Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Two-stepping off into the sunset...

This evening a long-time friend of mine passed away. "Red" was the owner of the only decent country-music-playin' establishment in our town and I'd known Red since I was in Kindergarten. He was 62.

When I was in grade school, virtually my entire early grade school years, I had a "boyfriend" named Brian. Brian Highfill. I would sigh and giggle at the mention of his name. He was dreamy, that Brian. In second grade they had a Marriage Booth at the school carnival and I married Brian roughly 45 times that night. I remember walking up to Red and exclaiming that I had married his son, while I showed off my many cheap "gold" rings. I remember Red's weathered face, which was always smiling, and how he laughed at the thought of having an 8 year old daughter in law.

Red had worked for the telephone company in Wyandotte for as long as I could remember and was known all over town for his telecommunication magic. He retired last year. He could have your phone line up and running in no time and if you had problems you would call Red.

When I was 19 I moved to Stillwater and moved back home all in a month's time. A few months later I was engaged - then a few months after that I wasn't. It was a rough time for me. Rough time for my mom, too. She was newly divorced and lonely. We were two depressing ladies, lemme tell ya. Well, while I was in Stillwater she had started taking country and western dance lessons in Wyandotte at AJ's Dance Hall, which was run by Red. She was enjoying herself and I figured I didn't have anything else to do on Tuesday nights, so I went along.

Ah Red... my gosh but that man could dance. He took a very clumsy 19 year old heartbroken girl and turned her into a 2-steppin' fool on that dance floor. When I danced with Red I was good at something. He taught me to 2-step, swing, waltz and even line dance. He never chided me for not catching on to something, he was endlessly patient and could always make me laugh. I never had a partner, but always knew that at some point I'd dance with Red for a few songs anyway, I felt like a country and western princess. He was proud of my ability and wanted me to start competition dancing. But alas, no partner.

One night I walked in the door from work and heard the phone ringing. It was Red. "Hey, sis! ... You comin' to class tonight? ... Good good! ... I got you a partner...yep, a partner! ... Paul ... Paul Hoover ... yes you do too know a Paul Hoover! ... Hell, girl he's here every week! ... Wait ... Boog! ... Yeah! ... They're the same guy! Boog is Paul!" I wasn't sure about this Boog guy, but Red assured me that he was aces and that was all I needed. Good enough for Red, good enough for me.

Well, little did Red know that he was playing matchmaker that night. And exactly three months later I became Mrs. Boog. I mean, Hoover. We spent the night before our wedding with Red and our dance crowd at the dance hall and when it was time to head home he hugged me tightly and kissed my cheek and wished us both luck.

When I was pregnant with our first baby I worked as a cocktail waitress at his club. While I was working there we lost our baby. The emotion that poured from that man when someone he loved as much as I know he loved me was hurting was unfathomable. He was a kind man, but didn't like to let too many people know it. I worked off and on over the years for him and knew that no matter what there was a grey-headed old fart at that club that loved me and my husband.

Red, I love you and I know that wherever you are tonight you're dancin'.

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Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...