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February hearts calendar2009

by Tamara Hillman

Howdy Folks,

February first, and hopefully the worst of the winter-weather has passed in your area. Not only did we get hit hard with our economy being in the tank, but the weather has been some of the coldest recorded in thirty years….

Must be Global Warming, huh?

Eastern Washington Farm

I remember when I was just a wee squirt how folks entertained themselves in the little country town where I grew up. Not only were we big pinochle players—And just about every other card game known to man, such as Rook, Gin Rummy, Canasta, etc. We also worked picture puzzles, read books, and did crosswords. A table was always set up thru’ winter months for this sort of entertainment. And something else we did was listen to our favorite shows on the radio. We always laid on our bellies in front of the old Admiral radio set to catch every word. (When we finally got TV in 1956, Mom had to holler at us continually to NOT SIT SO CLOSE to the television or we’d surely go blind.)

When we all had cabin fever, the folks who could play anything from a piano to a washtub would pass the word that there was gonna be a Saturday night barn-dance in the next little town north of us by nine miles. No one would think of missing it! Everyone joined in the fun for miles around.

No babysitters in those days—families did things together, so our parents and every other couple grabbed some sweet treats Moms always had baked and ready for company, bundled up their kids, chained up the tires on the ol’ Chevy, and headed for the same destination—the Winthrop barn.

Once there, coats were left on built-in benches that surrounded the barn’s great hall on three sides. A huge, old barrel stove was stoked up and warm by the first to arrive, and the fiddles and band were screechin’ out some warm ups on cold instruments. (Not that you’d be interested, but I can still name those musicians who always were willing to show up and give the valley-ites a night out to dance and socialize.) There were fiddlers, accordion players, a ragtime piano player, guitarists, mouth harp players, drummers, and a guy who played spoons or the washboard. They were darn good too, and I only know ONE of them that read notes. (My Dad never volunteered and I wonder to this day why because he played guitar and mouth harp really well around home.)

Anyone big enough to walk—danced. I remember, as a little grade-schooler being asked by Dad and Mom’s friends to dance. That’s how we learned. By the time we were teenagers, the boys weren’t so shy about grabbin’ a gal and swingin’ her around on the grand ol’ wooden floors we had at the Barn, Grange Hall, Eagle’s Hall, and Sawdust Makers Hall where most dances were held in those days. Adults joined in and danced side by side with their kids who were dating. No Chaperone’s needed.

Grange Hall

The tunes were mostly western which was popular nationwide at that time. I still say some of the greatest music ever heard was from the BIG BAND ERA, and SONGS OF THE FIFTIES. It was tame, words understood, and meant to have a beat the most clumsy two-left-footer could easily dance to.

After a couple of hours of whoopin’ it up, and catching up on the latest gossip and feed prices, there would be an intermission. One of the guys on stage would announce where refreshments were being served, and we’d all troop over and get in line with paper plates to get a couple of cookies and usually Kool-Aid to drink. If anyone wanted anything stronger, they’d have to go drink it in their car because booze was NOT allowed in the hall in front of the children. Most folks didn’t drink much or couldn’t afford to if they wanted to anyway, so not many left the hall.

By then, it would be about nine o’clock, so after our treats, the folks would lay us younger ones on their coats along the side benches, and we’d fall asleep in spite of the loud music and camaraderie all around us.

At the end of the evening, we were gathered up and carried to the car (unless we were older than liftin’ age) to surprisingly wake up snug in our beds the next morning.

Guess my sentimental side gives me more pleasure these days than the reality of today’s world, but that ain’t all bad, is it?

Granny Tam

Here’s a poem about old barns, and what they represented besides dance halls when they were left abandoned…

Weathered Old Barn

Beyond the fence, on a muddy road,

a barn stands stark amid fields—fresh mowed.


Worn and beaten by wind and rain,

never to be used for shelter again.


Fading red on old barn boards,

hoot owls nesting by the hoards.

Barn Owls Nesting

Aging stanchions with rotting bins,

roof slightly bowing—caving in.


Doors cracked and broken—weather bent,

off the runners where they once went.


Decaying, alone—since the house is gone,

chimney stoic on an un-mown lawn.


The old barn stands, although it’s leaning,

but in it’s day it had such meaning—


The center of life each working day,

folks toiling, existing without much pay.


Families held it in high esteem,

believing the barn contained their dreams—


Dreams of the future for their generation,

a chance to live free in this great nation.


Raising some stock, and children too,

a farm where acres of grain once grew.


Barn in Kalispell

I can just imagine in that very barn,

men would gather to spin a yarn.


Applying oil to harness and saddle

readying them for the morning straddle.


Working at their daily chores—

storms often raging outside those doors.


Farm animals cozy in every stall,

smells of hay, and that’s not all.


Even manure was a common smell,

and frothy, white milk fresh in the pail.


Doves in the rafters—softly cooing,

barn cats stretching, licking, mewing.


Towering loft—storing loads of feed

in cold winter months to meet the need.


A place where children sought great fun,

swinging from ropes in summer sun.


Old weathered barn—standing lonely and sad,

recalling memories of the one we once had.


Tamara Hillman


Country Dancers

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