Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ranching Country Entertainment

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.
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.
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 great 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.


  1. What a wonderful post! It really evoked that old-timey feeling for me.

    1. Thank you, Karen! Old-timey is exactly what I was going for! :)

  2. I've never gone to an actual barn dance, but I saw it as you described it. :-) Wonderful.


    1. It could also be termed a 'gallop'. But we'll go with 'dance'.

  3. Ooohhh, I miss those old family dances!

    I wonder if we could start Mikey's back up, after some updating...

  4. I've been to some old-time dances, although not in a barn - usually in a one-room school, a church basement, or a community center. Fun, really fun! It's neat that you resurrected them for such a long time.

    1. Location doesn't matter. It's the families that count! :)

  5. I've never been to a barn dance but I've been in plenty of barns lol.

  6. Oh, for the simple sweet fun moments of ranch life. I can just imagine the fun at those barn dances. It's kind of sad that this isn't a popular things anymore. I feel sad that we don't have the Stake Gold and Green balls and other dances any more in our church.
    Life has changed a lot. I did enjoy thinking about barn dances.

    1. My very first date, ever, was to a Gold and Green ball! Oh, the memories!

  7. When my ex and I were farming in the 70s we had barn dances, too. Your post took me right back to those days and beyond back to my school days when the church would have regular barn dances for us teenagers. We used to love was a different world back then.

  8. I remember barn dances! We went to a few I think I was four and five, then we stopped going and I never gave them another thought until now. I never did learn to dance.

  9. Such an iconic image. Never been to a barn dance, and could probably count on one hand how many times I've been in a barn. And I'm from Idaho. Go figure. My in-laws call me "city girl."


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