The big barn dance in honor of matrimony
There was big doin's at the old family farm in Iowa over the past weekend. Big, big, big. Since this column goes out to a huge list of folks in my address book, along with the newspapers, each group knows more than the other about this, that, and other stuff. In case you're confused.
The best part about big doin's at the family farm is that Cousin Larry comes up from South Carolina, Brother Mark comes up from Waterloo, and we meet. More often than not, there is a barn dance along with various celebrations to which a dance might be in order.
The barn dances at the family farm started when dad, back in about 1971, knowing that another farm around there somewhere had had one, had one himself. None of us thought that this was a tradition which would go on this long.
He rented stairs, I remember that, so that people could enter the haymow from one of the access doors on the yard-side of the barn. There were enough dances going on that someone actually had a set of stairs that could be gotten. Pretty neat. I remember at the time seeing the haymow empty for the first time, and marveling at how high the bale carrier track was, way up there under the cupola, ropes dangling from it which we had tied standing on the bales, at times when the mow was completely full.
At the time, dad's greatest concern was smoking, and the possibility of fire. There were garden hoses primed and ready to go all over the place. Times sure change. Out of the hundred and some people who were there dancing last weekend, I wonder if even three or four smoked. Back in the early 1970s, it seemed like everyone smoked.
As time went on, these dances came often enough that dad had a set of stairs built up into the haymow, through an opening next to the old wooden ladder which we used to climb to throw down hay for the cows. That stairs are still there. Mom and Dad's wedding picture, blown up to three feet by four feet, hangs just a bit before one gets to the stairs, on a wall through which we fed calves, my brother and I, growing up.
It's a barn, as you can see, stuffed full of memories for my brother and me, and many cousins and friends who came and stayed summers with us.
Cousin Larry and the Lindy Brothers -- that's the name of us, and with Larry on drums, Mark on guitar, and me on keyboard, bass and piano -- we form the mainstay for the music these later years, although over the years, we've each dragged in members of whatever bands we were playing with to help entertain folks.
We've played wedding celebrations, anniversaries, our parents' 50th anniversary, and we've played just for the heck of it. This one was for me and My True Love. We got hitched over the weekend. The fireworks were out of sight, the celebration was out of sight, and the crowd that danced to our music was out of sight, too. It was a great time.
It was so great that I'm looking ahead now, something that I never used to do. I'm wondering how long it can go on. It's been going on nearly 40 years. That didn't seem possible. My brother and I are well into our 60s. We've agreed to come back next year and play a 25th anniversary celebration in the haymow for someone for whom we played a wedding dance for. Oooof. So long. So, just, marvelous, I guess, to think about.
Other musicians always show up, and sit in, and during and afterward, various reminiscences sets in, who played with whom, where, odd situations.
Cousin Larry, who lived up here in the north country for a few years, and with whom I had a band back then, reminded me of a gig at the Highway Ten Ballroom, a wedding dance we played.
The guitar player, another cousin, with both a wry sense of humor and the aid of Jim Beam, when asked by the wedding party for a dance just for them, is the beginning of this little story.
You see, this was the hugest (as in, large people) wedding party we'd ever seen. When they say that "The Whole Nine Yards" is a saying based on the fact that a good wedding dress must use nine yards of fabric, then the bride went 12 yards, easy. She was big. Her ladies in waiting, too, they tapped fabric rolls for 12 yards each. And the groom and his bunch, they were bigger than the women.
In other words, when Jim Beam took my cousin the guitar player's tongue and announced that we were going to do the "She's Too Fat For Me" polka specially for the wedding party, things began to look bad for the band. The whole bunch of them, standing across the floor from us, took off for the stage, a venomous look in their eyes.
According to Cousin Larry, because I had forgotten this part, I, in order to defuse this threat, began shouting "Medley! Medley!" My cousin the guitar player had already begun the song, the first line being: "You can have her, I don't want her, she's too fat for me..."
"Medley! Medley!" I wanted to change the song in midstride, to any other polka. At one point, I was playing "Roll Out the Barrel" while he was playing "She's Too Fat For Me." It was bedlam. The Giants who were the wedding party got closer and closer. The band was going to be stomped into dust beneath their charge.
One lady in waiting stepped on another's dress. A swatch of white fabric half the size of a circus tent ripped off. She whose dress was damaged slugged the stepper. A melee broke out, the likes of which you've never seen. Hippopotamuses all pushing and pulling and wrestling.
The band was saved.