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Ronda Rich: When the dreams of friends come true
ronda rich
Ronda Ronda Rich is the author of "Theres A Better Day A-Comin." - photo by File photo

Ronda Rich

Syndicated Columnist

On the bookcase, at the top of the stairs, sets a framed photos of two young girls, barely out of college, and both wearing the Victorian lace look of a retired brand called Gunne Sax.

Our smiles are cheerful, our freckles are peeping out from under our makeup, and there is a shimmering light in our eyes. It is a dreamy look, filled with great hope for our futures and distant adventures.

I remember the night it was taken. It was the National Quartet Convention in Nashville and my roommate and high school friend, Karen Peck, was singing with one of Southern Gospel music’s most elite groups The Nelons, owned by Rex Nelon, a beautiful, deepvoiced star. Then, I was a young sports writer but had gone to Nashville to see Karen and invited a friend, John Jarrard, to go with me backstage.

John, blinded by diabetes, who died way too young, was an upand- coming country songwriter. Eventually, he would have number one records by folks like George Strait and Alabama.

He loved Southern Gospel music and, happily, came along. I don’t remember who took the picture but it must have been someone with Karen because it is her handwriting on the back of the photo.

In those days, newly-graduated, we both made around $13,000 a year. This enabled us to share a duplex in a 100-year-old house and make car payments on the Pontiac Trans Am she had and the Chevrolet Camaro I adored.

On the mornings, when we were home together, we slept late then watched religious programming and, almost without fail, bowed on our knees at the soft gray sofa with the tiny flowers, and prayed.

We had dreams. But we weren’t quite sure what they were, so we were open to the paths that opened for us. We knew this: we wanted to use our talents – Karen’s pitch-perfect soprano and my love for stories – to make a living.

“Wouldn’t it be great if, one day, we were both really successful with our talents?” Karen asked. “What if I had a hit record and you wrote a hit book?”

It seemed like folly. We were just country girls in the rural South.

How in the world, would we ever see Hollywood and New York City? We took our eyes off such lofty accomplishments then, to use a country term, put our mules in the garden and began to plow. For both, there were struggles and setbacks — some too terrible to recall, so we’ve pushed them to the back.

Some, that after a length of time, we can laugh about them. Like the time Karen and three friends had to pool their money to buy a hamburger and split it four ways.

Or the time a rent check of mine in Indianapolis bounced because my paycheck hadn’t arrived.

Two significant events happened: Karen, her husband Rickey, and sister Susan formed Karen Peck and New River. Then, a few years later, I sought to expand from being a reporter to being an author.

Karen got a record deal. I got an agent. Then, the agent called. “Random House just told me that they will pay whatever we want for your book, based solely on the outline.”

I was stunned with disbelief. I ran around the house, joyously calling out, “Thank you, Lord.”

Then, THAT week happened.

The week that our successes ran into each other at a crossroad. Karen and New River broke the record for the most number one songs in Southern Gospel music and two days later, my newest novel hit the bestseller list.

Two happier friends you’ve never seen. Grateful does not begin to explain our hearts.

That week we shall never forget.

And we shall always remember that it took 2,833 weeks to get to THAT week.

It was worth all the years of plowing.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of the hit novel “St. Simons Island: A Stella Bankwell Mystery.”

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