Construction of State Road 60 half a century ago brought a torrent of traffic through the east Hillsborough hamlet of Bealsville, which was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. Suddenly tourists from Winter Haven and Vero Beach were rushing past the cypress hammocks and phosphate mines on their way to Tampa. Over the last 13 years, many have stopped for the hand-painted signs advertising Ruby's Fresh Produce. Ruby Williams, who spends winters in a trailer behind the stand, uses money from the produce and livestock she raises to minister to the hungry.
"My grandfather, Milton Glover, was the one who purchased 37 1/2 acres. That's been many years ago. The land has been in the family 80, 90 years. Someone said it cost 60 cents an acre."
"I live here because I like it here. When I was growing up, there wasn't a road. I grew up living outdoors. There was a big pasture, and we had cows. It looks strange now because of the highway. Where the church is at, we had an orange grove."
Williams doesn't like to reveal her age. But her mother, who lives down the road, just turned 93. Going to church, and doing good works, have always been part of her life.
"My grandmother had money to go to every Baptist convention there was. She got the money from turkeys, eggs, milk. That's what inspired me to do this, because of my experience with my grandmother.
"Beal (namesake of the town) was one of the children of slaves, and when they freed them, Beal was a small child. My grandmother's father and Beal, they were two brothers, one was light and one was dark. My grandmother's father was dark, the one named Beal was light. On his side of the family, they knew the master was his daddy. I'm one of the members on the dark side. We don't discriminate, we love everybody.
"All Bealsville was black up until a few years ago. It was beautiful. We had our own school, Glover school, before the county went to desegregation. One thing I want to tell you, this community was a striving, educationally developed community. Out of this community came doctors and lawyers. That's why I love to live here, everyone had that loving spirit. When someone butchered a hog, you'd call the neighbors around to split up the remnants, the feet, the head. They'd make hogshead cheese. I guess slavery was where they learned how to do it.
"My father taught me to be a businessman. He owned two stores, the first stores in Bealsville. He sold candy and kerosene, sugar _ cent and a half a pound _ meal and grits in big barrels, and candy _ we didn't call them kisses, we called them sugar bells _ and rock candy. It was so good, it would last in your mouth all day. Drummers, we called them drummers, would bring the merchandise in on trucks."
When it gets warm, Williams packs some clothes in her car and quits her vegetable garden and chicken coop. She drives north to New Jersey, where her daughter lives, to go to the seashore and help in a charitable mission called the Spiritual Church of Love. Williams and her husband split up years ago.
Williams said she is happy to keep busy, stay healthy, and help feed hungry people the way her grandmother did.
"I get up around 4:30 or 5, and meditate on the word of God for a while. Being a minister, you got to stay up fresh on the word of God. I don't have an alarm clock, no coffee, only herb teas. I drink plenty of orange juice and eat plenty of good food all day long. I don't eat anything in between meals but fruit. You eat what you need to eat, and be as happy as you can be, stay busy and keep yourself busy. The more you give, and see that look in people's eyes, the more you get. If you give your wife flowers, and she doesn't put them in water, they die."
_ LARRY DOUGHERTY