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The show must go on in Lyon County

The Steel Magnolias, Princess Debbi (Mythical Principality in Slovenia), and I are doing shows at the South Lyon County Medical Center Long Term Care Facility, and at the Mason Valley Residence in Yerington this afternoon.

It’s noon. Debbi, and I are rehearsing in my living room.

Debbi moans, “I didn’t sleep at all last night. Why did I let you talk me into this?”



Performing a dance for an audience is like driving your car around a corner, blindfolded. You know the steps, you hear the music, all’s well, and then your mind goes blank.

Jeff, our sound engineer, cues “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”



“Are you sure you can do this? I don’t want to hurt you,” Debbi says.

She refers to a lift at the end of the end of the number when she jumps into my arms. Debbi would have a hard time hitting the scales at 100 pounds. I am mockingly fearless.

On our way to Yerington, Jeff rehearses the show announcement.

“Ladies and gentlemen, direct from their world tour, please welcome Princess Debbi, the Steel Magnolias and Ron Walker.”

Jeff’s not the least bit nervous. But of course, he’s not dancing.

Misti, the attractive SLMC activities person welcomes us.

“Just leave everything to me. The room will be set up in time,” and we are commandeered to an empty office.

“I’ve forgotten everything,” Debbi says. We practice. I mess up. I ask myself, “Why am I doing this?”

The first Steel Magnolia arrives; it’s Peggy. Laine, Mary Anne, Marolyn, Clarise and Chris finally arrive. Laine, our unofficial sergeant major, organizes a run through of their number, “Blue Skies.” Nobody does anything right. The room dissolves into chaos. We march down the hall to the multi-purpose room. The audience has arrived; Wheel chairs, walker, canes, even a gurney. We’re lined up in the hall, I nod to Jeff. We hear the strident sounds of Vegas-style music.

Jeff booms, “Ladies and gentlemen, direct from their world tour, etc,.” and we clamber into the room, gyrating, waving and creating as much hub-ub as possible. The audience is pleasantly stunned, and there are no cardiac arrests. We’re off to a good start.

For our warm up, Jeff plays “Mairsy Doats.” Most folks remember the number. The Steel Magnolia follow with their routine. They do a fine job on the first half, of the routine, but the second half finishes in shambles. They exit.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you may have noticed a slight roughness at the end,” and I ask the ladies to return. They do the second half again perfectly. The audience likes this bit of impromptu show business.

Next, Debbi and I do our number. We nail it. As the show continues, smiles appear. They like us. When we do our finale, a lady in a wheel chair joins us. She holds my hands and we glide around the room like Fred and Ginger.

After the show, we shake hands with everyone and wish them Happy Thanksgiving. Softly, sometimes only with a nod, they tell us how glad they are we came. One man, lies absolutely motionless on a recliner, his eyes empty. He takes my hands, his eyes come alive and he smiles. His face is transformed. For just a moment, he’s happy.

We drive over to the Assisted Living Mason Valley Residence. Penny, the activities director greets us.

“We’re all ready for you,” she says smiling.

Jeff hooks up our boom box, and the show gets underway. Unexpectedly, our big entrance falls flat.

I look at the cast and say, “That was terrible. Everybody out in the hall. Let’s do it again.”

Turning to the audience, I say, “Folks, we can do better. If you like us, I want you to clap, cheer, whistle, or stamp your feet.”

Jeff practically shouts the announcement, and we charge into the room. The room erupts, caregivers whistle, the audience cheers. We’re a monster success already. We do our warm up dance. Next, The Steel Magnolias are sensational in their number. I am enormously proud of them. When Debbi and I dance, we get a big hand. At the end of the number, I carry her over to a seated gentleman and offer to deposit her in his lap. He declines the offer.

After the show, we mingle with the audience. Chris tells one lady, “It’s reward enough, to see the smiles on your faces.”

I recognize my friend Ann. She’s 93, and peppy and beautiful as ever. Very often, when you share joy, you get more than you give. I suppose that’s the way loving works.

Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at walkover@smithnv.com.