The Swamp Road Chronicles

 

"Miss Ruth"

(As related to the editor by Beau Cook)

 

My name is Beau Cook, I have several stories about my experiences with Swamp Road Sally. I'm retired now, but I was a milkman for 45 years and Swamp Road was on my route. I had customers at each end of Swamp Road, but, as you know, there are no homes toward the middle; it's just too boggy to build on, and it floods during spring and winter. I drove on that road twice a day, once going, and about 6 hours later, coming back. I had customers all over that part of the county. My trip out in the morning was always in the dark; even in the summer it is quite dark at 4 a.m. While driving my route I saw Sally several times, always in the morning. Sally never appeared to want to interact with me; she never looked directly at me and she never stopped walking when I saw her. Sometimes, I would see her just standing by the side of the road and, sometimes, walking out in the fields. I always felt very nervous when I saw her because I didn't know what to expect from her.

 

Being a milkman is a very rewarding job, but not in a monetary way, that's why there are no more milkmen. But, it can be very rewarding because of the relationships you build with your customers. I would generally deliver to them once a week and some folks would be genuinely happy to see me and they would expect to have a short chat while I was there. Some folks would invite me in for a cold drink or a hot cup of coffee, depending on the season, and, perhaps, a slice of fresh-baked cake or pie.

 

I must confess that being a milkman can be rife with hazards too. Mean dogs, and slow-paying customers can be problematic and lonely housewives can be a great temptation. One must be strong.

 

Miss Ruth was a very old lady who had been on my route for 30 years. She lived alone in one of the old farmhouses at the south end of Swamp Road. Miss Ruth really looked forward to my visits. She was very lonely, her husband having passed away. Sometimes, I am certain, I was the only visitor she had all week. I generally got to her house about noon and I would take in my lunch pail and Miss Ruth would have a cup of coffee for me, and we would visit while I ate my sandwich. I enjoyed talking with her; Miss Ruth had a wonderful sense of humor; she once told me that she disliked telling people that she had lost her husband, because it sounded so irresponsible. She said, "It sounds as though I'd left him at Walmart or something." I still laugh at that line.

 

Miss Ruth was sometimes very serious in our conversations. One day, about a month before she died, she told me that she felt her end was near and she was kind of afraid. She was a good Christian and was confident in her salvation, but she was afraid of dying alone. She had always had someone to be with her during her trying times. Her father and mother and then her husband, whom she married while she was just 17, had always been there to support her. Her husband Sinter had only been gone for 2 years and she was not used to being alone. She did not want to face that great transition from this life to the next all by herself. She prayed, she said, that God would provide her with someone to be with her when it was time to go.

 

One Tuesday morning, while it was still nearly dark, I was driving down Swamp Road and off to my left, walking across the field and away from where I was, I saw Sally. I'm sure it was her. She was 100 yards away, but she is very recognizable. The odd thing was that for the first time, she was with someone, another woman, who, like Sally, was dressed in a white night-dress. They were walking hand-in hand across the field toward the east and the rising sun.

 

I was the one who found Miss Ruth, when I stopped at her house at noon. She had apparently passed earlier that morning.

Then, I understood. Miss Ruth's prayers had been answered, she had not died alone, Swamp Road Sally had met with her and had led her hand-in-hand to the next great chapter in that dear sweet lady's life. God is merciful.

 

As related to the editor by Beau Cook. 6-8-23 Pickerington, Ohio


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