– The Dancing Bear: A Love Song in Two Parts

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.

Heading back to my room in DuPont, I passed by the hall telephone (yes, back in the day there was only one phone for a hall of 30 women). Robin was on the phone and called out as I walked by, “What are you doing tonight? Theta Delt is having a band and Andy’s friend needs a date.”

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.

As we pulled onto Hunter Road I reminded Don that I needed a picture of the Dancing Bears. “Not really,” he said. Yes, really. I rolled down the window as he angled for a shot, then we continued on to I-35, figuring that the low-water crossings on Purgatory Road would surely be flooded, blocking the shorter way home. As we turned onto the interstate, the sun broke through behind us, painting a rainbow onto the clouds and then, with the water flying off the cars ahead of us, the end of the rainbow bent down right in front of us, until we were the end of the rainbow.
Magic happens … (head over the 3/17/2018 post to see how it still does)

Tortilla Soup (revised 3/2022)
2-4 cups rotisserie chicken stock
1 sweet yellow onion, sliced thinly
2-3 ears of fresh corn sliced off the cob (or a cup of frozen white corn)
1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup or more of fresh tomatoes, diced
2 cups leftover rotisserie chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt, black pepper, and Chipotle chile powder to taste
Corn tortilla chips (I’m partial to On the Border)
Grated cheese (Monterey Jack and a bit of Cotilla)
Fresh cilantro leaves
Avocado slices
Lime wedges
Heat the chicken stock over medium heat, add the diced onion and corn, simmer for 10 minutes or so while you chop the peppers and dice the chicken. Add the peppers, chicken and roux (optional, add if you want the soup to be more stew-like), then cook gently while you chop and then add the tomatoes. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve once everything is well heated through, being careful not to overcook.
Prep bowls with cheese and crushed corn chips, ladle on the soup, then top with cilantro leaves and avocado slices. Serve with wedges of lime and extra toppings, which can be added to taste.  Ice cold beer is also highly recommended … Negra Modelo or Shiner Bock come to mind.

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