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!



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 MountainBanner Mountain Girl # 10

Sometimes when snow fell at Banner Mountain, my mother would look out at the big, white snowflakes peppering down and she would tell us kids, “The old goose is losing her feathers.”
            That expression coming from Mama was a pleasant thought but of course we kids were old enough to know it was a game Mama played – a game of make-believe. Why not just say, “Oh look! It’s snowing!”

            Too dull-sounding.

             A sky full of feathers falling off a goose nudged my imagination and gave me a reason to dream. That image was far more motivational than “Look at the big snowflakes.”
            Perhaps Mama’s way of entertaining us was the beginning of my desire to become a writer. Mama herself was inspirational to me. She always said I was happy with a pencil in my hand and a tablet to write on.
            My love for my mama and her love for me is the reason my first poem was written to her and about her.  I wrote it at school in cursive on a page in my Big Chief tablet when I was nine years old. And then I shared it with Mama.
            While I was not certain my little rhyming poem was as clear to Mama as it was to me, I’m thankful she was the first person, besides my teacher, to read my very first creative writing. At that time, there was no fridge in our house on which to pin up the poem, like parents can do today.
          But Mama kept it for me, and I still have it somewhere in my files.

© 2017 Freeda Baker Nichols

A Summer Night

Whip–poor–will!  Whip–poor–will! A voice declares. It reaches across time and my remembering stops with the sound as it peacefully echoes back from a silent night of long ago. The summers of my childhood come alive with color as a cup of fiery memories overflows.

Yvonne & Freeda Baker

Yvonne & Freeda Baker

After supper, our family sat on the front porch of our home on Banner Mountain in the Ozark Foothills until time to go to bed.


Dusk appeared just as the whippoorwills began to sing.  Fireflies flitted about the yard and some of them had the misfortune of getting stuck inside a jar, held by small, sweaty hands.  Jarflies were so noisy that adult voices had to stop sometimes, but the children’s laughter continued and mingled with the noise of the approaching nighttime.

Daddy never said how tired he was or how hard he had worked or how aggravated he had been.  It seemed as though he loved everybody he had ever met, and felt no ill will toward anyone.

And Mama was always unruffled, unhurried, and able to relax as she went about her household duties. The apron she wore has no replicas.

The modern day housewife seldom wears an apron. But her children need to feel the security that I felt on those summer evenings when my family gathered to wait for bedtime –when the dogs lay lazily in a corner of the yard, and chickens were on the roost, the door to the henhouse closed and locked.  Once again the chickens had escaped the whistling hawk that sailed the clear skies overhead. Tomorrow would be another day.  Whip–poor–will!


© Copyright, Freeda Baker Nichols, all rights reserved.



A Special Joy

A Special Joy

I felt joy when I looked at my firstborn son,
who arrived during a deep Kansas snow.
I called him “Little Precious”
when a nurse brought him to me. He was
my first and three other children came after him,
each bringing its own beaming joy to my young
heart; their first smiles were reasons to be glad;
their first blowing of spit bubbles from tiny
puckered lips made me laugh; they could sound
like cars or airplane engines accelerating for missions
like those that took their daddy halfway around the
world from us. I felt joy when he returned safely to us;
happiness beyond explanation when he winked his
way back into the graces of the wee ones who had
forgotten him in those long months.
Love is joy and joy is love.
God is love and He is in all the joy I have known,
causing my heart to refresh because of past joyful times.
Complete joy comes from weaving threads of laughter
onto a background of love-patched fabric in such a way
that only the brightest colors show.

© Freeda Baker Nichols

Red Geranium

The Homeplace

DSC_0690 - Copy

Owl photo, copyright 2013 by Dianne

Owl photo, copyright 2013 by Dianne



The Home Place

Clear water drifts through swimmin’ holes,
across flat rocks and over roots,
around un-cut cane, fishing poles
where, at night, a barn owl hoots.

Pale moons still shine
above the meadow wonderland
where our heifer, Clementine, gave birth
to a calf too weak to stand.

By kerosene lantern’s yellow light,
my sis and I encouraged the calf to eat.
We braved the fear of dark midnight
to help him stand on his wobbly feet.

Moss grows now where choppin’ blocks stood,
under the shade of a black jack tree
where Daddy split the kindlin’ wood
and handed the pine-scented chips to me

to carry to the apple crate
behind the stove in our front room.
The paling fence, its fallin’-down gate
are memories . . . Plum trees still bloom,

perfumin’ bud-fresh mountain air
around our house of weathered boards.
In the garden Mama gathered with care
speckled bird egg beans and dipper gourds.

I would do again the things I’ve done—
feed white leghorns from a brown toe sack,
walk barefoot in the April sun
but there’s no way I can go back.

I’ll cling to memories like the skin on a peach
and trust that time will not erase
the sound of the baby barn owl’s screech
near the swimmin’ hole at my old home place.

© Freeda Baker Nichols

© 2015 photos, Baker Nichols

I Am A Poet

“The reason I am a poet is entirely because you wanted me to be and intended I should be, even from the first.  You brought me up in the tradition of poetry, and everything I did you encouraged.”—Edna St. Vincent Millay (undated letter to her mother)

This quote from Millay is in the margin of one of my journals.

Many of my poems have been written to honor my mother. But she never knew that I became a poet. Quite possibly the only poem of mine that she ever read is the one I wrote for her when I was around nine years old.

That first poem was addressed to my wonderful mother. And child-like, I excitedly handed it to her to show her my love.

As a teenager, I wrote a few poems, but kept them to myself. It would be years before I would turn to writing, not only poetry but also fiction and non-fiction. And by the time my work was being published, my mother (and my dad) had passed away.

They would have been pleased to see my name in print, to read my novel, the children’s books, the poetry . . . they would have been very proud . . .

I’m sure of it.


Wild Azaleas

I found the wild azaleas growing pink
as cheeks hot-flushed in fever from a cold.
I drew the water for my mother’s drink
and placed the petals in a vase of gold.
I saw her shaking hands turn pale and dry
and move along the rim of china vase,
and then extend just as in days gone by
to mine. No one can fill my mother’s place.
Please do not bring to me your roses red
nor wipe away my tears that fall in sheets
to cover her new cemetery bed.
In Heaven she now walks on golden streets
while I go down a dark and dusty trail
in search of pink azaleas for my pail.

© Freeda Baker Nichols

A Poem for Mama


The wild azaleas
were bright
against the green forest.
Their limbs
snapped easily
and lay like pearls
in her small hands.

Wild Azaleas

Wild Azaleas

She hurried home.
Her mama wrapped them
with a fruit jar,
half-filled with water
from the well,
then turned to her daughter
who smiled
brighter than
all the azaleas
left in the forest.

© Freeda Baker Nichols

I Am Also A Poet

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”
Henry David Thoreau

I’m a writer and I am also a poet.

I was a poet before I became a writer.

My first poem was created in a two-room schoolhouse at Banner Mountain deep in the Ozark foothills.

At the age of eight or nine, I wrote a rhymed poem expressing my love for my mother.

I still have the poem I penciled on a wide-lined page of a Big Chief tablet.DSC_0472 - Copy 1

But is that really when I became a poet? I don’t know. Perhaps it was later in my life when my first published poem appeared.  Or maybe it was when I received an award in a poetry contest. Or better yet, when I received payment from a national magazine. 🙂

Why did I become a poet? Again, I don’t know. The desire to create poems and stories was part of me from childhood. I wrote occasionally, but as time went on, my husband and our children were more important to me than writing. That feeling is shown here in my rhymed poem:

I am a poetess, Mama—
I wish I were a queen
having tea with diplomats
in a rose-trimmed garden scene.

I am a poetess, Mama—
I wish I were a clown
wearing a smile, wide and bright,
to hide my solemn frown.

I am a poetess, Mama—
I wish I were his wife,
the only role worth playing
in the grand opera of life.

© Freeda Baker Nichols

And so, I too, have heard the “different drummer” and that sound continues to be a blessing in my life.

How about you? Do you “step to the music you hear, however measured or far away?”

I’d love to hear from you!