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‘She’ll Come Back’

‘She’ll Come Back’ ‘She’ll Come Back’

Ralph Rackley was a fast driving fool.

He pushed his Mustang down sandy roads, passed school buses, and went fishtailing sideways around curves. His girl, Donna, was at his side, whooping at neighbors, flinging beer cans at mailboxes.

Folks assumed the Army would settle Ralph down when he left for a tour of duty in Germany.

Donna had a year to plan the wedding.

One night Ralph's Army truck hit a patch of German ice and skidded into a ravine. The Army said that his driving skills prevented a bigger mess.

The results were bad enough. Ralph had severe head injuries and wasn't expected to live. Then doctors said that at best he'd be a carrot for the rest of whatever life was left, then they said he'd never walk again, but who knew?

The Ralph who returned wasn't the hellfor- leather boy who'd left. His eyes were glued to the left, his mouth hung open, his speech was hardly understandable, but he could walk. Somewhat.

Donna was stunned. This was not what she'd signed on for. Her visits spread out and she was seen with a divorced tobacco buyer.

When Donna married the buyer, Ralph appeared barely fazed. 'She'll be back,' he told people who had the brass to mention her name.

Ralph was a regular at the little Methodist church just across the Ware County line. Teaching a Sunday school class was out of the question, but he was a good listener. Kids in the church found in him someone who'd listen, listen, and listen some more.

He augmented a disability check by collecting and selling aluminum cans. He made rounds every two weeks with a kid driving him around in a pickup with bags of cans rattling in the back.

Ralph had the notion that if he was an honest, dependable, cheerful, loving and caring man, 'life would reward him” by returning Donna. Nobody dared disagree.

Along the Mississippi Coast, Donna and the buyer were hacking out a life. He was an unfaithful spendthrift slob. Every couple of years he did a bad thing, threw himself on Donna's mercy, got forgiven, and the cycle started again.

Some men are just more trouble than they're worth. He was.

During a summer visit back home, Donna's mother made it easy by saying she and the kids could stay as long as they wanted. The two kids, nearly teenagers, enjoyed the neighbor's horse, swam in the dark creek and helped a neighbor woman milk her goats It was her children who reintroduced Donna and Ralph.

Donna, more mature, saw in Ralph an honest, dependable, cheerful, loving and caring man who was slow of speech and mobility but quick at wit and forgiveness.

Her kids became Ralph's companions. The rest didn't take long.

The Methodist Church was full.

Ralph insisted upon walking his bride down the aisle. He rose from his wheelchair in the vestibule then stumbled, jerked, and slow walked down the aisle, supported by Donna on one side and the end of the pews on the other.

He'd always said 'she'll come back.'

She did.

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