Still hanging on

By JAMIE PATTERSON,

Most boys will buy flowers to impress a girl. Some might even compose a sweet song or write a poem.

But very few will ride a bike for over 160 miles to see their sweetheart.

Maybe that is one reason why David and Rachel Ledbetter have been happily married for 70 years.

“He decided to ride his bike with a friend and come see me in Beaumont from Vaughan,” Rachel said. “He actually did it several times to come see me. It’s a wonder he didn’t get killed.”

But David wasn’t worried about the dangers of traveling by bike through gravel roads and busy routes. He knew he wanted to see the girl he caught a glimpse of in a photograph.

“His cousin was married to my brother,” Rachel said, glancing over at David. “She sent his grandmother a picture of the new baby, who I was holding. He saw me and said he wanted to meet me.”

A family photograph sent David’s heart into a flutter. And he knew he had to meet Rachel, who would become his wife within four years.

David was working the summer in Greenwood when he discovered Rachel’s photograph. With his family settled in the Vaughan community, he would travel back and forth regularly.

Riding his bike to Vaughan one weekend to play tennis, he decided to go a little farther to check on a girl. With Beaumont about 165 miles south, he had quite a journey ahead of him.

Amy Shirley, the Ledbetter’s daughter, said her dad had a little help every now and then.

“He would hold onto the back of trucks so he wouldn’t have to pedal all the way,” Shirley said.

The Ledbetter children laugh when thinking about their father hanging onto the back of a truck. But David laughs it off as if it’s nothing.

“You ain’t never seen someone hang onto a truck while riding a bike,” David asked, with a laugh under his breath. “I have done it a million times. You just grab on and then turn loose.”

The first time David showed up at Rachel’s doorstep from his first bike trip, she didn’t know what to think.

“It was no big deal to me,” Rachel joked. “I didn’t think much of it at the time. But young people don’t think much.”

When the two lovebirds turned 18 years old, they decided they would elope. On Feb. 17, 1940, the two became Mr. and Mrs. David Ledbetter.

“I didn’t see him for almost two weeks after the ceremony,” Rachel said. “He had to go to tell his Momma in Greenwood.”

The Ledbetters moved around at first. They stayed with relatives in Greenwood and then in Beaumont during World War II, which David served in with the Army.

The two finally ended up at “Ledbetter Hill” in Yazoo County. It was on the old family place where they raised their seven children – Millicent, Davie, John, Charles, David Jr., Donna and Amy.

Rachel said the 70 years the two have spent together have been great for two reasons: love and loyalty.

“We have always loved each other,” Rachel said. “We have been true to each other. We never had any problems. We had a lot of ups and downs. But everybody does.”

Now in their 80s, the Ledbetters spend their days with each other and family.

Each Sunday, Rachel cooks lunch after church. David still cuts his own grass.

Rachel enjoys sitting on her “throne” to birdwatch. And David still camps.

“Dad still goes on camping trips to Big Black River,” said David Jr. “He will spend a week in a tent, right there by the river.”

And as the morning comes to a close, one of David’s remarks starts to make a little more sense when talking about grabbing the back of a truck for a good ride. It’s all about grabbing on and never letting go.

Seventy years later, the Ledbetters are still hanging on.