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


the bluebird flies purposefully


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)

Photo101 Connect


When teacher rang the hand bell,
the students knew that it was time
to open the books of wisdom
and maybe learn to write a rhyme.
It was more than just an honor
to have such knowledge shared with them–
where to look for the Milky Way
and how the walrus learned to swim.
Today, my grandkids go to school
with heavy backpacks on their backs–
thick books with greater knowledge–
cutting paths beyond grandma’s tracks.
But who can say which way is better–
handwritten note or cell phone text?
This grandma can only wonder
what on earth will they think of next?

© 2015 Freeda Baker Nichols,
all rights reserved.



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!



April Fools Day at Banner School

sycamore treeDSC_0656


Our feet left prints on moss like tracks in snow
the morning that we walked into the woods.
We took the small tin pails of lunch and slipped
onto the path behind the one-room school.
We giggled when we thought of Mr. Rose–
how he would fume to find we’d skipped his class!
We sat along the bank of talking brook
and watched it slither down a curving line
though forest full of pine and sycamore.
We ate our lunch of biscuit, bacon, ham,
fresh deviled egg, blackberry jam, fried pies,
a rare delight and yummy chocolate treat.
When Jessie, oldest, wisest one of us
said we must catch the bus by three o’clock,
we watched the sun and knew that we should go.
Yvonne, who wondered what our mom might do
began to walk in slow, methodic steps,
regretting fun and pranks of April Fool.
“No need to worry now, Yvonne,” I said.
“We’ll catch the bus.  Our mom will never know.”
As we came from the woods, lunch pails in hand,
classmates–all boys–ran fast to tell the Teach,
who sternly met us at the schoolhouse door.
The hickory stick in his right hand was huge.
We heard the snickers from accusing boys,
all set to watch the paddling we deserved.
But Mr. Rose put down Old Hickory Stick.
“Go to your desks,” he said, “and get your pens,
your tablets, too and take this test you missed
in class today.”  We sighed with great relief!

© Freeda Baker Nichols