COWBOYS AND SALOON GIRLS
Have you ever seen any reruns of Gunsmoke? I have, and although I did love to watch the action, I mainly loved the interplay between Sheriff Matt Dillon and the barkeep of the Long Branch Saloon, Miss Kitty. I so wanted them to get together, romantically. And it seemed like they cared for one another a great deal, the producers just didn’t want to change the dynamics of the show – or so James Arness said later in an interview.
I recently wrote a book that featured an exotic dancer, FINDING DANDI. So, I took it upon myself to research the philosophy of strippers and prostitutes. One thing that stood out for me was the attitude about them in the Old West.
The West, as always, is different from the East. The East was filled with ‘proper’ folk, with Puritanical sanctions. But the West was more laid back, not quite so strict. Respectable ladies still looked down upon the ‘shady ladies’ but they were looked upon as a necessary safety valve to keep the rambunctious libidos of the men in line.
There were many names for these women – a few of my favorites were ‘soiled doves’, ‘fallen angels’ and ‘painted cats’ Dandi is definitely a fallen angel, being blackmailed to strip in a gentleman’s club. In the Old West, women who made their living entertaining men in many forms (dancing, playing games with them, just being friends, enticing – sex! Ha!) did so in a saloon. This was unheard of in the East where most barmaids were the wives or daughters of the owners of the saloon.
Many saloon girls were not prostitutes and would never have dreamed of hanging around one, but they bore the label of being ‘tainted’ anyway. These women were necessary to the development of the Old West, where men outnumbered women three to one. At one time the population of California was 90 percent male. Just think!!!
What type of woman decided to become a saloon girl? The answer is the same as the one I always gave in my Bible classes when asked about Rahab and other women who found themselves in the business of servicing men. Women just didn’t have a lot of choices. Most of the saloon girls, whether prostitutes or not, were often refugees from factories or mills or farms – many were widows or single women lured by the promise of fine clothes, a living wage and work that wouldn’t break their back. Sadly, many women found they had no choice – if they had been raped or taken advantage of by a man or made pregnant, they were ‘ruined’ and the life of the saloon girl or prostitute was all that was available.
The wages were good for the day. The women would make $10 a week and a commission on drinks. If a man bought one of the soiled doves a drink, the bartender would give them tea and charge the cowboy full price.
The flip side of all this is from the male point of view. There were very few women and many respectable women thought it was wrong to enjoy sex, they endured it only to bear children. What was a man to do? I can sorta see their point. That’s why I write my women enjoying the carnal pursuits, only seems fair. The cost of a rendezvous varied – most of them were $5 or $1 and the skilled courtesans could get as much as $50 for an evening of debauchery. The saloons were one place you could meet a woman but there were also brothels and large houses that were well-kept and had parlors with red lanterns hung on the porch to distinguish them from the other homes in the area.
I found all of this to be fascinating – I’m working on a historical novel called GODSEND that will follow the daughter of a prostitute from New Orleans to East Texas during the time before Texas became a state – I’m looking forward to that one.
Tomorrow, FINDING DANDI releases and she falls into this category. She is an exotic dancer – her reasons for being one reflect what I said above – sometimes it’s just a case of have-to. Dandi manages to keep her virtue intact, but her reputation does not fair as well. She is a ‘fallen angel’, but one Lucas manages to catch in his arms.
I’ll post the link to FINDING DANI as a comment as it goes live. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Here’s an excerpt.
Dandi felt so alone. Right now, if someone offered money for her, Romero would sell her like a slice of pie. She needed this to be over – now. Nervously, she scanned the audience. Every face seemed to belong to a ravager, every movement was menacing. Men in suits, men in t-shirts – old men, young men – all of them feasted on her with their eyes. She felt their gapes and stares like licks on her skin.
There was nowhere to turn, no one to run to . . . until her attention was captured by one man – one large, mountain of a man who covered the ground he stood on and looked capable of defeating any enemy who threatened him or what he cherished. Now, this was a hero.
He stared straight into her eyes. The look on his face was different than the others – he watched her, but it was a proprietary look, not a lewd one. Oh, how she wished he was there for her. An urge to propel her body off the stage and into his arms threatened to overwhelm her.
Walking up behind Tim, Lucas placed a hand on his buddy’s shoulder, but his eyes never left the woman. He wanted her – pure and simple.
“Hey, Luc! Isn’t she something?” Tim lolled his head back and gave him a silly grin; clearly the party had begun without him.
“Yes, she is.” He agreed as he shook hands with other friends and members of Tim’s wedding party. The dancer was everything he had been told, and more. Truth be known, Lucas was having a hard time concentrating on anything but her.
“I’m getting married.”
Focusing on his friend for a moment, he realized Tim was already three sheets to the wind. “Yes, I know. This is your big send-off before you enter the bonds of holy matrimony. How much have you had to drink, Buddy?”
“Too much! Ha!”
“I’ll ask the waitress for a cup of coffee.” He motioned to a petite doll with a pixie hair-cut. “A coffee, please.”
She winked at him, looking down at his package. “I’m available later, if you’re looking for a good time.”
“Thanks, Doll.” He winked back, knowing she didn’t have what it took to capture his interest. The music rolled to a climax and Lucas turned back to the stage. He held his breath as the angel in white finished her dance with a move that took her to the floor in a poignant, graceful bow. Oddly, she hadn’t stripped to bare skin the way he expected. Not a lot of bills were thrown to the stage, either, but she ignored what was there, stepping over them as if they were fallen leaves.
Lucas was perplexed at her behavior, but angered at those around her. The dark, angry man grabbed her elbow and wrenched her off the dais, and as he did a big fellow with baseball glove sized hands reached out and pulled at her other arm. She made a sound of pain and protest as she was yanked around. There was no way he could let this pass. “Enough! Take your hands off of her!” he yelled as he made his way to the stage. Pushing his way in between the girl and her aggressors, Lucas found himself met with angry stares and barely checked violence. It wouldn’t take much to start a brawl, if they were brave enough.
The angel looked at him with big eyes, as if he were her only salvation. “Thank you,” she mouthed. And though he tried to stymie the thought, all he could think about was what other things those beautiful lips might be able to do.
“You want her, Viking? That could be arranged. All my girls are for sale for the right price.” This came from the man who had been yelling instructions and threats.
“No, Romero! I never agreed to anything other than dancing,” the angel protested, struggling when the idiot reached around Lucas to grab her again.
If she was being forced that changed everything. He was infuriated. He wanted the other man’s hands off of her – right now. “Let the girl go.” He enunciated each syllable slowly.
Before the ass could respond, two bouncers came up to flank Romero. “I think you should return to your party, Sir,” was their smooth suggestion, but the words were said with a savage expression on their faces – letting him know that they would love to have an excuse to take the argument outside.
“Only if the lady tells me she doesn’t need my help.”
Romero laughed, “There are no ladies here, Viking.” With a grip that would bruise a big man, he pressed harshly on the Angel’s arm. “Get your ass in the back. If you bring someone else into our business, they’ll only get hurt. Do you want that?”
“I’m not afraid of these assholes,” Lucas directed the comment toward her, but when he had stopped playing stare down with the two bouncers, she was gone.
“Go back to your party, Caveman, or get off my property.” The acidic threat didn’t bother Lucas. He was torn between demanding to be taken to her, and biding his time to see what happened.
Several tense moments passed, finally Lucas backed away. Right now, he didn’t know what her story was. Something didn’t feel right. He’d keep his eyes open for her the rest of the night and see what happened.
A busty little hostess in a pink bikini escorted them to a semi-private area where they could still see the girls dancing, but enjoy a bit more privacy. Hot wings, sub sandwiches, boiled shrimp – all were laid out in abundance.
“Did you see that stripper?” Ralph exclaimed. “She was one hot little piece of ass.”
“Man, I sure would like me some of that,” Tracy echoed the sentiment. Bottles of beer were passed around and one chubby dark-haired waitress jumped and squealed as her ass was slapped.
An odd feeling of agitation came over Lucas; he didn’t like to hear them talking about the Angel that way. It didn’t make any sense, he knew. He had just met her and she was as far from meeting the criteria he had set for his ideal woman as the east is from the west. But right now, that didn’t really seem to matter.
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