The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life by Rod Dreher Read Free Book Online

Book: The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life by Rod Dreher Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rod Dreher
Tags: General, Biography & Autobiography, Women
had company and he had to go wipe the tears off his face.”
    Paw wrote Mike too, addressing him as “Trapper,” and tried to keep his spirits up amid the rigors of basic training.
    “There is nothing they can do to you that you can’t take. Just keep your mind in order, your spirits up as well as your strength,” Paw counseled. “Do not be misled by those who don’t care, and be the best damn soldier possible. You will end up the winner, and a better man for it. We are all mighty proud of you and what you are doing.”
    In late July Ruthie rode to South Carolina with Mike’s parents for his graduation from basic training. She would have only a day or two with him before he began advanced training. They didn’t have much time together, but for Ruthie it was the highlight of her summer. She and Mr. and Mrs. Leming had not even checked out of the Fort Jackson–area hotel that Sunday when Ruthie put pen to La Quinta Inn telephone pad notepaper and began her next letter.
    “I just thought I’d write you before we left here so you would get this quick,” she wrote. “I want you to know how proud I am of you. I can’t wait to get home and brag on you. You just look so sharp and handsome in your uniform. It just made me want to cry every time I looked at you. You make me feel so good inside when you compliment me and look at me with those beautiful eyes.
    “I’m sorry I cried so much today, but I just couldn’t help it,” she continued. “I didn’t want to embarrass you but I just love you so muchand you make me so proud that I have to cry. It felt so good being in your arms and kissing you. You make me feel so secure. You have really matured and are a man now! I love your muscles—they’re so sexy.”
    She ended by assuring him, as she often did, that she was his girl, “forever and a day.”
    “I can’t wait to get our life started,” Ruthie wrote. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

    In the fall of 1986 Ruthie began her senior year of high school. Mike came home later that autumn and prepared himself to start classes at LSU that spring. It didn’t take long for Mike to discover that college wasn’t for him. After a difficult semester he went to work at the local paper mill.
    Ruthie was the class of 1987 valedictorian and left her graduation ceremony that night with her college education already paid for with scholarships and awards. Nearly all of the ninety-three graduates in her class announced plans that night to go to college, or to some form of career training. At the end of her freshman fall semester, Ruthie phoned Mam and Paw from her dorm at LSU, and told them she had something to tell them when she came home for Sunday dinner that weekend. They were afraid of what she would say, guessing she was planning to break the news that she and Mike had eloped.
    That Sunday, after Paw said grace, Ruthie declared: “I’ve got something I want to say. That group that I graduated with? Only three of us are left in school now. And I want to thank y’all for what you did for me. I know it wasn’t easy to be tough.”
    Recalls Mam, “You can’t imagine what hearing that meant to us.”
    When Ruthie started LSU that fall to work on an education degree, she lived in the dorm next to mine. I was a junior. We saw each other only in the cafeteria behind our residence halls. During the week shestayed buried in her books, worked hard, and made perfect grades. I was studying journalism, philosophy, political science, and considered long, beery arguments over existentialism with my fellow young scholars to be time well spent. My college transcript, while respectable, does not support this generous interpretation.
    At LSU Ruthie thought I was getting away with something, and not only because I managed to ace tests even though I had stayed out late drinking beer and barely studied. She may have experienced on campus the same frustration and envy I felt when Ruthie triumphed on every front back home

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