The music starts as blue skies shade to lavender. Crickets tune their fiddle-legs in hidden recesses of grass. A faint murmur of voices slowly grows louder as people gather with lawn chairs and blankets in the town square. Mothers softly remind their older children to stay within earshot while toddlers squirm and squeal for freedom. Old men hail one another in foghorn blasts, their wives chirping like piccolos.
No, this isn’t an old episode of Andy Griffith. It’s present day Northern Arizona on an August Saturday evening, though it could be anywhere in Small Town America. Once the sun drops below the horizon and the day’s hellish heat begins to subside, the folks come out to enjoy summer’s simple pleasures.
There really is a gazebo centered in a park framed by four streets, sidewalks meeting in a concrete plaza--a perfect dance floor. Tall trees provide leafy shade and a hint of verdant perfume. A small playground anchors one side; a slide and jungle gym beckon little ones over to play in the sand.
One vendor sells snow cones drenched in fruity syrups. The Lions Club sells sodas and water while their members pitch tickets for a 50-50 raffle: “Dollar apiece or six for five dollars. Winner gets half the pot and rest goes to the Lions eyesight programs. C’mon now, Fred; I know you have a fiver--and we’re up to almost $500 already.” Across one street, independent booths sell wind chimes, copper jewelry, art work, locally grown vegetables, and homemade Mexican food.
The square is soon filled with meandering rows of chairs. When the local rock & roll band begins with “Brown-Eyed Girl” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, couples of all ages rise to dance. An octogenarian cowboy whose family has ranched in the area since 1870 grabs his daughter’s hand and they two-step into a lively, swirling boogie, smiling all the while. He’s an incorrigible flirt, this old cowboy, choosing a different partner for each song with a twinkle in his eye and a devilish grin, occasionally planting a loud smacking kiss on an unsuspecting cheek. “Oh you!” one woman says and throws her head back to laugh.
There are no sullen teenagers here. Everyone is up and moving to the beat. Soon the youngsters form a chain and do the wave from side to side, first with arms and ending with bumping hips. A few collapse to the walkway in fits of giggles and wildly perform air guitar solos.
The Lions are doing a booming business with thirsty dancers and grandmas fretting about reading their raffle ticket numbers in the darkness now shading the square. Not to worry; the old cowboy flourishes a pocket flashlight and offers to share in exchange for a dance. At the band’s break, one of the Lions happily reveals the pot had reached more than $800 and reads the winning number--“Hey, see? I told you, Fred!” No one grumbles over losing; after all, more than $400 will help the group provide eyeglasses and reading magnifiers to the community.
Music continues until ten o’clock. Nearly the entire crowd has stayed for the duration. The band announces they will continue to play in a tavern just down the street and a good number of folks head in that direction. Families pack up and wander to their vehicles with a sleepy child draped over one shoulder. The flirtatious cowboy bids his friends goodnight with a promise to return for the next concert, “a week from next Saturday.”
About the Author:
Author photo by William Foote
Book Covers: Out of Forgotten Ashes and Dragon’s Legacy
Artwork by Amanda Kelsey, Champagne Books