A Baby Barn Swallows Tale

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak is how these photographs are remembered…

In 2007 I was working in earnest to save to a historic ranch headquarters known as the Mallet Ranch in Texas. Part of my documentation process was to take extensive archival photographs of the buildings’ architecture.

The oldest structure was the main house and I needed to get a photograph of the beadboard to document for a Texas Historical Commission grant. The house was in arrested decay so I had to be careful with every step I made in order to not fall through the wooden floor or get dive bombed by the barn owls residing in the rafters.

The best-preserved beadboard was in a southwest room of the structure where the entrance was through a swelled wooden door. I knew the flooring in this section of the structure was solid so I did not pay attention to any part of the flooring or where I placed my feet avoiding the rusty box springs on the floor.

I started photographing the beadboard in various locations that had the best natural light. My friend, Ginny was outside walking around and the wind was the only sound until I started clicking my camera shutter. Then I heard:

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.

My heart stopped and went into my throat. I had no clue what was making that noise.

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.

My breathing ceased. Ever afraid of coming into contact with a rattlesnake on this ranch or as old as the house was, dating back to the late 1800s, it could have been a ghost making the noise. I barely raised my voice to Ginny and said something was inside in the room with me. She walked to the window, looked in and said look down.

Standing completely frozen, I looked down at the location of the squeaking by my feet. What I saw left me silent…

Rocking back and forth on the old rusted antique box springs were two baby barn swallows. They rocked back and forth in a swing like manner squeaking the springs with every move. From my height, I started photographing them and then cautiously I lowered myself down to rest on my ankles trying my best to not frighten them.

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Both birds sat there ever so patiently as I photographed them. Neither was panicky as they paused, eventually continually rocking back and forth on the box spring. Often they would turn their heads and glance at me. Never were they afraid and patiently waited for me to capture them in that moment in time.

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After my photographs, I gently turned and maneuvered through the door and left them to their rocking.


Photographs – © Christena Stephens Photography


A National Cemetery Visit…

Earlier in August 2014, I made it a point to visit the Fort Smith National Cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  I had never been to a National Cemetery honoring our veterans who served our country ensuring and protecting our freedom.  It was a humbling experience.  Seeing the mass rows of white headstones lined up one after another, after another made me realize on many levels these men served our country from different military branches and each one deserves our thanks and gratitude.  A haunting aspect capturing my eye was the extraordinary number of Unknown Soldiers who were remembered, but remain forever nameless.


The cemetery was peaceful and no one except for my friend, Mary Helen and I were visiting that day.  The clouds had just started to break and the humidity normally blanketing Arkansas on a summer day was absent. She had never been to a National Cemetery either.  As we drove around the cemetery, I did take photos along the solemn journey.  On the drive, Mary Helen noticed a distant marker and remarked on the brand new red roses catching the sun’s rays left at a veteran’s grave.  The anniversary of his death had been a year on that exact day.  We remarked that his wife, girlfriend or a child left a dozen roses as their symbol of love and mark of remembrance.

In my travels to visit cemeteries for their history, as well as photographic opportunities certain animals are always present: mourning doves, cottontail rabbits, jackrabbits, robins, the occasional bullsnake and on this day squirrels were unmistakably noticeable.  This little guy or girl sat so patiently for me to capture its image. I created the photograph with a dreamlike state of my remembrance of that day.  Now, as I look upon this one photograph I will always pause to say silently say thank you to the veterans for without them and their service and sacrifices our nation would not be free.

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Photographs – © Christena Stephens Photography