When different people and cultures came to America, they didn’t have a lot in common with each other because they were so different. But one thing that brought people together was dancing. Different dances came to this country over the years and by the time we get to those occupied by the cowboy, there were quite a few. But our beloved cowboys didn’t have to be well educated in the latest dances of the day to have a good time. They managed quite well with a few caveats.
After long hours in the saddle, cowboys weren’t exactly the stuff of ballet dancers. They moved stiffly. Add to that the fact most cowboys weren’t very interested in learning new dance steps or giving up the time it took to do so. No, he was happy to jump into a dance without so much as taking his hat off or gun belt. One observer commented in 1873, that “some punchers danced like a bear ’round a beehive that was afraid of getting stung. Others didn’t seem to know how to handle a calico, and got as rough as they do handlin’ cattle in brandin’ pens.” And yeah, in case you’re wondering what a “calico” is, it’s a woman.
Of course, not all cowboys did this. There were those that did take the time to learn dances so they could better court a young lady. There was the minuet, cotillion, pattern dances, and courtly processions. When the Polka came west it was thought to be great fun! And folks gathered just about anywhere to dance — on ranches, in barns, in the wide-open spaces under the stars. Slowly a dance that was specifically “western” began to evolve.
To prevent chaos from dominating the dance floor (not everyone knew the same steps), someone had to call out steps to keep everyone from tripping over each other. This hero was the caller and it was his job to orchestrate the crowd into harmonious movement. And the rest is history on that development!
I’ve written quite a few books that have dances in them. My fictional town of Nowhere in Washington has it’s annual Christmas and Valentine dance. There are barn dances in my town of Clear Creek, and of course, the big Fourth of July Celebration in my town of Independence. In fact, dancing has been such a big part of storytelling, I can’t begin to tell you how many dances I’ve written into my books!
For any ebook of mine of your choice, tell me if you like to dance (or not) and how long its been since you’ve danced. For me, it was last summer in New York at a writer’s conference.