this morning I had a softly burning fire in good time. The pipes did not freeze last night, so I put a pot of beans on. The animals seemed on the brink of starvation, so I fed them and sat down to remember the morning shine on the quiet field.
It wasn’t long before the beans started simmering. The animals, content with full stomachs, gathered to sleep by the warmth and I settled by the morning table under an electric heated throw that Tres and Kelsey had given me. My coffee is in an adorable china cup that Miss Alethia, Jo Dees’ mom gave me . I am surely in a lovely place at this moment.
If someone had told me in my youth that sitting in a chilly farmhouse while a pot of beans simmered on the stove would be a lovely moment in my later life, surely I would have sunk in despair. This was not what I imagined in youth, to be a joyful moment. I think we spend our youth gathering tokens, of sorts. As we go along, we discard, til at last we understand ourselves enough to know what we truly value. Those things, we cling to and hold fast. In this way, we are born slowly and our authenticity is revealed in our very deliberate lives.
I can not feel sorry, that for now I am on a humble rabbit patch. I stood in morning shine by a field today and it did not seem like a tragedy. . . or a lesser life.