Banner Mountain Girl # 69

From my journal: “It is raining very hard. The sky is dark and heavy with clouds full of water. It is a day in which I am usually lonely, but today my heart is filled with joy that is lasting over into this dark and rainy day.”

I am a writer and I must write. Often, I wonder what is new to write? Even if, like Hemingway, I should begin with one true sentence, how would I complete a work that I haven’t even thought about? It’s amazing how sometimes my words and phrases tumble over each other to crowd the page, and other times, the page remains blank because a long, dry spell has control of my sub-conscious. Writer’s block is for real from time to time in a writer’s life. And it’s to be expected. As far as I can tell, there’s no quick cure for it.

Journal entry: “I have no creative thoughts but I feel compelled to write something. Drove out to Banner Mountain. Enjoyed the peacefulness of the woods. I always like to go back there.”

Going back to Banner Mountain is like going back home–the place I left at the age of barely nineteen. On an autumn day following our wedding and honeymoon, my husband and I loaded our wedding gifts into the car he had borrowed from an Air Force buddy and we began our journey in life together. A couple of days later, we arrived at Smoky Hill Air Force Base out on the Kansas plains–the countryside so different from my beloved Banner Mountain, with its woodlands, its songbirds, goldfinch on hoeand its kind and gentle people. I would meet other wonderful people as we followed my husband’s military career. I would live in other states in the United States and in one foreign country before my husband retired. After his retirement we moved back to Arkansas, back to the Ozarks to live not very far from Banner Mountain.  © Freeda Baker Nichols

Banner Mt.

 

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 # 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.

GOING HOME

GOING HOME

My plane is airborne, headed south.

Memories march in and out of my mind–

like dogface soldiers.

I’d said goodbye to Mama, then Daddy,

who bent to hug my three year old son

not very long ago.

Emotion struck Daddy like blows.

He straightened, then turned too late

to hide moist eyes.  His blue eyes had

laughed when I was my son’s age.

Youth disappears like the dandelion fuzz

on the face of the wind.

Adams Field is windy . . . but the

planes’ wheels touch the runway

in a smooth landing.

“No, son, Papa’s not here . . .

to meet us.”

Uncle Jim’s brown pickup needs washing.

“Your mama’s taking it bad, ” he tells me.

“Is the wake at the house?” I ask.

He nods. “Like your daddy wanted.”

At the doorway, someone takes my

little boy by the hand.

“The casket’s gray. I never saw Daddy

in a coat and tie before. He’s so cold-looking.

Mama? Mama!”

Her warm arms engulf me.

© 2017 Freeda Baker Nichols

Daddy

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL # 11

Banner Mountain Girl #11

On Banner Mountain, I stand looking at the house, now empty, with brush around it, deserted, falling down. I see the well still covered. I listen for sounds of laughter. Echoing from the past, the sounds ring in my heart. In a flash of memory, someone’s drawing water from the well—and as I look at the house, I wish I could be a child again and put my bare feet into a creek. I wish that I could feel the sun upon my back as I walk barefoot down a dusty road. That I could touch velvety moss in the woods and hear dry leaves crackling.

And draw water from the well.

I wish that I could hear the whippoorwills across the hollow on a warm night. And that I could sit on the front porch again with Mama, Daddy, my sister Yvonne and my brother Bill. Just sit there, not talking much. Then wander into the yard, trying to stay cool. Wash my feet in a pan of cold water and go into the house and go to bed. And see again the morning sun on the tall, thick yard grass, and look at hollyhocks that Mama planted beside the fence.

Draw water from the well.

Watch Mama milk Old Jerse, and later help Mama churn butter in an old-fashioned churn with a dash. Watch Daddy plow the fields. I wish I could once again trade a warm egg to the peddler for bubble gum. Meet Piggy, the mailman, at the mailbox to see what delightful cards, catalogs and letters he would bring. Read again the letters from my best friend, Inez, that Piggy delivered the same day by hand-canceling the three-cent stamp. See Mama sitting in the shade of the peach tree, shelling beans, then stopping to read a letter from my brother when he was overseas during the war.

I remember growing up, and, with Inez, Doris, and Lois Jean, watching for the boys to go by. I remember pie suppers and boys collecting money to buy the cake for the prettiest girl. I recall dinners on the ground, the taste of coconut pies. People visiting. Children playing and laughing. Time unhurried. I cannot be a child again, but I’m thankful for Banner Mountain – whippoorwills, picking cotton and drawing water from the well.

~© Freeda Baker Nichols

 

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL–#9

I WISH I COULD . . .  put my bare feet into a stream of water and be a child again.

Yvonne & Freeda Baker

Yvonne & Freeda Baker

Beside the Creek in Autumn

I wish I could feel the sun warm upon my back as I walk barefoot down a dusty road in summer.

I wish I could touch the velvety soft moss that grows in the woods, and hear again the crackle of dry leaves under my feet. Heaven is here on Earth in the forests. Nature is the pure, clean sparkling beauty that God gave us to enjoy.dsc_0081dsc_0085

I wish I could . . . hear again . . . the whippoorwill across the hollow on a still, warm night. And the mockingbird that perched on the roof of the house, singing sweetly, when I returned from a date.. . . the sounds of my happy teenage world. dsc_0661
I wish I could see again the morning sun upon the tall, thick yard grass in the spring at Banner Mountain.

My happy memory–the wonder of love in my heart for God, my love for Nature and for the people who love me.

dsc_0107dsc_0098dsc_0125

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL–Part Five

Banner Mountain Girl – Part Five

From my Journal, dated 8 Sept. 1977: It’s lonely, trying to write. I have no one to share with, no one who understands what I do. I don’t know why I want to write. I feel I must write. A writer must have patience, persistence, desire.
From my journal, dated 1 Oct 1977, Saturday:
The desire to write has been a part of me for so long, surfacing every now and then in painful attempts to write something for others to read, but always being pushed back inside where it lies dormant until something revives it. I’m not succeeding with anything– not yet, except letters to the editor, but even those were a beginning, a thrill for me because they were well-spoken of, and talked about on the radio and reprinted in other papers. I felt joy because of those published pieces. I would like, of course, to write something for money– something that would stand on its own merit and become an article widely read and one that people would like and understand.
13 Sept. 1977: Life of a writer is a lonely road, open at each end. Do I go forward and find new rewards or retreat to familiar places? I, alone, can make the choice.
28 July 1978: I mailed my story, “Tadpoles Can’t Bite,” to Homelife today. I hope they like it and use it.
1 Sept. 1978:” Tadpoles Can’t Bite” didn’t impress the editor who read it but I still think it has a lot of value and placed in the right hands, it will make it to the people.
© 2016 Freeda Baker Nichols