The 250-watt floodlight on top of the billboard that was aimed at us all but enveloped the Crider’s sign as I looked through my digital camera’s viewfinder, preventing me from getting a good snapshot of the rodeo and dancehall’s name spelled with a hemp rope and outlined by small white Christmas bulbs.
At the plywood kiosk, we paid for two seniors and three adults (kids 12 and under were free) and then secured a picnic table at the far fence and adjacent to the dance floor, which is a circular concrete slab made slick for easier two-stepping in ropers and heels.
Neither Memaw nor Granddaddy cared much for the band, playing more Top 40 Country and emanating a Nashville sound rather than one performing Hill Country favorites like Cotton-Eyed Joe and the Shotish. Yet they danced, married now 53 years and with five children and 12 grandchildren as their legacy. They danced with their bodies more closely together than the other couples, who may have met that night, or perhaps had been married for twenty years or less.
The Lovely K and I were able to two-step for the first time in more than a decade. The last time we did so at Crider’s was the first full summer of our dating, in 1996, when I wore the ankle-high “boots” I’d procured from an East Village NYC cobbler for $20, the benefit of someone who’d had some repair work done on the soles and had neglected to pay his bill. They fit my feet perfectly; they stuck out at Crider’s. They certainly lacked any scent of a Texas pedigree. If it weren’t for Karen’s blind love for me (you’re supposed to chuckle at this line) and the fact that I was useful for getting around the NYC subway system, she would have dumped me like so much Yankee baggage. Yet she endured my northern ways and my consumption of five Dr. Pepper’s and one Big Red that night when she taught me the favorite step of Texas lovers and friends.
I was almost as out of step this more recent time as that first time. Yet looking down into her eyes there was understanding and comfort, rather than anticipation mixed with uncertainty. I stepped on her toes; she maintained her knowing Mona Lisa smile that showed she was at home.
And before we left, we did the Chicken Dance with our three sons, nephew Preston, and Karen’s sister Lynette. Granddaddy remarked that he never believed he would see his grandchildren dancing at Crider’s, a place he’d frequented as a teenager. This was as strange to him as it is to me now to contemplate seeing my sons’ children – boys or girls? how many? – climbing the rocks in the East Meadow in New York’s Central Park.
Perhaps that’s one advantage of age: you get a grander view of time.