Cousin Skeeter had to come to the city because he had an appointment with the tax man in the revenue building downtown, so he asked me to ride along with him. Since his meeting was at eight o’clock in the morning, Skeeter wanted to drive down there the night before and he got us a room in one of them fancy hotels they have down there, one of them fancy high-rises where you can see seven counties out your window.
Well, when we was checking in, there was a real nice young lady behind the counter there, and she asked us what we was going to do while we were in the city. Well, we said, we was just going to check into our room and maybe watch some of that free cable TV, or maybe go down to the river and do a little fishing.
Well, she says to us, you gentlemen must go to Swan Lake.
That was music to our ears, it was, because we just thought we’d maybe drop our poles in the river down there, not really knowing if there was any fish worth catching in there or not. We never figured they’d have a lake in the city like that.
I have two tickets to Swan Lake right here, she said. You gentlemen can go as guests of the hotel.
Well, we was right tickled silly about that. With us needing tickets to get in, we figured it might be one of them stock lakes where they have all kinds of big catfish and bass and bluegill in them.
So Cousin Skeeter says to her, Do we need to bring our own bait? And that girl just laughed and laughed and said for us not to worry about it, that we was guests of the hotel and they even gave us some tickets so we could get ourselves a soda pop and everything.
So she give us our tickets and said that the Swan Lake was in the Metropolitan Center that was just a few blocks from the hotel and that we could walk from there.
So we walked over where she told us, looking for a park or something called the Metropolitan Center and we were plumb surprised to see that it wasn’t only a pay lake, but it was inside this great big old building. Cousin Skeeter thought that was plain odd, he did, but I said We’re in the city, now, Skeeter and just about anything can happen.
So we went inside, but it weren’t a pay lake at all, but a big old theater, and I said to Skeeter, Well, maybe this is some kind of motion picture show called Swan Lake, not a fishing trip at all, but since we was there and the nice lady gave us complimentary tickets and all, well, it was just the polite thing to do, and we could still dip our poles in the river after if we was still in the mood for some fishing.
So this other real nice older lady shows us where to go and sit, and my goodness but it was the biggest theater I do believe I’ve ever seen and it was full of people all dressed up real nice. We felt a little out of place in our overalls, but everybody was so nice to us that after a while we never paid it anymore nevermind.
Then the lights went out like they’d blowed a fuse or something, but luckily somebody up in the back had this big old flashlight that he shined down on a big old hole in the ground in front of the stage and the people get all nice and quiet like. Then this feller comes up out of the hole in the ground and everybody starts a clapping. Skeeter says, What they heck they clapping for? Ain’t nobody done nothing yet. I said, Well, maybe he’s just a real popular fella around these parts.
Well. then this fella turns his back to us and starts waving his arms in the air and it turns out there was a band down there in the hole with him, there was, and it was a whole bunch of fiddles and bass fiddles with nary a mandolin nor a banjo neither one. No guitars neither, but it sounded like they had some harmonicas, just fiddles and harmonicas and this popular fella was waving his arms to help them know when it was their turn to play.
It was kind of odd, it was, but the music was real pretty, and then the curtains opened up on the stage and the stage was full of all these girls in long dresses. They was pretty girls, but they was awful skinny and Skeeter says, Well, it looks like they could use some gravy on their biscuits. They look about starved to death, they did, so we figured maybe they was just mighty poor, but they was happy, and they were dancing around the stage on their tippy-toes, twirling around in their skirts and jumping up and down in the air wiggling their toes. And they all took turns, some of them dancing by themselves and some of them doing the dotsy-do with two or three other girls, and this went on for a while and then all of a sudden a bunch of fellas come out on the stage to dance with them.
To tell you the truth, I don’t rightly know what to say about these fellas in mixed company, ’cause they was wearing the most gawd-awfullest suits you ever seen, they was. They had on these short jackets that was all shiny and glittery, and that was okay, I guess, but Lord Have Mercy, it looked like they didn’t have no britches on because they was so tight, and they was tight all the way up, and I’m telling you that none of them boys had any secrets at all, no sir. Their britches was so tight you could see everything they had, you could. Their britches was so tight that you could count their parts, you could, and Skeeter says, How can they jump around on stage like that with their britches riding up like that? They had no shame at all. They just started dancing with those skinny girls in their long skirts, throwing them up in the air and catching them, and jumping up and down wiggling their toes and all. And they all took turns then, dancing by themselves and showing off for the girls, then two of them dancing together, and that went on for a while.
Then this one fella comes out with the shiniest jacket and the tightest britches of all of them, and he starts jumping around the stage, just leaping around like he was a deer or something, he was, and you could tell that he was a prince or something. Then he danced with some of the girls and danced with some of the other fellas and that went on for a while, then he danced by hisself again and I guess he worked up a mighty thirst with all that dancing and they gave him this big gold cup to drink out of.
I’m guessing it wasn’t no soda pop in that cup because all of a sudden this lady comes out on stage and I’m guessing that it was his mama and that he had some moonshine or hard cider in that gold cup because when she came on stage, he tried to hide it behind his back. But that wasn’t fooling her. Mind they wasn’t doing no talking, but they was using some kind of sign language to talk, but I couldn’t make heads nor tails of it all at first, but they was pointing at their fingers and she gave him a bow and arrow, and I figured out that she wanted two things. One, she wanted him to stop dancing around with all these skinny girls and get hisself married. And two, he needed to take his tight britches out there in the woods and kill something for supper.
So next thing you know, the stage is full of all these skinny girls wearing these white skirts that was so short that they just stuck straight out all around them like they was riding in a doughnut or something. And their hair was all done up in white feathers. They all danced around on their tippy-toes again for a while, then they took turns dancing by themselves and in twos, threes and fours, and this goes on for a while, then Skeeter elbows me in the side and says, They must be the swans. I thought that made a lot of sense, but it turns out that the prince fella comes along with his bow and arrow and chases all the skinny swan girls around the stage until he catches one, but he don’t kill her, no sir. He starts dancing with her and throwing her up in the air and catching her and all. I said, Skeeter, she can’t be a swan because it looks to me like he’s falling in love with her.
Skeeter says, Well, we’re in the city now. Maybe it’s ok for a fella to fall in love with a bird.
Well, it turns out to be a really sad story, and I don’t think I’d be giving too much away to tell you that they both died in the end, but when we got back to the hotel, the pretty girl at the counter asked us how we liked Swan Lake, and we was polite and told her we liked it just fine, so she give us tickets for another show the next day, except this wasn’t dancing but the opry.
But it wasn’t the Grand Ol’ Opry, I can tell you that, and I can’t even begin to tell you what happened at that show.
I will tell you this, though, that when it comes down it, if I had to choose between one or t’other, I guess I’d rather sit still for skinny girls dancing than fat girls hollering.