Strike up the fiddle, tune up the band

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy (revisited)

by Julie Carter via THE WESTERER

This is a “do you remember” moment for those old enough to recall the days in rural America after World War II and young enough to remember what it was like for our parents.

Since the days of covered wagons and cattle drives, dancing in the country has been a social culture that brought levity to times of hard work and hard living.

History documents with a pen and photographs the moments of cowboy dancing around the campfire with the camp cookie still in his apron while a lively tune is belted out of a harmonica or strummed from a guitar.

After the war, when men from the country came home, changed by what they lived and what they had seen, and attempted to reconnect to the people and lives they had left behind, country dances made a way.

The cities moved into the bobby sox, loafer and jukebox era and was fueled by the music from Broadway musicals like Oklahoma, Annie Get Your Gun and South Pacific.

In the backwoods, hills and the plains of the West, the music culture was full of fiddle tunes that formed an important base for the contemporary versions of bluegrass, Western swing and country and Western.

I remember the community dances at the Grange Hall.

The neighbors would come, those that could play a musical instrument would and those that could sing, did.

Kids ran in and out the door while parents danced. Babies slept on pallets in the corner, or as my siblings and I did later in the night, bedded down in the back of a Studebaker station wagon.

There was a fiddle, a couple of guitars, piano, harmonica and occasionally an accordion to round out the music source.

My dad didn’t always know the words to the songs, but he could yodel, so that was his contribution.

As the night wore on, and there was no closing time, the fun would kick up a notch as silly songs were created on the spot.

My parents courted going to country dances at a place that was no longer a town, but had a dancehall converted from an old one-room schoolhouse.

In later years, they rarely missed a dance that was held in the school gymnasium sponsored by the town firemen or the saddle club.

I grew up with the sounds of the Hanks (Snow, Locklin, Thompson and Williams) twanging in my head and feeding my love of the music. Jimmie Rodgers of “Honeycomb” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” fame, Earnest Tubb, Farron Young, Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves, Ferlin Husky, Ray Price, Sonny James, Pasty Cline, Kitty Wells, Slim Whitman … you get the idea.

The cowboys of that era tell about riding 10-12 miles to a dance, dancing all night, and riding back to the ranch to work. Some of them were the musical talent for the dance, some of them went to find the pretty girls, but they all went for the fun, the social and the levity their hard working lives needed.

When the trend moved the “party” to the honky tonks and bars, the dances held in halls, schools and barns dwindled and changed, except in the country where the families were held together by hard work, family values and simple lives.

I’m fortunate enough to still live in a place in the West where a country dance isn’t all that foreign and yes, it is still a family affair.

If you need a refresher for your memories of those days, drop by Capitan, New Mexico on April 25. Head over to the fairgrounds and listen to the Joe Delk Band throw open the doors to those memories when life seemed just a little better.

The recipe for fun is still just as good today as it was then. Everything goes better with a country dance.


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2 Responses to Strike up the fiddle, tune up the band

  1. Better not say too much about country dancin’ or the culture changers might decide it’s a subversive act, which it often used to be in Scotland and Ireland.


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