6.16.2009

At Night They Dance

The old clapboard house sits on concrete stilts, shifting an inch or two every year toward the promise of the saltwater there in the low country.

It was a happy place once, though that's hard to tell by the state of the neglected building standing at the end of that weed-strewn road today.

In the years before the Seminoles had reduced the sugar refinery to so many smoldering embers, the Bullows had hosted sophisticated country balls in the great hall on the first floor.

There had always been a meal at dusk--roasted hog and smoked alligator tail and seasoned crawfish and snap beans, straight from the vine. The trees hummed wth cicadas and the party-goers would assuage the week's toil over beer and rum, making small talk beneath the stretch of that live oak in a tongue so lively and beautiful it was a song unto itself.

When everyone was full and on the far side of tipsy, the music would begin. Skinny John Holtzbrink brought his players--a motley assortment of the best pluckers and jugmen on the peninsula. The music blossomed and the dancers swooned and the floor buckled with their vitality.

In that fine fashion, many a Saturday evening was passed in the marsh country.

But, as is natural in life, there came a decline. The loss of the refinery was merely symbolic--the final wall to tumble--as John Bullow had already lost his fortune, his family and his station.

What was left for him, but the comforts of that great live oak there in the corner of the picture?

But, as is also natural in life, they came back. The legend says that, on those nights when the moon swings out over the marsh, so close to the indigo forest that you can leave your flashlight in the glovebox, the great hall on the first floor of that place gets to rattling all over again.

What's that? A full moon? Well, yeah, I suppose it is. Nice and round--you bet. You want to take that walk we were talking about? Sure--let's just take this road right here.

What's that? Oh, it's just a little music! Sounds pretty good, don't it? Skinny John really has those boys working tonight.

Come on, it's just around this blackberry bramble here. Just around the bend, as the saying goes.

Hope you brought your dancin' shoes, darling, because we just might be in for a long night...

This image is courtesy of the
Florida Memory Project. Sorry, I had to remove my bombastic Florida love (sensitive Oregonians!)...

2 comments:

Karen from Mentor said...

more please.

Daniel W. Powell said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Karen. The image came from the Florida Memory Project. It's an amazing little database:

http://www.floridamemory.com/

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