Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Reflections from the Old West: How to Enjoy a Dance

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
You often hear of the lone bandit, but you seldom hear of the lone cowboy. They usually traveled in pairs, especially the bronc busters. They'd often pool their finances so one of them could bet on a horse race or get in a poker game. If one had money, they both had money, and if one was broke you could bet your bottom dollar they were both flat.
Often you'd see a long, tall, gangling peeper and a sawed-off runt, as different mentally and morally as they were physically, team together. In the spring and summer they'd go from ranch to ranch breaking horses. When that kind of work was scarce or out of season, they'd either ride chuck line or hunt jobs with the roundups.
If an outfit needed only one man, nothing doin', both had to have jobs together or they'd travel on. If one got into trouble they were both into it up to their necks regardless of right or wrong. These old cowboys would pal up 'till death do us part' or until a girl 'throwed her loop' on one of 'em, and that was worse than death to the one that was left.
Such a pair of pals used to inhabit (or infest, as the case may be) our country down on the Rio Grande. Old Slim was about six-feet-two-inches and Shorty about five-feet in his socks (if he wore such things). Once in a great while they would attend a dance. Slim didn't dance and Shorty couldn't, for in just a short time he would become paralyzed on hooch and find a vacant chair against the wall and there he'd sit and quietly dangle his feet, keeping time to the music and humming a little tune.
On one occasion, Shorty got filled to the gills and located himself a comfortable seat in a corner of the hall and Slim coiled his six-feet-two on the floor alongside his pal. Both were enjoying the affair to the utmost in spite of the various and sundry fights that were being pulled off outside. It seemed that a big husky, the bully of the community, had gotten hold of some fighting whiskey and was matching one fight after another.
After whipping several on the outside and intimidating the balance of the crowd, he decided he'd kinda clean up any irresponsible persons on the inside. He was pretty well soused and also flushed with victory. He staggered up in front of Shorty and said, ''What in hell you patting your feet for? Pipe down or I'll twist your nose." Shorty didn't realize that he was being spoken to; besides, his vision was so impaired with booze he couldn't much see past his nose, so he didn't reply, just continued to pat his foot and hum his little tune.
That enraged the cock-of-the-walk more than if Shorty had replied, so he said, ''I'll twist your nose and drag you outta here, you little dried-up shrimp." When he reached out to make good his boast, old Slim shot that fist of his up like the strike of a rattler and connected on the point of the bully's chin. The bully lit into the middle of the floor flat on his back. Such things being common occurrences, the dancers just danced around him.
Slim coiled himself back in his corner and Shorty continued patting his hand humming his toodle-do and toodle-dum. When the bully came to, he got up and shook his head like a catfish in muddy water and walked up in front of Shorty with wonderment on his face and stared at him until he attracted Shorty's attention. Shorty said to him, ''G'wan now, big boy or I'll knock you down ag'in tweedle-de de twiddle dum--'' There was no further interruption of the festivities.
Written by George Phillips in True West Magazine June, 1962


  1. What a great story, Paisley. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks, Caroline. I love reading these tidbits of the past and hear how the cowboys lived their lives in the west. It gives us a glimpse of how the little things happened in their lives.

  3. What a fun story. Thanks for the entertainment! And I'm so glad to see you back.

  4. Thank you, Celia. It is nice to be back. :)


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