Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Something Old. And New

. . . rise the new and improved.

From the ashes . . .







Ranch families know how to have fun.
And it usually involves dancing.
Let me explain . . .
Our barn had burned to the ground.
On my birthday. (see here)
It was a tragedy.
We lost some livestock and all of our tack and equipment.
But out of the ashes arose a newer, better, bigger barn.
With modern conveniences and plenty of room.
And lots and lots of places to play.
That's important when you're four.
Which I was.
Moving on . . .
The new barn was nearing completion.
And needed to be properly initiated.
A barn dance was called for.
I should mention here, that, in my world, barn dances nearly always occurred immediately after the barns were built.
Before the smells from the denizens living below stairs began to permeate the hay loft upstairs.
Enough said.
People began to gather.
The Stringam Ranch is located twenty miles from the nearest town (Milk River) and is surrounded by other ranches.
With ranch families.
You have to look for your entertainment when you are that far from the bright lights.
A barn dance was eagerly anticipated and reason for a lot of excitement.
And everyone, from the elderly to the newly arrived, showed up.
Everyone.
And people began to gather early.
While my Mom was busy in the kitchen, happily baking and cooking.
There was much talk and laughter.
Old friends greeting each other for the first time since last summer's brandings.
The anticipation began to build.
Finally, the piano player arrived.
And then the festivities hit a snag.
She had counted on the Stringams providing the piano.
But our barn didn't come equipped with one.
Go figure.
And this was the 50s.
Electronic anything hadn't been invented yet.
We needed to find a real piano.
ASAP.
A quick phone call to Lethbridge secured one.
But it was an hour and a half away.
With a fast truck.
A willing group was dispatched and the rest of the party began to . . . party.
There was good food to eat and lots of news to catch up on.
The time passed quickly.
Finally, a truck pulled into the yard, horn blaring.
The piano had arrived.
Many hands pulled it from the back of the pickup and pushed into the barn.
There was a brief discussion as to the best way to transport it from the ground floor to the hay loft.
Finally, it was centered beneath a large hay chute door. Ropes were passed beneath it and willing hands pulled it up to the dance floor.
I'm quite sure it must have weighed several hundred pounds.
You couldn't tell.
It was a mere blur of movement as it made the trip.
Within seconds, and I do mean seconds, music was blaring forth.
And the dance floor was crowded.
The Stringam Barn Dance was officially underway.
I should mention, here, that this is where I learned to dance.
Standing on my Dad's feet.
Like many, many of the other kids in the room.
That's just how it was done.
The party continued throughout the night.
We danced the Butterfly, Schottische, Two-steps, various Reels, Old-time waltzes, Polkas and many others.
What the group missed in the first three hours, they made up for in the last.
Everyone started heading for home about the time the sun came up.
Just in time to do morning chores.

There is a codicil.
Remembering the fun we had as children, and seeing a marked decline in the fun old Barn Dance, my family decided to re-introduce it to the world.
We started doing 'Family Dances' in 1990.
It was very popular.
Though we played in very few barns, and had all electronic equipment, the feeling was the same.
Families dancing together.
For nearly twenty years, we provided music and 'on the hoof' instruction to large family groups.
It was . . . fun.
And memorable.
A small slice of ranch life prolonged.
At least for a little while.

10 comments:

  1. What a fabulous memory...it sounds like so much fun. Nothing like that today sadly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It WAS fun, Delores. I'm so sad that it seems to be dying out!

      Delete
  2. Tomcat and I would really like to start doing that again! We just need to re-introduce Mikey's and get things rolling again.

    Oh, and a babysitter till the littles are older would be nice, too...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know where you can find a babysitter . . .

      Delete
  3. Good for you to keep tradition and real social interaction alive for another twenty years. We cannot change the present; it will be mighty interesting to see how it evolves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had to give it up because of my aged knees. They simply couldn't do the three hours of dancing any more. :) But it was so much fun while it lasted! Our whole family misses it. Recently our kids have been making noises that they would like to revive it. Yay!

      Delete
  4. Man this was a fun time I sure would have loved going to your barn dance.
    No why don't they do things like this anymore.?

    This was the best life.

    Have a Happy Valentines Day!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the Valentine's greetings, LL! I certainly wish there were activities like this now. There is one place in Hillspring, Alberta that still offers Barn Dances (The Great Canadian Barn Dance, they're called). But they are the last of their breed up here . . .

      Delete
  5. While the good old days may not be as good in reality as we remember, it is so sweet to read your posts about the truly sweet and simple and wonderful times you had growing up. What a treasure it must have been to share barn dances and all the interaction and joy they offered (not to mention role modeling behavior to the younger boys and girls on manners, etc!)to a new generation!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure you're right. I do tend to sugar-coat my memories :) And I'm sure they weren't as much fun for my parents as they were for me! But it's so much fun to remember . . . And we do miss the barn dances. They were sweet and simple. It was a pleasure to continue the tradition - at least for a time!

      Delete

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