They never complained about the blisters, heating pads and sore feet soaking in Epsom salt.
They just kept dancing.
All those clapping hands and smiling faces made every ache, pain, bump and bruise worth it.
When the Silver Spurs line dancers suited up and stepped out, everybody’s cup runneth over.
They will tell you theirs did, too.
I must share some bittersweet news with you this morning. The Silver Spurs are hanging up their spurs. Macon’s longest-running line dancers have come to the end of the line.
The Spurs have been entertaining folks at nursing homes and assisted living facilities since 1996. They have wiggled their foot boogies, toe struts and ankle rocks for audiences at fairs, festivals, hospitals and senior groups. They have twisted in the fellowship halls at hundreds of churches. (Yes, even some of the old-time Baptists permitted them to shake a leg.)
They have lost count of the performances, but they number more than 1,000. They were booked for 102 events last year alone, which was a record.
Age has caught up with them. Four of the five ladies are octogenarians. Gaynelle Gordon, the baby of the bunch, will be 72 next month. Take her out of the equation and the average age of the Fab Four is 84. Collectively, they have 29 great-grandchildren.
Margaret Fordham and Katherine Woodard, the last of the original Spurs of 18 years ago, have the most rings around the tree. Margaret, the group’s founding mother, is 86. Katherine turned 85 this past Monday and celebrated her birthday with her spurring partners at the Burger King on Forsyth Road. Shirley Giles will be 84 in October. Joan Wood is 82.
Although they have managed to keep most of the moving parts in their dance routines, time has marched across their bodies. The past year sent a few to the disabled list with knee surgery, a broken hip and a foot injury. (Over the years, members of the group have dealt with everything from cancer to heart ailments to gall bladder surgery.)
The Spurs didn’t have a full squad when they danced at the Warner Robins Senior Social Club last month. It turned out to be their final performance. For several weeks, Katherine has had to turn down requests, telling callers the Spurs would be back on their feet soon.
Last week, they had to make a tough decision. Although the show wants to go on, it can’t.
“I guess it’s time,” said Joan Wood. “Everything has to come to an end.”
The Spurs were born in a senior line-dancing class at North Macon Park in the mid-1990s. Tracy Quarles was the instructor. Katherine and Margaret, then in their late 60s, were among her students.
One Saturday night, Margaret went with a friend to the Swampland Opera House in Toomsboro. Her friend told the owner that Margaret was a line dancer. He asked if she would consider getting a group together and bringing them over.
She recruited several women to make the 80-mile round trip. They didn’t have a name, so they had to come up with one.
They’ve lost some members along the way and picked up others. Shirley came on board in 2000, and Joan the following year. Gaynelle had some familiarity with the group. She had seen them perform at the Cherry Blossom Festival. She got the opportunity when she moved to Magnolia Manor and Margaret asked her to join three years ago.
After those baby-step days, the popularity of the Silver Spurs spread. They once performed at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony. They have rolled back the rug at chili cookoffs, community centers, the V.A. Hospital in Dublin and the Georgia War Veterans Home in Milledgeville. The Spurs once beat a path to the Youth Detention Center on Riggins Mill Road, where a few kids jumped at the chance to “dance with the old ladies.”
There have been less-formal dance floors. They have performed in gravel parking lots, pumpkin patches and the tops of flat bed trucks. They once broke into an impromptu dance routine in the dining room of the Chick-fil-A on Brookhaven Road.
“You name it,” said Margaret, “we’ve done it.”
They have never charged appearance fees for their dances, only occasionally accepting a “love offering” to help pay for gas and chocolate.
They have always been paid in full with smiles, though.
That’s what they will miss the most.
“This has been like a ministry,” said Katherine.
Nowhere has this been more evident than in the nursing homes. There, they have held hands with residents in wheelchairs and walkers. Some can’t move their feet. Some have difficulty seeing and hearing.
The Silver Spurs have spread sunshine in some dark places.
“I’m going to miss it,” said Wood. “One man who couldn’t speak wrote the sweetest letter to tell us how much we meant to him. It has been a blessing.”
Said Gaynelle: “The last thing they always want to know is when we are coming back.”
Contact Gris at 744-4275.