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 Page B

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
the Methodist church, nervously glancing at the plain white walls and at friends and family gathered in the aged wooden pews. And then the music began, the old wooden French doors at the rear swung open, and there was his bride, luminous, on Paw’s arm. He thought: This is my life now. She chose me. How can I be so lucky?
    After a formal cake-and-punch reception in the church hall, the wedding party moved down the street to the Red Horse tavern, a saloon in an old two-story wooden building. Ruthie and Mike were having so much fun dancing—especially to Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” which was their song—and drinking beer under the neon lights with their friends that they were late leaving for their honeymoon.
    The newlyweds motored north in the Crown Vic to Natchez, Mississippi, to start their wedding trip. After a couple of days there they looked at each other and said, Where do you want to go? They took off driving west, not knowing where they were headed, and not caring. They were married, and that’s all that mattered. The dream had come true. Mike and Ruthie. Ruthie and Mike.
    Back home Ruthie moved into Mike’s trailer in Starhill, and got ready to start the spring semester at LSU. She also threw herself into being a housewife. Ruthie loved making food for her husband. She was already an accomplished Southern cook, laying a nightly feast for Mike of hearty country fare like pork chops, roast, rice and gravy, meat pies, snap beans, and corn on the cob. Mike felt cared for as he never had been.
    “Ruthie was always thinking about what she could do to help Mike. And he was all about, ‘What can I do to help Ruthie?’ Each one only thought about the other one. They were how marriage is supposed to be,” recalls Stephanie Toney Simpson, Ruthie’s childhood friend and a bridesmaid at her wedding.
    My sister graduated from LSU in 1991 and began teaching sixth grade in the West Feliciana public schools. Meanwhile my career was taking off. After graduation I landed an intern job on the Baton Rouge Advocate , covering the police beat and drinking after deadline at the Thirsty Tiger, a dive bar across the street from the paper’s downtown office. True, there was a sense that newspapering’s rascally glory days were behind it. Many of the older journos had been through alcohol rehab; an oft-repeated story from the Advocate newsroom concerned a photo lab technician who nearly drowned after passing out drunk in the darkroom sink. I had no doubt, though, that I had chosen the right line of work. This was fun.
    After three months the newspaper’s longtime film critic, a gifted writer whom I had grown up reading, resigned to move to New York. The paper offered me his job. I was an inexperienced writer and was terrified of the responsibility, but I didn’t dare turn down a break like that. In the spring of 1992, as Ruthie completed her first year leading a classroom as a teacher, I got another break: an offer from The Washington Times , DC’s conservative competitor to the Washington Post , to become its television critic.
    Washington! I had done a political consulting internship there during my junior year of college, and had fallen in love with politics and the city. Now, at the age of twenty-five, I would make my return. When I stood in Mam and Paw’s yard telling them good-bye, Paw’s face began to tremble all over, as if it were about to fly to pieces. He grabbed me hard and held me tight. This time I was going far away, and almost certainly for good.
    It nearly killed him to watch me go. But it felt to me like I was startingthe life I had always wanted, answering the call I had been hearing since I crossed the Mississippi almost a decade earlier. I found a third-floor walk-up apartment on Capitol Hill, and jumped into my job and life in the city with both feet. On the morning Bill Clinton was first inaugurated, I watched the TV coverage of the ceremony from home. When the outgoing President George H. W.

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