Lots of people were wearing oversize clothes at the Briar Patch in Cornersville last Saturday.
It was "I Lost 100 Pounds" night in honor of Thomas Lance - everybody calls her Thomas - who's lost over 100 pounds since she had bariatric surgery last year.
The plan for the party was to strip off the big clothes at 9 p.m. and reveal the thin people inside.
The proudest thin person of all is Thomas herself. She's five foot one and weighed 328 pounds before her surgery. Now she's close to 200, and plans to lose 70 to 80 pounds more.
Underneath her big shirt, Thomas, 59, was wearing denim pants that used to be skintight. Now she needs suspenders to hold them up. She used to buy a size 4X; now she's down to a Large.
"My old belt almost goes round me twice," Thomas exclaimed. "I've got a wardrobe to buy." She's taken six bags of too-large clothes to Goodwill, and has three more to go.
"I've got happy feet now," she said. Since she started losing weight and walking, Thomas saw her feet for the first time in years - at first she thought she was glimpsing something run across the path in front of her, then realized it was her own feet.
Before the surgery Thomas was on 14 different prescription drugs and her body was "a train wreck." Now she's down to six prescriptions, and doesn't have to take her diabetic medicine any more.
Thomas described going time after time to the bariatric seminars at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville and getting turned down for surgery.
Finally she told doctors, "If I don't get it taken care of, I'm going to die," and they relented and scheduled her procedure. It was supposed to last two and a half hours, but ended up taking more than twice that. Thomas had been on disability for two years.
"I couldn't work," she said. "I was disfigured." Recovery has been slow, but Thomas is full of praise for the doctors and nurses at Centennial. Later, she says, she'll go back to have surgery to tighten loose skin and repair some hernias.
Thomas is a self-taught singer and musician. At the Briar Patch she plays drums and sings with the Bottom Dollar Band. She also plays guitar, harmonica, keyboards, and bass guitar, and is teaching herself steel guitar.
At first, she says, she helped out in the kitchen at the Briar Patch, and sang with the band using a cordless mike. Finally they moved her to the bandstand.
The Briar Patch is way more than Thomas's place to work. She calls it her family and her support group.
"I couldn't have asked for any better support," she said. "My support group is this place and these people. I needed anything, they were there. Harold Cox (the owner) has been great.
"I've had so many people help me," Thomas continued. "I'm a cause person. Now it's my turn to give back." She's doing that by collecting wigs and taking them to the cancer center in Columbia.
Now that she's lost weight, and is able to be more active, Thomas wants to make more progress with her music, and pursue some more singing.
"My life is music and people," she said. "I can sing and make people cry; I can put them in a special place."
Thomas loves the Briar Patch, and the people there love her. Customers, up to 100 every Friday and Saturday night, come from all over Middle Tennessee and North Alabama to enjoy the unique family-friendly atmosphere and the Bottom Dollar's brand of music. There's a big dance floor, and people are dancing from the moment the music starts. There's no smoking allowed, and no alcohol, so it really is a place for people of all ages to enjoy themselves.
"We make it happen," Thomas said. They have all different kinds of parties and contests. "We try to do a little bit of everything to keep the people happy." The Bottom Dollar Band plays some country, some '50s, some light rock - whatever people are happy to dance to. "We try to cover all the bases," she said.
"It's just a caring place," Thomas concluded. "You can't help but like everybody here."
And the feeling is reciprocated.
Thomas's friend Peggy Beard summed it up saying, "We just love her to death. We're just like a family down there."