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The Cowboy Stomp & A Texas Norther

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 completed construction on a six-room home and invited everyone from far and near to the house-warming. Furniture had been pushed up against the wall to make room for the dancers. Two guitars and a violin provided music thanks to the Bell brothers of Amarillo. As expected, the party was well attended.

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 straight from the north 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. Going home that night was impossible. The morning light revealed a world heavy with white, which prevented anyone from leaving that next day. The storm raged as wind-driven snow continued into the next night.

The horses that had pulled wagons carrying guests to the party needed tending. On the second 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.

Located fourteen miles from Canyon in the Texas Panhandle, and with roads still impassable, provisions began to run low at the Hoffman’s place. 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.