Yee Haw! It’s Skatin’ Time!

In the mid-1880s something new swept across the country. In fact, this something was so popular, it started a mania that reached as far as the West. I’m talking about roller skating.
At first, skaters had nothing but clunky, wooden-wheeled skates. Then ball-bearing wheels were invented about 1884 and things revved up from there! Roller skating rinks began to pop up all over the place, including the West.
Many of these rinks were built from the ground up and sometimes folks got inventive and converted the local dance or grange/meeting hall into one. All you needed was a good-sized space, a smooth hardwood floor, and you were in business! And a good business it was.

Roller-skating quickly became popular with young ladies, no matter what their social status. Who could resist gliding across a smooth floor to waltzes, quadrilles, and other dance music with wheels on their feet? This meant it became a good way for gentlemen to meet young ladies. Catching them was the problem.

Of course, some frowned upon such whirlwind behavior. Parents and those in political circles thought the fad would develop to much familiarity between the sexes. Doctors couldn’t make up their minds if skating was good or bad. On the one hand, it was a healthful diversion. On the other, it was more than a little dangerous. And there were those stalwart preachers who saw it as a sure pathway to Hell. Well, if it had all that going for it, how could a cowboy say no? Like a bronc they itched to tame, the cowboy thought he could tame a pair of skates.
But taming skates wasn’t so easy. A drunken cowboy in a rink in Wyoming who couldn’t get his skates to mind him, decided to ride his horse onto the rink floor. An rink employee grabbed the horse’s bridle and told the cowboy that if he didn’t leave at once, (and not return) that he’d have the undertaker pay a call. If that’s not a threat, I don’t know what is.

Believe it or not, Dodge City, Kansas had themselves a roller rink. Other cities with rinks were Cheyenne, Omaha and El Paso. In Montana Territory, Helena had “The Skating Pavilion” It had a whooping 65-by-100-foot maple floor and three-tiered wraparound galleries for people to watch the skaters. Here the “apple race,” was invented. All the skaters had to do (with no small amount of scrambling and falling down) was to be first to collect twenty-one apples from the rink floor and drop them in a bucket. I can just imagine the mad scramble!

Alas, the skating craze faded into the sunset, as fads tend to do, and didn’t make a comeback for seventy years. It became a craze once more in the fifties. How come none of us have ever heard of cowboys skating? Well, it’s because film and television ignored it. Viewers wanted to see their cowboy heroes riding their noble steeds, battling outlaws and rescuing the damsel in distress. Kinda ruins the whole cowboy hero thing if he did it on a pair of skates. However, one movie did put skating cowboys in their story. But it was made in the eighties, not during western film’s hey day. The title was Heaven’s Gate and had ranchers and locals having a roller-skating dance. I think I’ll have to rent that movie and see it for myself!

Do you skate? I can’t skate worth beans. Can’t ice skate either. Ah me. Weak ankles. Wouldn’t it be fun though to see an “apple race” and watch cowboys race all over a rink chasing apples? When was the last time you went skating? If you don’t skate, have you ever wanted to try?

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Kit Morgan is the author of over 100 books of historical and contemporary western romance! Her stories are fun, sweet stories full of love, laughter, and just a little bit of mayhem! Kit creates her stories in her little log cabin in the woods in the Pacific Northwest. An avid reader and knitter, when not writing, she can be found with either a book or a pair of knitting needles in her hands! Oh, and the occasional smidge of chocolate!

43 thoughts on “Yee Haw! It’s Skatin’ Time!”

  1. I used to be able to do both but old age has caught up with me unfortunately. I used to love doing both.

  2. I enjoyed skating at one time. In fact, my elementary school used to hold skating on Friday nights in the gym to raise money. However, the last time I tried, I learned that skating isn’t like riding a bike. I never did find the same smooth rhythm again.

  3. Good morning. I loved skating when I was young, I was awesome at it. A few years ago I went to my little nephews skating birthday party, it had been 30+ years since I skated. No problem, it’s like riding a bike, right? WRONG!! I was a total klutz! Getting old is not for the faint of heart. But I kept at it and somewhat mastered it again.

  4. I used to love to roller skate and 3 of the towns around all had rinks! However when my kids went on a church skate a young man hit me from behind knocking me down and I broke my tailbone! That put an end to my skating almost 30 years ago now!

  5. I haven’t skated since my 40’s. I went to my nephews skating birthday party and fell and broke my wrist and I haven’t been on skates since. I never was that great on skates anyway.

    • You and me both. The last time I was on skates I was in my twenties. The guy I was dating at the time was a skate guard at a rink. He tired to teach me, he really did. But to no avail. I’m surprised I didn’t break something. I don’t blame you for not skating again after that!

  6. Good morning! I used to love to skate and was quite a speed demon even at a very young age. I wish skating was popular again, not that I would ever be on a pair of skates again. The skating rinks in my area have all shutdown. They just didn’t get enough business to keep them going. Having MS, which comes with balancing and vertigo issues as well as hardware in one ankle that makes it difficult to get up off the floor, no skates included, skating is no longer an option for me. Cowboys & skating, who knew!?!? I’ve never heard of that fancy skating rink even. Thanks for the blog, how fun!!

  7. What a fun post, Kit! I grew up roller skating in the 70s and 80s and I knew it had been around a while, but I didn’t realize it went all the way back to the 1880s. I can just picture those cowboys being awkwardly adorable on skates. I imagine it leveled the playing field a bit. And that apple game sounds fun, although I can image the cowboys getting a tad competitive and knocking folks down. Could make a great scene in a book!

  8. Welome today. When I was younger I skated all the time. I was nine when we moved to the farm. But I skated all the time before that. When we moved to the farm there was a skating rink in the next town. Mom would take us once a week. She would drop off us kids while she spent time with her mom. When we moved to Illinois there was a skating rink near by and friends and I would go all the time. I got married, no skating. When the two kiddos were old enough, they got roller blades. Man did I really stink on those. Our daughter said I should put a pillow on my bottom. LOL
    Would love to see the movie where cowboys skated.

  9. Good morning , this is so very interesting. When I was way alot younger I did try roller skating, but it just wasn’t in me, I guess I had weak ankles. When my now 2 adult grown children were very young we did get them a pair of roller skates, they didn’t skate for very long, which I was glad because it was always so scary for me to just watch them, I was scared they would get hurt. I think I would have really loved to see cowboys chasing an apple while skating.

  10. I skated some when I was a teenager. I never did get too good at it, I didn’t get to go that much. It was fun though!

    • We went to the ice skating rink when I was a teenager because there were always a lot of cute boys there. None of us could skate and it’s amazing any of us survived!

    • I can’t skate to save my life, Megan, but I do like to watch other people skate. When I used to work in the weight loss industry, I had clients that loved to skate and that’s what they did for exercise.

  11. Last time I went roller skating, I was 16, living in California, and my church youth group went skating once a month. I spent more time on the floor with the skates under my rear end, so ended up bruised from my hips to the back of my knees. But the fellowship was good.
    As a little girl, in Worland Wyoming, the skating was done in the fellowship hall of the Methodist church. They had the wooden floor, and big enough space for skaters. They were open every Friday and Saturday night. Tried ice skating, but my ankles are to weak to support me, and I didn’t like landing on the cold ice.

  12. I don’t skate. Mom kinda nixed those ideas when one of my older sisters fell on her skates and banged up pretty good. I’d like to try, I think. Maybe not, one broken wrist is more than enough for me!

  13. I always loved roller skating & was quite good at it, from the time I was a very small child into my adult years. From the metal-wheeled “shoe-clamp-on” skates to the classic rollers… I still have my beloved white roller skates with blue wheels. (I never could get the hang of roller blading.) When I was almost eight years old, we moved from Missouri to West Virginia & we had a pond in our back yard. It froze over in the wintertime & I took to ice skating like I’d been doing it all my life. I’m pretty sure I still have a pair of ice skates, too. I skated until my health prevented it several years ago, but I’ve got many fond memories from down through the years! <3

  14. I roller skated some when I was a kid. Going to a Roller Rink was a real treat. I didn’t skate well. One time my front wheels came of the skates. I tried roller skating again when in college but that didn’t go well, I ended up on crutches. This was my last time. I would love to learn how to roller skate well.
    You’re a new author to me and I would love to read and review your books in print format.

  15. I roller skated as a child. I even took some “dance/skate” lessons. I have not skated since I was in my teens. Since I walk with a walker, that would not be something that I would be able to do anymore. I could not ice skate. Thank you for bringing back memories.

  16. I never heard of an apple race. It would have worked where I grew up, in the middle of apple country. I both roller skated and ice skated growing up. I, too, have weak ankles, but never let it stop me. My first date was to a roller rink. I skated until 50 or so. At that point I decided it was much safer for me and everyone else if I just watched. My husband still skates, although not that often. We took our daughter and granddaughter ice skating 4 years ago. It was the granddaughter’s first time. I always enjoyed it, even if I didn’t go very fast.

  17. I last skated about 16.5 years ago to help my oldest son at a birthday party.

    I guess we know where the phrase “you can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd” may have originated? Might have to look it up.


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