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Fickle Sara

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

This little story from Reynolds, Illinois, has a moral to it. Listen carefully.

The main character is Miss Sarah Ann Buchaner, who was, as they said in Reynolds, "changeable." Back in the fall of 1881, Sarah was faced with a difficult choice: marrying wealth and old age, or youth and accompanying poverty.

Here's what happened. Woods W. Johnson farmed just outside of Reynolds. He was sixty, well-to-do, and much respected and esteemed by the community. Woods’ wife died in the summer of 1881, and although the widower was, as the newspaper reported, "sincere in his sorrow," he decided he needed a housekeeper.

Enter young Sarah Ann Buchaner, who kept Woods’ house spotless. Meals were prompt, dishes done and put away, the furniture dusted. Sarah also brought the grieving Woods back to life again, too. He became the life of the party at barn dances and church socials. By November, he had proposed marriage to his housekeeper, and she accepted. A date was set for the marriage and plans made for the wedding dinner.

No one noticed that Woods' nephew, a young man handsome but poor, came to his uncle's house more and more often. One day, while the uncle was away, the nephew proposed to Sarah that they elope. She agreed and fled to a neighbor's house to hide out.

Meanwhile, the good citizens of Reynolds took sides. Was it better for a young woman to choose wealth and old age, or youth and poverty? "Contentment and happiness are beyond price," some said.

Woods found Sarah, brought her home, and she again agreed to marry him, but just before the wedding day, the nephew sneaked into the house, and convinced her to run off with him—which she did, never to be heard from again.

Did changeable Sarah do the right thing? I don't know, but I have an idea why she chose to leave housekeeping. I don't think she liked doing dishes as much as it appeared. Trust me, I've done dishes for Margaret once or twice when she was really sick, and I didn’t like it at all.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.