A Tough Old Bridge
The railway bridge at edge of my hometown
no longer hears an engine’s chugging hiss,
no longer shakes with jar of clacking wheels.
Old-timers spin tall tales of how they miss
the whistle blaring near the mountain bend.
Though trains no longer cross the Little Red,
the bridge has earned the honor to remain–
iron-clad above the restless river’s bed.
The swimming hole beneath the overpass
attracts both old and young from off the ridge.
The local preachers hold baptisms there
in sight of that old tough and rustic bridge.
© copyright, Freeda Baker Nichols
Birds of many colors
spread your wings to fly
upward to the treetops
on up into the sky.
Birds with sweetest voices
sing now across the way
begin a happy melody
in every heart today.
© Freeda Baker Nichols
Pairs of birds
grackles, mourning doves, blue jays and redbirds
These colorful birds visit my yard often. The birds that I remember when I was a child at Banner Mountain were not the same as these. They were mockingbirds, hummingbirds, sparrows, crows, hawks, owls and purple martins. My older siblings often told the story of how they would go look at a bird’s nest in an old tree. They said it was the nest of a “yellow-hammer” and it was built in an old “snag,” which meant it was in an old hollow tree. But I have no idea what kind of bird it was. My siblings went every day to see the baby birds. By researching, I’ve learned the yellowhammer is Alabama’s state bird, which is a northern flicker or yellow-shafted flicker. Or as one source says, they were birds with yellow patches under their wings. I can only imagine how beautiful those birds and baby birds must have been. I wish I could have seen them but they lived in the old snag tree before I was born. And to this day, I have not seen a yellowhammer bird. ~~Freeda Baker Nichols
As a child, growing up on Banner Mountain, I began writing poetry and continued writing it in high school. I loved reading poetry and hearing my teachers discuss poets and their work. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become a poet. And I certainly never thought that one day I would spend a night at the same Inn by the Sea where Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) had visited, where he had been inspired to write some of his masterpieces.
I visited this romantic place and stayed at this unique Emerson Inn by the Sea with my husband and part of our family a few years ago when we returned to New England to show our children where we had lived. My husband was stationed at Pease Air Force Base, Portsmouth, New Hampshire for three years. We lived in Kittery, Maine when our third child was born. What a treasure to revisit New England, see old friends, begin a new poem, and to set foot on the rocky coast where Emerson once found inspiration to write!
© Freeda Baker Nichols
Wild violets grew in the woodlands surrounding my homeplace at Banner Mountain.
Thinking of the wild violets, I remember how we children played a game using the flowers. We picked some of the violets and when we hooked two blooms together and pulled on each stem, one of the blooms snapped off its stem. We called them rooster flowers and that was a pretend rooster fight. Always a winner in that game.
Just as sure as real roosters, hens and bantam chickens were a part of our life at the homeplace, the rooster flowers were a part of our springtime. How beautiful the little blue-violet flowers were. I saw the violets and other lovely wild flowers every day when I was a child. They appeared early in spring, like magic.
I still recall the day my brother, Billy, brought home a little bantam rooster. Billy set him down in the barnyard. And right away a big rooster ran over to the little rooster and began a fight. Bill picked up a chip of wood and threw it at the big rooster. The chip of wood struck the big rooster and he fell over dead! What now? That was Mama’s big, old rooster. Oh, no! I witnessed the entire event. Looking back, it was the only way that Billy could save his little bantam. The only way. Even though I saw it all, I was never called in to testify as to what had happened to Mama’s rooster.
And now, after all these years, I don’t remember what happened to the bantam rooster either. Did he grow old and die a natural death? I guess that’s not important. Perhaps my brother remembers. Sometimes a writer’s memory is called to a task of embellishing certain experiences. But not this experience. I can tell you that the chip of wood buzzed as it whizzed toward that bullying rooster! Billy really didn’t mean to kill the big ,old rooster; he only meant to protect the little one.
© Freeda Baker Nichols
TEN CHOICES Mystery Birds