During the summer of my sophomore year, I worked as a cowboy on a ranch in Ozona, Texas. I saw nothing unusual about riding horses all summer. I’d done that many times. To me work was work; however, this time I met a young lady. Her father owned the ranch where I was working. That fall, I went back to college and she was off to Dallas where she attended the Hockley Schools for Girls. It’s a high dollar place where rich Texas families send their daughters. Back then sending their girls to a finishing school was the thing to do for parents with money. They wanted their little girls to get “refinement.” I got scores of letters from the rancher’s daughter begging me to come visit so she could show her city girl friends a real cowboy. After football season, I thumbed a ride to Dallas, then walked for about three hours to get to her school. You would have thought I was James Dean. I have never been flaunted over so much. The girls wanted to wear my Stetson and have photographs taken with me. I was the first full-fledged cowboy they had ever seen.
The dorm closed at midnight for all visitors. I stepped off the front porch straight into a “gully washer”. I can’t ever remember seeing such heavy rain. I had no option, because a rather plump Dorm Mother clicked the front door lock before I could sneak back in. I was about to change into a pumpkin. I sucked it up and began running the five miles to the Greyhound Bus Depot in downtown Dallas. After a short sprint my boots were filled with water. That’s when I stopped running and began ‘dancing in the rain’. I learned that cold, dark night it was more fun to dance in the rain than running into sheets of water. If we ever get any rain down here in Texas, I just might try dancing again.
Looking back, letting that young lady go was one of the really dumb things I’ve done in my life. Her father owned a small bank, feed store, big ranch and oil wells. He was beyond wealthy; the man was filthy rich. He tried to fly me to Sun Valley to spend Christmas with their family. I was too proud to take his money so I stayed at school with no place to go. I ate Christmas dinner at the local 24-hour diner. I didn’t comprehend at the time he was looking for a son-in-law. Now, I realize his bank loaned money to ranchers so they could buy the feed he sold. He had more money than he could spend. Above all he liked me. If I had married her, today folks in west Texas would call me Mr. White instead of Jack.
But in the end I found Mikki, whose worth far exceeds the rich banker’s stacks of money. Everyday we figuratively dance in the rain with bouts of happiness. In our twenty-two years together we have never had a fuss. Not even a minor one, mainly because I do what I’m told. It was Will Rogers who said, “There are two theories about arguing with a woman. Neither works.”
You men can learn from me. Just obey your wife and things will be fine. The problem arises when you try to have a say in matter. It also helps that my first wife sent me to husband’s obedience school. She saw a bumper sticker that read, “Happy is the dog that’s been to obedience school”. She said, “Jack, I just want you to be happy.”
Each of us has had our parade rained on from time to time. Sometime things are so bad we can’t dance in the rain; we just want to curl up in a fetal position and hide. An artist wrote a few months ago to telling me a horror story. Her husband of twenty-two years got drunk and made a donkey of himself at her annual home show. She had worked for months to make sure everything was perfect. The artist’s home was filled with people who loved her art. In the middle of the gaiety, her drunken husband came stumbling into the room, tripped and fell, face first, into her celebration cake. To her surprise, two men at the show picked her husband up, walked him to the back porch were they proceeded to remove his shirt and washed the icing off his face. They then carried him into the bedroom, helped him undress, and put his drunken body in bed were he fell asleep. When the two men returned the room burst out in applause. One lady sat down at the piano and began playing, “Happy Days are here Again.” She emailed me, “Jack, I’ve never been more humiliated in my life, but something special happened. I realized no matter how ugly my husband had been, no one blamed me. My collectors joined in the fun as if nothing unusual had occurred. I sold seven paintings. Several women stayed to help me clean up the mess my husband made.”
I answered, “That night you learned to dance in the rain.”
On the positive side, her husband realized he had hit bottom and joined AA. She wrote recently to tell me he just got his 90-day AA chip. This means he has been clean and sober for three months. Her husband has made a step in the right direction. He, too, is learning to dance in the rain.
I’ll call the next artist Bill so I can tell his story anonymously. Bill received a notice from his bank saying they were going to foreclose on his home. He had been running late on his house payments and then started skipping months altogether. The house had been home to his teenaged children since they were born. All but one of his galleries had closed. He came to me pretty late in the game - I wasn’t sure what I could do. I try to help when I can as many of you reading this article can testify.
My first suggestion was for him to make an appointment with his bank president and sell the guy on allowing them to pay interest only on their loan for a year. Not an easy thing to do, but it can be done. Banks don’t need another vacant house to be vandalized. To his good fortune the bank president agreed.
He told me his wife’s only skills were making clothes for cats. I know people dress up dogs, but cats? “What the heck”, I thought. So we worked on a marketing plan for her with the addition of pooch garments. I suggested they call the company, “Raining Cats and Dogs.” I got the idea from her yellow cat slickers. Bill was able to put his ego aside and begin helping his mate market their new product. The added dog garments accounted for 60 percent of their gross income. Several months later Bill emailed to thank me for my help. He also said he was back in three galleries and his wife’s cat and dog stuff was doing very well. Thus far they had twenty-seven dealers selling her clothes. She hired two local ladies to help her sew. Their three teen children took part time jobs after school.
The family was able to begin making full home payments and pay all their bills on time. They planned a celebration party on the 4th of July. Wouldn’t you know? It rained and rained and rained! Finally Bill’s kids said, “Dad, what’s a little rain with all we have been through?” They went out on the back porch, cooked wieners and played loud music. In an email, he told me his teens danced in the rain. I smiled and thought, “one day this would be a good article.” I think that day their entire family learned to dance in the rain. I now rejoice in their victory and my minor part in them keeping their home and life. My joy is in seeing others win success.
I want to add a disclaimer. In all of my books and articles on art, my main goal is always about selling art. I know nothing about “art for art’s sake”, a topic recently fully explored. I don’t have a clue of just making art as a hobby. My first piece of art sold for $10. I’ve been selling ever since. With that said, I’m no magic worker. My efforts are free and a gift of love, but in the end there are some doors I just can’t unlock. With sadness, I confess there are plenty of artists I’m simply not able to help. In many cases, success has nothing to do with their skills or desire. I know several women artists whose husbands have no interest in their work. They have to manage their careers, take care of the children and be a dutiful wife to their husband, who in turn doesn’t turn a finger to assist them. They do the laundry, cooking and bookkeeping. If there is any time left over, they do their art.
I’ve also seen it the other way around. I was chatting with one female artist whose husband worked at an automotive plant for years. I asked her what her husband did at the plant. Her answer shocked me, “I don’t have a clue. He just goes to work and comes home.”
Stunned I asked, “How long has he worked at the plant?”
“About eighteen years not counting the shut down.” He has been doing the same job for eighteen years and she doesn’t know anything about what he does?!? Yet, she complains he doesn’t help her with her art career. With her attitude, there is nothing I can do to help her learn to dance in the rain. Before you complain about what your mate is not doing, look in the mirror. Remember the old saying, “It takes two to tango.”
I’ve learned dancing in the rain is a mindset. Just being a human means you will have conflict and disappointments. There will also be spots of elation and, once in a blue moon, you can experience one of those dancing in the rain moments. I wish I could bottle and sell what it means to dance in the rain. I’d be as rich as the Ozona banker.
What is dancing in the rain? I’ll quote Justice Potter Stewart when he was asked to define pornography back in 1960. His law clerk, Alan Novak told the justice, “Mr. Justice, you will know it when you see it.” Justice Stewart agreed and Novak included that remark in the draft of the Supreme Court opinion.
I would like to steal Justice Stewart’s quote by saying you will know what dancing in the rain is when you experience the moment. All too often we miss seizing the opportunity, because we keep looking for lightning to strike. Those “dancing” moments might be your child bringing home an “A” in math or your daughter making the drill team. It can be your pastor reaching your soul with a timely message.
For me one of those dancing in the rain moments was when I took my first steps after doctors said I’d never walk again because of Prostate Cancer. We drove from Arizona to Laguna Beach and I took several steps in the soft sand. I think one for Mikki was holding our first tabletop book. I failed to get her picture; I still kick myself. I’ve never seen a brighter glow as she thumbed through the pages. Years later, I was able to replicate her emotions when I held the first hard copy of Ten Years in Texas in my hands.
Look for your chances to dance in the rain and then go all out. Act silly and don’t care who sees you. Relax and fully enjoy the moment. Life is too short to wait. It seems like only a few years ago I was riding through the scrub brush looking for strays. In reality, my days as a working cowboy were many, many years ago. Our lives go by so quickly. Make those “dances in the rain” highlights of your life.
Jack White has the title Official Texas State Artist and recently Governor Rick Perry appointed him an Admiral in the Texas Navy. Jack authored six Art Marketing books. The first, “Mystery of Making It”, describes how he taught Mikki to paint and has sold over six million dollars worth of her art. You can contact Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org.