Step back in time—how do you celebrate a barn raising in the Old West? A wagon train coming to town? A wedding? The end of a cattle drive? Or something as regular as a Saturday night?
The towns in the West were full of independent, rugged people, looking to make a mark on the world or at least on their own pockets. Town dances invited all to attend; cowboys and miners, outlaws and lawmen, bankers and merchants, cultured women and soiled doves. Dances were important to bring a community together for courtship and friendshipping. It was also a vehicle that mixed the social classes, giving people opportunities for advancing one’s class. America’s class system wasn’t as rigid as had been the countries of Europe and the attendees of the dances proved this especially in the West.
Immigrants found it easy to hoe-down with their neighbors as many of the dances originated in Europe and changed very little from the folk dances people already knew. The Polka was a favorite in the new West, but other common dances were the Quadrille, Grand March, Waltz and Scottish Fling. As dances evolved, new steps became incorporated and a dance master would call out the steps to keep the group in sync. This evolved into an American original, the square dance. It seemed to fit the American ideal of a mixture of people and ideas that work together to create a new culture.
In many western towns, women were scarce. And just as in Shakespeare’s plays, men would assume the female role. “Heifer branding” solved the problem as burly men would don a piece of fabric tied round their arm or strap on a bonnet or apron to take the place of the fairer sex and the party continued.
Hurdy-Gurdy Girls traveled to western towns in a group of several women, chaperoned by a married couple, often with children. They hired out for dances and then traveled on to another town.
Saloons found that dancing brought in more men and more money, and employed women as dance hall girls. These women were looked down upon by “proper” ladies, but they were not prostitutes as they were accused. Men would buy a dance ticket for a dollar, then spend it on a partner of his choice, dancing together for a quarter of an hour. The interaction allowed for dance and conversation with men starved for female companionship.
The women generally earned half the price of the tickets they claimed. If they took the man to the bar after the dance, they received a commission on the drinks as well. The dance hall girls could make more in a week than most men made in a month. They also made more money than the prostitutes did, and when given an opportunity, the soiled doves made their way into the dance hall ranks.
Towns also sponsored regular dancing events. In Albert Benard de Russailh’s travel journal, Last Adventure, published in 1851, he wrote of dances in San Francisco. “I am occasionally reminded of our balls at the Salle Valentine on the Rue St. Honoré. There is one important difference: Parisian rowdies often come to blows; but in San Francisco hardly an evening passes without drunken brawls during which shots are fired.”
Dance in the Old West is part of the mystique of the era and was as vital to building their culture, as it is today. It was used to release energy, bring together neighbors, socialize, and provide recreation. So come on out to the barn—let’s dance.
One lucky commenter chosen at random will receive her choice of one of Jo Noelle’s ebooks! To be entered in the giveaway leave a comment on your favorite dance or your favorite dancing memory.
Photo Attribution Public Domain: American Vaudeville Museum Collection (MS 421), MS 421 Box 66 Folder 1, azu_ms421_b66_f1_pg034a003_m.jpg, courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections.
Well, today I thought we might look at the poet, philosopher and performer who was — in his younger days — a political activist for his tribe. That man is John Trudell.
John Trudell’s life was so full and he accomplished so many things that I don’t believe I could really do his story justice with one simple blog. But I’ll try.
John Trudell was an Indian Activist who was the spokesperson for the Occupation of Alcatraz in the early 1970’s. One of the quotes from his first wife that I found so stunning was when he told his wife that they were going to the Alcatraz Occupation, she told him she was afraid she’d get cold feet. His response was, “Wear socks.”
He was also a part of the American Indian Movement, also in the 1970’s.
He tells the story of his father and how he and his father and mother came to be married. His father was Lakota and his mother was Mexican. John said in an interview that his father literally stole his mother and rode away with her on horseback. But they loved one another and the marriage worked.
John was briefly in the Navy, but it didn’t appear that this held great interest for him and he soon returned to the reservation. He met his second wife, Tina, in 1971 and in 1972 they became a couple. It was a troubling time to be on an Indian Reservation. There had been some shoot-outs and tensions were high on the Pine Ridge Reservation in So. Dakota. In February of 1979, John was engaged in protests in Washington DC. On the 11th of February, he burned an American Flag on the steps of the FBI building in protest of the injustices to the American Indian people. Within 12 hours after that event, his wife, Tina, and their three children and Tina’s mother were killed in a sudden fire in their home on her reservation in Death Valley. Tina was also pregnant at the time.
John said in interviews that he had to die, too, in order to get through each day after his family’s death. But he also said that Tina’s parting gift to him was the gift of her poetry. She was the poet in the family. He said in interview that it was she who encouraged him to write down his thoughts, and to write them down using poetry. It was her parting gift to him.
And so he did begin to write. His poems were often heart-felt and sometimes they were fiery and full of passion for life and for his people. He became involved in reading his poetry in public places, and on one occasion, he met Jessie Ed Davis, a Kiowa guitarist, who said that he could put John’s poems to music. And thus began the poetry from John Trudell’s heart and the many concerts that you can still see online.
John has influenced many Native American artists. I’ve only recently discovered John’s work, but I have found it profound. So I’m going to show you some quotes of his that I find inspirational.
You can still find his concerts and his talks and interviews on the internet. John became, or perhaps he always was, philosophical, and his wisdom was often sought after by many people of all different races. This last quote, off to the left here is probably my favorite of his quotes, if only because I find this very profound in today’s world, which has become more than a little strange.
I’ve said this to my closest friends, and I’ll tell you this today in this blog. Whatever else we as a people are involved in, I believe we are in a spiritual war against some dark forces. I admit that I’ve heard this saying over and over and over, but I never really understood it until recently. But I believe that this is what John was saying when he said “protect your spirit”: In this life, one has many choices, but if one chooses the path of violence, theft, and the stripping of another’s God-given rights and happiness, all in the attainment of some materialistic goal, one is looking at one’s eternity as though one were painting oneself into a corner — and, it seems to me that in doing those things which bring harm to another, one is not “protecting one’s spirit.” I guess he was saying that one has the choice spiritually…and maybe that’s what he means by “Protect your spirit….”
John Trudell died in 2015. He left behind him a legacy of beauty, of music and poetry. He also left behind him a philosophy that I believe enriches one’s soul.
Well, that’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog. Often, I think of the American Indian Hero as having lived in the long ago past. But John Trudell was a modern hero. At least that is my opinion of him.
What do you think? I’d love to hear from you.
Am offering a free download of the book, LAKOTA SURRENDER today in honor of John Trudell, a wonderful poet, philosopher and a Lakota Indian. This is a download from BookFunnel and will be up only for the next fews days. Grab it while you can: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/uq6ti9a1kw
Thanks to everyone who stopped by and leave a comment on my post about favorite lullabies. I enjoyed reading your personal stories and even picked up a few new songs. I threw all the names in a cyber-hat and the one that popped out was:
Congrats Jess! Please visit my website at https://www.winniegriggs.com/booklist.html and select the book you’d like to have. Then contact me via my website with the title and your mailing info and I’ll get it right out to you.
Well, this wasn’t what I expected when the gals graciously let me park my boots on the porch and hook my hat on the nail a few years ago because I was busily writing Westerns and loving it!
But that all changed the past two years… My new contract with Love Inspired is set in the beautiful swells and valleys of the Blue Ridge mountains, Southern to the max and I’ve been contracted for two Guideposts mystery series. One in Savannah… one in Charleston! That means I’m tucked into the south for the next few years, and the one prerequisite about being a Western Filly is to be (understandably) writing Westerns!
I realized when that last contract was offered, that I needed to focus on the South to do justice to the faith that these sweet publishers put in me. And I am so blessed by their vote of confidence!
But that means I’ve got to unhook my hat here, tug on my boots, and head for the land of Steel Magnolias, kudzu vines, peach pie, pecan waffles, sweet tea and bugs the size of my fist. 🙂 And humidity. Do you know what humidity does to my bushy hair???
This is one of my favorite movies of all time… this and Remember the Titans…. So maybe there’s a little Southern Belle with a steel backbone in this filly all along????
I have had so much fun over here. These women are amazing, and it’s been a wonderful opportunity to hang out with them, get to know them, and to see why they’re all so marvelously successful. Hard work and great stories are the key, and that’s what I’ve seen here at Petticoats and Pistols.
So as I delve into another and also beautiful part of our great land, in a tucked-in-the-hills town of Kendrick Creek (Love Inspired 2021) or the historic streets of Savannah (Savannah Secrets, Guideposts, my first book of this series comes out next month, A Fallen Petal….) and the beautiful settings of a vintage hospital in Charleston (Miracles and Mysteries of Mercy Hospital, fall 2021) I will miss all of you and hope you friend me on Facebook if you haven’t already.
I was blessed to be here! And blessed by the turns my career has taken, but I will miss my Filly Friends!
God bless you all…. and as a goodbye gift, I’m giving away two Kindle copies of “Welcome to Wishing Bridge”, the bestselling opening book of my Wishing Bridge series, all three of which are in the Top 10 of Women’s Christian Fiction on Amazon… so that’s a wonderful blessing, too, and I hope you guys love that series, too. It’s not Western…. BIG SMILE HERE!
But it’s really good.
Thank you all for visiting with me, praying with me, chatting with me. I have been wonderfully blessed by this community both behind the scenes with the Fillies, and on this side of the camera with wonderful readers.
Thank you to everyone who stopped by to talk about weather proverbs and how animals can predict the weather. The winner of the sink soap mate, llama car air freshener and signed copy of A Cure for the Vet is
Congratulations! Look for an email from me on how to claim your giveaway. Thank you again to everyone who spent part of your day with me. Thanks again to everyone who spent part of their day with me. Take care and stay safe during these difficult times.
Don’t you just love Western historical romance? We love the heroes and heroines and how they dressed. We also love reading tidbits about how they lived, their customs of the day, social events, and the simplicity of the time. But there’s one thing most historical authors only touch upon in their novels. Probably because if they went into great detail, it would take up far more words than they want and slow down their story. I’m talking about laundry.
Back in the day doing the laundry wasn’t a matter of tossing your clothes into a washing machine, putting in some detergent, closing the lid, and pushing a button. It was a much more arduous task, one that could take 2 to 3 days depending on the size of one’s family.
We’ve come a long way since the twin tub and the drum washing machine. But before them, of course, was the simple washtub. Before hot and cold running water you had to haul water from a nearby well, creek, or river. To get the job done in a timely manner, you had to enlist the help of everyone in the family to fetch and carry bucket after bucket, because you needed water for both washing and rinsing. Then you had to heat the wash water in an iron kettle or a large metal washtub. This took time and somebody had to tend the fire. While that was going on someone else sorted the clothes into whites, colors, and that special pile of the extremely dirty. You washed the clothes in that order. White’s first of course. Who wants to wash their whites in disgusting dirty laundry water?
Once put into the hot water, someone had to stir the clothes with a long stick then remove and scrub them on a
washboard with homemade soap. This could take up quite a bit of time in and of itself. For those unlucky enough not to have a washboard, a good-sized rock was the answer.
Washboards were placed vertically in the washtub after the clothes were removed from the tub and set aside. Then one at a time, each piece of clothing was rubbed briskly on the metal ridges and plunged back into the water regularly. When the water became too dirty they had to heat another batch. Then they rinsed their clothes in cold water to remove the soap, rung the clothes out by hand or used a ringer if they had one. If not, they slapped each piece of clothing against a trusty rock. Then they hung them up to dry. For large families, is it any wonder this took so long? Aren’t you glad for your Maytag?
Though many of us enjoy our washers and dryers, there are also a lot of folks who like to line dry their clothes and bedding. I’m one of them. I love to dry clothes on the line in the summer and get that fresh air scent. What other conveniences are you happy we have now? Has anyone ever cooked on a cookstove? Have you ever used a tub washer? Did you grow up with one?
I’ll pick a random person from the comments below to receive a copy of my upcoming e-book, dear Mr. Tindle, which will be out on May 31.
I was interviewed on Six Gun Justice. A podcast I only discovered after one of the hosts, Rich Prosch, invited me. It’s really fun. I’ve been hanging out there, listening to all these great western podcasts by Rich Prosch and Paul Bishop and all their guests, ever since.
I’m obsessed with mail-order bride stories. I can’t imagine what would make a young lady leave her home and head west to marry someone she’d never met, live in unfamiliar surroundings, and basically consign herself to a life of uncertainty from the moment she stepped foot on the train (or stagecoach).
But this “wondering” was what got me started on a massive writing project that I’m loving every minute of! My SWEET TEXAS GAMBLE series (and this is my first series!) was born of wondering what would happen if a gambler, Calum Ross, had won some mail-order brides for himself, his cousin Blake, and their best friends Paxton, Collin, Liam, and Jordan Taylor—four brothers who they’d grown up with.
Returning to Texas when the Civil War ends, the men are eager to get back to life as it was “before” they went off to fight. Calum has all but forgotten that odd bet he “won” in a smoky bar near the end of the war, and the others never even knew about it. Of course, marriage is the very last thing on any of their minds on their travels home.
The six brides who are traveling to Texas from “back east” are as different from one another as any people could be, but during this long journey, they have embraced one another and become as close as sisters—they are family long before they ever cross the Red River.
The brides arrive before the men, to the unsuspecting Taylor family’s spacious home—and this excerpt is about the greeting they receive.
As I said, this is slated to be a series, as each of the couples have their own problems to overcome, with issues that happened before they ever met—and also, those that any couple might face—especially since they are starting marriage on such shaky ground.
I’m hoping this first book of the series will be released by early fall—and I’ll be sharing more about this venture as time goes by—but let me introduce you to some of my characters from SWEET TEXAS GAMBLE!
“Oh…my…stars,” Noelle gasped as the coach pulled to a halt in front of the elegant Spanish-style stucco home.
“As I live and breathe…” Angelica murmured. “Things are looking up already.”
“If we’re welcomed here, that is,” Tabitha added.
“Which we might not be,” Cami said quietly.
“Only one way to find out, ladies,” Jessamyn said firmly. “We’ll ask Mr. Fielding to wait a moment and see what kind of reception we get. No need to unload the luggage until we see.”
Just then, the front door opened wide and a man emerged. At the same time, the stage driver and shotgun rider called out a greeting, and the man lowered the barrel of the rifle he carried.
“Ain’t no call to shoot us, Lowell. We’re bringin’ a bevy of beautiful brides to your door!” Arnold joshed. He stepped lively to the stage door and opened it, and the women began to emerge in the heat of the June day.
“What in the cornbread hell—Arnold, is this some kind of sorry joke you’re pulling?”
The driver gave the man a peeved look, his bushy brows furrowing sharply. “I’ve saved you a drive into town, Taylor,” he said in a low growl. “The least you can do is be respectful in front of ladies.”
“Ladies!” Taylor scoffed loudly. “Load ’em back up. Only one here needs a bride is my foreman, J.A. Decker, and I ain’t gonna tempt him with a woman.”
“What’s going on, Lowell?” A woman’s voice came from somewhere inside the open doorway.
“Nothing, Ellen, just—”
A woman with a head of dark hair and emerald green eyes peered around the door, then, a wide smile of greeting lighting her features she moved past her husband onto the porch.
“Arnold Fielding, and Joe Darwin! Oh, and some weary travelers! Is there trouble?” Her look turned anxious.
“Only just now, Mrs. Taylor,” Joe muttered darkly.
She whirled to look at her husband, who towered over her by a good ten inches. Defiantly, she turned back to the group in the front yard and graciously announced, “Please, come inside and refresh yourselves.” Looking past them, she motioned one of the stable boys forward. “Jose, please unhitch the team and take care of the horses. They’re hot and tired, too.”
The boy nodded, moving toward the horses.
“Should we unload the—” Arnold began.
“That can wait until we’ve cooled off some,” Ellen interrupted, motioning them forward. With a welcoming smile, she threw the door wide. “We have guests, Pilar,” she called.
“Si, senora,” came a muffled voice.
Lowell Taylor stood aside as the travelers climbed the front steps and entered his house. As Arnold brought up the rear, Lowell put a staying hand on his shoulder. “What the hell, Arnie?”
Arnold shook his head. “I don’t know any more’n you. They say they’re mail-order brides on their way here from back east somewheres.”
“Where back east? Hell, ever’thing’s ‘back east’ from where we are.”
“I don’t know, Lowell. It wasn’t my business. Said this is where they was headed, and I offered to bring ’em on out to save you a drive into town. It ain’t too far out of the way.”
Lowell stepped aside grudgingly. “You’ve never been one to trurn down Pilar’s lemonade and sopapillas. Reckon that’s why you offered so kindly.”
Arnold smiled. “No, sir. And I ain’t gonna make today any different.”
“Let’s go see what this is all about,” Lowell muttered. “Then I’ll decide if those women stay.”
Arnie chuckled. “Or, Miss Ellen will.”
It was impossible to remain proper and aloof, the women soon discovered, in Ellen Taylor’s home. What her husband lacked in manners, she made up for in spades, with her welcoming demeanor, the genuine friendliness of her smiles, and her God-given ability to draw them out of their awkward reserve.
“When was the last time you ladies had a proper meal?” she asked, assuming that, no matter what, their funds would be running low by the end of their journey.
Quick looks at one another darted around the room, and she turned a blind eye, as if she didn’t notice.
“Pilar, perhaps you and Luisa could make some sandwiches for everyone,” Ellen instructed. “I’ll pour the lemonade.”
“I’ve made tea, as well,” Pilar said with a quick nod as she excused herself and called to Luisa.
“Let’s move to the back porch, everyone,” Ellen said when she’d poured their glasses full of something to drink. “There’s a good breeze out there, usually.”
They’d all seated themselves except Lowell, who remained standing in the center of the porch looking around at all of the travelers, the driver, and the shotgun rider.
“Now I want some answers. Not to be rude—” he held out a hand as Ellen started to intervene, “—but I need to know what this is all about.”
Silence fell, and the others looked to the woman with blonde hair that was once curled, but now hung in tired, relaxed ringlets at the back, beneath her hat that looked as frayed and threadbare as her spirits. Her blue eyes still sparked with determination, and it was plain to see she was the one the others had come to depend on.
“Miss…” Ellen questioned, meeting the woman’s eyes.
“Thomas. Jessamyn Thomas. But I go by Jessie to my friends.”
Ellen smiled. “Jessamyn. What a lovely name. May I call you Jessie, then? Can you shed some light on this situation?”
Jessie nodded, and glanced at the others to be certain they approved of her speaking for all of them. “For various reasons, we had all ended up in Charleston, South Carolina, during the war, or at the war’s end. Also, we had all applied to the Potter Marriage Pairings Agency—”
“Mail-order brides,” Lowell muttered, raking Jessamyn with a disdainful gaze.
Seeing the fight come into her features, Ellen sent her husband a quelling look. She reached across one of the other women to touch Jessamyn’s hand. “Please, continue, my dear.”
Jessamyn turned away from Lowell’s steady glare to look at Ellen, effectively dismissing him. Ellen held back a smile.
“Yes. But we each have a reason for becoming a mail-order bride. And those reasons are for each of us to tell—our own stories—when the time is right.”
“But how did you come to be here? In Texas?” Ellen prodded.
Jessamyn lifted her chin. “We were…won. On a gamble. It-it was a card game, and Mr. Potter had nothing else to wager but part of his business holdings. Normally, he charges a fee to the—the prospective groom. And the groom would also pay travel expenses for—for the bride. So, Mr. Potter bet six brides.”
Lowell let out an indignant huff of disbelief. “And who would you have us believe would be stupid enough to wager a pot of money against six women who are desperate enough to—”
Jessamyn stood quickly as her anger got the best of her. “Mr. Taylor, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Whatever man becomes the husband of any of us will be the winner of that game, I can promise you.” Her voice shook with fury. “We are all here of our own accord. We are here honestly. We were told that we had husbands waiting for us.” Her blue eyes narrowed, but by now, Lowell Taylor stood, slack-jawed at the young woman’s dressing down.
“As for the man who—as you say—was stupid enough to gamble on us? That would be a dear friend of your family—a Mr. Calum James Ross.”
Lowell’s eyes widened at this, but Jessamyn wasn’t finished.
“So you see, when we meet with Mr. Ross, he will be able to explain everything to your exacting satisfaction, I believe, Mr. Taylor.”
The room fell deathly quiet, and a muttered “Sandwiches are ready,” sounded from the doorway.
I don’t know if I could be a mail-order bride–could you?