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The square dance of Francis McFarkle

His wife had long passed. Their four children had grown,

He lived in town now, still on his own.

His mind was still sharp, but frail he’d become,

Mostly tied to his walker, and stayed at home.

Yet a life of farm memories made his eyes sparkle,

And full of life still was Francis McFarkle.


It was one month ‘til Francis would turn 95,

And to celebrate all those years of his life,

He wanted a square dance like those of his youth,

When his body was strong and he looked good in a suit,

He wanted a hog smoked over charcoal.

This was the dream of Francis McFarkle.


For he wanted his great grandchildren to see,

Just exactly how good the old ways can be,

When to relax was the exception and hard work the norm,

When the old farmers knew how to weather a storm,

but there was still fun to be had, when they got a chance —

So a lifetime of toil was symbolized with a dance.


A square dance is where Francis met the future Mrs. McFarkle,

When he’d think of her oh how his old eyes would sparkle.

What better way to honor her name,

If their heirs would dance that old dance just the same.

But their children just rolled their eyes — each one,

When Francis explained the details of his plan.


“There is no way the great-grandkids will even show up,

Or anyone else, so please just give up.”

The McFarkle children had grandchildren now

They all lived in suburbs just outside of town.

Luke McFarkle, 13, played Play Station for most of the day,

And if work showed up, he’d just get out of the way.


Luke went to school and came home to the couch,

To do homework and play games, eat nachos and slouch.

Jason McFarkle, 17, was an athlete and the king of the school,

He rarely saw his family, though, because he was just too cool.

Susie, his younger sister, loved pop music and boys,

And from cheerleading derived most of her joy.


The outlook was grim for Francis, those kids would never square dance,

Their parents told their grandpa that there was no chance.

Square dances are for old folks not the young folks of today,

Just let us buy you dinner to celebrate your birthday.

But Francis McFarkle was a stubborn old coot,

So he hired a band and he bought a new suit.


The day of the square dance had finally arrived,

The whole town was invited. The air was alive.

With a crisp fall frost and the turning maple trees,

The old barn for dancing and keeping out the cold breeze,

Though there were skeptics, no one could deny,

There was a bit of old time magic in the air that night.


Most who were there had never done a do-see-do,

But they liked old Francis and felt compelled to go.

Most figured they’d show up and promptly depart,

But they surely would not dance — why would they start?

They shut down their I-pads and silenced their cell phones,

And turned off their big TVs in their living rooms at home.


Francis surveyed the crowd as the band set up,

No great grandkids yet, but he didn’t give up.

And soon enough, his grandkids were dragging Luke in,

With his rolly polly belly and some nacho cheese on his chin.

As it turns out he’d needed some mild sedation,

To cope with the trauma of leaving his Play Station.


Then Francis saw his sweet Susie in a corner with two boys talking,

In a too-short skirt and too-low stockings.

The first tune started and no one knew what to do,

Though the caller was calling until his face was blue,

His parents told Luke, go do some dancing,

So he tried and fell down with a pulled hamstring.


Susie was too busy talking to another guy,

A too-cool Jason had not bothered to stop by.

The dance floor was empty and Francis was forlorn.

He kids had been right. He had been warned.

The crowd was getting ready to go home, though it surely wasn’t late,

That is when Francis McFarkle stood up and said, “Wait.”


He tossed his walker to the side, and hobbled out on the floor,

The music stopped, the people stopped as they headed for the door.

“Susie McFarkle!” the aged Francis croaked,

And no other sound was heard once old Francis spoke.

“Come pair up with your great grandpa, while I’m still in the world,

Cause I know that you’ve known how to square dance since you were a girl.”


Now, Susie flushed bright red, but she loved her great grandpa,

Who’d taught her how to square dance, when she was small,

She floated out to the dance floor, and took his old weak hand,
And then Francis hollered out, “Now it’s time to start the band!”

A couple other old timers then joined right in,

and showed all the others how they should begin.


Soon the crowd was dancing like they never had before,

And then Jason showed up with his girl, not knowing what was in store,

The old man’s knees wobbled, he bobbled, but kept dancin’

Francis twirled the girls and kept his ancient feet a prancin’.

Luke’s sedation wore off and he jumped right in,

He even got a kiss on the cheek from Betsy McGinn!


The party went on well into the night,

As the crowd finally thinned, there was no Francis in sight.

Hours ago, he’d made his way back to his chair,

Amid all the fun around, no one saw him back there.

People passed by talking of what fun they’d had,

They had been reluctant to come but now they were glad.


Susie found Francis slumped down in his chair,

She looked in his eyes but there was no sparkle there.

The McFarkle’s all cried (but then they laughed some too),

Was this exactly what great grandpa had planned to do?

In the coming days they heard stories of how their great grandpa was great,

Of who he’d helped, and how he’d worked, and how he’d shaped their fate.

And now all their eyes have that farmer’s same old-time sparkle,

When they talk of the Square Dance of Francis McFarkle.



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One comment

  1. Loved this Matt. I’ve called square dances for all ages from kindergartners up to seniors in their 90s. It’s all about having fun with people. Thanks for writing this!

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