BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL # 30 “MAMA”

MAMA

Her name was Laura Sephrona. She was my mama. I am the sixth of her seven children. Four girls and three boys. Her grandchildren called her Granny.
She braided her black silken hair and wound it around and around her head. Her eyes were blue-bonnet gray. She was short and plumpish when I knew her. In a photo, on a yellowed postcard with crinkled corners, she was dressed in a white blouse, trimmed with tatted lace and a long, black cotton skirt with a small waistband. She wore high top lace-up leather shoes.
She fell in love with daddy the first time she looked into his blue eyes.
In spring, she tended to corn, okra, and other vegetables in the meadow garden. She stored fresh red, round tomatoes in a lard bucket and hung it on a prong of the cedar post that cornered the back porch. The tomatoes were juicy and good, she said, sprinkled with salt.
Her tanned, wrinkled fingers once picked soft gray-white feathers from ducks squawking in rhythm to each yank of snowy down. The feathers made their way into the pillows that we slept on at night.
Mama milked “Ole Jerse” and placed the fluffy foam on pink tongues of orphaned kittens.

Ole Jerse

Sometimes she doctored me and my siblings with castor oil and she said, “Swallow this. It tastes good with sugar on it.”
I said nothing to disagree with her opinion because the weathered oak bench we were sitting on was beneath Mama’s blooming peach tree.
Mama quilted the quilts for our beds with fingers tender from being stuck by the sharp needles.
She built a fire in the wood stove to cook our meals. She wore an apron made from flour sacks. She wrung the necks of chickens to prepare our Sunday dinners. Sometimes the preacher came for dinner and she always served fried chicken.
She taught her daughters how to become keepers of our homes. By following her example and with the grace of God, the four of us maintained stable homes.
She showed us the milky way and taught us nursery rhymes about starlight.

“Wish I may, wish I might
have the wish I wish tonight.”

She wrote in my diary that “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Beside that, she added the Golden Rule. “Always do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
She taught us the Bible in many ways. By example and by a game she played with us by  asking what our dreams were and then opening up the worn leather cover of our family Bible to find these words “and it came to pass.”

And my dreams did “Come to pass.”

I became a writer, a wife, mother, grandmother and now a great grandmother.

My mama was the very best!  I loved her with all my heart and I cherish her memory!

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.

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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

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

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL #15

The Tomato Hole was a pool of water in a little branch that ran through our pasture and across the road a short distance from our house.  The water was deep enough for us kids to swim. This swimming hole got its name from the tomato patch our dad planted each spring. While I never thought about it when I was small, we had our very own swimming pool right there at Banner Mountain. Surrounded by nature. Along with tomatoes growing nearby, delicious Muscadines hung on vines on the banks of the branch. Pines and cedars, oaks, wild cherry trees, and maples made up the forest.  Privet bushes shaped like umbrellas popped up everywhere.  When in bloom they were covered in tiny flowers.

Not only did we swim, we also caught “crawdads”. Frog eggs and tadpoles were abundant and exciting to find. And we loved playing with frogs.

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My cousin and I once thought my younger sister was about to drown when she was trying to get away from a snake. She tried climbing up the bank and kept sliding back into the water. We reached for her hands and helped her up the bank. Heroically, we “saved” her. I don’t remember if we told our parents, and if we didn’t, it might have been because we feared they’d forbid us to ever swim again at the Tomato Hole. And that would have been a tragic end to a magical part of our childhood. For sure!

© Copyright, Freeda Baker Nichols

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL # 14

BOOKS

Books have always been important to me. I still have a children’s book my first grade teacher gave me as a gift. “The Little Red Hen” I loved that story.

When I was about thirteen years old, a sweet neighbor lady gave me the gift of a young-adult novel. “Mimi’s House Party,” by Anne Pence Davis. It was my first real book. I wish I still had that book but I have no idea what happened to it. A few years ago, I ordered a copy of it from Amazon. But it came without the attractive dust jacket. It came as a used book from a library. Very plain without the jacket. Glancing through the story, I can’t say I recall even one line or one scene in the novel. I do recall being happy to have a book of my very own.

mimi's-house-party

Time went by . . .  I grew up out there on Banner Mountain. My older siblings left home to seek their fortune. The day came when I married and left my beloved homeplace, too. Said “So long for now” to my most wonderful parents and joined my husband, the man of my dreams, in his travels with the Air Force, his career choice.

Years went by . . .  each of our four children was born in a different state. When my husband retired from the Air Force, we returned to Arkansas and settled down not very far from Banner Mountain.

In 2012, I wrote my very own first novel.  My younger sister, an artist, painted the cover. One of my daughters helped me choose the title and she and my other daughter proofread and critiqued for me. Also my critique group offered many good suggestions. Creating and publishing this book has been an amazing adventure. Because I self-published, it’s not yet on Amazon. But it may be ordered directly from me. It may be ordered here.

Call of the Cadron

My novel is a Christian Romance. It’s family-oriented. I’ve had fun writing and publishing it. I hope readers find it worthy of their time spent in reading it. I’d say it’s just right for a rainy day read to lift your spirit.

Whether you order it or not, I appreciate you as a follower of my blog.  Bloggers need readers, just as authors do. Watch for my next installment of Banner Mountain Girl. 🙂

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL #13

WOODPECKER

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This red-bellied woodpecker has grabbed a bite of food and is lifting off in flight to wherever he is nesting. The ever-present sparrow at the lower right corner of the photo huddles quietly, awaiting the departure of the bossy woodpecker. Blue jays are often rude and aggressive wild birds, but even they move away from the woodpecker when he flies in.

Bluejayswoodpecker in flight

I don’t recall woodpeckers at Banner Mountain. But they probably were there. My favorite birds were the mockingbirds and the whippoorwills. I remember the red-tail hawk that circled the sky, whistling, and looking for chickens to catch. Mama sent me outside many times to scare the hawk away. We had lots of sparrows around our homeplace. And there were quail. Crows, too, and owls. The hummingbirds were the most entertaining. They hovered over the honeysuckle and raided the sweet nectar in the colorful hollyhocks that Mama planted by the garden fence. Once I found an abandoned bird’s nest that hung down from a limb like a sock.  I don’t know what kind of bird built the nest. But it was an awesome find for a child who would grow up to become a writer with a big imagination.

© Freeda Baker Nichols

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL # 12

DSC_0065Gene, Freeda, cave on Baker Place, ClintonI am a writer, and I write.  Racehorses run races because they are compelled by forces larger than themselves and writers write because of an inner force too strong to be ignored.   I write to fulfil a need that I believe I was born with–a desire to put words into stories and poems, to create situations and re-live experiences in order to share with others. I write for fun and for profit.

When the wellspring within me overflows with ideas, I grab a pen and paper and write the ideas down.  I pay attention to detail, to unusual happenings, to unique and common conversations.  People are interesting to me.   I am one of the many inhabitants of this earth.  I write to communicate with others.

Writing is therapeutic but that’s not the reason I write.  In fact, I won’t write when I’m extremely sad because I don’t want sadness to show through and discourage others.  Optimism is what I want to express through my words.

I write for fun although some of my better poems came from unhappy times in my life.  Some of my most frustrating episodes turn into humorous stories or poems.  How can sitting at a desk, writing,  be fun, asked my super-active youngest son who is a plumber, by trade.  A daring child when he was a youngster, his idea of fun was spinning the tires of a four-wheel drive truck deep in mud along the riverbank.

Through writing, my reader and I can go into  dangerous areas without leaving our homes.  And I have fun.

  I write for profit, although writing has not been very lucrative.  Still, I attempt to earn money with writing.  And I wind up with pocket-money, at least.

To entertain with  words is my goal and I feel like an actress on a stage.  I want to be good at writing, to be remembered as an author who caused others to read, to laugh, to cry.  I want my readers to be encouraged, to believe that life must be lived to its fullest, that precious time must not be squandered.

I like to draw and to paint and would have enjoyed being an artist.  I have no time for art  because something compels me to write, keeps me at it,  and won’t allow me to be disheartened for long.

That “something” drives me, has driven me since I was nine years old.  Sometimes, it hides from me temporarily, but it always returns and heads me back toward the green meadows, it takes me over purple mountains, it allows me to watch an eagle glide, and sustains me through all my winters and summers.

A racehorse races because he can.

I’m a writer. I write because I must.  I have no choice.

cCopyright, 2012, Freeda Baker Nichols