Gritty Times in Wyoming Pt. 04byEgmontGrigor2011©
A week after moving to live with the Williams', Skye received a call from the State Department. The Official said Skye and a companion of her choice had been invited to visit China for seven days on a cultural exchange next month, a visit that had been approved by both Governments.
"Because you have significant impact as a writer in parts of China and you will visit four areas where your popularity is significant and at the first of those centers you have been invited to open a regional doll exhibition of some magnitude. It has been requested you bring your doll with you and in all probability the area where your doll was made will be identified and there is a possibility that the doll marker will be identified as well."
Skye accepted and invited Glenys to accompany her but Glenys revealed a fear of flying and so Myra went. In China an interpreter and a Chinese female photojournalist who also spoke excellent English joined them to accompany them on the short tour.
The doll exhibition was huge, the exhibition halls covering more than one and a half acres with each group of halls exhibiting a different class of dolls. Two security guards arrived at Skye's hotel with a steel box and Daisy was placed in the box. The interpreter said, "These guards will keep in close contact with you all morning. Security is deemed necessary because officials don't wish to risk an international incident by someone deciding to acquire Daisy."
Skye thought protection for Daisy was a great idea.
The official opening was held in the open outside the main hall where the exhibits were like a Hall of Fame. The assembled, tightly packed crowd was the largest mass of people Skye and Myra had ever seen.
The speeches were long and all Skye had to do was to step forward, accept a pair of engraved scissors to keep as a memento and then say, 'I declare this impressive exhibition open' and cut the tape.
The security men then unlocked the box and handed Daisy to Skye. Skye turned to the crowd and held Daisy high and a huge murmur swept through the crown and then a tremendous chant broke out, although not everyone took part. The word being called was clearly, 'Daisy, Daisy, Daisy'.
The interpreter shouted to Skye, "That chant is because many people here are aware of the long-running comic strip that features Daisy as the heroine. They are astonished and respect you because they had no idea a person from the United States of America could hold dearly a rag doll made in a village of insignificance in China."
The chant died away and the assembly began to disperse.
The official in charge led the guests to the main hall where refreshments were served. He then presented to Skye a woman dressed in a pinstriped business skirt and jacket. The journalist with Skye's party sensed something was up and began taking photographs.
"Good morning Miss Skye," said the woman. "I am Xue Ai-ling and you may call me Ai-ling which is my first name. You won't recognize me because you people from the West have this funny idea that we Chinese all look vaguely familiar. We have many jokes about that."
Skye smiled and said, "You are the business lady who received my authority to print my story about the doll maker written when I was fourteen."
"You astonish me," said the woman. "I certainly did not recognize you."
"I didn't remember you. I just thought it's most likely that the only woman in all of China who would have ever met me would be that woman who wanted to publish my story."
"And I am also the official in a printing company who decided your books should be published here in China under license because our comic strip about the adventures of Daisy we had written for us in your style continued in popularity."
The chief official, who had been listening to his translator, clapped and said 'Bravo' and everyone in his party clapped and said something that sounded like bravo.
"Your writings have made me very famous," said the woman.
The head official clapped and his associates joined in the clapping.
"I knew you were coming here and I would like you to accept this gift from me. Through your influenced I have become wealthy."
A younger woman came forward and opened a jewelry case and Ai-ling held up a magnificent gold bracelet and everyone clapped as she placed it around Skye's left wrist.
"This is a huge surprise and a most wonder gift. I shall always treasure it"
"Now please allow me to hold Daisy," Ai-ling said. "A line of elite doll makers, who are also doll historians because that is the tradition, from various regions but not from all of China of course, will file past and examine Daisy briefly. If Daisy was made in this part of China she will be recognized."
Some thirty master craftsmen had looked at Daisy when one of them shouted and called something and a young guy raced off.
Ai-ling and the elderly man conversed.
She told Skye, "Your Daisy was made in the 1920s and that doll maker is no longer alive but his son, now an old man, is here helping with his son's exhibition. He comes now."
Almost ten minutes later an elderly man was escorted in. He examined the back of Daisy's head and pointed and nodded.
"Oh can you believe it," said the Chinese photojournalist. "He says his father made that doll. The head-flap is sewn in cross-stitching and that is usual but halfway up on the left-hand side of the head are four lots of double cross-stitches, his father's mark as doll maker."
The official translator took over and the retired doll maker was pleased to know that one of his father's dolls had gone to America and had survived. He offered to replace the missing leg.
"Please ask him what would he do if that were his daughter's doll. Tell him a dog tore the leg off and ran off with it. My mother stitched the hole closed because I didn't want her to make a new leg."
The interpreter repeated that and the old man smiled and nodded at Skye.
"He says you are a good doll owner. The doll is in excellent condition. He says if his daughter had not wanted the leg replaced he would not have replaced it. However his daughter had been spoilt and she would have thrown the damage doll away and demanded another one. He says his daughter was not a good doll owner."
"Oh lovely story. Please tell him that."
The guy laughed.
Skye took off her watch and handed it to the interpreter. "Please ask the son of Daisy's maker to accept this watch. Daisy and I are very pleased to know approximately how old she is."
The interpreter said, "He thanks you and Daisy very much because he doesn't have a watch. He thinks the year could have been 1923 and says that would be a good year to settle on. He could name the village but says it's too small to find on any map. The village is in this Province of Jiangsu and that borders Shanghai Province to the south."
* * *
Skye was tremendously pleased to be visiting China and had given her thoughts for a new Carey Green adventure. At the suggestion of the Chinese journalist, the accompanying government official/interpreter traveling with them had arranged to have a change in their travel schedule. Late on the their final day they flew to Hong Kong for a brief stop before leaving for home just after midnight. The official arranged for Skye to meet the TV presenter who had helped to make Skye's books popular. The young woman Kim invited Skye to appear on her show because by sheer coincidence Skye was arriving in Hong Kong on Friday; the show was broadcast on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights.
Skye wondered was it a coincidence. Just as she wondered was it a coincidence the locality of where Daisy had been made was revealed at the doll exhibition. Also it had to be more than a coincidence that the son of the doll maker, who looked well into his eighties, had been at the show. With Daisy things that appeared to be coincidences seemed to be suspiciously coincidental.
Skye decided to tell no one about those thoughts because... well because people might think she was becoming unstable. It was not unlike when she was young and believed that sometimes Daisy told her what to do. Thereafter she'd never attempted to analyze why she would have believed until she was about the age of ten or so that Daisy sometimes told her what to do. She knew it would serve no useful purpose to speculate. As they say, leave sleeping dogs lie.
The hour-long TV music/chat show began at 7:00 and Skye was scheduled to be Milly Woo's first guest. Skye was pleased to learn that Milly spoke excellent English and the program was broadcast in English.
Although it was a small TV station, Milly's three nights a week show was the station's most popular program. It had huge ratings as Hong Kong-born Milly had gigantic appeal to females especially 14-17 year olds. Publicity about the unexpected upcoming live appearance of Skye Brock, a key influence behind the Daisy comic strip and creator of the legendary fictitious book character Carey Green, had created huge interest and when tickets for the show became available TV news film clips showed near riots outside the studio 1200-set theatre. Young people were protesting because all the tickets had been snapped up within an hour. The media began calling the disturbance 'the Carey Green frenzy'.
When Skye and her party arrived late afternoon on a direct 2½ flight from Nanjing City, capital of the province where Daisy has been made, the media mobbed Skye and news clips of that melee were shown next day on TV in North America.
A woman reporter with a photographer asked, as the barrage of questions began to fade, "Do you have Daisy with you?"
Surprised that a journalist would know the doll by her name, Skye said, "Yes, right here, a dug into her carry bag.
The effect of the media was astonishing.
"Stand back, let the TV cameramen get this," called one of the unit directors.
People moved away a bit, creating space around Skye and the Chinese journalist. TV lights blazed and camera flashlights blazed away.
That reporter asked, "Please hold Daisy against you affectionately for a photograph Miss Brock."
Sky ask the journalist who began this, "Are you a mother?"
"Yes," said the surprised reporter. "I have a boy of eight and a girl of six."
"Then come and stand beside me and stroke Daisy and your daughter can see you on TV tonight with Daisy and me."
"You are the real celebrity Miss Brock. Daisy and Carey Green are more famous than you but they cannot emote and talk in real time and therefore they cannot become celebrities but you can speak for them."
Skye reeled at the impact of that profound statement. It put together the final piece to explain why her sudden rise in popularity had occurred. All the time she'd thought Carey Green had been responsible for this but she now understood Carey was not operating in real time. The thing generating the influence of Carey was the two people er two figures in her background, Skye and Daisy. For starters the creation of Carey Green, earnest striver and accidental heroine, had been a result of Skye testing a number of possible characterizations on Daisy and the one Daisy appeared to favor had been the bumbling Carey Green.
A voice in the background she knew very well had remarked involuntarily, "Omigod our ranch girl a celebrity. We will lose her."
Skye turned to smile reassuringly at Myra. She had no plans to move away from the ranch. Anyway this hysteria would quickly die and Skye and her character of Carey Green would fade as well and she'd be lucky to have 30,000 sales per new publication.
Finally they were leaving the airport. Myra said, "Right young lady, we have that suite in a hotel you so kindly booked for use for six hours before we leave again for the airport. Let's get you to a dress shop to buy something slinky that makes you look younger than what you are for this TV interview. It will have to be ultra short. Thank goodness you have great legs.
"Ultra short," Skye quavered.
"Darling you'll be wearing panties."
The freelance journalist and the official/interpreter joined Myra to crack up when they saw the look on Skye's face.
At the dress shop (there wasn't time to go to more than one if Skye wished to shower and get to make-up at the studio on time), she attempted to try on a trouser suit but her three female companions cried no.
"A short, tight dress this high," Myra said, her hand edge practically on her hip joint.
"This high," Skye said, her hand a daring two inches above the knee.
The photographer and office said no and they both had their hands almost nine inches above the knee.
And that's was Skye got.
The racy sleeveless tube dress of silver sequins on a gray body had a built-in bra and look absolutely glorious on Skye.
"Omigod, I like it," she said excitedly.
They raced back to the hotel where the suite fortunately had two bathrooms.
While Skye was in the shower Myra called the TV producer to confirm Skye would be on time for make-up.
"How many of you will be accompanying Skye Mrs Williams?"
"Right we'll send two cars. We want Skye to ride in the front vehicle, an open convertible. Two security men will ride on the running boards [side-steps]. As Skye approaches the studio we expect fans who couldn't get into the theater will be lining the sidewalks waving. We want her to wave back and hold up Daisy."
"But Skye can't have become such a big celebrity as this in such short time Mei Hui?"
"This is Hong Kong Mrs Williams. Expect adoration. We have to delay your arrival to allow crowd-build to maximize for best media coverage and so will send make-up and wardrobe people to you."
"Don't bother about a dress. Skye has brought a new silver sequin dress."
"Tight and short?"
"Yes of course."
"Oh wonderful so it will just be hair and make-up. The name of your hotel, street and suite number please."
* * *
The two-car convoy from the hotel had a police escort and the sidewalks in the last quarter-mile from the studio theatre extra police were pushing back mainly screaming youngsters at least 15 deep on both sides of the road who threatened to spill out and block the thoroughfare.
TV presenter Milly Woo came out of the main doors and police and private security officers worked hard on crowd control. Skye stepped out of the white Rolls Royce and she and Milly hugged and kissed. Milly was wearing a multi-colored shirt, white shorts and sneakers and was rather plump and short but her huge personality and energy became immediately apparent.
"So lovely to meet you Skye. Omigod you are so beautiful. We have made a change of program because we have a huge number of stations through South Asia and as far away as Japan and India taking this feed live and we are being filmed live right now. I want you to be my sole guest for the full hour of the program, okay? We'll have regular segments between the interviews."
"That's fine but what on earth will we talk about?"
"I'm paid a very fat salary to keep you relaxed and chatting Skye so no problem. Hi ladies, just follow us in. We have reserved seats for you at the front of house. The noise will be deafening I'm afraid."
A guy shouted over booming speakers in excellent English, "Ladies and gentlemen, please stand for the arrival of your favorite program hostess Milly Woo and her only guest tonight, American author Skye Brock, creator of that adorable shy young adventuress, Carey Green."
The crowd went wild, screaming and thumping their feet.
As Milly was about to lead Skye up the steps on to the stage, Myra handed Skye a nondescript cloth shopping bag.
Milly introduced Skye to the house and TV audiences and she and Skye sat facing each other. Skye couldn't believe how well the interview began and continued throughout. Milly was so relaxed and so expert at drawing answers.
"Well welcome to Hong Kong Skye and we are so excited that you have been on a brief visit to China to open the 5-yearly Doll Makers Exhibition in Jiangsu Province. It was so good of you to pop down here on your way home and it's such a pity you have not brought Daisy with you here tonight."
"Oh but I have," Skye said, bending over and pulling Daisy out of the bag and handing her to Milly.
"Daisy, Daisy, Daisy," screamed the audience almost hysterically (their average age appeared to be fifteen/sixteen).
Milly screamed, "Omigod, I'm holding Daisy, one of the most famous dolls in the world."
"Huh?" Skye reacted, astonished. "This is just my childhood doll."
"Yes but she's the famous venerable comic strip character Skye Brock's doll. Daisy has lived with you through thick and thin and has shared your tears, your laughter and your journeys. And she appears in your books as Daisy as Carey's Green's doll and don't you see? We know Carey Green is really you. Now don't look so surprised. Who went on that first adventure before you wrote Carey Green as going on it? You did. You spent a month with the United States Coastguard and then who spent a month with the United States Coastguard after you? Carey Green. Then in her latest adventure Carey once again followed in your next footsteps."
"Well that's reading a little too much into it Milly. I agree Carey's doll Daisy sounds as if she could be my Daisy and I intended that but I never intended Carey Green to be me."
"Okay we'll leave that right there for a minute. Have you a new book coming out."
"Yes and it's another in Carey Green series of adventures and is being printed right now."
"Oh yippee. I can't wait. And where is this novel set?"
"In Wyoming, set on a ranch actually."
"Oh yippee. Sounds exciting. And where have you been living for much of the past seven months researching for this novel."
There was silence.
"Come on Skye, you don't have to baulk like Carey Green."
"I have been living on a ranch in Wyoming."
"Sorry that was said so quietly I almost missed it."
"I have been living on a ranch in Wyoming."
"Oh really? And having great adventures."
"Yes and some have been real scary."
Milly laughed. "Gee talk about Carey Green being the reluctant heroine. I wonder where she got that from?"
"From Skye Brock," yelled a number of girls in the studio audience and everyone laughed.
Milly said, "Watch your TV screens now of this horse. This photo was emailed to us at our request and received only hours ago. Mrs Williams, who is sitting in this front row and is a member of Milly's party. Please take the microphone from the floor attendant Mrs Williams and tell us briefly who you are and how Skye came to be given this horse. I'm sorry if this will embarrass you Skye but our researcher was wildly excited when she found out about it."
"No it's fine."
My name is Myra Williams and since Skye has been living on the cattle ranch opposite our ranch, she and I have become great friends. Recently Skye heard an explosion over our way and saw smoke coming from our adjacent barn. She drove over at break-neck speed and found Len my husband in the path of an advancing fire and trapped under a heavy blower fan used to dry grain in our two big silos. I was frantic and knew the only way I could pull Len clear was to chop off his trapped arm with an axe."
The audience gasped or went "Oooh."
"Skye raced in an took the axe off me only just in time and she worked out a way to lever up the fan sufficiently to allow me to pull me husband clear. She used Len's cell phone to call and air ambulance and then controlled the fire from the gas explosion until help arrived. My husband suffered cuts to his arm, a broken shoulder and concussion but is fine now. Recently we gave Skye this magnificent young mare Maysun which means a pretty face in Arabic. Maysun is 15.4 hands high and her father is a purebred registered Arabian stallion and her mother is a registered Quarter Horse. Maysun is on the Half-Arabian registry."