Sawdust on the floor
If walls could talk, there would be some mighty colorful stories told throughout this country. There was a time when dance halls were frequent throughout rural America. In fact, I think it’s where a good many of our grandparents probably met one another. Saturday nights were for “honky-tonkin’”, sawdust was spread across the hardwood floor, fiddles, guitars and maybe a set of drums to keep time were set up and the band would keep couples twirling around the dance floor. These weren’t the bar and night club scene of today, these were social gatherings meant to be fun for all. That’s not to say there weren’t a few bottles of suds hid out in the parking lot, but in the hall the focus was on the music and the gathering of friends.
In the hot summer months’, the dances might be held in open air barns to let the cool evening breeze pass through, while in the winter they were held in closed buildings that kept the chill out. The music that played filled the air and each tune inspired different dances. From waltzes to western swing, the benches provided to sit on were seldom empty. It was something to look forward to after a long work week. Cowboys that had spent the week mending fence and tending stock would all pile into the cab of a pickup to take their turn twirling a rancher’s daughter around the floor. Farmers would park the tractor a little early so they could wash the dirt off their face and put on a clean shirt before going out on the town.
Now a days many of the high school and college age kids haven’t the slightest clue how to do a dance that doesn’t involve a line or some popular video on Youtube. There is something so captivating about watching someone who knows how to waltz lead their partner across the dance floor in three quarter time. Men know that their job is to make their dates look better than they already do, and ladies smile from ear to ear as they glide across the room.
I was fortunate, growing up where I did, we were a long way from anywhere. Many of the older folks in our community were still active and taught several of us youngsters how to dance. The dances didn’t come around every week, but there were still some of the old halls that would have a dance as a fundraiser for the fire department or as a celebration for New Year’s or the Fourth of July.
Now days dance halls are almost a thing of the past. Sure you can still find one here and there, but they aren’t quite the same as they used to be. Music from a live band will always be better than a loudspeaker played by a disc jockey. There is something special about the old way of doing things. Boys gathering up the courage to ask a girl to a dance, girls blushing with embarrassment when they are asked to take a spin, it teaches life lessons and builds confidence.
If you ever have the chance, take in an old dance hall. You will be glad that you did. Memories are made one dance at a time and be sure to tip the band. Watch the old timers in the room, they’ll teach you a thing or two. Remember to dance with the one who brought you and keep plenty of sawdust on the floor. That’s all for this time. Keep tabs on your side of the barbed wire and God bless.
Meinzer is a fourth-generation rancher raised on the southeastern plains of Colorado. He and his family live and ranch in Oshkosh, Neb.