square dance

My husband’s uncle, Bobby Cole was a man who liked things to run on a slow, easy pace. That might be why he and his family moved the the dinky town of Kennebec, South Dakota. Bobby’s family was from that area, so it was an area he was comfortable with, and his family all agreed that it felt like home. Growing up in central South Dakota, Bobby liked the country lifestyle, and never really wanted to be anywhere else, even though they moved to Winnemucca, Nevada after a lightning fire destroyed their hotel, taking with it their income. That was a tough time for them. They had a life in Kennebec. They square danced, and socialized with friends. Nevertheless, they made the move to Winnemucca and settled into the area.

Both Bobby and Linda got jobs at the local casinos, and found that they enjoyed their lives there. Winnemucca was a very different place than Kennebec, but they liked the new social side of it. There was always new people to see and meet, and the gambling was fun for them. Like most people, they probably gambled more at first, but after a while, it becomes a normal part of life, and you end up doing it less. For most people, gambling…giving your money away to the casinos gets old, and you do it much less. Whenever we visited, they might play Keno a couple of times, but they would rather be at their house outside of town, visiting with us than hanging out in the casinos.

Bobby and Linda were always fun people to be around, and we enjoyed the visits we made to their home both in Kennebec and Winnemucca. I’m so glad that we took the time to really get to know Bobby, Linda, and their kids, Sheila and Pat. We always felt like we had been a blessing to them, as they were to us. All too soon, Bobby left us, following a courageous battle with cancer on May 30, 2014, while seeking treatment in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Today would have been Bobby’s 78th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Bobby. We love and miss you very much.

The MusiciansMany years ago, radios were not as common, and could not be used outside the home, so when families would gather together for a dinner or dance, music by radio was not really an option. I think people probably learned to play instruments so they could entertain themselves and others. Music has been a part of my family’s heritage for a far back as I have been able to trace, but it has taken many different twists and turns. This picture is one of my Uncle Bill’s favorites. He calls it “The Musicians”, which is exactly what it is, but it was named with a little mix of respect and sentiment that said what a special thing Uncle Bill thought the little group was. My grandfather Dad near Whitefish, MThad taught each of his kids to play the violin, so they knew what it took to play music. It took a lot of practice and if you were going to play at dances and such, you had to pack all of your equipment and go to where the dance was and play, often late, then pack up and go home…all in a covered wagon way back then.

Nevertheless, even with all of the work and such, musicians who really loved what they did, made the sacrifice, and the rest of the people were glad, because a good band can be hard to find. Barn dances, square dances, and other such functions would not be the same without the musicians who made them possible. Those barn dances were the thing that the people looked forward to all week, or sometimes all month. It was like out going to a show these days. If you didn’t get to go, and it was planned, you were really bummed out.
Uncle Bill playing the guitar 
I remember taking square dancing in school, and how much we hated that, but to those people, it was the latest thing. When you think about it, square dancing probably was the start of the line dancing of today, just like the music was the beginning of some of the music of today…at least the country music. It’s funny how much music has changed over the years, and yet really the musicians have not changed all that much…other than in looks. They still devote a lot of time to practice and work really hard to perfect their art. Whether it is country, contemporary, or even rock, being a good musician takes a lot of dedication in order to become great.

My grandmother’s brother on my mom’s side, has been an interesting character to me. I always liked Great Uncle Bill, and his wife, Great Aunt Stella, but I can’t say that I always knew him very well. Recently as I have been researching my family’s history, I have again come across Great Uncle Bill, both in pictures and in stories. I found a cousin named Marlene, who had told a story about a time in Great Uncle Bill and Great Aunt Stella’s life when they lived in Kemmerer, Wyoming. Great Uncle Bill had worked for the Railroad for a number of years, and while living in Kemmerer, the railroad provided them with a beautiful place outside of town. It was a two story house and a bunk house and a little house just for the railroad car that they used every day. The bunkhouse served a dual purpose, becoming a dance hall when it was time to do Great Uncle Bill’s favorite passtime, which is dancing, and more specifically square dancing. They loved holding those dances, and usually had more than a dozen couples in attendance.

Marlene tells about the summer she and her siblings got to spend with Great Uncle Bill and Great Aunt Stella. She painted a picture of Great Aunt Stella cooking on the old wood cook stove the house had. For one of the dances, Marlene and her siblings got to help bake cupcakes for the dance in that old wood cook stove. She tells me that Great Aunt Stella could make that cook stove create the most wonderful things to eat. The cupcakes were frosted with green and blue frosting, which were met with mixed feelings at the dance…probably because of the blue and green lips they would create.

Great Uncle Bill also loved to play the fiddle and was an excellent caller for the square dances. Marlene always had such a great time, because she had learned to square dance, and was better than most of the adults. It must have been great fun to be able to keep up with the adults at a real square dance. And Great Uncle Bill could really play the fiddle. It was his passion. He had won many competitions and was a grand champion, several times over.

After emailing back and forth and reading the story Marlene posted on Ancestry.com, I feel like I now know my Great Uncle Bill and my Great Aunt Stella better. Great Uncle Bill passed away in December, 2005, and Great Aunt Stella passed away in December, 2009. Today, his birthday, Great Uncle Bill would have been 96 years old. I can’t help but think about how sad it is that the fiddle is now silenced, the dances over, but then, that is just on this earth. I’m sure there is room in Heaven for a dancing fiddle player like my Great Uncle Bill and his favorite partner, Stella.

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