Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Shep", Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B

                           "Shep", the Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B

Hello All,

Say "hello" to my daddy, "Shep", alias John Edward (Burr-ya) Shepard.  Not a bad looking "bugle boy", if I do say so myself.  Well, he may not have been a bugle boy during his stint in the armed forces, but he was most definitely the "boogie-woogie" boy of his company.  I daresay that there has never been a smoother pair of feet on the dance floor, than my dad's...John Edward.  I can still see him "tripping the light fantastic" with my mom.  They were a sight to behold.  Why don't people dance like that, anymore?

Oops, got to run to the studio, again.  But, hold that thought...and imagine the strains of "In the Mood" playing in your ear.  I'll be back soon to continue with the story of my dad, "Shep".

Fade to..."the boogie-woogie bugle boy of Company B..."

Well, hello.  That took a bit longer than I thought.  I am on artistic sabbatical hiatus for research, exploration and experimentation with some new and innovative applications in felt textiles and Eco friendly coloring of cloth.  So much to learn.  But, more on that later.  Right now, let's get back to Shep, the "boogie-woogie" boy of Company B.

My daddy was definitely the boogie-woogie boy during his service in the army, and throughout his life.  It was like walking to him, that "born with it" rhythm and easy movement on the dance floor.  Sure-footed and smooth like a sure as his sun sign Leo.  King of the dance boards he was... that is actually how my mom and he met at a Friday night social (that's dance party to you young'uns).  Yes, yes Tyler, Texas was the "smoking" hopping place to be in those days.

His older brother, Butch, had arrived on the collegiate scene at Texas College a year before him.  A charming "keep them laughing" athlete, he woefully had (in his own words) two left feet.  Not to be outdone, whenever the girls (my mom included) teased about his dancing skills (or gross lack, thereof), Uncle Butch just laughed and answered, "Oh, you just wait until my baby brother gets here next year.  I may not know what feet are for, but he will put you all to shame!  "Burr-ya" dances enough for both of us. You don't know what dancing is until you meet him."  Ever ready with a perky comeback, my mom, Dorothy, (little miss sparkle twinkle-toes) retorted, "I don't believe it.  Anyone related to you couldn't possibly have any rhythm or control of their feet!  Much less be a "smooth cat" on the dance floor."

Well, one year later, arrive he did...John "Shep" Shepard from Mexia, Texas.  Yep, Mexia, Texas that, at the time, was little more than a dusty road with a grocery store, a feed granary and a Dairy Queen.  If you blinked twice, you would miss it passing through (...hey, I'm not kidding.  That's how I remember it, even when I was four or five years old.)  Not much to do there as a boy, but to go fishing, hunting (with a sling-shot), play sports and polish the dance floor with the soles of your shoes.  I have to admit, my daddy was proficient in all.  When he set his mind to it, there was no equal to him.

As it turned out, everyone (the social crowd) met Shep, not on campus, but, at the Green Top, a popular hamburger joint (best burgers, fries, chili loaves and malts you've ever tasted) where the kids hung out on weekends, and spun records from the jukebox.  Everyone had finished eating, and as was customary, tables were cleared to open the floor for dancing.  Song after song played while couples jitterbugged, and the girls flirted, posed, danced their darnedest hoping to be noticed by that good-looking newcomer who appeared to be glued to the wall (my mom included).

Shep remained stuck to the wall, casually leaning back, one polished foot resting on the woodwork.  It looked like he was going to be a permanent fixture for the evening.  Everyone started to look askance at Butch and taunt, "Baby brother, huh?  See man...we knew you were "shooting the breeze".  He can't dance a step.  What's he waiting for?"  Butch just laughed and said, "Wait, he's watching how they move...choosing a partner that fits his style."  Ohhhhh baby!  And, choose he did.  Another song blared from the jukebox.  A couple of strains into the music, Shep separated from the wall, glided like a panther across the room to a waif-thin dancer and proffered his hand.  (No, it wasn't my mom.)

Spinning her onto the floor like a well-oiled machine on ball bearings, he did not disappoint the crowd.  Everyone watched stunned, and soon cleared the floor for the couple.  Once they regained their senses, catcalls, cheering and animated applause burst from the crowd and filled the joint.  Uncle Butch's proud good natured laughter rang above all the hoots, exclamations and apologies.  My mom, for once, was completely without words.  I asked her if she was jealous he didn't choose her, and she said with a huge smile, "No.  Baby, we were all so happily surprised and absolutely impressed with his dancing, no one cared.  Man, talking about burning up the dance floor!  I didn't think he would ever give me the time of day, really."  Quite obviously, he did... (you know how those "boogie-woogie" boys can be).  And, the rest is history...

"Dottie and Shep in between Burning up the Dance Floor"

Fade to..."he was the boogie-woogie boy of Company B..."

All images, text and content copyrighted, 2012, all rights reserved

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