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Column: The Constitutional and personal importance of a telephone
Ronda Rich.jpg
Ronda Rich

There it hung, solemnly, in all its glory on my grandmother’s kitchen wall. It was something to be proud of and each month that she paid a few dollars to the Standard Phone Company, she was, indeed, proud.

And grateful to the good Lord because she would sometimes stop to remind us, “Pride goeth before destruction, saith the Good Book.”

It just occurred to me the other day of how that black rotary phone was a prince among the poor. My grandparents lived in a four-room, tin-roof house with a front porch that sighed from weariness of the toil and heartache it had endured. There was no indoor bathroom. An old wringer-style washing machine set on the back porch.

Of that, she was very proud, too. After all, she had spent most of her life scrubbing clothes on a washboard either in a tin tub or down at the creek.

I really don’t know how they came to have a telephone with times always seeming so hard. But come to think of it, there was always a bit of money for a dip of snuff. She cherished that little tin that she carried around in the pocket of her apron.

In the early days of telephones and electricity in the rural mountains, there were two certainties: the phone would hang on the kitchen wall and a single cord would hang down over the kitchen table with a naked lightbulb.

Nothing was fancy.

In our home, we prefer landlines. Between Mama’s house and ours, we have four landlines that are used regularly. Mama’s is 100 yards across the creek from our front door, yet there is no cell service there.

We live less than 2 miles from a tower.

Many people have given up landlines and gone strictly to cellular phones and to those I know, I say, “If you ever watch someone drop lifeless at your feet, you’ll want the comfort of getting 911 on the phone in the seconds.”

I’m afraid I know that for a fact.

Where we live, sometimes it will take 10 to 12 seconds for a cell call to connect. Sometimes, it doesn’t connect at all.

One day, I was cooking when the phone rang. I looked at the caller I.D. on the one next to the stove.

A number flashed under a name.

John Grisham.

Yes, that John Grisham. When I first dreamed of writing books, I read a story about him that inspired me. He was working as a lawyer and was a state legislator in Mississippi. His schedule was packed, but he arose an hour early each morning to write. That discipline resulted in A Time To Kill.

My heart stopped for a second. I knew it wasn’t for me. “Tink!” I called up the staircase. “John Grisham is calling!”

He answered the phone and I sat down for a moment, cradling the phone in my hands and smiling. John Grisham had called my phone number.

He, too, was calling from a landline.

It’s ironic, sometimes, the things that will come out in challenging times like when a virus threatens nations. Here’s one of those ironies: No cases can be argued in person before the U.S. Supreme Court. Lawyers must call in and debate cases of tremendous constitutional importance by telephone.


That’s what the guidelines instruct. No smartphones should be used to carry forth grave legal matters. This has caused some young lawyers to scramble, especially if their offices were closed due to the pandemic. They needed to find a landline in order to call the U.S. Supreme Court.

For those of you who might need a landline for constitutional or even personal reasons, the Rondarosa graciously offers one of ours. You can use the kitchen wall phone at Mama’s or a living room phone at our house.

We are proud to offer this service. Even though I am mindful that “pride goeth before destruction.”

(Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of There’s A Better Day A-Comin’. Visit to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.)