Retro Week: Day Four-A Cowboy Comes A-Courting


 When a man’s on his knees proposing,

resist the urge to look triumphant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       -A Suitor for Jenny

It”s June, which partly explains why brides are very much on my mind. There”s also another reason:  A Bride for All Seasons, a collection I wrote with Robin Lee Hatcher, Debra Clopton and filly Mary Connealy, was released last week.   

A Cowboy Comes A-Courting originally ran February 20, 2011.  I don”t remember what I gave away then, but this time you”re in for a treat.  Karen Kay is giving away a copy of War Cloud”s Passion to one lucky person. 

A Cowboy Comes A-Courting

Cowboys had a way with words so it’s not surprising that they used some pur-ty colorful terms to describe matters of the heart, and that included courting.  “Gittin’ hitched” was serious business and spooning or sparking no less so.

 Nothing changed the concept of marriage and courting as much as the westward movement. Marriage offered a semblance of security in an unsettled land. For a widow or widower with children finding a spouse was a dire necessity. 

 Rules that had defined courtships for centuries went out the window. Marriages arranged by well-meaning parents were no longer the norm. Ordering a bride from a catalogue was and following the Civil War, dozens of marriage brokers sprang up.  Not all were scrupulous.

 Women asserting their rights politically also demanded matrimony democracy as well.  Demographics in the west were on their side for women were vastly outnumbered by men.  In the mid 1800s one man lamented that there was only sixty or seventy women in all of Houston.   He never said how many of those women he’d be willing to take home to mom.

 Couples took buggy rides; went on picnics;

cuddled in the hayloft; and danced at socials.

A man having fancy for a woman might give her a token.  If he was serious Unibet on todella erinomainen rahapelisivu, jota voi suositella lampimasti kaikille – ja muidenkin rahapelien – ystaville. he might even start hoarding coffee. Yep, that’s right coffee.  The coffee that won the west may have owed its popularity more to courtship than to taste or convenience.  John Arbuckle came up with what at the time was a unique marketing plan; He added coupons or vouchers to packages of coffee that could be redeemed for goods. Arbuckle’s catalog contained thousands of items. Twenty-eight coupons could get you a razor, for example, but the most popular item by far was the finger ring. 

 During the 1890s Arbuckle Brothers was the largest distributor of finger rings in the world.  In “Arbuckles” author Francis Fugate quotes a company official who bears this out: “One of our premiums is a wedding ring, and if all the rings of this pattern serve their intended purpose then we have been participants in eighty thousand weddings a year.”

 Getting married wasn’t always that easy. Some communities didn’t have a regular preacher and had to depend on a circuit preacher who might not show up for months at a time.  It wasn’t unusual for a saddle preacher to ride into town and find couples waiting to get married with toddlers in hand. 

 It might have been the gun that won the Wild, Wild West but it was love that tamed it.


Tell us about your courting days and you might win a copy of Karen”s

 fabulous book War Cloud”s Passion! 

To order, click on cover


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28 thoughts on “Retro Week: Day Four-A Cowboy Comes A-Courting”

  1. To tell you about my courting days, I have to think back about 53 years. It was that long ago that we, my husband and I, started dating. We will celebrate our 50th anniversary in September. And to think I almost didn’t go on that first date! The day of our first date, my family had a family reunion and I did not want to leave but my father would not let me stay. In fact he took me home and waited for my date to arrive before he returned to the park. Thanks to my father, I married the man who became my best friend!

  2. I was 14 and my hubby was 16 when we started dating in high school. . He ask another girl to introduce us. We dated for 2 years before we got married. Yes we were young, but I wouldn’t trade it for nothing. We had two beautiful boys. We will celebrate 30 years of marriage this December. He always provided for us so I could stay home with our kids. I would love to win! Thanks for the chance.

  3. I missed this blog entry the first time it ran. I didn’t know about the Arbuckle coffee coupon redemption program. Was coffee the only item that gave you a coupon?

    I grew up with supermarket “Green Stamps” which ran on a similar idea. You purchased certain grocery items and received a number of green stamps. You filled up your coupon book, then you could pick something out of their gift catalog.

  4. OOPS forgot my courting story. My husband dated my college roommate. I first met him when I answered our door in my robe. He had come to take my roommate biking after class. He remembers it being skimpy while I actually was covered head to toe like a nun. We didn’t start dating until a year later when I ran into him walking home after class. It turned out our apartments were a block apart.

  5. I love the courting rituals of old… Some of them were sweet and some were amusing.. Great post..

  6. Laurie, you brought back so many memories! My hubby and I furnished our first apartment with green stamps. It was great! Whenever we felt poor, we’d go to the stamp store and feel like millionaires.

    I think Arbuckle was the first to come up with the idea.

  7. Laurie, oops, I got carried away with green stamps. It’s funny how you and your husband remember that first meeting n a different way: The “nun” vs “skimpy.” Love it!

  8. My husband and I met trough the internet. At first we exchanged numerous emails, going so far as watching the same movie on tv and asking one another what we thought of it during commercials.
    After a month we met in real life for the first time and we’ve been together ever since.

  9. Love the courting stories! I actually called my husband. We were volunteering at a Community Playhouse and I left a vague message about needing to talk to him. (I thought maybe he was interested in me, but he hadn’t made a move.) According to his sister, they analyzed that call for hours! He finally asked me on a hay rack ride. After that first date, I told my roommate I was going to marry him – and I did 🙂

  10. Margaret, I must’ve missed this blog the first time. How very interesting. I did not know Arbuckles put things like wedding rings in with their coffee. My mind is whirling, picturing a cowboy opening up his coffee and finding a wedding ring inside then having to go search for a bride. Too, too funny. And I also didn’t know there were only 60 or 70 women in all of Houston in the mid-1800’s. Good grief! I just loved this blog.

    Wishing you much success with A BRIDE FOR ALL SEASONS. I’m going to have to get this. You and Mary together is priceless.

  11. Stephanie,
    You’re kind of like a modern-day mail order bride. That’s how they did it in the 1800s; couples exchanged letters and eventually met (often on their wedding day!)

    Some of the happiest couples I know met through the Internet. Ah, the joys of technology.

  12. Hi Linda, thank you!

    Actually, they didn’t put rings in the coffee. You had to collect the coupons or vouchers and mail them in. The Arbuckle’s catalog offered all sorts of goodies you could save for, but rings were the most popular. Laurie mentioned green stamps and this was the forerunner.

  13. My husband actually did get down on one knee when he proposed. On the other hand, I knew it was coming because we picked the ring out together lol. But it was still sweet and I just celebrated 44 years last week!

  14. I am still in my courting stages, but am fine in staying there a little longer. I do see evidence of good courtships, though. My parents have been married 26 years and my grandparents 48. 🙂 And they are awesome!!!

  15. Catslady, congratulations and happy anniversary!

    Did you know that the custom of proposing on bended knee goes back to the days of knighthood when it was customary for knights to bow in a show of servitude.

    I wonder how many young men today follow this custom?

  16. My husband and I met at work. We were just good friends at first because I was dating someone else. He kept after me to go out but I wouldn’t and finally when I broke up with the other guy and my husband and I started dating. We got married about a year later and have been married for almost 29 years now.

  17. Quilt Lady, you and I have something in common; I was going with someone else when I met my husband. Life sure does take a lot of amazing turns.

    I love that you and your husband started out as good friends.

  18. That was a very interesting blog! Such fascinating things and my goodness, a lot has changed over the years. My courtship story is in my new book, “Flowers and Stone”… 🙂

  19. When I was 15 I was being courted by a cute guy that wanted me to marry him. Even helped him pick out a beautiful Red Pontiac convertible. I really liked him but told him I wasn’t ready to think marriage. Then during that next year I started dating a friend of the family. We eloped 1 week after my 16th birthday. Then we raised 4 children. I always wondered what the other guy thought after telling him I wasn’t ready to marry. LOL I didn’t lie tho, just changed my mind with another. I would love to win this book. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

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