Dance With the One That Brung You


The American cowboy had a whole passel of unwritten codes and sayings about how to conduct himself in the West. In fact, a list of those would probably fill an entire book. They were usually short, blunt, and to the point because the cowboy was sparing of his words. They always brimmed with a whole lot of wisdom though. And breaking one of their rules might land you in a heap of trouble.

Love and protect your family. 

Be gentle and kind to your horse. 

Respect yourself and others. 

Treat the land well and it’ll be good to you.  

Don’t spit on the sidewalk. 

Keep a lid on your can of cuss words in the company of womenfolk.  

Don’t stick your nose in where it don’t belong or it might get broken.

And the list goes on. The saying that sticks in my mind lately though is this one–“Dance with the One That Brung You.”

western-dancing.jpgIt was proper etiquette for a lady to always remember who brought her to the dance and to show her appreciation by nothing less than dancing with that person. Abandoning her escort to dance with another was considered unmannerly, not to say ill-advised, and tantamount to throwing down the gauntlet. The spurning could lead to serious consequences–and had sometimes been known to cause a case or two of lead poisoning.

Grant you, society today is very different from the way it was a hundred or so years ago. But, most of us who remember the unwritten rules of conduct fare much better than those who’ve tossed them in the trash. I still cut a wide berth around someone who hawks up a big wad of phlegm and spits it on the sidewalk. Yuck! And we sure haven’t done too good a job at taking care of the land. We’ve polluted and ravaged what was once so bountiful.

I remember my mama’s teachings and try to live accordingly, not only to make her proud of me, but because I want to make myself the very best I can be. So far, her wisdom has steered me in the right direction. linda1.jpgWhen I was born in the late 1940’s, my parents, two sisters, a brother, and me lived in a one-room tent. The picture at the right shows a little of what it looked like. (And it was the first time I rode a horse. Seems I started early. Even if the horse was borrowed.) It took my parents a long time to recover from the Great Depression. They never had too much to begin with and what precious little they had was lost when the Depression hit. My folks were long on pride and short on money. The tent was a blessed, prized possession. They’d seen plenty of times when the sky was their roof and the ground their bed. Even then they gave thanks for that. There’s much to be said for doing what you can with what the good Lord gives you. I’m not ashamed for having lived in a tent for the early part of my life. Being poor is no reason to hang your head. I think if the young, spoiled movie stars today had a lot less money and a more stable structure to their lives they wouldn’t be in the revolving doors of rehab and jail. Maybe instead of a cell the judge should sentence them to living on a working ranch for a few years? That might help them learn to appreciate the wonderful gifts they’ve been given. And to keep their dadgum bloomers on! It sure couldn’t hurt. Nothing else seems to work.

I think everyone should always remember where they came from, how they got where they are, and who brought them to this dance called life. I’m proud of my humble beginnings. No matter what success or accomplishment may come way I never want to forget for a single moment the place I came from and the sacrifice of loving parents who worked their fingers to the bone. They’ve already gone from this earth but they  left a treasured legacy in trying to give their kids the very best they could. I know I’m deeply satisfied to have been so lucky. Because of them I have a clear view (most of the time anyway) of the world and how I fit in it. At least I keep my bloomers on!

western-dancing.jpgI hope I never get too uppity or forget my raising. And I always want to remember to dance with the one that brought me.

Do you have memories of your growing-up years that still influence you today?    Or maybe you still practice some of the codes of the west?

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

15 thoughts on “Dance With the One That Brung You”

  1. Linda — What a fabulous post!! I just love that picture of you on the horse, even if he was borrowed. My grandparents lived through the depression and brought their children (one being my mother) up to hold all you have in this world close to your heart and to take great care of it. That has been passed down to me and my siblings. Be thankful for the bread you eat, the house you clean, and most of all the love you have in your home.

    And thanks for a glimpse of the unwritten rules of cowboys. I love the one about dance with the one that brung you. I’m glad my hubby didn’t stick with that rule — see we met at a high school dance and he came with another girl!

  2. Linda: Dance with the one that brung you is one of my favorite sayings and can be applied to so many aspects of life. Loved the pic of you on the horse outside the tent. Humble beginnings do tend to shape a different outlook.

    I’m really enjoying getting to know my fellow writers from the daily posts. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Linda,

    Love this! Cowboys really did have a code all their own, especially when it came to women. How I miss when a man takes his hat off or opens a door for a lady. So many boys/men aren’t taught to do that anymore.

    And you lived in a tent! Wow! You looked pretty darn little to be sitting that horse by yourself. Hope your mama was close by. LOL.

  4. Great post, Linda. Brought back memories and reminds me why I love to write western historicals. Keep ‘um comin’

    To all of the founding fillies, this is a great blog-site filled with fantastic information and a real glimpse inside the genera. Pat yourselves on the back.

  5. You do look adorable sitting atop that horse! And I agree about the respect men had for women during western times. Women then had really rough lives for the most part. They deserved to be revered and respected.

    Some men are still chivalrous and it doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m not THAT much of libber, not to enjoy a man opening the door for me, picking up something I dropped on the floor, giving me seat when they’re all taken. I KNOW I can do it, but I sure enjoy it when my dh takes out the garbage and does “manly” things around the house for me!

  6. In Petticoat Ranch I went to this Code of the West in the big finale. A ruthless, dangerous outlaw is asked to break this code. He’s done terrible things, but even within his evil heart there’s a code and he won’t break it.

  7. Buffie, I’m glad my post brought back fond memories for you. I hope you always remember and give thanks for the little things.

    Lorraine, Pam, and Charlene – my wonderful Fillies! I was so terrified to post something so close to my heart. You all have done some amazing ones and I was afraid this one would fall in the ranks of corny. Thanks for your support!! What would I do without you ladies.

    Phyliss!! Great to see you here. I’m looking forward to when you’ll do a guest blog for us. I love working with you on Give Me A Texan and Give Me A Cowboy. You write some inspiring stories full of lots of humor and heart-tugging scenes.

    Mary, you’re so right about how strong this Code of the West was that even a ruthless outlaw wouldn’t break it. I think that’s probably why the 3:10 to Yuma movie is such a great story. There was some honor among the outlaws and renegades. I think a light and dark side is within each of us. And it depends on the circumstances which one comes out. We’re very complex people.

  8. Pam, I wasn’t sitting on that horse all myself. If you look very closely you’ll see hands around my waist holding me on. It was my mother. She was so happy and proud when I was born. There’s seven years between my brother and me. When my mom had a miscarriage in those years it almost broke her heart. So somehow, when food was scarce and little money to be had, she scrapped together enough money to pay a man to take my picture. It’s a memory I’ll always cherish.

  9. Buffie, I’m glad your hubby broke that rule once and danced with you instead of the girl he came with or Lord knows who you might’ve ended up. Sometimes, breaking a rule does turn out for the best. I guess your heart has to be in the right place or all the stars in alignment or something for everything to turn out. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Linda, what a wonderfully sensitive post, and a great reminder of what should be right in our world and sometimes isn’t. Downright kindness sometimes just seems a thing of the past, sadly. But I did get a door opened for me just the other day at Coffee Bean LOL. Right now I’m going through antique family pictures with my elderly mom, clearly needing to research my own pioneer roots in Missouri. Some of the places and faces in these photos and tintypes need their stories told! Thanks for a wonderful read today, -both blog and posts.

  11. Tanya, Wow, congratulations for getting the door held for you at Coffee Bean!! Guess chivalry isn’t entirely dead. Great that you’re researching your roots. Small world. My great-grandfather and grandfather came from Missouri. My mother was born in Kansas City on the MO side. Indeed, lots of history that needs to be preserved. Glad you’re taking steps to do that.

  12. Great cowboy lingo, Linda. I have a book full of them that I browse through regularly just because I like to read them. 🙂

    My dad was born during the depression, and his family moved a lot looking for jobs. He still, to this day, complains about how many schools he went to before high school! And when he and my mom moved to Oregon on a ranch. They both had to work in town to make the payments besides working the 200 acres. We had an outhouse in the back yard and a wood shed where we kept the wood that heated the house and cooked the food. My mom told me when I was grown, she cried on my 5th birthday because all she could give me was a nightgown she made from one of hers. And that I hugged her and was so proud of the garment it broke her heart. I don’t remember it since I have little recollection of things before age six.

    But I remember to be nice to my elders and to treat everyone as you would want to be treated.

    Great blog!

  13. Paty, it sounds like we could’ve been sisters. Times were really hard. Kids today don’t know how good they’ve got it. I doubt they’d survive too well without their i-pods, computers, and all the other crap to entertain them. Just to have an indoor toilet is the most wonderful thing. I’m sure glad I don’t have to use an outhouse anymore. Your mom sounds like a very special lady. Those memories are what keep us going sometimes.

  14. Loved this, Linda. Chiming in late because my email’s been down. What a wonderful post about your early life. My grandparents had no indoor plumbing and I remember going to the outhouse when I stayed with them. It was just the way things were, part of a wonderful childhood. Yours was extraordinary. You have a lot to be proud of.

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