A week ago, on a night that was fraught with rain, blowing wind and cold, after what had been beautiful early autumn weather, we drove down for a barn dance. A barn dance and everything it conjures up. Porter Waggoner style band, slicked down hair and cowboy shirts. Picking and grinning. Straw bales to sit on and country style food which would include some kind of barbeque. Women in gingham dresses with stiff crinolines underneath. Yeah, I was letting my imagination of what I remembered barn dances to be and HeHaw carry me away.
The owner of the huge farm where we train was having a stock auction the next day. This was a thank you to all who would attend and those of us who train dogs were invited also. Our friend, Jim, spends countless hours working on the conservation end of the farms, and when Mary inivited us, it sounded like fun.
The main farm is an old beef and dairy operation. It has a couple of huge old barns, in various stages of being repaired and preserved. There is an auction building, a couple of houses and the owner's attractive office. The barn dance was being held in the largest of the barns in the mammoth haymow. It was likely 20 feet from the peak of the bow roofed barn to the haymow floor. A narrow stairway led the way up. Upon ascending to the haymow, we were amazed at what had transformed. Twenty or thirty round tables were set up with white linen tablecloths and pots of autumn flowers. Bales of straw were scattered around giving the barn dance ambiance. A bar complete with neon lights and beer on tap and a huge buffet were set up on one side. The smell of grilled steak permeated the mow area.
We found seats a few rows back where a well known country band was playing. Great food and very good company and music that made my country loving toes tap. While not many of the training group were there, we found people we knew. Now I tell all this because I am not a stranger to barn dances in a haymow. Though most of my memories of my only other haymow dance are on fuzzy 8mm film, there are warm, multi colored remembrances of little girls with sailor hats and bandanas wrapped around their necks who danced together all night. It was myself at maybe 4 or 5 and my aunt who is my senior by 5 years. My brother and I were her constant companions for our first decade of life. The barn dance as far as I can remember it, was music, darkness and tall people. I vaguely remember the straw strewn about and the thrill of being with the adults, but past that I really only have the pictures and the film. My grandpa was the one of the original home movie guys and there was seldom a celebration at his house that did not include blinding light bars and the whirl of his movie camera. I am preserved, for better or worse, on that 8 mm film somewhere now stored between the aunts and uncles.
Why that particular memory has stayed with me for so long, I'm not sure, but it was a warm memory, and I still remember how special I felt with my sailor hat and red bandana scarf. This barn dance was much more luxurious and the food probably better than the potluck I am sure was the standard at my grandparents barn dance, but after all these years I still smile when I think of that dance in the haymow, and the good fun and friendship that exuded from the big old barn which had housed dairy cows earlier in the day. It was friends and neighbors taking time to just be together, knowing how to have fun in the simplest of ways. Knowing how to laugh and sing and rejoice. They worked hard during the week, but never missed opportunties to party in the old fashioned sense. They knew their place in the world, even if that world was only the county wide. It was simplicity with no agenda and something I miss more than anything. Perhaps it is why that barn dance stands out in my mind.
This barn dance was fun. It was a novelty for most there. It was about smart leather coats, Miranda Lambert renditions, and catered food with grilled steaks. Many who attended I am sure thought they had found the authentic barn dance, 2011 style. But I know better, and while one was pleasant and something different, the other was the stuff my memories are made of....