Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Monday, April 11, 2016

Barn Dance


From the ashes . . .
. . . rise the new and improved.







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.
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 and 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 it 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 great old Barn Dance, my family decided to re-introduce it to the world.
We started doing 'Family Dances' in 1990.
They were 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.

6 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you brought "Family Dances" back. What a great way to pass on some of the joys of your childhood to the next generation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That was a lot of effort for one evening of entertainment - but it sounds like it was very worth it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wonderful memory! I can remember community parties that were much the same - everyone attended. I was very young so I don't recall a lot of details, but I do remember having a good time.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I envy your childhood although that's not saying mine was bad yours is just amazing. I would have loved it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's funny, I've been to a lot of barn dances but never one in a barn - in fact I just realized that I've never been in an actual barn! I'm a city bred girl and (like Rena) I envy your fun times growing up :)

    ReplyDelete

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