Thursday, April 10, 2008


Twenty years ago, I acquired my first horse. I said I would never own a grey and I would never own an Arabian; so I purchased a grey Arabian.

Harry's Sketch by Georgiana Kennedy Simpson
Georgiana's sketch of her horse.

The opportunity was placed in front of me by my kind, logical friend, Mary, a dear buddy since my early corporate days in Phoenix. She mentioned having two horses, but only one fanny (Her husband, David, did not share her equine passion.) I offered my back side and our friendship blossomed during many fine desert wash rides.

After several years of riding companionship, Mary turned to me and said, “Jana, you could buy your own horse”. There I was at twenty-seven years of age and the idea had never occurred to me. No-one was holding me back. No-one need grant me permission. No-one else held the purse strings.

She had gone so far as to point out a good-looking, rose-grey, two-year-old Arabian stallion named Sahara Sir. He was a firecracker. Twenty years later, he still is.

Too often, we set our dreams aside while carrying out daily routines. Without my friend’s simple logic, the dream of horse ownership would have remained as such. I do, however, feel that with age and experience, I am getting better at grabbing life’s brass ring; most recently in the form of clogging.

“Clog” is a Gaelic word which means time. Clogging emphasizes the music’s downbeat, providing a percussive accent by way of “jingle” taps on each shoe. Originating in the Appalachian region of this country, exuberant footwork was accompanied by ‘old-time music’ , the predecessor to contemporary fiddle and bluegrass styles. Drawing from a melting pot of English, Irish, and Dutch-German step dances seasoned with African, Cherokee and Russian Gypsy rhythms, clogging evolved into an exciting American dance form. In the United States, it was originally known as flat-footing, foot-stomping, buck dancing or jigging. In a performance for the Queen of England, it is reported that Her Majesty remarked at the footwork being much like "clogging" in her own country and the term stuck.

Clogging was introduced to me on a visit to Swiss Days, an annual harvest celebration in Midway, Utah, honoring the heritage of early settlers of that region. Various dance groups were performing throughout the day. What caught my attention was two fiftyish women who stepped up to the platform. The sound created by their speedy footwork accompanied by their blithe expressions made it clear they were having an enormously good time. I then realized if the opportunity presented itself to learn this dance, I planned on taking full advantage.

That chance presented itself during a casual conversation with my friend, Beverly. She was participating in a group led by Jeanna Grover on Tuesday evenings. I started in January and quickly realized what a slow foot I was in this fast foot group. My official shoes; brilliant white with four taps which emit a concise clickity-clack would be available in a couple of weeks, so I soft-shoed along with the remainder of the dancers.

My introduction to clogging shoes made me believe I would step it up with the best River Dancer. I knew to the very fiber of my being that something special was about to happen. I flip-flapped toward the dance floor, conjuring up images of clogging legends, Bascam Lamar Lunsford and Dr. Lloyd “Pappy” Shaw. Jeanna set up the music for our first dance, George Strait’s “Blue Clear Sky”. I waited for the count...5...6...7...8.

While the rest of the class swung and chugged and double-toed, I flung and lugged and stumble-toed. While Jeanna, Christa, Julie and others floated and flashed; I slogged and mashed. Their sharp, clear tappity-taps were mangled by my slish-smooshes, a sound difficult to achieve with hard metal hitting a wood floor. I only slightly assuaged my disappointment with the fact that this was the advanced class and I might have a better shot with the beginning class on Thursday evening.
Georgiana's Clogs
Georgiana's clogging shoes.

Two days later, I showed up again with hope in my heart thinking, “Perhaps the moves will be presented a tad slower”. I soon learned there is nothing slow about clogging. The Thursday class was sailing along as quickly as the others and I found myself once again flailing uselessly in the back row. My right brain accused my left brain and my left brain returned its retorts. My hopes for a “Clogging for Slow People” class were dashed and I resigned myself to the fact that I had better figure out how to shift my posterior and the rest of me into a higher gear in order to keep up with everyone else’s flying feet.

My anxiety has now moved to a Fuchsia Alert level, the color of the blouses we will be wearing for our dance performance in early May. To add insult to injury, I must present my slogging brain and flailing steps to the entire community. I have images of such a decrepit performance that the three-year-old beginners will sit down and cry en masse. Jeanna said there is no position for curtain opener and closer available. I have attempted to hide in the back row, nudging the forward dancer rather than allowing myself the embarrassment of a front and center position. Unfortunately, the front row dancers are on to me.

I have one month to thrash away in our warehouse; in our kitchen; in Christa’s studio; in the Bluff Elementary multipurpose room; and Jeanna’s basement. I pray Steve and the children will not abandon me after my ignominious inaugural performance.

The funny thing is, beneath my hopelessly smoosh-footed despair, I am having the time of my life. I suppose sometimes when you grab that brass ring, you will fall flat on your face. Approaching my own mid-century, my wisened, if bruised, ego must confront that probability.

With warm regards,
Georgiana, Steve, Barry and the Team.

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