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Written by: Ron Hodge

A Request From Down Under
Ron Hodge
Houston, Texas USA

A few weeks after Double Toe Jam July 2007 (Waco) I was contacted by Josh King, now of Australia www.theclogdog.com with a most unusual request. As most who know our history, Josh and his brother, Adam, were raised only about four houses down the street from Rita, Aron and myself here in Houston. So when, Jenny Neal, a clogging leader and a good friend of Josh in Australia contacted him to ask his assistance in finding a family in America, and hopefully Houston, that would host a clogger from Australia, he felt very comfortable contacting Rita and myself. Would we be interested in giving up our empty nest?

When Blake Burton moved to Tyler just two years ago Rita and I had finally become empty nesters. Even when we were married, in 1968, we had a fellow Marine rent a room from us in our three bedroom trailer. When I returned from Viet Nam we accepted Rita's Sisters as guest in our home. That was only the beginning of a long list of those who have left a mark in our lives while living with us. When we finally came to accept that we would only be fortunate enough to give birth to one child, Aron, then we became foster parents through the Methodist Church, so as to enrich Aron's life experiences. Certainly a most rewarding experience for our family.

Shortly after we co-founded Yellow Rose in 1986, we found ourselves no longer being foster parents, but more rather hosting cloggers and that patterned continued for several years. The first was a Dallas clogger who was attending the University of Houston and found herself running low on funds. She was only the first of many cloggers. So, it was only natural that Josh consider asking Rita and I if we would consider hosting an Aussie Clogger. For the two of us, there was only one answer to the request. To have the opportunity to be part of giving someone an opportunity to have such an experience would be an honor for us.

With Josh's request we received a well written letter addressed to "Dear Potential Host Family," from Stacey Barber of Quimpy, Australia. At that time Stacey was 17 and in her last year of high school. She had been dancing for 12 years with the Rise'N'Shine Cloggers in Australia. She had seen Josh several times at the annual Muster event in Australia that Josh had taught at several times.

About a week later we had our first email contact direct from Stacey herself...in which the words Thank You appeared too many times to count. Stacey was now for the first time able to believe her dream of coming to America and living with a family involved in clogging could become a reality. In short order Stacey was checking out the Texas Clogging Council website, along with Double Toe Jam and of course Yellow Rose. Within that first email was the first of many questions about how to actually accomplish this goal. Discussions about air travel, visas, weather, best time to come, how long to stay, how big is your house, do you have an accent (like in the movies)?

Well Stacey and her family finally completed all the necessary paperwork and then the worry set in. All contact with Stacey's parents was through Stacey herself, that is, until the day that Desleigh returned home from putting Stacey on that plane in Brisbane, headed for Los Angeles. Then she wrote. And she wrote. All the while I myself was watching the clock. I well remember back in 1967 taking my own first air flight, which also landed in Los Angeles as I was headed to Marine Boot Camp and how I was treated that day. We arrived early that day at the airport not wanting to have any reason to worry more. I remember looking at the clock and thinking I had time for a visit to the men's room before Stacey got there....when I turned the corner I saw Stacey for the first time. There was no doubt who she was and I was so relieved. Contacting her parents was now the first order of business.

Since that day in January Stacey has been immersed in all things American and Texan. While at the same time, we have learned much more about our friends in Australia. I am sure that anyone who attended the March Rally saw this young lady who is visiting us for this year, well we hope she gets to stay a full year. Stacey turned 18 the Friday night of our TCC Rally. Just last weekend Stacey traveled to St. Louis and then had a nice road trip with fellow clogging friends who escorted her to a clogging workshop in Illinois. Soon Stacey will be in San Antonio performing in the Showcase with Yellow Rose. Late May will find Stacey attending a workshop in Ohio, as a guest of Adam King. Of course Stacey has plans to be at Double Toe Jam in July.

We are not sure, due to visa issues if Stacey will have to return to Australia in August or if she will be allowed to stay till January as we all had planned. So for now we have made no plans past DTJ. We all have learned a lot more about how things in this world are post 9/11 experiences.

All that aside, hosting Stacey is an honor for Rita and I. We feel blessed to have her for this experience. Rita and I would like to express our Thanks to All who have helped to make this a true experience for Stacey.

We Love You Stacey.

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