The Real History of Tap Dancing

walker house

After an enforced retirement due to a bad back, and moving to the Deep South to get away from the madness of living inside the DC Beltway in Virginia most of my life, and the cold winters, I had the typical delusion that I wanted a vegetable garden, a big one. I brought in tons of a rich humus to fix of the nasty mix of clay and sand that is called dirt down here and was determined to trying my hand as a planter I planted a vegetable garden.

I spent two seasons in a glorious and quite vain attempt to become a southern planter. So for three quarters of the year I was working with my hands in the dirt and after everything I had been through in this life so far, it was exactly what this mind needed at the time.

I would work until I got too hot, never when the sun was highest, and would make many trips from the field into the house. I worked in high work boots because of all the critters. One only steps in a red ant hill once, and when I did, and I was grateful I had boots on and that the pants leg was tight around the boot top and I’ve seen enough rattle snakes just casually slithering by to not mind the heat from high boots. Further if you have ever stepped into a mulch pile, at times you go down quite a ways… Anyway the point of this, is that this story is about dirt.

Going into the house, I would walk up three heavy wood steps, and before entering I would get the dirt off my boots. I tried using the door mat. I even bought a heavy duty farmer style door mat with bristles… that did not work to get the damp dirt from the garden out of the treads in my shoes, so I started out just banging my shoes of the sides of the porch to shake the dirt off.

I tried all sorts of different patterns of banging my shoes on the steps. After a while it became a bit of fun to get the dirt off one’s shoes instead of essential drudgery. I started playing different patterns of sounds with my shoes, and doing rather elaborate combinations, to find the best way, with the least effort, to accomplish the needed task.

And it was around this time that a guest watched me walk up the stairs and do my little routine to shake the dirt off my shoes and she asked me “When did you learn to tap-dance?”

I still do not know that answer, but I now know how tap dancing was invented…

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