And the Merry Love Fiddle
For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle,
And the merry love to dance.
—W. B. Yeats, “The Fiddler of Dooney”*
Outside of Richard and Annie Seaman's home in Jacksonville, the thermometer is climbing to the other side of one hundred degrees. I have spent the last couple of afternoons inside of their house in the Avondale section of the city where I have been completing hours of interviews with Richard. Near the close of the millennium, we are recording his memories of life in Florida in the second decade of the twentieth century. I have focused many of my questions on the place of the old-time square dance at house parties in Richard's home community in Osceola County. We have recorded a number of his tunes, and I had played fiddle and guitar with him earlier that day in their living room. Annie offers me a Coke, and, hoping to round out the interviews with Richard, I ask her if she had ever attended square dances.
She responds with a succinct answer that curtails my attempt to document her description of an old-time square dance in Florida. “Whew, my Dad wouldn't allow that. He was real strict on us—the girls especially.”1
Annie grew up in Baldwin, Florida, about thirty miles west of Jacksonville. She explains that the dances held eighty years ago in her northern Florida community were regarded as too rough for her to attend. Although she enjoys hearing Richard talk about the dances and loves hearing him play, I am not convinced that she would have enjoyed everything about the house parties in central Florida that Richard has been eloquently describing during our interviews.