All join hands and make your ring
Circle to the left with that pretty
little thing When you get halfway, re-sashay
Double back the other way. In a barn that was once a general store that sold blue jeans, red bandanas, cookies, and meat, knots of eight dancers promenaded with their “pretty little things.” Those pretty little things weren’t always gender-correct; kids and old folks of both sexes latched elbows and swung each other around.
Pie was plentiful but booze was absent. This was not Prohibition – it was just that whoever was supposed to bring the wine never showed. And it wasn’t Arkansas, just a Saturday night barn dance in 2012 Warwick.
Orange Environment, the host of the dance, wasn’t sure many people would show for the fundraiser marking their 30th year. They needn’t have worried. They picked the right venue; contras and barn dances have gotten cool again. A hundred people packed the barn, and Orange Environment cleared about $1,000 on the evening.
The Glory Bound Band, with Joe Miedema calling and his daughter Becky Miedema on fiddle, plus a mandolin and a guitar, kept the moves simple enough that most groups got them, and hard enough that everyone felt accomplished after an allemande followed by a promenade actually got them back to their original spot.
Some “ducked the oyster” quite gracefully, others hilariously badly. “We had a lot of learning to do,” Joe Miedema acknowledged. “I was kind of shocked because we’d had it there before. I just thought they would remember more of the moves.”
Miedema picked up the art of calling about 25 years ago. Farmer Rick Vreeland was having a party on his farm and needed a square dance caller. “He called me,” Miedema recalled. “I didn’t know nothing, but I went and got some books and records.”
Miedema is entirely self-taught, and apparently a visual learner. “Believe it or not I use little marshmallows to figure out where the [couples] gotta go.” He paused, chuckled, and paused, like he was debating whether that was something he should have shared. “Sometimes in the book it’ll say, ‘allamande left,’ well what does that mean? Two marshmallows is a couple. I just kind of move ‘em around until I figure out where they gotta go.”
Photo and story by Becca Tucker