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faces alight with expectations of a good time. The spectrum still included young parents, a few children, middle-aged ranch couples, and older people, tourists from Dallas and Houston, a sprinkling from the Kerrville business community. Especially, there were young people counselors from the boys’ and girls’ summer camps up the river and high school and college kids from the local area, many in packs, some in pairs. Mrs. Crider beamed at them all indiscriminately. “I like to see all the happy faces,” she said. The band launched into a spirited rendition of “Luckenbach, Texas,” and the floor came alive. In front of us, at the edge of the swirling sea of movement, Wilton stood talking with a security man. They appeared relaxed and casual, but the eyes of both roved expertly over the dancers and the milling crowd. Wilton, in sharply-creased Stetson and western shirt, long legs slightly bowed in pinchecked Levis and boots, rocked on his heels in time to the music. Behind them, Gene sauntered past, his blue eyes also scanning. Everything appeared in fine shape. The band played, a vibrant orange moon rose, a soft wind caressed the trees. People gossiped and danced and quenched their thirst. The fiddles scraped into the first “Cotton-Eyed Joe” and there was an enthusiastic springing up around us. Mrs. Crider twinkled. “That’ll get ’em up when nothing else will,” she said. Lines formed in a flash. Lenn’s band could play it right. The simple but infectious rhythm, the kicking and stomping and camaraderie of our state’s own dance form an appropriate Crider’s leitmotif. Knowing I would go home and make notes, I fished for verbal description. “How do you do it?” I asked. Mrs. Crider was nonplused, as if I had sought instruction on how to walk. Finally, laughing, she offered, “You go forward a little bit, and then you go back!” She added that Wilton and Bobbie Nell always danced it “the old way,” as a couple, instead of in a line-up. Sometime later, Texas Monthly would name Wilton and Bobbie Nell the “best ‘Cotton-Eyed Joe’ dancers” in the state. Mrs. Crider didn’t mention any of their trophies. She did say, “Ladies always like to dance with Wilton,” adding that one had told her, “Dancing with Wilton is like dancing on a cloud.” There was no “bullshit” in the “Cotton-Eyed Joe” that night. “We stop the music,” Wilton said. “This is a place for families. We want to keep it that way.” On the outskirts of the other dancers, a little girl of six or seven twirled sedately with a tall man who might have been her grandfather. The band alternated genuine oldies like “Put Your Little Foot” and “Wildwood Flower” and such vintage hits as “Faded Love” with current C&W favorites. Unobtrusively, Wilton and Gene picked empty cans off the floor and dropped them into litter barrels. Gene brought a plateful of hot cheese nachos and put them on the table between Justa and me. He sat briefly, but his eyes still swept the crowd. “How can you tell if there’s going to be trouble?” I asked. He flashed a Crider grin. “Instinct,” he said quietly. “Been doin’ it all my life.” Well, did they ever have much trouble? “Hardly ever,” he said. “We don’t let it get away from us.” “Listen,” Pappy Crate would say. \(He was on one of his rare absences that through June, July and August, they’ve got fifteen-hundred to eighteen-hundred people out there, every Saturday night; three thousand cans of beer that’s right, that’s statistics and all this summer I’ve never seen one fight. It’s just like one big happy family. . .” Pappy would then go on to describe a memorable fight that happened out there once after a woman got beer poured on her and, in her resultant shrieking fury, had kicked and punched and scratched and bitten several men “like a tigress” before they got her subdued, but that was a long time ago. INTERMISSION. Lenn brought his sister over to meet Mrs. Crider. People milled happily under the trees,’ or went out for a while. Justa eavesdropped on the ranchers behind us. “They say they’re getting some ‘foreign exchange students,’ ” she related. I stared. “Illegal aliens,” she translated, with tactful avoidance of comment. Music and dancing began again. Time passed, in a blur of sound and motion. Late as it was, people were still coming in. Bobbie Nell was still at the gate, bantering and checking hands. We moved over into some empty chairs. The space we left at the table was soon filled by four breathless late arrivals. Three of the women appeared to be in their mid-60’s, escorted by a younger woman perhaps in her 40’s. They were settling in when Wilton’s orbit brought him near the table. Spotting her prey, the group’s youngest sprang up and waylaid him. “Mistuh Criduh!” she exclaimed. Preoccupied, Wilton broke stride, touched the rim of his hat. “Mistuh Criduh,” the woman went on, “this is my aunt, Miz . And this is Miz , and Miz ,. They came here to dance! So would you ” With a coy inclination of the head, her voice dropped. ” dance with them?” Her manner suggested that of course he would. He was a gentleman, wasn’t he? You bet he was. The affable Crider grin flickered across his lips, through which he breathed a low, courteous reply: “I sure would love to. But I’ve got to bounce the floor.” With a rhythmic twist of her torso, one of the group peered through her bifocals, patted the tabletop coquettishly with her palms, and demanded archly, “That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it bouncing the floor?” “He’s the best dancer in the world,” cooed the niece, determined. “He’s won several trophies. Haven’t you, Mistuh Criduh?” Wilton’s grin was still flickering, his voice still low and courteous. “Not many.” Arms bent, he looked poised to flee. “Come on!” the niece wheedled. “Just one little dance?” The reply issued through Wilton’s lips soft as a soap bubble. “Ma’am, I sure would love to, but I have this job to do.” And faster than a bubble breaks, the good-sized man stepped sideways and vanished into the crowd. Eventually a small homeward trickle began. An elderly rancher, moving stiffly, holding his hat as he made his way in quiet dignity toward the gate, stopped beside Mrs. Crider. In the courtly way of older Hill Country men, he bent forward, extending his hand to hers. “Audrey, I see you’re here,” he said. “Yes,” she replied, “I’m here.” “I’m here, too,” he said. They shook hands, and a look of understanding passed between them. Later, watching the dancers, she turned to me, her face radiant. “I like to see all the happy faces,” she said again. “People having a good time. They forget all their troubles … ” “For a little while,” I said. When her eyes dimmed for the briefest moment, I wished I had kept quiet. “For a little while,” she conceded gently. When Justa and I left after midnight, the breeze from upriver was cool in our faces. The moon was still shining above the live oak trees. The band was playing “San Antonio Rose,” and people were dancing. And Audrey Crider was still there, not yet tired. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17