Category Archives: Dancing #1

Fifth Stomp

FIFTH STOMPdance floor

Our last in this series of tributes to dance happened about 2010. I was enjoying a patio in Boise’s Hyde Park. On the grass median between the sidewalk and the street a fun trio was playing western swing.

Well. Don’t get me near a slide guitar. I couldn’t help but get on the sidewalk and start to dance.

As my fellow patio diners looked on with expressions of indulgence, jealousy, or what a jackass, there were five high school girls kitty-corner from the patio. The second they saw me dance they spontaneously shrieked with enthusiasm, ran across the road, and joined in.

They were filled with the glee to dance and it was a joy to see.

It was not until they were on the sidewalk, dancing, that any of them hesitated, aware others were watching. So I distracted them with a twirl or two and all was well.

Here’s to the celebration of being we call dancing, my friends! (Clink!) I’ll see you on the floor.

Fourth Stomp

FOURTH STOMP

Dean Hitch hikingIn December of 1968 I set off hitchhiking around the country. First stop, New York City.

New York City was my first stop thanks to my friend Jim Housley. He had moved Back East (as we Westerners say) and offered a place to crash outside of Princeton, New Jersey. Within days we were in The City (yes, it deserves the capitals), checking out the possibilities.

By dusk we were at the top of a flight of stairs in lower Manhattan knocking on a black door. At eye level a square panel slid to the side. After Jim was recognized and I was eyeballed the black door was opened. This was the winter before the Stonewall riot and gay bars in New York were still under siege.

Under siege, perhaps, but that wasn’t stopping anyone. The place was packed, the dance floor was large, the music was loud and the beers and smokes were expensive.

I egged Jim onto the dance floor. He settled into a repetitive, quiet, still, eyes-closed throb of a dance, knees bending and arms keeping rhythm with hands in simple bobs from navel to knees. I concentrated on him, my arms in arcs, dancing in and away, circling, in and away, twirling, ever focused on his quiet throb.

During the dance it became easier to move without having to find space to move. My long arms opened up to loops, arcing up away from him and swooping down toward him, the energy brought to focus on his quiet throbs.

As the music approached its final chord I focused on our surroundings. There was space all around us. No one else was dancing. They were all watching.

Later that summer I was in The City with acquaintances and ended up in another dance dive. I met several guys and we enjoyed hitting the floor. For some reason I went on a finger rapping bender. Every song, when we were holding one another, I was thumping my fingers on their backs, like playing the piano. It seemed so cleaver.

A few days later I was reading one of the underground newspapers that were cropping up at the time. There was a fun article about what to expect from dance partners based on the partner’s name. There was Bill and Joe and Hank and a long list of others, including Dean.

And what to expect when dancing with a Dean? According to one New York City newspaper, Deans drum their fingers on you.

How did The City DO that ? ? ? ? !

Third Stomp

THIRD STOMP

NOTE: this is the third in a series of stories. If you have not read the second of these stories I strongly recommend you do before reading this one:  Second Stomp

Also, if anyone has a photo of the Big Pine sign, I’d sure like a copy!

BigPine photo

My most fond memory of dancing happened in the mid-1970s, after I’d returned to Boise from my roaming days and when I was a student at Boise State. It happened at the Big Pine Tavern, now the Dutch Goose, near 36th and State in Boise. It is within blocks of where I grew up.

Two friends and I, Dorothy Burrows and Bev Fickle, spent many nights at dance haunts all over Boise. I was also a member of new theater troupe, Theatre in a Trunk, organized by Randy Krawl. Randy’s parents and he were a dance band with a weekly gig rocking out the Big Pine, so Dorothy, Bev and I went to check it out.

The Big Pine lived up to its name—a huge room, the front third dedicated to a bar and pool tables and one COLOR TV for when a game was on one of the four channels we had back then. The back two-thirds of the bar was mostly dance floor, with tables stuffed around the sides and a small stage at the far end. As was the custom, the place reeked of stale smoke and beer but soon the sweat from overcrowded dancers canceled that out.

The Krawl family band played the classics, leaning toward western and occasionally rocking the floor with a fast rock tune played to keep the “kids” happy.

The floor was always packed and behaved like old-fashioned dance floors did, where everyone danced in a huge circle, two steps forward, one back, creating a gyre slowly moving counter clockwise if viewed from above. Fast or slow, swinging or holding tight, everyone kept pace with everyone else as the floor rotated to the music.

And the floor was filled with every age. Eighty year olds were dancing with their sweethearts, possibly from high school. Parents danced and teenagers danced. It was not unusual for an oldster to mention, “You sure can keep up with that,” as we kids were returning from the nightly rendition of Wipe Out. Nor was it unusual for we kids to tell the oldsters how smooth and fine they looked as they returned from a song we had heard back when mom and dad were watching Lawrence Welk. But for the most part we were all dancing to all the tunes. It was a family of humans sharing our common bond.

It was, indeed, a stomp, just as I had remembered the dances from my childhood. And it happened every weekend. Dorothy and Bev and I became regulars and we began bringing friends.

One of those crowded Big Pine nights our table had grown to seven or eight and I was making sure all the ladies had their turns on the floor, including a newcomer who had been talked into joining us by friends of friends.

She was a lovely dancer, catching every dip and feeling free to let me know what her feet were in the mood for. By the third dance we were sliding through every hole between dancers, finding our own room for moves large and small. Like silk in the breeze, we responded to every tweaked hip and flipped foot and dipped shoulder. There was no leading and no following. The music filled us both and we both responded exactly the same way. I remembered the Stanley Stomp from my childhood. It was deja vu all over again.

And, yea, we talked. She was in town, studying. She was moving back to where she’d come from, back to eastern Idaho. We danced and I thought about it. And I felt it.

The next time we were on the floor I put my arm across her back, holding her beside me as we strolled forward to the beat of an easy Western twang.

I said, “You know, when I was in the sixth grade my folks took us to the Stanley Stomp.”

For the first time I felt her step faultier. I swung her into myself, left hand raised, swaying in the classic posture.

“I asked a little girl to dance and I’ve never danced with anyone like that since. She was from some place that could have been the other side of the moon for all I knew, although she did her best to tell me where Rexburg was.”

Everyone else had to dance by. She couldn’t move and I didn’t want to.

Then, simultaneously, our feet caught a beat and, once again, we danced the night away.

Second Stomp

For the story of my first stomp (in Silver City, Idaho)  see:   FIRST STOMP

SECOND STOMP

My second stomp in Idaho’s wilderness was in Stanley.camping 1958

It must have been 1958, when I was in the sixth grade. We were camping at Redfish Lake, hiking the trails over the Sawtooth Mountains, when the good citizens of Stanley decided a community dance would be just the ticket to attract business and a chance to get together outside of the several bars in town—not that I think the second reason had much to do with it. It was the first official Stanley Stomp I had heard about and, as I remember Mom and Dad talking, it may have been the first ever.

Stanley Stomp. I still like the way the name rolls about in the mind.

It was a big community hall and filled with revelers. Mom pointed out a little girl sitting with her family across the dance floor and encouraged me to go ask her to dance. But I wanted to dance with Mom and she indulged me one or two before all but booting me over to the pretty girl looking for something to do. I’d had one experience asking a girl to dance at the Silver City stomp, so had a bit of confidence. The pretty girl said yes, she’d dance with me.both Stanleys

We started picking our way, two steps forward and one back, around the edge of all the big folks on the floor.

It was funny, dancing with her. Every time I as much as tweaked a hip or flipped a foot or dipped a shoulder the least bit of an inch, she was right there doing the same. When she’d even get her foot started on a twirl I was swinging into her movement. We experimented more and more and got bolder and bolder in our steps. Every time she was not even a second behind my moves and I responded instantly to hers.

It was heaven. The music filled us both and we both responded exactly the same way. Before the first dance was over, I was hooked.

And, yea, we talked. She was from some place named Rexberg and, try as she may to explain where that was, it sounded like the other side of the moon. Not that I cared. We danced every dance and for all I know the only reason Mom and Dad stayed so late was because I was dancing the night away.

First Stomp

The first time I experienced big people whooping it up was at the Idaho Cattlemen’s Association convention in Silver City. It was 1956 and I was enjoying the summer between the fourth and fifth grades.

We spent Saturday checking out the relics and sharing the town with the cattlemen and every other tourist who had come to check out the big party—although I was too young to know a big party was in store. As evening approached mom cooked dinner over the campfire and after the dishes were dried we headed to the big Masonic Hall, an ancient wooden structure precariously bridging Jordan Creek.

Other than the girls assigned to me in Lowell Grade School dance classes in Boise, I had never cut a rug with anyone except my mom, so I pestered her for dances until nearly the last song. She finally convinced me to go ask a little girl sitting three tables down. Wow! I found out girls say yes, they would like to dance! She and I enjoyed a few dances, trying to keep out from under the cowboy’s flailing boots.

And man, did those cattlemen love to dance! The old building shook and bounced and trembled but somehow managed to keep from breaking right in two and falling into the creek. But then, that building has seen many a raucous time and still does today for all I know.

On the way back to camp we passed a drunken cowboy just as he pointed out a truck and confidently impressed his buddy with his spelling talents: “Jeep — J-E-P-P.” Dad moved between we and the revelers.

There was whooping it up in the trembling Masonic Hall and more whoops on the street, but they were tame compared to our arrival the night before, all thanks to Flip.

Flip was a young, frisky, beagle-lab mix of a pound rescue. He knew that once we were on dirt roads he could get out and run beside the car. By the time we were a half mile on the dirt road to Silver city he was yowling and whining and barking and bouncing all over the car, beside himself with anticipation. Soon he was out, running full tilt as dad drove just slow enough so he could stay in front of us. It was downright doggy delight. Then Flip’s first jackrabbit darted across the road. Flip cut in front of the car and was gone into the desert.

We called and honked and yelled. It was hours before Flip was back in sight, much less back in the car.

We had planned on setting up camp with plenty of sunlight but our arrival at the campground was after dark and all the good people had nestled their heads down for a good night’s sleep. There were six of us—two adults, three kids, and one excited dog—with a big wall-sided tent to put up and pots and pans to rattle around fixing some grub. It was all done in headlights, flashlights, and stumbling around in the dark.

About the time the commotion settled down Flip returned from his exploring, whimpering and rubbing his nose. Dad’s flashlight revealed a snout full of porcupine quills.

Dad got the pliers and Mom did her best to hold him still, but Flip was having nothing to do with those quills being pulled. We kids cried and yelled, then screamed, about hurting poor Flip. Mom and Dad were trying to keep their voices down but nerves were on edge. Finally Dad got a noose around Flip’s nose and Flip immediately gave up.

The pliers pulled the skin around his mouth to the ripping point. Just when his lips were ready to split from his skull the quill would let go. One by one the task went on until the last quill released. Then Dad found more quills on the inside of Flip’s lips and in his tongue and gums, and he pulled those as well.

We got to bed by three in the morning, wondering how we’d be able to feed Flip through his swollen mouth. But come morning, Flip was poking his nose in our faces, eager to have us up, chipper as a sparrow and without a sign of ever having been riddled with the effects of arguing with barbed quills.

Our fellow campers remembered our arrival much longer than it took Flip to recover. Even so, in all our subsequent outdoor adventures he never again argued with a porcupine.

My dad Merrill, sister Nyla, myself and sister Vicky
Silver City, 1956

DCP_2251 copy

Masonic Hall, Silver City, Idaho
October 9, 2006