Why grateful now? The coronavirus has ruined plans for most of 2020, and now threatens to affect Thanksgiving plans! Many have died or lost family or friends. Irreparable losses! Cancellations, shelter-in-place, a world turned upside down! Is gratitude even possible in 2020?
For me, gratitude changes everything, but I’m not talking about an unrealistic Pollyanna attitude. Gratitude is a paradigm shift—a fractional shift one direction or the other off of the coronavirus to a larger, more glorious world.
So why is gratitude important now? For me, it’s an attitude that changes my perspective. I can focus on the negative, an easy choice. So the chaos and horror of the pandemic take over, and I obsess about today’s totals. Seeing what’s wrong comes naturally. Gratitude asks me to dig deeper and take a different route. Personally, I’ve had minimal losses, yet it has taken its toll on me but nothing like many with gigantic losses.
So what’s the power of gratitude? I concentrate on the positive, what’s right with the world, what I love about my life and suddenly I feel different!
The best way to be grateful: write a gratitude list. I learned about this tool in recovery. How do you do that? List two, five, ten things I’ve grateful for. Start small and increase as you practice this. In doing this, I take the focus off the problem and celebrate the solution.
On November 19, 2020 here’s my gratitude list:
1. My sobriety
2. My God
3. My husband, Lin
4. My brother, Bub
5. My health
6. My family
7. My friends
8. My cat, Jesse
9. Our family ranch
10. My love of dancing
Today I sit in the waiting room at my husband, Lin’s eye doctor. He sits in an adjacent room, having his second cataract surgery in a month or so. The success of the first one prepared him for today’s ordeal. His natural grateful spirit often shows me the power of gratitude for the seemingly small things. His positive attitude contributed to the success of the other surgery, so I know the same thankful attitude will affect the outcome of this one.
Okay, it’s your turn! For what are you grateful? If you name someone specifically, be sure and tell he/she made your gratitude list today! I’d love to hear what you are grateful for during these hard times.
Honestly, do we know anyone, really? I know I hide part of myself from the world, afraid to expose too much of my true self, concerned about safety. Will I get burned, again? Can I be that honest? I’ve struggled with this for years.
One of my favorite books published in 1975 was Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? by John Powell. “Why am I afraid to tell you who I really am boils down to — if I told you who I really am and you didn’t like it — it’s all I’ve got.”
That explanation resonated with me forty-five years ago and still does today. Over the years, I’ve tried to be honest but have failed often. I avoided confrontation and making waves, but is that being honest? I’ve bit my tongue and walked away from a potential argument.
So, I offer you a glance inside me with these two poems: a country carefree child and an adult sizing up me and my life today.
The Slam of a Screen Door
July 16, 2020
A screen door
Not today’s version
But a relic from the 50s and 60s.
It bounced a couple times
No latch to hold it
Mosquitoes, flies and other
Not as protective
As the 21st century version!
But the slam
Afire with life
My brother chasing me
With a water gun
Close with a bang!
Mom’s repeated shout,
“Don’t the slam the door!”
We didn’t do it in anger
Only in haste
To get outside
To start the adventure
To catch it!
On other priorities
A hike to Brown Springs
A bicycle ride
A secluded time in our treehouse
A new day
A new adventure
A door opened to the world
You May Think You Know Me, But. . .
August 9, 2020
As I pondered a topic
Old yet new
I marveled at the thought
Freedom from deceit or fraud
To be honest
Is to be vulnerable
To risk exposure
To lay bare my insides to you.
Are you safe?
Can I trust you?
At this moment,
I feel compelled
To do so.
I grew up embarrassed
Like the ladies on TV
Like the ladies in town.
A Christian to the core
I’ve dabbled in
Savored the peaceful sweat lodge ceremony
Became a silent observer
Valuing the art of listening
Honored the roots of Christianity
I’ve divorced three times.
But necessary for my sanity
Because I stood up
But a major turning point
I’m a political person
Independent for years
But moved out
Caused by disillusionment
With both parties.
I hate arguing politics
Remember many hurtful conversations
With my dad
We didn’t change each other
In the process
Just bitter memories!
I’m a liberal!
That’s not a dirty word
Dictionary says, “tolerant, unprejudiced, unbigoted, broad-minded, open-minded, enlightened; permissive, free, free and easy, easygoing.”
I can live with those!
I yearn for equality
I’m a talker
Love sharing my thoughts
Love heart-to-heart conversations
On spiritual real topics,
Not head stuff.
I hate gossip,
Yet I get sucked in!
I love people
Young and old
So much to learn!
My heart has been broken!
I’ve faced despair
Recovery gave me my life back!
I was an English major
I have book shelves lined with
Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets
Hemingway’s short stories
T. S. Eliot’s poetry
Hillerman’s southwest novels
I’m a poet
Words inspire me to life
Words create images
Poetry gathers words
And creates life.
I’m a writer
The voice of the plains
Of my heart
I’m a dancer
When the music starts
It sets me free!
The connection to the universe!
I’m a computer geek!
The magic of technology
And I want to create!
I’m the baby of five.
My daddy’s little girl
My mom’s “baby girl!”
Adored by my parents!
I’ve feared obesity
My whole life
I watched my mom struggle
And her mom
And many of the women
On that side of the family
I make friends
I keep friends!
I’m a paradox
So, my honesty jumps
From here to
I’m an expansive spirit
Today a soul on fire
A God-driven energy
A sleeping cat
All rolled up into one!
Honestly, a dichotomy I am, but I know I have to be honest. I will engage with you; I won’t argue. I will share the depth of my spirit; I won’t hold back, and hopefully you will get a glimpse of Larada.
Tell me what “Daily Honesty” means to you! I’d love to hear your thoughts about honesty.
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Passion—that activity that motivates me! It energizes me, animates my spirit and lights a fire in my soul. Does it have to be just one? No I have several passions!
During this depressing pandemic, I’ve been denied participation in my deepest passion: dancing, square dancing, round dancing and any other type of dancing there is.
So, what did I do? I’ve reacquainted myself with some of my other passions. Some might call them hobbies, but I like the word passion better because it resounds with emotion.
My personal list of passions/hobbies are:
Let’s look at each one.
Yes, I am a writer and have continued my weekly blogs during this crazy time. I featured many poems I wrote about the pandemic, and the poetry writing fed my soul. It provided me a means to process the insanity that hit initially with the shelter-in-place and the cancellation of so many dance events.
Also, I finished my current writing project, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo. The cancellation of events provided me extra time to add some novelties to the book.
Words and ideas flicker in my mind and must be recorded—definitely a passion for me!
My husband, Lin, reads a lot, but I’ve felt too busy the last couple years to read during the day and limited my reading to bed time.
In our home, we have an extensive library, so at the beginning of the pandemic, he picked up Shadowlands, the heart-wrenching story of C. S. Lewis and his wife, Joy Goodman. He always shares about his current book with me, and that interested me. I have been a C. S. Lewis fan for years.
So, when he finished Shadowlands, he jumped into the legendary Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis and read the whole set. After doing some research on the Internet, he came up with a different reading order and read them chronologically instead of using the numbering system they used when they published the set.
Here’s the suggestion:
The Magician’s Nephew
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle
At that time, I was finishing up some books we bought on our trip to Spain in late February and early March. Also, I’m a long-time Jodi Picoult fan and wanted to finish leaving time, a fascinating novel with a shocking ending. I had, also, downloaded an e-book off of Kindle on a special, The Victory Garden, so I had that to read. What a delightful read!
After finishing them, I decided I wanted to end the summer with C. S. Lewis, so I started with Shadowland. I wept through the end of that book. Then I started the Chronicles of Narnia, following Lin’s suggested reading order.
What a treat! Originally, I read the Chronicles of Narnia about forty years ago, so with my memory, it has been like reading them for the first time. Right now, I’ve finished The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Currently, I’m reading The Horse and His Boy.
So once again, reading has taken a major place in my day, a long neglected passion with my hectic life prior to the pandemic!
I’ve been a knitter since I was ten years old, and I’ve knitted hundreds of items: sweaters, afghans, dresses, socks, vests, dish clothes and more. I love doing it while we watch TV, and it is a true passion of mine!
So, during this time, I’ve knitted a special baby afghan for a baby born in May, but the majority of my knitting now has been dish clothes. In fact, I’m starting my 17th today. It’s a simple pattern, and I can do it without watching my hands or thinking much. In fact, some people consider knitting a type of meditation, and I would agree with that.
The one knitting project I’ve avoided during this time is a complicated sweater for myself. I’ve made that pattern three other time, but it demands concentration. Every time I look at that knitting bag, I shiver because I want to finish it, but I don’t want to have count every stitch right now—maybe it’s the result of the pandemic and the stress. I don’t know, but I know I will finish it eventually.
And I have many future projects to look forward to because on our travels over the past few years, I’ve bought yarn as a souvenir at various places. From Ireland, I purchased enough beige wool to make an Aran sweater.
On our cruise of the British Isles last summer, I bought smaller amounts at different stops to make a scarf or something small.
I love the rhythmic movement and sound of the needles and the product at the end.
For my whole adult life, I have been a sun worshipper, spending countless hours in the sun trying to get a tan. My frequent travel companion during the 80’s and 90’s would scold me for laying in the sun on our trips to Mexico and South America. The crazy part is she would sit in the shade and I’d be full out in the sun, and she always came home with a better tan than me! Probably has to do with my red-haired fair-skinned father!
Often, I burned and took extreme chances with the way I sunbathed: spraying water on myself, using baby oil, and staying out way too long!
In 2001, my ex-husband was diagnosed with melanoma and had surgery. At about the same time, one of my best friends had a reoccurrence of melanoma after twenty years. Shortly, after this, I ended my sunbathing. I finally realized I was flirting with danger for sure.
This summer, my husband has gotten a gorgeous tan working in his garden and showed me the sensible way to get a tan: no long exposure, gradual increase in exposure and thoughtful consideration of how long he was in the sun.
So, with book in hand, I started sunbathing again. I have used 50 level protection suntan lotion and started out slow and gradually increased my time to thirty minutes on each side—that’s it! I won’t go beyond that.
The sun’s warmth does something to my spirit. Laying outside in Lin’s gorgeous garden, I have time to appreciate the numerous flowers blooming and all the time he’s dedicated to it. (Gardening is his passion!) I have a dedicated reading time, and I’m getting a tan, all at the same time.
When this coronavirus pandemic has subsided, and we dance again, my passion for dancing will be ignited. Until then, these others bless me deeply. Passion, fervor, enthusiasm—we need it in our lives to feed our hearts, our souls and our spirits! How about you? What are your passions?
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“It’s a thick book!” Many have received their copy of Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, and this has been one of the major responses. Wow, thick!
Yes, it ended up being thick—Flippo had a rich full life. There’s 592 pages (sixteen pages of front matter), more than 450 pages of memorable pictures and ten appendices. Also, there’s story galore: Flippo told stories about callers and cuers and then callers and cuers told stories about Flippo. Because I felt this was a history book, I included an Index of thirty-seven pages for cross-referencing.
Flippo worried about the size of this book and commented, “It won’t be as big as Bob Osgood’s.” So I worked hard to keep it smaller. Bob Osgood became the leader of square dancing for many years. He published a monthly magazine, Sets in Order, that kept dancers and callers abreast of square dance news in its heyday. This magazine influenced many callers’ careers with articles, advertisements and reviews of newly released songs. He helped Flippo’s career immensely. He also was the mastermind behind, CALLERLAB, the international organization for square dance callers that standardized square dance calls.
As I Saw It, Bob’s biography is 636 pages, so Flippo’s is smaller, by a few pages.
After readers received the book, the other comment I’ve heard with much scrutiny is about something special I added to the title page. Early on when people signed up to pre-order a book, someone asked that Flippo autograph her book. I agreed to do this, and I was certain many people would want his autograph, then he passed away before it was published.
That thought returned to me often as I was transcribing our interviews and putting the book together, then I had a brainstorm. I contacted his son and ex-wife and told them about my plan. I asked if they had a good signature we could use.
His ex-wife found a couple: one on their divorce decree that wasn’t as legible and another one from a card sent at an earlier time in their lives with a clear signature, so she sent it to me. I inserted it on the title page, and it actually looks like he autographed the book, saying, “Love Flip.”
So, no I didn’t forge his name as some have intimated which I would never do. I just thought it was a nice touch when the reader opens the book—a welcome from Flip!
I’d like to end this with a list of books written about square dancing. Some are thick; others aren’t. You can find this list in Appendix J, Additional References in Just Another Square Dance Caller:
Betty Casey, Dance Across Texas, University of Texas Press (1985).
$24.95 paperback; $7.49 hardback; $11.95 e-book on amazon.com
Betty Casey, The Complete Book of Square Dancing [and Round Dancing], University of North Texas Press (2000).
The history of our activity fascinates me. I’m hopeful that Flippo’s biography will join these legendary tomes in your library. Yes, it’s thick but it’s worth it!
Are you a history buff? What history do you enjoy?
~ RELEASE PARTY of Flippo’s biography on Zoom on Wednesday, July 29, 2020 at 7:00 pm MST! Be ready to celebrate! Door Prizes, the inside story, Flippo song bytes & interview clips and more!The meeting ID number & the passwordwill be posted on my website on Wednesday, July 28.
~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website and pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com
ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW.
SORRY: Another side trip away from our British Isles Cruise. I will resume it next week with Day 5: Kirkwall in Orkney Islands, Scotland!
We just returned from a square and round dance vacation week at Fun Valley RV park at South Fork, CO, and the week was an emotional roller coaster ride for me!
The weekend started off with dinner Saturday night with a group of 25 dancers at the Firehouse restaurant in South Fork. We connected and reconnected with friends anticipating a great week. Lin had his traditional oversized ice cream treat!
Sunday morning started off with our annual potluck brunch—another gathering of friends, giving us time to visit. I talked with a friend I’ve known for years but really didn’t know her history—it was a precious sharing time.
Sunday evening dinner started the official week’s activities. After dinner, Lin and I sought out a Colorado couple we had invited to this week. I signed up with the enthusiastic wife of this couple to do the horseback trail ride on Monday morning at 11:00. Ever since I had heard the horses would be there this year, I had been so excited. In previous years, the horses were already gone when we arrived because we’re the last week of the season at this RV park.
We dressed casually for Sunday night’s dance, laughed and twirled. I squealed often as I saw friends from Utah, Colorado and Texas who I hadn’t seen in a year. A great evening of square dancing to Gary Shoemake and Jerry Gilbreath and round dancing to the cues of Steve Harris with his lovely wife, Lori, supporting him on the sidelines.
Monday morning, I ate breakfast and donned my boots for the ride. Lin drove me to the stables, and my friend was there with her husband. They had 5 horses saddled and ready after they finished the 10:00 ride, and this ride was going to be a blast because I knew all the riders.
I had wondered if I could even get up on the horse—I haven’t ridden in 20 years! I was so proud of myself that I did, with a little struggle for sure!
The ride was glorious—clear blue Colorado sky, the Rio Grande beside us and aspen trees still dressed in green leaves. I kept taking pictures with my iPhone as we rode–which confused my horse because I kept drawing his head over to the right! It was perfect—until that moment happened. First behind me, one horse kicked another which caused the kicked horse to buck and its rider hit the ground. Then the loose horse galloped past all of us which stirred our horses up. One rider galloped off to try to catch the loose horse, then my friend’s horse jumped into a gallop like a bullet, and she was gone.
I realized I had about 5 – 10 seconds before my horse jumped in with the other horses running back to the barn. His ears went straight up, and his eyes focused on the three racing horses; quickly, I turned him in the opposite direction. He jumped up and down, revving up to take off, but I kept him turned the other way and kept his head tight, then I circled him and circled him, and he calmed down.
When my friend’s horse took off, I thought, “Wow, she’s a good rider,” but she lost her stirrup when she was startled, and she fell off and was severely hurt. I applaud the care and concern the EMT’s showed her—they gently worked with her to move her into the ambulance. The wrangler and I stayed with her, then I rode to Del Norte in the ambulance with her.
When I got out of the ambulance, her husband was already there, so we went to the emergency room waiting room, and I filled him in on all the facts of the accident. We spent a lot of the afternoon there with her being x-rayed and tested. When we were finally brought back to her room, her sense of humor prevailed. She held up her mangled, bruised left hand and said, “Oh, Larada! I broke a nail!” Lin joined us at the emergency room to support our dear friends during this stressful time.
I was able to offer objective suggestions to my friend’s husband because, thinking back now, he was in shock! At first, he was going to drive back to Denver and they were going to airlift her; I strongly suggested his wife needed him with her in the plane, and we would take care of their car and possessions in their room.
So, they were flown to a Denver area airport and transported to a hospital. Lin drove their car back to Fun Valley, and I drove our car. I called my brother for assurance after such a horrible day, and his supported helped me. Lin and I packed up their room and got their car to another Denver dancer to drive home on Saturday.
Finally, when we were alone, I
cried—so heart broke for my friend’s severe injuries! We didn’t square dance
that night, but I did one round dance with tears in my eyes, and Gary Shoemake
helped me out!
Needless to say, this incident affected me the rest of the week. Tuesday is blur to me—we did some of the activities, but our attention was on our phones and any messages from my friend’s husband. Her diagnosis dribbled in—cracked ribs and some dislocated which punctured a lung, a concussion and fractured vertebrae.
Tuesday afternoon, we did participate in a practice session for the skits our group would put on at the Wednesday night After Party. The highlight of Tuesday night was the skit the calling/cuing staff did at the After Party. The five of them danced to “Pretty Woman” in a unique manner. Check out my video below! This video has been blocked because of Copyright infringements, so I had to mute the song. Sorry viewers!
Wednesday was a free day and many of the dancers traveled to Creede, CO to square dance in the unique fire house cut out of the side of a mountain, but we stayed at the RV. Lin had volunteered to make 2 batches of homemade ice cream, and my stomach problems flared up, so I spent the afternoon in bed—I couldn’t shake the tragedy or the stomach pain! The ice cream social was a new addition and it was a smashing success—four dancers made different recipes and all were delicious!
Wednesday night I came out of the funk some. It was theme night, “Pajama party,” so we participated. I enjoyed the skits put on by other dancers at the After Party, then we did our skit. I should have known that Lin would do something to shock me, and he did! He changed the punch line and totally caught me off guard—the audience loved the affect it had on me!
Daily, we got updates about our injured friend and it was up and down!
By Thursday, I felt better and enjoyed the dancing. The week’s schedule provided lots of round dance teaches and square dance workshops all day, then we had a dance each evening.
One of my favorite parts of this week is the horse racing Thursday afternoon where people buy a horse, choose a jockey for their wooden horse and the race is on. This year we had a hilarious addition—a Utah dancer dressed up in a pony costume and did the first race! With lots of laughter and fun, friendly competition prevailed.
Every year at the Thursday night dance callers and cuers in attendance are invited to call a square dance tip or cue a round dance. Lori Harris talked to me last year about cuing, but we ran out of time to practice. This year I practiced a favorite, “Could I Have This Dance?” a couple times with Steve’s professional advice and encouragement. Steve and Lori danced it while I cued and continued to give me helpful hints about this new endeavor. I was really nervous and wanted to get it over quickly, so I did the first round of the night—what an experience! It went well, and what a thrill to be able to stay ahead of the dancers, stay on beat, and see dancers smiling! It was fantastic! I plan to continue this new activity when I finish the Marshall Flippo biography.
Thursday’s theme was “Country and Western night,” so dancers donned jeans, hats and boots. This festive night ended with Jerry Gilbreath singing many good ole country tunes we all love and us two-stepping the night away.
Friday was the famous “Miniature Golf Tournament.” Lin was asked again to be a caddy, and he did a exceptional job because of his exuberance and sense of humor. All the caddies successfully fulfilled their task: distracting the other golfers with their zany costumes and make-shift drums (pot lids and spoons). The caddies for the women golfers outdid themselves, as you can see!
The dance week ended Friday night with a festive evening of dancing and trophies given out to the winners of the different competitions. Our group from Albuquerque dressed in our 2020 state festival outfits—colorful and delightful!
Yes, the start of the week broke my heart, but I was able to regroup and first participated and then enjoyed the rest of the week. I rose to the occasion to help in the emergency room and kept calm and collected. Getting myself out of a funk isn’t easy, but I knew that my injured friend and her husband would want me to! Life certainly contains both tragedy and joy–it’s important how we handle both!
How do you handle tragedies? What’s your success secret? Do you have a horse story?
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Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s
who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would
you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting
posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/
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As I continue to write Marshall Flippo’s authorized biography, I ponder his life and how it unfolded. Flippo’s success as being the most famous square dance caller in the world didn’t just happen. He had friends galore across the United States and internationally, and he treated them fairly and returned to square dance clubs and festivals for decades for repeat performances at numerous places. How did he engineer such a successful career?
He always credited Neeca, his first wife, with his business
success. Early on his career, she planned out a successful tour after people
became acquainted with him at Kirkwood Lodge at Osage Beach, Missouri where he
spent six months of his year. From the clientele that visited there, Neeca
lined up a tour across America and the world, and the clubs and festivals were
so pleased with Flippo’s performance, that he was repeatedly asked back—some
places over thirty to forty years of continuous visitation.
Imagine that—an annual six-month tour filled to the brim
with dancers who were anxious for his return every year. Marshall’s supreme
memory compelled people to love him dearly because in many cases, he called
them by name after his year absence. This can’t be explained or identified at
face value—his people skills endeared him to the dancers.
So, what made him so successful? When asked, Flippo said it
was luck and being at the right place at the right time, but there was so much
He was committed to his craft of square dance calling and
practiced extensive hours—Melton Luttrell, his longtime caller friend,
remembered him practicing singing calls while he was driving down the highway.
Being on the road for six months of the year gave him ample practice time.
Another caller noted Flippo refusing to participate in an after party at a convention so he could practice his calls before the next day’s events.
Flippo’s talent of unique choreography and his wonderful singing voice won him many fans—he was a star in the square dance world to many. To hear him sing “The Auctioneer” which was his first recording and became highly successful, his clear voice and choice of popular music shines through.
Check out a snippet of Flippo’s famous singing call recorded in 1958:
He connected deeply with other callers who helped him. One
caller mentor was Betty Casey of Abilene, Texas who had studied with Lloyd
“Pappy” Shaw in Colorado Springs, Colorado and influenced Flip with Shaw’s
teachings. She is the one who taught Flip to call.
Flip received more of Shaw’s dance philosophy from another
mentor, Bob Osgood, the editor of the highly successful square dance magazine,
Sets in Order.
Another mentor from Abilene, Texas was J. C. Wilson who took the young Flippo under his wing and help him with his rhythm and shared something unique—Burma Shave jingles that were popular at the time. J. C. used the jingles as fillers as dancers did certain calls or moves. Flip became known for his selection of these jingles and other callers followed suit and “borrowed them” from Flip.
Flippo’s career started in the late 50’s and early 60’s during a time that square dancing flourished, so he had events with record numbers outrageous in size compared to ours today. The large number of dancers increase Flippo’s popularity worldwide and the number of fans increased.
Success formulas are hard to analyze—as Flippo said being at the right place at the right time did have a impact, but his personality, talent and well-planned tour with its connection to Kirkwood put him in a place to become one of the most successful square dance callers in the world.
And, I promise you, as I continue writing this amazing book,
I will continue sharing my musing with you!
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Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a
Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to
join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about
Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/
Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? You can select which
paper format or e-book format you would like? Go here to order the version you
want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42
In one of our last interviews for Marshall Flippo’s biography, I asked him, “I have a question: if I was to ask you to describe yourself, how would you describe yourself?”
His short response, “Don’t ask me!” His humorous response made me laugh again, like so many times during these interviews. His sharp sense of humor caught me off guard regularly.
After a moment, he answered with a chuckle, “A little short squirt with lots of luck! That’s about it!”
tickled him and he added, “A little short squirt—after all, a lot of people
didn’t know me when I had hair, but, anyway, a little short squirt with lots of
luck!” I complimented him on his concise description but wondered about it. I
have mused over it for months now.
often referenced this thought about how lucky he was in relationship to all his
life, not just his calling life and added, “I was at the right spot at the
When Flip shared about his Navy assignments, he felt he was lucky to a “Baker and Cook” in the first couple years, and then to play baseball his last two years. When Flippo described his hitchhiking experiences between San Diego and Abilene after Basic Training, he felt it was luck that got him considerate people who picked him and his friend, Thurman Curry, up and helped them out so much.
referred to himself as “the luckiest man in the world” to marry Neeca and
praised her frugal nature and scheduling genius to make his calling career so
Standing back and looking at Flippo’s successful calling career, the threads of cause and effect weave their way through, but was it all luck?
Neeca and Flip started square dancing in 1951, and he began calling in 1952 in a chicken coup, at a time there wasn’t much recorded calling. So, he agreed to be one of several dancers to memorize a song and call it. From this agreement, his career sprung and he started calling regularly.
Calling careers, though, aren’t made overnight, so Flippo persisted. In 1957, two callers from Houston stopped by his dance in Abilene and heard him do “The Auctioneer,” a popular song at the time recorded by Leroy VanDyke. They suggested he connect with Norman Merrbach in Houston who owned Blue Star Records to record this song.
So, he called Norman. When Norman heard the title of the song, he told Flip that callers wouldn’t like it because it had too many words to say. Flip let it go, and a few months later received another phone call from Norman saying, “Let’s record it!” They did and were able to do it on the first take, and his career took off from that one lucky phone call and visit from two strangers.
His luck continued that year. A bus driver who happened to drive graduating seniors to a resort in the Lake of the Ozark’s area, Kirkwood Lodge for their senior trips, stopped by one night in Abilene. Flip and Neeca were told: “Throughout the season, they square danced as the majority activity at this resort,” and the bus driver suggested Neeca and Flippo go.
This was a turning point in Flip’s square dance career: they were getting burned out on square dancing and considered quitting, but this vacation became one of the luckiest trips they ever made. They went and had a great time, and returned for several years. In 1961 Flippo became the resident staff caller at Kirkwood Lodge for six months out the year. He did this for 42 years—a solid career choice and quite lucky, wouldn’t you say?
His 42-year tour schedule became the next lucky piece of the puzzle. Visiting dancers coming to Kirkwood would ask Flippo to come to their hometown and call a dance or festival. Neeca managed this growing list and sizeable schedule and put together synchronized tours after Kirkwood’s six-month season that began in October. He went north, east, south and home for Christmas. After time home in Abilene, Texas, Flippo started the new year going through the Midwest, then back home, west, and back to Kirkwood to start the new season there in April.
The backbone of these tours and his success lay in repeated weekend and week-long festivals that continued for thirty and forty years! At one time in his career, it took a club nine years to have Flippo call for them!
Also from Kirkwood, Flippo became an international success, gaining fans across the seas. He toured Japan, Germany, Spain and England because of foreign dancers’ time at Kirkwood with Flip. Again, they wanted dancers back home to experience square dance Flippo-style!
Another piece of the puzzle for Flippo’s success stemmed from the network of friends he made in the calling and dancing worlds. He treated people fairly which made him a Godsend to dance organizers. He connected deeply with many callers—so many that when we started this project of his biography, he wanted to tell stories on all his caller friends, and he dictated a list to me—he named 67 callers he wanted to tell a story about for the book. I’m sorry to say that we can’t include all of them because of size restraints.
Flippo’s calling career spanned sixty-four years. He recorded 100’s of records for several recording labels and he traveled extensively!
at the right place at the right time? I don’t know about you, but I disagree
with Flip. Yes, luck did have a hand in it. He flourished at a time when square
dancing was in its heyday—he recalled easily that an event had 40 or 50
squares! But I’ve danced to him for years, and I enjoyed his choreography, his
Burma Shave jingles he interwove in the patter and his friendly nature.
All of our lives are about choices we make and how this choice today affects what happens tomorrow and the next day, unfolding into a life time. Flippo succeeded because he made some choices which like a domino effect, tumbled to the next success which tumbled to the next one! Yet, at the core of his success: he was in high demand because he was who he was–Marshall Flippo!
Lin Miller, my husband, received a outstanding honor last night at the New Mexico Square and Round Festival in Roswell, New Mexico, They inducted him into the Hall of Fame for his work and support of square and round dancing in the state.
A friend nominated him two years ago, and I helped her put the paperwork together. Lin’s ex-wife contributed information about his dancing when they were together. We re-worked the application this year, because he wasn’t selected last year. My friend and I had secret meetings, telling Lin she had interests my books—he had no idea.
Just because someone is nominated doesn’t mean he or she is automatically in and in that year—sometimes it takes two years to actually receive this treasured recognition. I had won this award in 2007 and found out later that I had been nominated the year before, so it took me two times.
On top of that, the person in charge of the award this year didn’t let me know outright that Lin had won but hinted at it, so I wondered.
As we neared the festival, Lin and I ended up talking about the award some, speculating who might win, and I kept my reactions and tone as neutral as possible to not give it away.
This annual festival means a lot to me. It’s the one chance for our state square and round dance family to come together for a fun-filled weekend at various sites around the state. I always anticipate who’s going to be there and lament the loss of one of our dancers. I love our New Mexico state square and round dance members!
The theme this year for the festival, “Strangers Thing Happen,” ignited in a lot of us a frivolous, childlike celebration of Roswell’s claim to fame—the alien invasion. Many of us wore the festival’s lime green t-shirts on Saturday during the day with lights attached. Dancers played with the theme all weekend, and they talked about aliens, spaceships and other worldly matter—what fun! We blamed any mistakes made in the squares on “Aliens!”
The award ceremony was Saturday night. The anticipation mounted for me as the time drew closer. The Grand March started the evening’s activities, then it was time. The MC described the recipient without using his/her name, keeping us in suspense until it’s obvious who the recipient is. A dear round dance cuer received the first award, and my hands shook.
Finally the time came. I had told Lin before we arrived on Friday that I wanted to get lots of pictures this weekend, so he had my phone in his pocket. I didn’t want him to be suspicious when I needed my phone for the Hall of Fame awards. I had it out taking pictures of the first winner, so I caught him in total shock when he realized he was next.
As he hugged me, he asked if I knew, and I had tears in my eyes when I nodded my head. His reaction was precious and priceless. In a rate moment of being speechless, he went on stage to receive a name badge and plaque.
During the rest of the evening, dancers congratulated him. You may wonder what he did or does to receive this award.
For over ten years, he’s been the Promotions person for the Albuquerque Square Dance Center, sending out emails to notify dancers of up and coming events, so the state dancers knew what he does there. Also, he has been the treasurer for Hot August Nights for twelve years. But most recently, in 2013 Lin volunteered to be president of our square dance club, Duke City Singles and Doubles, when it was dying with only 27 members and no one wanting to take the leadership. In five years, he built it up to 92 active members. This changed the face of square dancing in Albuquerque because those 92 members went on to join other clubs growing square and round dancing across the city.
Lin ignites any event he attends with his high energy and positive attitude, and because of his friendly nature, he loves to visit with old and new friends during the breaks. His sense of humor and jokes keep people laughing, so he is an asset to this activity for sure.
The state honored this hard-working man this weekend, and he truly deserved it! You’re welcome to give Lin congratulatory comments here!
We have Neeca, Marshall’s first
wife, to thank for getting him into square dancing! After arriving late to their
first lesson, they decided not to go in but returned the next week to learn in
ten lessons the basics of square dancing from renowned caller, Betty Casey.
Excerpt from Just Another Square Dance Caller,
Biography of Marshall Flippo
asked about how and why Flippo started calling he said, “I thought maybe I can
do this. In time, I loved to sing but to whistle? I was out of lessons about a
year before I ever started. The square dance club downtown, and thar was two of
them, and they were both full. You had to go on a waiting list. They both had
waiting lists for people to get in. So, we put our names in for that one. They
could only dance 25 squares. The list
wasn’t that long, probably 10 – 12 couples. But Ed Hall, who was in our class
and I knew him, lived out at Wylie.
And Wylie, Texas is where I went to school
from the fourth grade on until I joined the Navy in my Senior year.”
said, “I have an ole chicken coop that would probably dance three squares.”
Flippo continued, “He had a farm out thar at Wylie.”
Flippo located Wylie, “5 miles south of Abilene (now in the Abilene city
So, Ed said, “I’ll clean that thang
out if ya’ll wanna come out thar, but I can’t take more than twelve couples.”
explained, “So twelve couples of us signed up to go out thar, and we danced out
thar every Friday night. So, we were dancing to records, and thar weren’t many
out at that time that were good to dance to. Joe Lewis had the best ones. Joe
played an accordion, and he had it fixed up where he could put different
musical instruments in it, or he could play a guitar. He had about three or
four instruments that he could play out of his accordion. He lived in Dallas,
Texas. And Les Gotcher had some that were really hard. He was a hash caller
from California and toured the whole country—probably the tops in his time.”
Flippo added more about square
dancing at the time, “Jonesy had some, but thar was no way we could dance them.
Come to find out, Jonesy played in a band in LA. He picked up the lingo and
said I believe I can do this, so he just got up and called a whole bunch of stuff
he didn’t even know what worked into what. He just knew the words he’d heard
callers use. He put them on Capitol Records. Well, thar was no way we could do
those. And later on, he learned to square dance and then to call and then
became a very good caller.”
added, “We danced to records for quite a while, and then we’d have a band come
in. Most of the Fridays we danced out thar with him to a two-piece band. If you
said, ‘Record! We’re going to have a record dance,’ nobody’d come. People liked
live music. So, we’d have a two-piece band and the fiddle player.”
continued, “When we couldn’t get them, we’d use those ole records that had
calls on them like Jonesy, Joe Lewis or Les Gotcher. I can’t think of anybody
else at that time. Thar were very few people recording at that time.”
And one night someone said, “Thar’s
twelve of us here. Why don’t we all learn to call? And we won’t have to have a
record or a band, so we’ll just be our own caller.” Flippo explained, “So
that’s the way it kinda started. I remember the first one I started. Singing
calls didn’t appeal to me too much at that time, so I learned patter. First one
I learned was ‘Dip and dive.’ Let me
think a minute. So, we all did some kind of little calls. Some guys were good.
I wasn’t one of the good ones.”
Neeca remarked, “You can’t stay on
beat. What’s wrong with you? Can you pat your foot to the music?”
Flippo said, “Yeah.” He added, “So I had a big ole ‘Turkey in the Straw’ record, and I’d get in the front bedroom of our house ‘cause we had no furniture in thar, and I had a little ole record player. I believe it was a Califone. So, I’d get in thar.
come in and she’d say, ‘Flip, you’re not on the beat. I know good and well you
can pat your foot to the music.’”
He’d say, “Yeah.”
She’d answered, ‘Well, start patting
that foot to the music. Don’t do anythang—just keep patting it. When it hits
the floor, you say ‘Bow to your partner, corners all,’ and just stay on the
Flippo remembered, “Well, I had a
hell of a time with that. So, we danced out thar a long while. Then we got
taken in by one of those clubs in Abilene. I believe that was the Abilene Crosstrails.
Somebody set it up. At the time, all the clubs—thar wasn’t one caller calling a
dance. If you were thar and wanted to call, you could call, so it was multiple
callers all the time.”
Flippo provided a glance into what
square dancing looked like in the 50’s. After he became a national caller, he
met Joe Lewis and has stories about him. He had a picture at the WASCA festival
in the DC area with Les Gotcher. In his intervies, he shared his historical
perspective of square dancing and a variety of callers.
Flip started small, but one “lucky event” turned this small-town caller into a national hit. I’ll share this turning point with you next month.
Here’s the stereotype of what retirement looks like for many: an aged couple rocking chairs on the porch, relaxed, watching the world go by–no hustle, no bustle! Lots of people are retired and retiring, thanks to the Baby Boomers.
About 61 million people collect Social Security benefits each month, and they account for about one in five people in the United States.
I’m 65 years old, retired and busier than ever, and I don’t fit that stereotype and many of you don’t either! I retired in 2013, so this is my sixth year of doing exactly what I want to when I want—that’s the luxury of retirement. I’ve always been a busy person and feared that I was a workaholic! I have to be busy. This goes back to my childhood. I started knitting when I was 10 years old and started the habit of knitting and watching TV. To this day, I have a hard time just sitting and watching TV—my hands have to be doing something.
Today my life is full and rich! My husband and my normal weekly dance
schedule looks like this:
Wednesday – Round Dancing & Plus Dancing
Thursday – Advanced Dancing
Friday – Mainstream & Plus
Then, we usually attend an out-of-town square and round dance festival once
a month that begins Friday night and ends Sunday at noon—lots of dancing! The
dancing and friendships across the country feeds my soul!
When I’m home, I do Zumba two mornings a week. I love the movement to high energy Latin music–it feels like dancing to me!
I also am chairperson for two square and round dance festivals in
Duke City Singles & Doubles Spring Fling in
Hot August Nights in August
These festivals keep me busy hiring new callers and cuers for future events and planning the upcoming event. I’m so lucky to work with two great committees that make the work fun and effortless!
I attend Hope in the Desert Episcopal church and recovery meetings regularly
when I’m home.
After my Mom died in 2013, my brother and I inherited our family ranch, so I
visit our ranch and our small ranching community, Branson, once a month to
check on things. I love staying connected to that part of my life and my dear
For the first couple years of retirement, I was busy as the Executor of Mom’s will, and probate kept me hopping.
In 2013, I volunteered to be treasurer of our square dance club, Duke City Singles and Doubles. Now that may not sound like too daunting a task for you, but I’m a “Word Person,” not a “Numbers Person.” I did it because my husband volunteered to be President and I knew his time would be dedicated to the club, so I might as well join him. The first financial statement took me eight hours to resolve, but the last one was about an hour, so I grew as a “Numbers Person.” I did that for four years and helped revived the club and grow it.
Since 2014, I’ve self-published four books and three cookbooks:
2014 – This Tumbleweed Landed
2015 – When Will Papa Get Home?
2016 – Let Me Tell You a Story
2017 – A Time To Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir
I had two really positive experiences with hospice: when my best friend, Kathi Raver died in 2009, and when my Mom died. I knew that I would become a hospice volunteer, but I had to get some time and space from Mom’s death before I could handle it.
Last year, I started volunteering for Presbyterian Hospice, so I see a client once a week and have learned so much about the mission and importance of Hospice. My client is suffering from Alzheimer’s so it’s a roller-coaster ride of mood swings and communication issues, but what an education! My client’s daughter and husband so appreciate my time with her, and I love it. I’ve become part of their family.
I’ve also been a part of the committee that puts on the Branson-Trinchera Reunion every June in Branson. This is a celebration of the small country school I attended.
My husband and I love to travel, and we’ve done several cruises and trips in my retirement. My favorite was to England and Ireland two years ago for three weeks. What an adventure we had! (You can read about it here in my blog!) We have another cruise scheduled for this summer to the British Isle—back to England and Ireland and our first time to Scotland and Wales.
My current writing project has taken over my life! I’m writing the authorized biography of the most famous square dance caller in the world, Marshall Flippo, and I’m stressing out because I want to release it in September. As a self-published author, I’ve set up a timeline of production. Now I have to focus long hours to complete the writing by the end of April, to send it to a professional editor in May, to move the edited copy to a publication software and format it in June and July (our cruise is in July) and to order copies in August ready for distribution in September—WHEW!!!!
Someone said to me a couple weeks ago, “You’re not retired—you have two jobs: your books and your ranch. So, as you can see, I’m busy; I could never spend my days in front of a TV watching mindless TV. I may be retired; I may be 65, but I have energy and enthusiasm for life.
So, you may wonder why I’ve listed all I do in my retirement. I think many people have a skewed view of retirement. Yes, we anticipate the end of the grind—the 40 hours a week demands on our life and now the panacea at the end of the rainbow. I know many do retire and choose a much less active life than I have, but I wanted you to see the possibilities in retirement. You get to choose and the choices are limitless!