Texans do love their dance halls. The ties remain strong even among those forced to leave the state, so strong that families often will hold annual picnics or reunions at their favorite pavilion or hall.
When the big oak at Crider’s burned, rumors began circulating that the dance floor had been lost, and people grieved. When the re-opening of Gilley’s in Pasadena was announced, urban cowboys everywhere rejoiced.
From Austin’s Broken Spoke to Gruene Hall to the old pavilions in Palacios and Garner State Park, Texans continue to waltz with Ernest Tubb, two-step with Willie and hoot-n-holler their assent when Asleep at the Wheel declares Bob Wills still is the King of Western swing.
But here and there, away from the halls and saloons, far from the honkey-tonks, pavilions and bars, music flows on, fresh and sweet like an underground spring, bubbling up through unexpected cracks in the routines of everyday life to provide beauty, solace and cheer. The harmonica tucked into a saddle-bag, the fiddle easily plucked from the wall, the well-worn guitar or mandolin carried onto the porch of an evening – these not only entertain, they help to give voice to the mysterious bond between a people and their land.
In prickly-pear country, in the land beyond the gaps where even fences disappear, the best instrument of all may be the dobro. “A house without a dobro is a house without a heart” – or so the saying goes. While necessities of the day may require the head to rule, it’s no less true that, as the sun eases down the mountain and the breeze begins to rise, the dobro has its say.
I wish you could have been there to hear it.
bend and bow
of sweet-tendriled smoke.
rise and fall to the river
unfenced, still unridden, alive
with the descanting coyotes’ cry
swirling up toward the muffle-voiced moon.