Dancing with the Giant Mountain Troll

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By Zan Jarvis
TFW Contributing Writer

Ralph Odom knows how to get the girls.
For two hours every Friday night, the man holds more women in his arms than most men do in a month. All kinds of women — short ones, tall ones, young ones, old ones and every type in between.
He does it all without ever leaving the dance floor during Happy Hour at George’s Majestic Lounge. The women flock to him.
“If they want to dance, I’m available,” he says. But he has some restrictions. “One who comes up with a long neck beer and it used to be a cigarette (city ordinance prohibits smoking now). I tell ’em, ‘Decide. Do you want to smoke and drink or do you want to dance?’”
Most decide on dancing.
His secret?
No, it’s not his dance style, which he describes as Ozark Folk-Funk Kabuki. He says it’s simply that the women can tell he doesn’t want to coerce them into anything, so they feel comfortable in his arms even when he holds them close. And it works. He’s been known to have four or five women clinging to him for a slow song.
“I don’t use dancing as a precursor to making out. Well — there were one or two exceptions. One lasted five years, but nobody knew about it.” (No more information was forthcoming on that topic.)
“Most American males dance because they got an idea that it’s something they have to do in the mating ritual. They don’t really like it. I’ve seen couple after couple who got together because they had a good time (dancing). They get married and he quits dancing. It’s a male thing.”
Ralph says it’s not unusual for several men to stop him on his way in to the bar to ask if he’ll dance with their wives.
“I tell ’em, ‘She’ll have to come out there.’ I’m not pursuing them.” Actually, he’s so busy dancing he doesn’t have the time to leave the floor.
These days Ralph Odom has 77 years under his belt. For the last 25 years, he has never lacked a dance partner for long. At the old Back Forty, the defunct Chester’s, George’s and many other saloons living and dead, Ralph has had all the partners he has wanted.
At around five feet tall, Ralph is shorter than many of the women. After his second marriage, as he put it, “went down the drain” in 1984, he started calling himself the Giant Mountain Troll. He even put together a Troll Chart, showing the stream trolls, the woods trolls and such. At the bottom of the list was the Giant Mountain Troll, a nearly-extinct Ozark species with only one known member — Ralph.
He’s famous for dancing barefooted. One night at the Back Forty — when he was “getting ready to be newly divorced” — he kicked off a pair of shoes that didn’t fit. He has seldom worn shoes dancing since. In addition, his bare feet are distinctive because of the duct tape wrapping the middle of each foot.
“I do it to keep my arches from breaking down,” he says. “Ballet dancers do it. That’s where I got it.”
His life of dancing has been hard on him in some ways. He had laparoscopic surgery on both knees before the right one was replaced. To keep from twisting his knees too much, he spreads baby powder on the floor before he dances. He shares with other dancers who just want a little more glide in their stride.
“A lot of people think the powder is an affectation, but people are sloppy and spill drinks. The floor gets sticky and it’s impossible to dance. The powder helps you slide.”
Six years ago Ralph didn’t show up for happy hour.
Soon someone announced from the stage that he was in the hospital. Everyone gasped in shock.
He had danced for six straight hours at Winfest the weekend before and developed chest pains. Considering Ralph’s family history of angina, the doctor catheterized his heart, expecting to find blockage, but found the arteries more open than anticipated. He went home to rest up for the next dance.
Ralph says he has no plans to stop boogying his Happy Hours away, but he has hopes for the end of his dance.
“Let’s see — how will I put this? I guess — if the rapture shows up, well, if it’s left up to me, I’ll go out on one of those long riffs with the Cates or Michael Burks. I’ll be a whirling dervish and poof, ‘Where did he go?’ And that’s it. I’ve given up looking to heaven for something — except rain or a flock of birds.”
Until that final whirligig, you can expect to find the Giant Mountain Troll out-dancing everybody else at George’s Happy Hour. Oh, yes, that’s six till eight every Friday. Bring your dancin’ shoes or come barefoot!

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