“You can always use some SOAP to wash the week away. Come and join the Southern Oklahoma Acoustic Players and let our melodies soak into your soul. On Friday or Saturday nights the sounds of bluegrass, gospel, and some down-home-blues pierce the night with the resonance of a hundred singing strings.” That raucous radio announcement never failed to get my peaked anticipation to rise like a hot summer’s day does to the thermometer’s mercury.
Strong Irish coffee scents the air as Mickey takes the stage to play lead on “Miss McLeod’s Reel” with Kenny on his upright bass, Sissie on rhythm guitar, and Billy Joe playing the fiddle. The town’s old maid, Miss Wilson, sits in the front row on a old metal folding chair, tapping her toe on the old warped floor of the Opera House. In back sits Katherine, better known as Katie, with Bryan holding her hand, at fifteen they just know it’s true love. Over to the side Grandpa Snelson is doing a “Jed Clampitt” dance as the Reel rolls into full speed. Grandma Snelson throws back her head into a laugh that cackles throughout the House.
As the music flows into the night air, it pulls people to the Opera House like the smell of mother’s cookies would pull my friends to my house. As the crowd grows, it spills out into the night and suddenly we have a street dance. The police pull up and block both ends of the block for our safety, but the town is empty because everyone is here. The musicians mix into the crowd to play and sing their harmonies.
Mrs. Adams daughter, I never can remember her name, breaks open a jug of cider, sweet cider mine you, none of that hard kind would do here. Miss Penley starts cutting the cakes, mostly chocolate or strawberry icing, with little Beth Ashley sticking her sticky fingers in to test each one.
Suddenly Jerry stops the music and yells to quiet the crowd, “I have an audacious announcement to make. I just asked Jenny Lynn to be my betrothed and she said YES!” The band breaks into their version of the Hallelujah Chorus as the mayor shakes Jerry’s hand and gives Jenny Lynn a kiss on her forehead.
Grandpa Walker looks at his old railroaders watch and yells, “Time to go, gotta get some sleep before I can nap in the church pew in the morning.” The band plays one more song, a quiet quiescental piece so the lovers can have one last hold me close dance.
As I lock up the Opera House, I turn to a deserted desolate street that just mere moments ago was filled with laughter, rhythm and rhyme. I slowly walk down the avenue, head filled with remorse of another night having passed and anticipation of what the next weekend will bring.