Friday, December 16, 2011

Anson's Cowboys' Christmas Ball gets newfound recognition

Larry Chittenden
Country musician Michael Martin Murphey is the flagship performer at Anson's annual Texas Cowboys' Christmas Ball, but he's also the event's biggest booster. Rather than just a stop on his tour itinerary, the Ball has become almost synonymous with Murphey. Their goals are essentially the same: to keep Texan frontier traditions alive and celebrate the culture that birthed them. Inspired by an 1890 poem by rancher and poet Larry Chittenden, the ball has existed as a re-enactment of Chittenden's words since 1934. Murphey and his band have played the event every year since 1992, with one exception. "I was sick one year," Murphey said, interviewing by phone from his tour bus. "I almost dragged myself out of the hospital that year to do it, but I just couldn't." In many ways, the Ball is defined by how it doesn't change. The period costumes, the decorations, the dancing and the frontier manners (check your hats at the door, please) all conform to how the ball looked in 1885, when Chittenden first visited. But some developments within the last year should ensure that the Ball gains some notoriety across Texas. For starters, Murphey finally pestered curators from Texas Tech University's Southwest Collection archive into visiting the Ball last year after three years of trying. "I told them that it's been a signature part of my life, the Cowboys' Christmas tours," Murphey said. "We had all these old guestbooks and other artifacts. So they came, and they just flipped out. They went crazy." With some help from the people at the Southwest Collection, one of the biggest collections of Western history in the nation, Anson residents have unearthed a variety of treasures surrounding the Ball's history. That includes a fiddle from the original 1885 dance, a 1953 newsreel on the Ball featuring interviews with original pioneers and a collection of books donated by Chittenden to the local school...more

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