• Patricia Keeler Bio

    When I was 6 years old, Faye was my best friend. In the summer we met up after breakfast and had the run of the neighborhood until the firehouse air raid siren blew at noon.

    We joined up with other kids and played kick ball in the street, yelling "CAR, CAR, C - A - R" at the top of our lungs when a car showed up.

    We waged war on each other. It wasn't unusual for an elderly gentleman in the neighborhood, coming out to check on his mail, to find a kid tied to a tree in his front yard.

    Faye and I liked to roam the construction site for the new apartments. Mostly the site was swampland with tall, skinny trees. If we put our weight against a tree, we could start it rocking back and forth. If we rocked it for a really long time, and pushed really hard, we could knock it down. Then we would jump back and be amazed to see it crashing a path between the other trees to the ground.

    Faye had a rat named Puddy Leo the Third. He didn't like going outside unless he rode under our shirts. Faye's little sister slammed Puddy Leo's tail in a door and cut off several inches. After that, I didn't like him inside my shirt so much because his little tail stub was cold and heavy. It wasn't a problem for long, because Faye's dad had to get the house fumigated to get rid of Puddy Leo the Third through Puddy Leo the Ninety Ninth.

    The one thing we weren't allowed to do was to walk along the edge of the wooded hill that lined the highway. The narrow path at the top crumbled down a long drop directly into traffic. But we had to go there, because that's where Fairy Rock was. Fairy Rock sat at the highest point. It was a giant, sparkling quartz rock where the fairies lived. We had to bring them gifts—Life Savers, acorns, and bottle caps—household items for fairies. And, we never rolled dirt balls down the hill to watch them burst right before they hit a car.

    When the siren sounded, everybody went home for lunch. But they reappeared when Mom got out a book to read aloud. With both doors open in our tiny house, you could see the front and back yard at the same time. We were caught in the cross breeze mesmerized by the words of Jonathan Swift, Louisa May Alcott, and Mark Twain.

    I don't know if it was lying on our cool, scratchy rug listening to Mom read the classics that made me think I could write and illustrate children's books, or if it was finding out that with perseverance, I could bring down tall trees with my hands. I do know we were pretty hard on Putty Leo the Third.