Friday, November 30, 2007

The Tasmanian dancer

Prior to the era of corporate farms and recreational ranches, rural communities would get together for many different functions. There were fund-raising dinners, local theatrical performances, potluck socials, sporting events, and who knows what else. Our community would have an annual dance at the fire hall.

As a youngster, I was always excited to go to the dance. I was not a dancer, but I loved to visit with my friends, plus laugh at some of the dances those old farmers and ranchers would do. My favorite passage was: “Better to sit, watch, and be presumed an idiot then go out, dance, and remove all doubt.”

I can remember my mother and two sisters being very nervous on the day of the dance. Their greatest fear was that Bullet would ask them to dance. Bullet was a man who believed in doing things as quickly as possible. His style of western swing dancing most closely resembled the cartoon character The Tasmanian Devil.

Community involvement was very high at these functions, so the women in my family found peace with safety in numbers. If Bullet asked each girl to dance once, the burden would not be hard to bear.

As a musician, I am forced to use tempo as the basis for each dance step. I assume that is the rule for dancing. With Bullet, the song tempo doesn't matter. He has one speed; Lightning.

It became apparent that one day I would have to learn to dance. My sideline spectating was not resulting in dates with the girls. Finding a dance that came naturally would be the key for not looking like the idiot on the dance floor. As in poker, if you can't spot the moron on the dance floor in the first five minutes, you are the moron.

While shoveling a grain bin, I noticed many repetitive motions that could be incorporated into a dance move. During the bin cleaning process, you have to put your left foot on the sweep auger while shoveling from your left to your right.

With your left foot out, move your arms from left to right with the rhythm of the music. This dance is called the “Bin Cleaner”. To spice up the dance, you can add the “Combine Cleaner” at various intervals.

To do the Combine Cleaner, just pretend a pile of chaff just went down the back of your neck. This forces your head to come up with a sudden forward thrust from your shoulders, while gritting your teeth for effect. Make sure your arms are down at your sides, or you will bear a slight resemblance to a chicken.

The “Hay Baler” is the next move every farmer can use in his dance arsenal. With the understanding that all balers will expectedly break down with two hours to go and rain clouds imminent, simply practice the motion of kicking the side of the baler with your outside foot. This dance can be used with the Combine Cleaner also.

I would go through the Rock Picker, the Electrical Glitch, the Tractor Stretcher, and the Panicking Wheat Marketer, but those dances have to remain as my own trademark dance moves. Bullet is still alive and well and I don't want him learning my secrets.

Having a large assortment of dances to choose from is a great way to make every community gathering a memorable and enjoyable one. I'm sure there are a few teenagers who would love to learn to dance like me. I can almost guarantee them success with the opposite sex if they will just watch my moves carefully.

If I can manage to get this community together, which is made up of three farmers, two ranchers, four retired couples, a few self-employed entrepreneurs, and fifteen recreational home owners, perhaps I can show them I am really not the moron on the dance floor, despite what the all the rumors say.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, November 2007, Kevin Duling.

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