Pages Navigation Menu

The Cowboy Stomp

Stomp, Hoe-Down, Shin-Dig, Baile, Hoe-dig

The “grapevine telegraph” spread the word through short grass country of upcoming social events. Neighbors rode for miles to share the gossip and pass the word along to other neighbors. If any cowboy who happened by your place mentioned the upcoming Hoe-Down, you could consider yourself invited.

The hosting ranch prepared the bar-b-qued beef and the party-goers traveled for long distances bringing cakes and pies, dressed in their Sunday best sporting new haircuts and freshly laundered shirts. Folks living on the high plains rarely missed the chance to participate in these important social events.

Long time Texas Panhandle historian and journalist, Laura Hamner, records one such cowboy dance that occurred in January in the town of Canyon, Texas.

“January 1, 1897, did not fit into the calendar. Winter evidently had reached out grasping fingers, plucked from the heart of spring one of its most precious treasures, a perfect day, set it down in the Panhandle of Texas, and said, “Here. this is my New Year’s gift to you. Enjoy every shining moment of it. The people of the village of Canyon obeyed.”

The Hoffman family hosted a dance that night, a winter stomp. They had built a six-room home and invited everyone from far and near to the house-warming. Furniture had been pushed out of the way. Two guitars and a violin provided music thanks to the Bell brothers of Amarillo. As expected, the party was well attended.

The Dance at the Keith Ranch by Jean Andre Castaigne.

 

At midnight, while one group kept dancing, another group enjoyed a quick supper. Inside the mood was festive and fun. Outside was another story.

A sudden winter storm had descended upon the joyous New Year revelers with all of the cold and fury of a Texas Panhandle ‘norther’. Bone chilling wind that cuts right through any outer wear along with snow. Lots of snow.

As the house grew colder and the guests grew weary, pallets were made, but they had to take turns sleeping because of the numbers. The morning light revealed a world heavy with white, which prevented anyone from leaving. The storm raged as wind-driven snow continued throughout the next day and into the night.

The horses that had pulled wagons carrying guests to the party needed tending. The next day, a string of young men made a human chain to the barn so they could feed and water the livestock. A person could loose direction in the blinding white snow and wind, freezing to death only yards from the house.

Hamner writes that based on first-hand accounts, the party goers were not bored. The dancing continued. They played charades, sang songs, and told stories. Night came again and several of the boys decided to turn their horses loose so they could forage for food on their own and hopefully find shelter from the storm.

 

 

 

The Hoffman place was located 14 miles from Canyon in the Texas Panhandle, and with roads still impassable, provisions began to run low. On the third night, dinner was meat and bread, and cold well water because the coffee was gone. Finally, the fourth day brought sunshine and a break in the clouds.

For four days and three nights, the Hoffman’s had hosted 150 young men and women at their house-warming. A cold and crowded winter stomp for certain, but no doubt, a story that was told for many years after.

Wishes for a beautiful and fun NEW YEAR!

REF: from the collection of historical writings depicting life on the High Plains by Laura V. Hamner.

 

Natalie Bright is a blogger, author and speaker. Her fun, historical western TROUBLE IN TEXAS series for middle grades, is a wild west adventure for the entire family, and the RESCUE ANIMAL series features true stories about rescue horses.  Read about Natalie’s grandmother and her cherry salad recipe, selected for “THE WESTERN WRITERS OF AMERICA COOKBOOK: Favorite Recipes, Cooking Tips, and Writing Wisdom” (TwoDot Publishing, June 2017). I you love women’s fiction, her novella is a dark, drama set in Texas 1930’s titled MAGGIE’S BETRAYAL, selected for the anthology, OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66.  Click on the BOOKS tab at the top of the page for more information.