The Ruby Slippers

Floyd Country Store - Jamboree Dancers

From the Floyd Country Store Friday, August 31, 2007–a typical kind of shot of folks clapping, dancing, listening to the music, people-watching, enjoying themselves. I held the camera as high as I could and pressed the shutter, accepting whatever the accidental composition might give me.

With this kind of take-what-you-get shot, it’s only after you come home to the computer monitor that you find the stories they tell. Interesting here how all the four folks sitting to the right of the dancers have their hands to their faces. When must they have gotten to the store to get those front-row seats, I wonder? I like the energy of the blond gal clapping (left of center). I like the light-dark-light perspective foreground to background.

But what I wish I’d made a point to focus on was diminutive eighty-year-old lady dancing in the red dress –her shoulders so frail that it hung loosely on her thin frame. Can you pick her out? She wore a red bow like a tiara; and where else might she have worn those ruby slippers that were hardly built for a night of dancing?

While everybody else faced the musicians on stage, this little woman performed her heart out, facing the front row audience as if center stage and everyone had come to see just her.

Later in the evening, she walked past us as we stood along the wall, back against the drink cooler. As she passed, self-possessed, fanning herself with her hand, someone told her she was looking good.

“I’m trying mighty hard to look good. Mighty hard” she admitted to no one in particular.

That’s the picture that didn’t come home. And the story. Larger Image here.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. the times we visited, i also noticed the front row gang. they sat there stone-faced watching most of the evening…..i guess soaking up the energy vicariously. how funny that they DO all have their hands to their mouths.

    such an interesting assortment of folks there. i really like this shot and how you captured the evening and place.

  2. Hey, the two on the far side of the front row are holding their noses, the one next to them is eating what I think are garlic balls, and the one closest realized she didn’t like ’em after all… (sometimes I laugh at my own jokes – alone).

  3. How lovely that the frail little 80-year-old has found her audience, finally achieving her 15 minutes of fame on this earth.
    I’ll bet she returns with yet another bright outfit…