Dogpatch Revisited

by Tammy Surline

The leaves are turning (or in the case of this morning, hanging down with the weight of an early snow) and crisp fall is in the air.  What comes to mind when these signs appear, you ask?  Well for me it’s Sadie Hawkins Day.

Sadie Hawkins Day consists of a dance where the girls get to ask the boys to accompany them. This dance typically takes place in the fall of the year.   Nowadays, this may seem rather old-fashioned and maybe even be considered an affront to women.   But for me, the months of September and October are a reminder of a kinder, gentler time (circa 1983) when the custom was still in full force.

This time-honored event actually originated from a comic strip called L’il Abner.  In 1937, Al Capp, the cartoon’s originator, created a character named Sadie Hawkins.  She was considered “the homliest gal in the hills,” and thus could not hope to catch the eye of any eligible bachelors.  Sadie’s father designated one day in November to have a footrace in their fictional hometown of Dogpatch, USA.  During the footrace, the women would chase the men, thus giving Sadie equal footing (ha!) when it came to landing a beau.

That first matrimonial marathon was such a rousing success, both on paper and in the hearts of readers, Capp continued the tradition each year.  The occasion transferred to real-life when a couple of years later it became a staple for colleges and high schools around the country to hold their own versions of the race.  Fortunately, the real-life event is held in a more dignified manner, in the form of a dance.

                             In the fall of ’83, I had made the bold decision to jump feet first into this tradition and ask a boy to the Rock Springs High School Sadie Hawkins dance.  It was a time when that notion didn’t seem insulting or maybe I was still just that quaint.  As memory serves, I did opt for a more Victorian approach to my goal.  Yes, folks, I did the unthinkable and wrote a note asking my potential suitor for the honor of accompanying me that October evening rather than bold face-to-face confrontation.  And had I done any prior research into the origins of the event, I would’ve been glad to take the coward’s way out.  With Sadie being so “homely” and needing all this special favor, asking face-to-face for this first date would have been even more daunting.

My note apparently had a profound effect since my intended actually cancelled a hunting trip for the occasion.  This is a man whose father started counting the days left until opening day of the next year’s hunting season on the first day of this year’s hunting season.  You hunting widows will understand what a monumental sacrifice this must have been.

Once the obligatory kerfuffle about rides and times was taken care of, the quandary of outfits presented itself.  My mom assured me that traditional Sadie Hawkins attire would suffice.  This included anything from plaid shirts and denim jeans with patches to tied midriff shirts with shorts for the more daring gals.  These pants were held up with rope belts.  Since my date for the evening was a foot taller than I, long pants would have to do.  (All the better to disguise my three inch wedgies.)  The midriff was also out, as a Wyoming October is not conducive to showing skin.  A corsage and boutonniere of corn cobs, wheat stalks, and other veggies was also expected.  At the time, I found this hard to believe, but in the end Mom was correct.  My date & I met each other in the aforementioned garb and the evening got underway.

As one would imagine, the décor for this dance was hoedown extraordinaire.  The night’s activities included a booth where  the high school guidance counselor (for purposes of this blog we’ll call him Mr. G) “married” us.  This is ironic, since as guidance counselor he probably advised underage students against this sort of outcome.  The ceremony came complete with a pair of pipe cleaner rings and an “official” certificate of marriage.

Another ironic twist to this tale is that a mere 11 ½ years later, my date and I were actually married, but not by the high school guidance counselor.  (Also, my now husband is waving his arms wildly as I type insisting that I tell you he did not indeed cancel the hunting trip to attend the dance, but rather came home early.  Glad we got that cleared up!)

Nowadays, the maneuvering of this event may have changed some.  Kids are far more sophisticated in their activities.  The décor may not include farm equipment and the attire may be more along the lines of semi-formal or hip-hop casual, but I’m sure there is some shy girl texting an equally shy boy asking for a date to the Sadie Hawkins Dance.

Published in: Pop Culture | on September 27th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

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