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Sunday dinners are becoming a whirlwind of memories. While I’m sweeping the floor or valiantly trying not to lose my breakfast (being in the family way this time is no picnic. If it gets worse every time, I’ll be hopelessly sick after just a few babies). But thinking up the next category of Melinda’s and my favorite things really helps keep my mind off my queasiness.
10. Our Favorite Dancing
This week, Melinda and I argued and bantered over our favorite type of dancing. Hands down, mine is a barn dance. Melinda’s favorite dancing activity (no surprise here) is the governor’s Christmas Ball. She was very put out that Mother brought me along during the Christmas of 1879 (I was eleven) to partner with the governor’s son William when his cousin Sophia could not attend. You can read all about that here, in a never before posted story.
But, back to my favorite dancing activity, the barn dance.
A barn dance is nothing like the Governor’s Ball, and if all dances were barn dances, I would like them more. A barn dance is loads of fun! For one thing, I don’t have to get dressed up . . . much. I can’t wear overalls or even a split skirt. But I can wear an everyday dress. A nice dark one that won’t show the stain when I spill the punch (which I often do). All my friends are there, and the adults, and practically the entire town. It’s a community affair, and all ages come together, mostly to visit. The old ladies join in some of the slower dances, but mostly they sit around and gossip.
The nice thing about a barn dance is that everybody dances with everybody. The fiddler (Mr. John McMurray for his dances) stands on a barrel to play! Yikes! I always wait to see if he fall off when he really gets going. You really don’t have partners too much. Well, that’s not entirely true. You change around a lot but usually end up with the partner you began the dance with.
Barn dances are a lot of fun. I dance with Cory and I even dance with Jack, but it sometimes takes him a whole hour for him to get up the nerve to ask me for a round. That’s the round where we were once flying so fast that my hand slipped out of Jack’s and crash! I sailed into the table with the punch bowl. Thankfully, the bowl itself only rocked and splashed punch on my dress but didn’t spill over.
Everybody takes turns being partners with everybody else. Now, that is the kind of dance I like. Chad usually breaks down and agrees to take me around for a few steps. Usually, he and I don’t get along too well at these dances, especially the kind where you have the same partner for the entire dance. He takes the opportunity to ride me about something I’ve done, and I can’t run off, not without being rude. But at a barn dance, it’s even fun to dance with your brothers. Or your friends. I even taught little Emily a few steps of a dance she hadn’t seen before. I love the Virginia Reel. Fast steps, twirling, and everybody dances with everybody else. None of this pairing off for the whole dance for me!
McMurrays’ barn is the only barn in town with a real floor. They did it on purpose, so they can host the dances! I tried to pick out some of the people I recognized, but this photo is not very clear. I picked out Chad, of course, even if I couldn’t see his face. Who wouldn’t recognize the easy, carefree way he’s leaning against the post? Cory, of course, had to be head and shoulders over everybody else, and I even picked out our schoolmaster, Mr. Foster. Standing so proper, with his hands in front, and skinny as a rail. Jack looks younger and shorter than he really is. The camera must be playing tricks. When Jack saw this photo, he tried to snatch it out of my hands so he could tear the side (with him) away. Ha! That won’t happen. I buried myself in the back and slouched, so you can’t see me.
Melinda’s favorite dancing
My sister did not get very much limelight about her favorite dancing venue. I got carried away with the barn dances. Melinda’s favorite activity is (and always has been) dancing. She used to like barn dances until she turned thirteen and was allowed to attend her first ball. Now, she thinks a Christmas or New Year’s Eve ball is the best thing ever invented. Even now, given a chance, she’d join in the upcoming governor’s Christmas ball this year, even with a new baby!
And told her I’m happy to cuddle William on an out-of-the-way corner so she and Peter can go around the floor in as many waltzes and quadrille’s as they like. Riley will be more than happy to mind Jared. He’ll probably take him out on the dance floor and twirl him around. And maybe, just maybe talk Riley into one teensy-weensy dance. But he’s not that light on his feet, not even after Chad taught him how to waltz for our wedding.
I will never forget the Governor’s ball a few years ago in Sacramento. Melinda was knee-deep in young men all wanting to waltz her around the ballroom floor. Even the governor danced with her. I, however, refused to dance with anybody but my brothers when I was a young girl. It was safer that way. At least I know what to talk to them about while we’re dancing, which is horses, cattle, and roundups.
Melinda sometimes finds a corner to take a little rest and drink tea. But she never remains a wall-flower for long! Isn’t that a beautiful dress? She can have it. My sister’s favorite dance step is the waltz with a string orchestra playing “On the Beautiful Blue Danube.”
I ended up wearing a horrible “pink” dress at the New Year’s Even ball in Fresno (welcoming in 1881). Never. Again. It made me look pale and prissy. I never cared for pale or prissy. I managed to find a nice corner for the rest of the evening.