The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Square Dancer

By Linda J. Crider © 1996

Issue: Spring, 1996

Uncle Roy was a real lady's man. He was a real, honest to-goodness square dancer too. I always wondered if the two were somehow connected. His clothes were always starched and ironed with razor sharp creases in his jeans and shirt sleeves. No casual knit shirts or sloppy pants for Uncle Roy. He said the ladies appreciated a snappy dresser and I guess that's exactly what he was. Even his sharp-toed, tapped heel cowboy boots were so shiny it was easy to see yourself in them.

Over the years he had several wives, about six, I think. Course he married one two times, so I guess maybe he just had five. He always had women friends flocking around him. They'd cook or clean, garden or mow the lawn. One even gave him a brand new car for his birthday. He just drew women like honey draws flies. His twinkling blue eyes and come-on smile was some kind of magic. I figured, maybe, he was afraid to settle down, afraid he'd have to stop dancing. Heck, he danced somewhere every night, except Wednesday. I think the church-going folks in town, frowned on square dancing on prayer meeting night. Seems like every time a caller sang out, "Alamand left and promenade home." Uncle Roy just changed partners and kept on going. He carried on like this for about fifty years; well, till he saw Suzie Hawkins with her long strawberry blond curls, green eyes and freckled face. She was over at Barnesville's Saturday night hoe-down. She was a petite, 29 year old Appalachian woman and she was a square dance caller. Not just any caller, Lord no, she was a caller, called to her profession by some divine hand of fate.

Her voice rang out clean and true above the twanging banjos and whining fiddles. Her dos-a-dos and star rights never missed the rhythm or hoe-down beat. Suzie would usually clog a little Jig as her calls were carried out by the dancers. She'd swish her full, gathered skirt all up and around showing miles of multi-colored crinolines and matching pantaloons.

Uncle Roy was so taken with this sweet young thing, he forgot his right from his left and tripped twice in a single swing through. Nobody would have ever believed he had a room full of trophies and ribbons from square dance contests held all across the country. Why, this woman had even managed to wilt the starch in his crisp, western style, red and white checked shirt without even touching him. It hung like a wet dish rag on his back. His feet, once as light as feathers, clicking and shuffling across the hardwood dance floor now looked and sounded like concrete blocks in a bucket of mud.

This little woman was definitely having an effect on Uncle Roy and so far as anyone could tell, it wasn't a good one; Lord no, he didn't even know what day it was most of the time. He even went to Barnesville on a Wednesday night thinking it was Friday.

Miss Effie, the reverend's sister said, "If he'd replace that dance fever with some religion, everybody in four counties would be baptized before the sun could cast a shadow across Monday morning."

Yeah, Uncle Roy was a bit off his feed since this Miss Suzie Hawkins had joined the regional square dance caller's club.

After about a month of stumbling around the local barn dances, Uncle Roy finally mustered up enough courage to talk to this young woman.

"How do Ma'am," he said in a stutter.

"Quiet well," she answered through a smile.

"Wanna cuppa coffee?" He mumbled. "Might help keep your throat wet through the next set."

"Might," she said. "You offering to get me some?"

"Guess I am at that. Oh, my name is Roy," he said giving her his best come-on smile.

"I know," she said her green eyes shining. "Some of the women around here warned me about you."

Uncle Roy sauntered across the floor to the refreshment table and shortly returned carrying two paper cups with a little bit of coffee in each. The rest lay in a watery zigzag trail behind him.

That was the beginning of a partnership made in square dance paradise. Suzie made the calls and Uncle Roy executed them with a precision that made the caller smile with pride.

In late October, after the Fall Festival Hoe-down, they said their vows, pledged their throths and Uncle Roy found himself married again. Everybody made bets on how long it would last. Course, they didn't take into consideration that they had square dancing in common. In the long run and I mean the long - long run, I wound up with the $7.34 bet money as nobody but me was willing to bet past two years.

Suzie and Uncle Roy made the square dance circuit all across the country for the next ten years with him swinging the pretty ladies and her singing the calls. But, when the night ended, the twosome always left together hand and hand after they had bowed and curtsied to one another and to the hoe-downers in attendants.

Uncle Roy has been dead now for a while and Suzie moved to a small town in Virginia to be near her aging mother. She calls a dance every now and then but she says the floor always seems a bit empty without her high stepping, sharp dressed, hoe-down dancer out there kicking up his heels.

Sometimes in the lazy evenings here in Appalachia, when thunder rumbles over distant mountains and echoes through the valleys, I wonder if maybe it's not just Uncle Roy warming up to swing a few pretty angels in some kind of heavenly square dance hoe-down. I can almost hear him laughing and the caller calling, "Alamand left, swing your partner and promenade home."