Grandpa Was a Dancing Fool

toe on fire0006

When my Grandpa Roscoe and his brothers were young, they never missed the rare opportunity to attend a dance or church social, no matter how hard they’d been working on the farm. They’d work like mad all week to get through in time to ride out to any barn-dance, corn-husking, or hoe-down set for Saturday night.  One fine evening, his brother George was laid up with a broken leg, so Grandpa slipped off in George’s brand new boots, reckoning he’d cut a much finer figure in them than in his old brogans.   After all,  there was no reason the boots should miss all the fun.  The rest of the boys piled in the wagon, riding off into the night, bound for a rollicking good time. This left the sorrowful George at home with Ma, Pa, and the young’uns.

Roscoe danced every dance, not leaving out a girl between eight and eighty, who’d allow herself to be jollied around the floor. His good time was reinforced by the jug he and his brothers had thoughtfully hidden beneath the hay in their wagon. After all, the horses knew the way home and they didn’t have to work tomorrow.  George’s boots were feeling tight, but so was he, so he wasn’t in too much pain right then.  It was two-thirty before they left, long after the last ear of corn was husked, the last girl rounded up by her pa, and the last note of banjo and fiddle music drifted to the rafters.  The boys piled into the wagon, gave the horses their head and slept their way home.

By the time they got the horses settled in and were headed for their own beds, Roscoe’s toe, freed of the agonizing tight boot, was screaming its complaints. Likely, his decision-making wasn’t the best that night, but he got out his pocket-knife and whittled his in-grown toenail, making the problem exponentially worse. He wrapped the agonized toe in a rag soaked in high-alcohol liniment Ma had bought from a traveling snake-oil peddler the week before. Then he propped his foot on a chairback high above his head, and lay on the hearth, before the fire to soothe its throbbing.  Finally comfortable, he nodded off.

Aware of the smell of smoke, and fearing he had died and gone to his reward for dancing and drinking, he awoke to find a spark from the fireplace had ignited the rag on his toe.   Dancing a wild jig, he struggled to rip the flaming bandage from his torch of a toe. Never mind about music or a partner!

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