The Further Adventures of Ociee Nash

The Further Adventures of Ociee Nash

Milam McGraw Propst

$14.95 September 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9841258-0-7

Also available from Amazon Kindle and Fictionwise

Book 3 of the Ociee Nash saga! A classic story in the tradition of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Our PriceUS$14.95
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

For eleven-year-old Ociee Nash, life is never plain, quiet or simple. After all, it's the fancy modern world of 1901, big brother Fred is now a married man, and brother Ben just coaxed her to jump off a moving train. Plus, just as she's planning to go back to North Carolina for another visit with fun Aunt Mamie, Papa Nash announces that their family is leaving little Abbeville, Mississippi, for the bright city lights of Memphis, Tennessee.

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.

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

She is hard at work on the fourth book in Ociee's saga. Milam's stories are inspired by the history of her own grandmother, Ociee Nash Whitman.


"The Nash family is full of life, adventure and value. They are all very deep characters and Ociee is a little girl you cannot help but love." -- Canadian author Tony Peters (children's mystery books "Kids on a Case: The Case of the Ten Grand Kidnapping")

"I continue to be delighted with the character of Ociee Nash. She is wonderfully spunky and adventurous. In many ways, she reminds me of L.M. Montgomery's Anne and Astrid Lindgren's Pippi. Ociee is the South's answer to a classic juvenile heroine. I especially like the fact that the author bases Ociee's adventures on her real relatives. That gives the book something extra--historical flavor and truth. I eagerly await the next installment in her adventures." -- What is Bridget Reading (children's librarian)

**Featured Book** "The Further Adventures of Ociee Nash is Book Three of a wonderful series about an eleven-year-old girl's life in Tennessee and Mississippi circa 1900, based on the real life biography of the author's grandmother, Ociee Nash Whitman. Plunging right in with a near death daredevil leap off of a moving train, The Further Adventures of Ociee Nash is mesmerizing to readers young and old from start to finish. Aimed at readers age 7-12, the Ociee Nash is a delightful invitation to experience real history from a child's point of view." -- Midwest Book Review

"A great read for any young girl!" -- Freda's Voice Blog

"Knowing that the books are a fictionalization of a real person's life brings added depths to the major events and lessons in Ociee's life. Though they're intended for an audience much younger than I, I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and would highly recommend them for children between the ages of 8 and 11. If I had a little girl, I know I'd encourage her to find Ociee Nash. " -- Thoughts On Art blog


The year 1900
Abbeville, Mississippi

"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!”

"I can't!”

"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.”

"Mama? Mama!”

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!”

"Don't know.”

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'm sorry.”

"I know you are, Ben, you always are. I'll only forgive you if you tell Papa this was your idea.”

"Guess I should.”

I nodded.

"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.”

"You do?”

"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.

"Any better?”

Once my brother settled himself, I got calmer.

"Think so. Ben, there's something I gotta tell you. Mama came to me.”

"Mama? When?”

"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.”

"I know.”

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!

Chapter 2

My adventure was far from the first time a Nash had leapt aboard a moving freight train. Our big brother Fred had done it all the time, at least, before he started courting his bride, Rebecca. He'd hop on, ride a mile, and jump off.

Returning home, Fred would refuse to share a single detail of his daring feat with Ben and me unless we pledged our total silence. Keeping secrets from our parents concerned me, but not for long.

"I was riding on a thunderbolt!” said Fred. "I could feel the tracks throbbing under me. Like being in an earthquake, tremors shot from the soles of my boots to the top of my head. My hat blew off with such force, it almost flew to Holly Springs.”

After Rebecca came into his life, Fred pretty much walked around holding her hand and blushing. For a time, our brother clean forgot how to have any fun. At the same time, his passion for trains intensified. He discovered a grown man's way to be around trains; my brother went to work for the Illinois Central Railroad. His new job took him to Memphis, Tennessee.

Well before Fred got girl-goofy and started working for the railroad, he, Ben, and I regularly took peaches down to the tracks. We'd wait for the southbound train from Waterford, where it stopped to take on water. As it made its way towards Abbeville, we'd stand ready with a sack of peaches for the engineer. Soon as we heard the train's whistle, we started hollering to wave it down.

"Look there!”

"Here it comes!”

"The engineer's leaning out, he must see us!”

The boys liked to spot the man shoveling coal into the hot, fiery engine. I was partial to the caboose, my favorite car. The caboose was red and different from the others. Like me, it was the last car in line.

Once in a while, I'd notice a hobo man peeking out from inside a boxcar. Even though hobos scared me plenty, I was as brave as an army soldier standing with my brothers.

Because Fred was much older than us, he'd insist on handing off the sack to the engineer.

"Too risky for you two,” he'd say.

I didn't care as much as Ben, who always frowned at Fred.


After Fred began his career with the Illinois Central railroad, we learned many interesting facts from him. One piece of information was particularly disturbing. Seems we weren't special after all. Fred told us train folks often received gifts of food from farmers. I preferred to think we Nashes were uniquely generous folks. So, even with my excellent memory, I tried to make my smart self forget what Fred said.

According to my brother, there was a disgusting motto, something else I was happier not knowing. He quoted an old engineer, "My boy, peaches always taste better at night.”

"Why, sir?”

"Because it's dark, you can't see the worms you're eating.”

Ben laughed.

I about vomited.

Anybody with sense would know our peaches would never host a slimy worm. Not Papa's. He was the best farmer ever, even though we did lose our farm. It wasn't due to Papa's lack of skill. After Mama died, he discovered he was better suited to working at Fitch's Mercantile.

As Aunt Mamie said, "George Nash is cut out to be a city person.”

So was I. I discovered my city mindset during my months with her in the big town of Asheville, North Carolina. That said, being home in Mississippi for the past few weeks had unquestionably brought back the country girl in me.

I was a person who was adaptable, a word Aunt Mamie taught me. It meant I could make myself comfortable in more than one situation. I'd make a point to include my thoughts about the country and the city in my journal. I'd have to admit I had NOT been very adaptable riding the flatcar. I was cross-eyed terrified!


"Ociee, you're a mess! You're covered in dirt and weeds,” said Papa. "What have you two gotten into now?”

I wanted to believe we were going to be perfectly honest with Papa. His reaction convinced me all the more. Ben was supposed to speak first. Yet there he stood, gazing out the kitchen window looking as spotless as fresh fallen snow.

"Nothing much, Papa,” I said, glaring at Ben. I shook my head, brushing away the rubble. "See, I licked the blood right off my arm. Don't want you to worry, not for a minute.”


Ben finally opened his mouth, "Papa, I promised I'd be the one to tell. I hoisted Ociee up on a flatcar. It was going slow, at first, anyway. She rode only a short piece.”

Ben put his arm around me. "You can see for yourself, my sister here is fine as she can be.”

Papa took off his hat, ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. We knew we were in for a talking to.

"Papa, there's one more thing,” I put in. "I saw Mama.”

"Ociee, darlin' girl. You know better . . .”

Before he could finish, I got upon a stool to go eyeball to eyeball with him. "I did, Papa, I did see her. Mama came down from Heaven, sure as sunshine, right after I jumped.”

Again, Papa quieted. When he looked that serious we understood to stand stick still and be extra quiet.

"We've had this talk so many times, too many times, children. I'm not talking about your mama; I am talking about you two doing dangerous things. Now, sit yourselves down.”

Ben and I slid into our seats at the kitchen table. He sat at the head. I began to roll the hem of the red checked tablecloth between my fingertips.

Papa continued, "It's not only this incident, Ben, Ociee. I well remember the unsafe contraption you three built using the cart's old wheels and the apple box. Wasn't it Fred who greased the timbers with lard and sent Ociee whizzing down from the top of the smokehouse?”

"Since we're telling truths,” said Ben, "I helped.”

"Papa, I was pleased the boys asked me to play, honored they let me go first. I'm every bit as brave as my brothers.”

"Lord, have mercy.”

"But I liked it, Papa! I didn't get a scratch.”

"Ociee, just like today, you could have been badly hurt. No one in this family ever stops to consider such. Makes me wonder how Fred would do were he and Rebecca to have a child.”

I swallowed hard. I hadn't thought about any babies. I was still getting accustomed to my brother being a husband.

Papa cleared his throat. The sound startled me.

"I'll never forget the day you and Ben chased after the Gypsy man.” Papa rolled his eyes. "Running from him almost cost you your mama's locket.”

"Papa, that Gypsy wasn't one bit mean like Fred told us Gypsies were. Remember, he said they boil children in big pots! Our Gypsy was kindhearted. Why, if he hadn't found Mama's locket, I wouldn't have it today.”

I pulled the tiny golden heart from under my shirt. He only came in our house because he wanted to return this to me. Hold on, I'm gonna get his painting of Mama.”

"Sit down.”

I folded my arms across my chest.

"Ociee, I'm thankful the man found your locket, and I appreciate his art,” said Papa. "It's a good likeness of your mama.”

"And of her smile.”

Papa closed his eyes. "Yes, Ociee, her sweet smile.”

He opened his eyes and took my hand. Looking at me and at Ben, Papa said, "Let the Gypsy's painting serve as a reminder for you to never judge a person by his manner of dress or by what others say about him. This includes any tales Fred might tell. Look for what's worthy in people. There might be a reason someone is the way he is.”

"Yes, Papa. Fred sure was wrong about the Gypsy.”

"Likely your brother was only trying to get a rise out of you.”

"Fred's terrific at rising me,” laughed Ben.

Papa didn't respond. He seemed edgy. A chill ran through my body. Had another bad thing happened?

"You well remember how thrilled we were when Ociee came home for Fred's wedding.” Papa turned toward me. "My darling girl, you must realize your months in Asheville were lonesome for the boys and me. And, as beneficial as your time with Aunt Mamie turned out to be, it was hardest for you.”

"I know, Papa, but I'll be better when I go back.”

"That's my girl.” Papa drifted off. "It felt so right having us all here.”

"Papa, I wrote about it in my journal! You wished you could stop the hands on your pocket watch so's to keep us together. There we were, you, Fred, Ben and me riding in our wagon with Maud pulling us home. Papa, don't you want me to get my journal? I could read your exact words.”

"No, Ociee. But thank you. It's good for you to keep records of important things.”

"I learned from you, Papa. I watch you write at your desk.”

Ben piped up, "I don't like writing. Too much like school. Don't like nothing about it.”

"Anything, son, you don't like anything about it.”

Papa's years at the University of North Carolina would show up from time to time, specifically when he talked about serious matters. His interest in education was about to take hold again.

"Not true, Ben,” I said. "You know you delight in telling stories.”

"It's the telling I like, Ociee, not the writing. Takes too much time to write. Besides, I'm busy doing important things.” He grinned and readied himself to make mischief. I knew well that expression. He leaned toward me, "You know, Ociee, like pushing my silly sister onto a train!”

I leapt up. "Silly sister, am I?” I went for him. Papa grabbed me around my waist and sat me down.

"Enough out of you two. I have something to say, and you children are making it nearly impossible. Ociee Nash, Ben Nash, behave!”

Papa used a stern teacher tone. Then he was silent and stayed so for several minutes. Worry crawled up and down my back.

Papa hadn't seemed extremely upset about our train antics. Ben and I had done worse. Even while he was scolding us, I wanted to believe he admired my courage. Something was sure enough wrong though. Our papa was postponing his discussion as much as he said we were. He walked to the window.

Ben fiddled with the bowl of daises I'd arranged earlier. It was one time I didn't fuss at him. More minutes passed. Ben and I eyed one another. Again I started fingering the hem of the tablecloth.

Was his concern something else with me or with Ben? Was it about Fred and Rebecca? Had my mentioning Mama troubled him? Or could it have been his job at Fitches Mercantile? Aunt Mamie? Mamie!

"Papa, are you upset because I'm going back to North Carolina?”

Papa seated himself, putting his hands together like he was getting ready to pray. His back stiffened.

"No, Ociee, the fact is the plans have changed. Please trust what I'm going to say is for the best. You both know full well our family is what matters most to me.”

"Papa!” Ben shouted. "I'm going to Asheville instead of Ociee!” Ben knocked over his chair and began to skip around the kitchen. He was shouting and clapping his hands. "It's my turn! Ociee's staying here, and I'm going to North Carolina. Hoorah for me!”

I sat hushed as stone.

"For patience sakes, son, calm yourself! No one's going to Mamie's. You, Ociee, and I are moving to Memphis, Tennessee.”

Ben righted his chair and plopped down.

My bottom jaw dropped to my chest as concern turned into disbelief. I could see into my room. My traveling hat, perched on the bedpost, waited to be worn. I wasn't going to Asheville. I bit my lip.

"You all right, Ociee?” said Papa.

"Yes, sir,” I replied with a sniff.

"Papa, what about Tiger?” said Ben, "I have to take him with me. I won't go if they don't allow cats in Memphis!”

"Of course, cats are allowed in Memphis. Now, carrying Tiger all the way to Tennessee is another story. I don't know how you'll manage such a feat, but you are welcome to try.”

Ben stood at the back door. "Here, Tiger!”

Tiger was nowhere to be found, but Ben was only pretending to hunt for his cat. Papa's announcement shocked my brother the same way it did me. He was trying to untangle his feelings.

"Come here, boy. I'm sorry you're upset, but we're moving again.”

We surely hadn't given our papa the enthusiastic response he'd expected. I was sniffling. Ben was hollering. Papa stood up with his hands held high over his head. I thought about the picture of Moses in my Sunday school book, the one where Moses parts the Red Sea. I felt more like one of Pharaoh's soldiers when the sea flooded back and they were washed away, chariots and all.

I half expected Mama to appear again. I inhaled, hoping for her lavender. No scent came.

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