aka, Leo D. Casebeer
The last Saturday of the month was to feature a harvest festival in town. There was to be a clambake that Uncle Gus was looking forward to, horse-shoe-pitching contests, and a big barn dance. The whole family joined in and made a day of it. By the time the dance began late that evening, the old folks had just about had their fill of food, frolic, and foolishness. They’d had all the fun they could stand! They were full of clams and fritters and longed for home and hearth. Irving and Kathleen decided to stay for the square dancing, and the rest of the family was headed home. I was pretty tired myself, but I was desperate to try out my new boots on the dance floor, and as I turned hesitantly to follow my folks, I locked eyes with the prettiest little red-haired girl that I had ever seen! She and several other young ladies were eyeing me coyly from across the dance floor, and their combined effect was more than sufficient to impair the best judgment of any naive ten-year-old, new boots and all. After several minutes of protest, Mother succumbed to my pleadings and agreed to let me stay for the dance and come home later with Irving and Kathleen.
The rest of the family headed home, and I bought a mug of cider and an ear of corn on the cob and sat down on the edge of the loft, dangling my legs and grinning ear to ear! Enthusiastic doesn’t begin to describe my state. I was exhilarated to the point of apoplexy! After finishing my refreshments, I licked my fingers, descended from the loft, and took my place alongside the other expectant onlookers, in hopes of an opportunity to join in the fun. I didn’t have long to wait. After a few minutes, the four young ladies whom I’d observed earlier began working their way around the floor, sizing up and critiquing the crowd of would-be dance partners. One by one they’d scrutinize the embarrassed observers and point out their shortcomings, much as though they were comparing plucked poultry on market day. “What about this one?” One would ask, and the others would offer criticisms, “too short, too thin, and too eager!”
The most vocal, and unquestioned leader of the pack was, of course, the little red-haired girl! She had the reddest hair, the thickest freckles, and the most luxurious get-along that I had ever seen, and as she approached, I held my breath and felt for all the world, like the black sheep in a lamb-judging contest. With the rest of the pack following closely and grinning with anticipation, the little red-haired girl stepped up boldly, looked me over briefly, and then stared intently into my face. I stared at my feet for a moment, bracing for rejection and humiliation, and then I swallowed hard and returned her gaze. “Dance?” she asked enthusiastically, and then offered a soft, thin, freckled hand. My head was swimming, my heart pounded, and I was dangerously light-headed from holding my breath! I grabbed her hand, we took our place in a newly formed square, bowed to our partner, and the fiddle began to play.
That little red-headed temptress whizzed tirelessly and elegantly around the room, frock flying and pigtails trailing, and I galloped happily at her side like a gangly pup, thoroughly enraptured, in a state of perfect bliss! We alabamed right and alabamed left and dosiedoed around that barn for the better part of an hour, and all at once I became aware that my poor feet were throbbing madly in those new boots, and several of my toes were clearly in tremendous distress! Just then the little red-haired girl turned hard a starboard, and we promenaded through the back door of that ol’ barn and out into the dark emptiness of the dimly moonlit corral beyond. A thousand breathtaking possibilities flooded my mind and weakened both my knees. And then, as I wrapped my arms around that warm, moist, gingham-clad form, and her sweet, cider-scented breath filled my nostrils, a milking stool came down on my head and the darkness took me in and swallowed me up! “Obie’s Quest”