BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL #29 “Orders for Torrejon Air Base, Spain”

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL#29 “Orders: Torrejon Air Base, Spain”

My series of short works will not always be in chronological order. With this one I will share my experience of leaving Banner Mountain.
I was nineteen on that October Saturday in 1953 when I married my sweetheart.Darrel & Freeda Nichols He was also nineteen and in the U.S. Air Force. I went with him to live in Kansas where he was stationed at Smoky Hill Air Force Base, which later was named Schilling Air Force Base. In 1956, my husband got out of the Air Force and enrolled in college. In 1958, he reenlisted in the Air Force and in less than a year, he received orders to go to Torrejon Air Base, Spain. By this time, we had a four-year-old son and an eighteen-month-old daughter.
Our parents had been tearful when they said goodbye to us, especially when they hugged their grandchildren.Walter Baker, Tammy & Greg 1958 -1 Later, I was told that a few days after we’d left, my dad had erased our baby’s footprints in the sand because when he looked at them, her absence was too painful. How sad that life must be like that. Life happens one day at a time. One. Day. At. A. Time. “Lord, be with us. We are so far from all our relatives.” And I am so very far from my Banner Mountain . . .
We rented a house in Mirasierra, a suburb of Madrid. In my language, Mirasierra means “Look at the mountains.”
And so, the beauty of Spain’s countryside was comforting. We were a family happy to be together, though lonely for our own country and home folks.
Tammy, Freeda & Greg, Madrid, Spain

A Family Bivouac

We went with him to Spain—the kids and I.
The Air Force sent him there to stay three years.
With aching heart, I hugged my folks good-bye
and climbed aboard a jet, eyes filled with tears.

As engines roared into the sky,
the landscape fell away.

I held our baby snugly on my lap,
and thought ‘my folks have never left their town.’
I’d watched them point to Spain upon the map,
saw Dad brush tears and hide a fearful frown.

Tending cows to supplement carpenter’s pay,
he and Mama had made a home for seven children.

Where is my home? I wondered briefly. Then,
my husband squeezed my hand, and I was quite
assured my home will be where he is when
our plane descended from its five-hour flight.

The children romped across a gray-tiled floor,
then fell asleep in beds that were not ours.

The house to which we moved our home was plain,
but peaceful like the turquoise skies of Spain.

© Freeda Baker Nichols

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL#28 “Red Daylilies”

RED DAYLILIES

The house is empty now
and no one tends
the flowers, growing still
along the walk where once
I strolled with Mama.

My hand in hers, she walked
with me and talked about
the blue hydrangeas,
Phlox of pink,
daylilies red, and
golden black-eyed Susans,
dazzling at their peak
of color
in the sun.

I walk along the
silent footpath now,
where only shadows move.
I miss Mama.

© Freeda Baker Nichols

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL # 27 birthplace and homeplace

I wandered far from Banner Mountain . . . far from the place where I was born.

. . . But never have I forgotten where I am from.

DSC_0054 - 1

My folks were one of the families of the Banner Mountain community whose houses nestled along a road that still is hard dirt, clay and rocks. Our address once was Route 2 and we had a mailbox number, which does not immediately come to my mind.

A few years ago, when 911 maps were introduced, the road by my homeplace was named Silver Rock.

My grandparents lived along this road in a house with a breezeway. After my grandpa died, my folks with five children moved into the house with Grandma and my aunt. My grandma’s house with a breezeway is the place of my birth.

The breezeway was converted into more rooms and though no one lives in the house today, it still exists as the homestead of my grandparents.

While my parents were living with Grandma, my dad built our homeplace nearby. When I was about one year old, the family moved into our new frame house. So the house Daddy built became home to me and I never left until I married at age nineteen.

With my husband I moved far, far away from Banner Mountain . . . I followed my husband in his travels with the Air Force . . . but never have I forgotten where I am from.
© Freeda Baker Nichols

cropped-cropped-cropped-homeplace.jpg

a painting of my homeplace by my sister, Yvonne Baker Hall. © copyright, Yvonne Hall.

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL # 25 “A Tough Old Bridge”

Train Bridge at Shirley, Arkansas

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

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL #24 In the springtime

copy-cropped-cropped-homeplace.jpg                                    (Homeplace from a painting by Yvonne Baker Hall)

As I remember Banner Mountain in the springtime, I think of how the apple blossoms and plum blossoms greeted me as I returned from school. I might not have noticed the fresh blooms in the orchard as I left the house to walk up the trail to the Banner School. But always on my return, the orchard welcomed me back home from a day of “readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic” and playing with my friends.

Yvonne & Freeda Baker

Yvonne & Freeda Baker

Yvonne and I at the homeplace, standing between the daffodils and the lilac bush. With two years difference in our ages, we were inseparable. Mama said that when I started to school that Yvonne was very lonely. She’d go outside and call for our dog, named Rusty. “Here, Rust! Here, Rust!” In a couple of years, though, Yvonne joined me on the walk to school. As time went by, Rust met his fate although I don’t recall when or how he died. Another dog named Fuzzy came into our lives, and he was allowed to go with us to school. He waited around for us until school was out and he hurried along as we headed back home.  At the close of school for the summer when certificates were given to those completing the eighth grade, Fuzzy received a certificate, too. I don’t know how much Fuzzy learned but he was well-behaved and friendly to all.

The lilacs, the daffodils, and the orchard’s pink and white blooms were such a pleasant sight–the memory of which I still cherish from long-ago spring-times on Banner Mountain. ~~Freeda Baker Nichols

Bluebird

the bluebird flies purposefully

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL–School Days#22

Our schoolhouse at Banner Mountain was a white building with two rooms. In one room a teacher taught first grade through fourth grade. In the other room, another teacher taught fifth through the eighth grade.
Four of my older siblings are shown in this picture which was taken before I started to school. This photo is the only one I have of the Banner School.


(Banner School, about 1937. Mrs. Ola Griggs
the teacher, seated at end of second row.
In front row is my brother, Billy, 4th from
left. Another brother, Aaron is seated in 3rd row
behind the teacher and to her right. My sister,
Merle, is in the 4th row, the 4th person from the right.
My brother, Dean, is the dark haired boy in the
back row, 5th from the right.)

My siblings and I walked about a quarter mile to school. We walked along a trail through the woods, carrying our lard-pail lunch buckets. What am I saying? There was no such word as lunch back then. Not in my vocabulary. The lard buckets with handy little bails were dinner buckets. At night, our mealtime was called supper.

The bucket at left is the container my mother used to pick blackberries. I still have this bucket along with the 8-pound lard tin that was also my mother’s.  Our lunch pails were only half that size. My lunch always tasted good, especially the fried chocolate pies.~~Freeda Baker Nichols
Chocolate pie - 1 (2)

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL#21

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