On the evening of my first day visiting with one of my sons and his family in Texas, Sam took me over to Groene (pronounced “Green”). There are several shops and stores in the old downtown area with a variety of goods available. We were primarily interested in two locations, though: the old dance hall and the Grist Mill Restaurant.
According to Sam, Groene Hall was built so that local farmers could have some entertainment while they waited to have their cotton ginned and their grain gristed. Since it was the closer of the two, we visited the dance hall first.
I don’t recall the actual year of construction but I believe the long wooden frame structure was built about a hundred years ago, maybe more. The foundation has sagged noticeably at the entry door. Inside, pictures of numerous country music artists taken inside the hall hang on the walls. I recognized the names of some, others I didn’t. All of them, including George Strait, shared the experience of having performed at Groene Hall.
Past the bar, the wooden floor continued into the dance hall proper. I’m estimating that it’s about eighty feet wide and a hundred-and-twenty-five feet long. There’s a low stage at the end next to the bar and then a few rows of picnic tables spanning the width and running back about half of the distance. A long row of tables along one wall finishes framing in the dance area with another stage at the opposite end.
The benches at all the tables were pretty much filled. People milled about the area, headed for refills or carrying them back to their tables or just standing and visiting with one another. A good four-piece band was playing mostly traditional country music; I knew the words to most of the songs. A small white-haired woman stood at the end of one row of tables, drinking a beer and patting her foot in time to the music. She wasn’t a bit over five feet tall. When the band switched to a new song, she quit patting her foot and started shuffling.
I tapped Sam on the shoulder and pointed to her, “Look at that.” He looked at her for a few seconds then looked back at me and we smiled at each other. She was old and bent and short and stiff but there was no way you could say she wasn’t having a good time, dancing by herself.
We headed over to the restaurant and ate barbecued ribs at a table out on one of the balconies, overlooking the Guadalupe River in the shade of live oak trees. When we finished and headed back over to Groene Hall, that woman was still dancing.
She had limbered up a bit and the dance floor was crowded. The ages of couples varied from pre-adolescence to post-senior citizen but they shared a few things in common: all the males were wearing boots, the women were wearing smiles and they were all moving in the same general direction. Some of them made their steps and swirls a bit more quickly and smoothly than others but they all looked to be having a great time.
The little old lady was doing a two-step up near the band. The song ended and she headed back to her beer. As she walked by, Sam stood up and stepped over to her. “I just want to tell you that seeing you dance here has made my night,” he told her. She smiled brightly and thanked him. “I’m seventy-five years old,” she admitted, “But when that music starts playing I feel twenty.”
I guess that’s it, isn’t it? No matter our age, we just need to find the right tune and keep letting our feet lead us out on the floor. And stay in step with the Spirit.