From Hell to Breakfast Page: 91
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DANCING MAKES RAIN
partly filled with water. The head is kept taut by inverting
the drum to wet it. Beside him walks a man with an enor-
mous gourd rattle, so old that it is ivory black. The leader of
the group carries a drum-stick, beats the drum, and leads the
These eighteen people begin to go very slowly around
the fire there in the full morning sun. The drum is soft,
you can hardly hear the rattle, the singing is whispering.
One by one and a few at a time, the women and girls come
from the edge of the clearing and make a line behind the
singing group. They begin to dance.
The step is soft and light and quick; footsteps on bare
earth are almost soundless. The left foot goes forward with
a swift pat, the right is drawn shuffling after it; the step is
repeated. Around and around and around. Drummer, rat-
tler, singer, dancers. The line lengthens; there are grand-
mothers and there are babies so small they must be carried.
But except for the singers there are no men. It is all a
dancing of women.
There are four songs. It does no good to try to count the
number of times the fire is circled to each song, for as the
line lengthens the encircling logs are moved away from the
fire to make more room. It becomes a pattern of color and
movement; endlessly repeating yet endlessly changed. Then
there is a quick, soft, sudden stroke on the drum-head and
the pattern is broken as when one sets a kaleidoscope down.
The women go back to their own places in the shade; the
older people withdraw to the house, and there is a settling
and resting until it shall be time for the next dance.
Each woman has worn her best clothes. They are all made
on one pattern, the skirts fully, gracefully sweeping the
ground; the blouses loose at the waist; held with a bertha
close about the neck. Each woman wears ropes of black
bugle beads around her throat, and ties them in a spanking
crisp big bow at the nape. The hair is braided in a single
pig-tail down the back. The feet are bare or are shod; with
high heels and low heels and moccasins and cuban heels and
shoes that have lost their heels, all around the circle. All
day long the pattern of the feet remains fascinating.
Here’s what’s next.
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Dobie, J. Frank (James Frank), 1888-1964. From Hell to Breakfast, book, 1944; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc67649/m1/99/: accessed March 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.