When I was growing up, family drives were pretty much limited to the 80 mile stretch from East Williston to Shelter Island, with the exception of one vacation to Mystic and Sturbridge which covered 350 miles. So it was significant that my folks drove 400 miles to deposit me at the College of William and Mary in 1974, and then returned six weeks later with my brother Art in tow for Parents’ Day.
October 5, 1974 was a classic Williamsburg fall day. The sun was strong, as it had been the year before when I first visited the campus with my dad, but even so the first leaves were starting to drift onto the brick walks around the Sunken Gardens. We went to watch the Indians beat the Citadel in football (no, I don’t actually remember that … I just looked it up in the Flat Hat). Then we headed out to dinner at the King’s Arms, notable only for my first, and last, bowl of peanut soup.
Being a young woman who truly valued the essential goodness in people, I asked, “What does he look like?” And finally agreed to go only after determining that “Don” was “tall and not bad looking.” An hour later, Andy, Don, and a bottle of Gallo Hearty Burgundy showed up and we were off to Theta Delta Chi to dance the night away. Don, wearing a stylish wide-wale couduroy jacket, had a signature dance move he called the “Dancing Bear. That was all it took; we continued to see each other for weeks, then months, then years … thirty-five years as of today.
When Don suggested we go back to Gruene to listen to music this past weekend, I said yes, since I had an ulterior motive: I wanted to get a picture of the Dancing Bear sign I had spotted a couple of weeks before. We went to the Gristmill for lunch, entering just as Brown Eyed Girl began to play. I asked if Don could remember when Brown Eyed Girl was first recorded, and he replied that it must have been in the early 70s since it was a standard at fraternity parties. Of course.
Turning to the menus, I settled on tortilla soup (much better than peanut soup at the Kings Arms) and Don opted for grilled trout, washed down with Shiner Bock and Dos Equis respectively. The rains came as we ate, and continued as we walked over to Gruene Hall to hear the McKay Brothers. The rain picked up, drumming a tattoo on the roof of Gruene Hall as it ran down the corrugated tin and and splashed to the ground in beaded-curtain streams. The McKays played on while I danced in my seat to the Beatitudes of Heat, Disappearing Texas and The Pawnee Waltz.
Every so often the weather would let up and we’d debate whether or not to leave. Then the thunder would rumble and we’d reconsider. When the show ended, we were finally forced to brave the rain and found ourselves shin-deep in running water as we crossed the street to the car. After twenty months of drought, it wouldn’t do for the Texas Hill Country to ease into the rainy season I guess.