Cowboys have a long history of enjoying dancing. In West Texas alone, ranches in the late 1800s took turns holding winter dances “when ranch activities slackened a bit,” writes Paul Carlson in his 2014 book, Dancin’ in Anson. The dances were “polite, fancy affairs that might last all night,” and where cowboys were expected to be clean and sober to participate.

People from all over were welcome—families, ranch hands, townsmen, and especially single women. Larger ranches might bring in string bands and oysters shipped on ice in barrels from Denver, Colorado, and they often fed guests supper before the dance and breakfast the morning after. The specific dances were listed in order in a program and guests followed strict rules of decorum.

This photo shows couples dancing a quadrille at the S.M. Swenson and Sons’ Spur Ranch camp in 1918. Canvas was stretched on the ground for a dance floor. The annual Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball in the West Texas town of Anson continues the tradition today of one such dance that began back in 1885.

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