When the Bugles Call My Name
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A Novel By Daniel Richard Fruit
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of any of the characters to persons living or dead is strictly accidental.
Copyright 1996, by Daniel Richard Fruit
The following people helped make this vision take the field: my brother, David Fruit, who read, believed, and contributed; my father, the original drum corps nut; Ken Hyatt, a band man through and through; and Sonia and Aida who thought this was a story for all ages and to whom sweet sixteen is tomorrow.
I dedicate this book to all the members of The Windsor Guardsmen, Oakland Crusaders, and Troy Zenith wherever they may be and whatever they may be doing. Those who forget the past are doomed to not remember.
I dedicate this book to my brother David, without whose help and dedication I would not have persevered, my father, Walter R. Fruit, the original drum corps fan, and Kitty Kat.
In memory of Louis Larime and Elizabeth Fruit
Table of Contents (headlines in italics)
Poem: When the Bugles Call My Name 05
List of Characters 06
December 10, 1977 "D.C. al Coda" 07
March 10, 1977 "The Vision" 09
May 15, 1977 "An Introduction to Drum Corps" 11
May 18, 1977 "Five Lakes' Corps Prepare for Season" 16
May 19, 1977 "Camping With the Corps" 17
May 22, 1977 "Riding With Johnny and Bozo" 20
May 23, 1977 "Ask Your Father" 22
May 25, 1977 "The Image of Drum Corps" 24
May 25, 1977 "A Hard Day's Night" 27
May 26, 1977 "There Will Always Be" 29
May 27, 1977 "Toledo Plainsmen Sharp at Openers" 31
May 29, 1977 "The Cool, Cool Breeze" 32
June 1, 1977 "The Bus Ride to Toronto" 34
June 1, 1977 "Chiefs Defeat Canadian Rivals" 36
June 4, 1977 "You're Doing What?" 37
June 5, 1977 "The Suicide Drill" 39
June 15, 1977 "Peanut Butter and Wine" 41
June 15, 1977 "Flint Warriors Win At Frankenmuth" 44
June 23, 1977 "Playing in the Line" 45
June 23, 1977 "Hamilton Knights Endure Heat To Triumph" 48
June 25, 1977 "Uptown Saturday Night" 49
June 25, 1977 "Plainsmen Roll at Darien Heights" 51
June 30, 1977 "The Small Screen" 52
July 9, 1977 "Never Cut the Lines" 55
July 10, 1977 "The Colors of the Rainbow" 56
July 10, 1977 "Flint Warriors Win At Poteosky and St. S. Mariez"59
July 16, 1977 "A Suburban Exhibition" 60
July 16, 1977 "Chiefs Obtain Ontario Title" 63
July 17, 1977 "Playing for the Band" 64
July 23, 1977 "No Reaction" 67
July 23, 1977 "Chiefs Receive Canadian Endorsement" 69
July 24, 1977 "At the Border" 70
August 1, 1977 "Your Basic Block" 73
August 2, 1977 "Sucking at Seven" 75
August 3, 1977 "The Big Name Corps" 77
August 4, 1977 "The Dream" 79
August 4, 1977 "Edison Legion Wins Marion Class 'A'" 82
August 5, 1977 "Now That's Drum Corps" 83
August 6, 1977 "Moments of Scarlet" 85
August 11, 1977 "Your Father" 89
August 12, 1977 "The Hype" 91
August 12, 1977 "Plainsmen Take Butler 'A' Class" 95
August 13, 1977 "A Small Town in Pennsylvania" 96
August 14, 1977 "Erie Black Lancers Win in Territown" 100
August 14, 1977 "The Long Trip Home" 101
August 18, 1977 "Saturday Night at the Movies" 104
August 24, 1977 "Preparing for Battle" 107
August 24, 1977 "We Can't Possible Lose" 109
August 24, 1977 "Marquette Argonauts Win Legion" 112
December 16, 1977 "Al Coda" 113
"Pud: The Language of Drum Corps" 117
Afterward: Thirteen Years in the Making 125
WHEN THE BUGLES CALL MY NAME
A sound like murmured metal's cry,
That wakens me from deepest sleep,
Is someone out there crying,
And do the bugles call my name?
I dress in my corps uniform
And take my horn into my arms.
I hurry to the practice field,
I hear no bugles playing tunes.
I drive down to the stadium,
Where once we playing our living show.
The crowds stood up and screamed:
Their minds and ours enjoined as one.
But there is no one here tonight,
I guess I'm dreaming once again.
My friends are gone, and I'm alone
The sounds I hear are echoed dreams.
Daniel Richard Fruit, 1991, 1996
Cast of Characters in Alphabetical Order
Arnold Jorns, Richard's pre-drum corps best friend
Art Wainwright, a first baritone
(Daniel) Bozo Thompkins, ex-horn player with the Centurion and a drill instructor, known for his humor.
Mr. Bright, Don's father and a corps parent, Richard stays at his house several times
Mrs. Bright, another devoted corps parent
Bryan O' Neill, the second drum major
Craig Norris, Richard's pre drum corps best friend
Doby McGinnis, third soprano, about twelve-years-old
Don Bright, a third baritone, thirteen
Doug Baker, the strongest, with Richard, of the second baritones
Eric Macelli, a first baritone
Eric Meon, a soprano converted to play contra
Jen(ifer) Bershiz, contra player and section leader
Mrs. Jennison, Richard's English teacher
Johnny Miasnik, the other half of the drill instructors team, head drill instructor
Juan Sagretti, a contra
Karen Nada, one of the flags
Larry Giles, snare drummer
Lawrence LaSalle, writer for the Drum Corps Times
Leon, contra, with the corps since its inception
Leon, corps equipment manager
Leonard Lebleur, originally a weak soprano, later carries the American flag
Luke Battavius, Randy's brother and baritone section leader
Mark Thompkins, a second baritone
McCormicks, brothers and third baritones
Mr. Menlo, the corps director and business manager
Miles David, the xylophone player
Ned Martinucci, first soprano, Richard's best friend in corps
Nora Brown, a middle horn, Tom's third girlfriend
Mr. Oldar, Richard's father, who knows something about drum corps
Mrs. Oldar, Richard's mother, who knows less about drum corps
Paul Lee, mellophone and friend of Richard and Ned
Paul Sahagun, first soprano and soloist for "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
Phil Billioni , a soprano, Tom's friend, plays in the band across town from Richard
Randy Battavius, Ex-Centurion, drum major, corps arranger, and de facto leader of the hornline.
Richard Oldar, the main character, a second baritone
Richard Seegren, a first baritone
Silver Garstoni, a famed and highly priced horn instructor, currently with the Black Lancers.
Peter Submiralty, Canadian writer for the Drum Corps Times
Theodore Skidmore, Michigan writer for the Drum Corps Times
Sue Cormant, second baritone and Randy's girlfriend
Tom McClure, first soprano, originally with Jen and later with Nora
Tony Gooodhert, third baritone
D.C. al Coda (December 10, 1977)
Richard could hear the sound of the mighty sixty horn line echoing round and round the school gymnasium. He could feel Paul next to him, their shoulders so close as to almost touch. Across the circle, some forty drummers added their contribution to the volume and behind them thirty flags waved back and forth, so that he could hardly believe this corps was supposed to be dying.
"Horns down," Randy said at the end of the number, as the final chord echoed off the gymnasium walls. Richard snapped the heavy instrument down against his chest as he heard a slight "thump" from sopranos, French horns, and baritones hitting chests still flat and hard from a long summer of competition. He could see, standing before all of them, a small, high-quality tape recorder absorbing it all.
It seemed strange to him to see none of the instructors present at the end of their biggest rehearsal of the year.
He could see the lines of worry across Randy's round face as he said, "Mr. Menlo would like to talk to everyone. Just," he paused, "take a seat." Mr. Menlo stood with several of the corps parents, each wearing a year-old Dragoons' jacket. His eyes peered out intently through his thick, round glasses at the hundred or so young people seated around him. He looked down for a minute and then spoke:
"As some of you may know," he started, "this corps is heavily in debt, about $20,000 to be exact. The instructional staff and I have been having some 'disagreements' about that situation." He paused for a moment. "As for myself, what I'd like to do is get the corps out of debt, by just playing shows in Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario, and either not take a tour or taking just a small one. Then next year we'd-" He stopped for a moment, perhaps reading the disappointment on so many faces. Richard swallowed. No tour meant no DCI, and he'd heard Monk say many times: "Our goal for next year is to make the DCI top 25."
"No matter," Mr. Menlo said. "The instructional staff believes that would destroy all the momentum we've gathered these last three years. They've said they will not work with this corps unless we go to the DCI. I guess debt doesn't bother them." his voice showed his obvious irritation. "The booster club and I have decided. There will not be a DCI trip this year, and we will find a new staff if the corps is to continue."
Richard felt the words sinking in slowly. It didn't seem possible: sixty horns and the corps would not go to the DCI.
"Now I'm going to put it to you. Do you want to stay with the Darien Heights Dragoons or not? If you stay, you'll be spending a lot of time raising money this next year. If you don't want to stay, then I wish you good luck."
Menlo held out a sheet of paper, "Only sign on if you intend to stay with the Dragoons. Leave all equipment here. Corps," he didn't bother calling them to attention, "dismissed."
Richard stood up slowly. For a second, he looked at his battered horn case and then carefully put his baritone inside. He looked across the room at Mr. Menlo, his list on the clipboard, a resigned look on his face. One after another, the horns and drums filed past him-without signing. Few of them looked up into the eyes of their corps director.
"Come on Richard," Ned said, "I've got homework to do."
He continued to look at Mr. Menlo, "but-" His mind wavered.
"Don't you understand," Ned said, "it's all over. From what I hear, Monk and Menlo started punching each other out last week. Dragoons are finished: I know it, Menlo knows it, and so do you."
Richard walked across the room. Mr. Menlo held out his hand, "it was nice knowing you Richard." The strong grip held firm, the same grip that had held his the night of the Butler show when everything went so right. Richard remembered again that Mr. Menlo actually ran a small shoe store and all his work with the Dragoons he did for free. "Good luck," Menlo said and released his hand.
Paul and Richard rode with Ned that night and stopped by Monk Eastman's house on the way home. Browning leaves covered Monk's shabby but wildly growing lawn. When they knocked on the door, no one answered at first though the horn instructor's old van sat in the driveway. Finally, Mrs. Eastman answered the door, and with an exasperated look, pointed across the living room to her husband.
"He's there," was all she said.
Monk sat in the center of the rug, his knees folded up tightly within his arms, and head held low. He stared expressionlessly at their stereo which played, Richard guessed from the sound, the recording from this practice he'd not attended. His hair lay in unkempt curls over his growing bald spot.
"Monk," Richard said, "Dragoons are about to fold."
"We had," Paul added, "sixty horns. God you should've-" Paul then paused as though he'd realized Monk had heard. Monk said nothing in response.
"It seemed," Ned said, "just like the last rehearsal for the Centurions."
Suddenly Monk clapped his hands together and kind of laughed and shouted a single oath. "Sixty horns and folding." He took two big strides across his living room to the dials of his stereo. "They say every corps I work with folds." He turned the dials up until the sound filled the living room. They heard Monk's arrangements, the kids Monk taught to play. "Do you hear that?" Monk asked, and then he was shouting, over the swelling sound:
"Do you hear that!"
The music ended as his voice broke into a kind of sob. He said to the tape, not the boys. "They say Monk Eastman can't build a championship corps. There it is, a corps beyond their farthest dreams, right where I can..." he fumbled in his empty pockets for a cigarette, "and they're folding! Folding! FOLDING!"
Then the outburst ended. Monk looked at the three boys, as though he'd just remembered them. He smiled, shyly. "It's been great working with you." He extended his hand, and Richard, Ned, and Paul in turns took it. "Come see me some time."
Richard almost said something more. He really didn't know what, but then he looked at Ned, who shook his head. Ned motioned towards the door. As they walked through, Richard took a final look over his shoulder.
Monk rewound the tape and resumed his position seated before the stereo. Though the sunlight faded behind them, no lights lit the scene. Monk sat down, folding his legs underneath him, staring off at something no one else could see, listening to something no one else could hear.
The early December snow started to fall before the car reached Richard's home. When he got inside the house, Richard sat down in the living room and watched the snow cover the grass outside. For ten minutes or so he just watched, until he heard his mother's voice from the next room.
"Was that you Richard?"
"Yeah, Mom," he said lifelessly.
" A record came today, parcel post. I left it on top of the stereo."
Richard took the album with him and entered his bedroom. He closed the door behind him. He went to his stereo and looked at the album put out by an obscure label.
"The l977 US. Open Championships, Volume 4, The Edison Legion, the Peoria Guardsmen, the Bismarck Frontiersmen," and the last corps, side two, "the Darien Heights Dragoons."
Carefully, he placed the needle in the correct spot. As the black vinyl spun, he heard a voice say:
"Dragoons, you may enter the field of competition."
Then he heard Randy's voice, tired from a season of yelling and a full day's practice, but still strong calling "Corps-mark-time-Mark!"
He counted, one-two-three-four, and though he only sat in his room listening, he automatically drew in his breath. Then the horns blasted boldly with a powerful statement of the theme from "The Flying Dutchman." He looked over his shoulder wondering if the sound would disturb anyone in the house and turned the volume up. The horns carried on, and he could see them now, in his mind, shining in golden and green uniforms. He could hear the roar of the crowd the cheers and the "Go gettum Dragoons."
The music started to rise towards a climax. He could hear the drums behind him, and glimpse the waving banners of the color guard from the corner of his eye. He could almost feel those horn players by his side, Paul, Ned, all of them, some whose names he never even learned, standing close enough to touch elbows: all of them Dragoons, his corps.
The music started to fill the room, and the moments, the ones that moved him, started to come back with the sound itself. He remembered those moments just as well as he remembered, indeed he could still march, every step of that show. Moments and music, all started to come back like the echo of a horn playing in an empty stadium.
He remembered, remembered, remembered,.....................................................
The Vision (March 10, 1977)
Richard watched the presentation from his distant chair as the second best trombone in the worst band of Wintergreen High School's mediocre music program. His mother, Richard knew, didn't think he'd ever become good enough for even the best band at the school, but she felt Richard ought to belong to something. So there he sat, worst of the worst.
The band director, Mr. Jones, stopped about fifteen minutes before dismissal and introduced a guest. The stranger looked out a little uncomfortably through a pair of distant blue eyes from which he constantly cleared thinning golden hair. His jeans and unbuttoned shirt told Richard he was no teacher, and he paced a little nervously as he talked. Mr. Jones sat down at the back of the room and started to read a newspaper.
Richard tried to analyze this presenter. From his clothes, the stranger might've been a motorcyclist, a hippie, or a musician. Whenever he raised his deep blue eyes, however, he didn't really look at his audience. It was as though he somehow looked through them and saw someone standing somewhere behind.
"My name," he started "is Mon-Michael Eastman. I'm the horn instructor for the Darien Heights Dragoons."
Richard thought for a moment of Darien Heights, a dirty, factory suburb about thirty miles closer to Detroit than his own.
"The Dragoons are a drum and bugle corps. We play marching shows, more or less like marching bands, only there are no woodwinds. The horns we use are bugles, except they have one valve and one rotor instead of three valves, so you can play most of the same notes as a band instrument." He pointed to four different instruments, lying with bells pointed outward on the table. "They come in different sizes. A soprano is like a trumpet, a French horn or mellophone bugle is like a French horn or mellophone, a baritone," he pointed to what resembled a double-sized trumpet, "is like a baritone horn or trombone, and a contra," this trumpet-shaped instrument filled half the table, "plays the same notes as a tuba."
He paused for a moment, looking a little confused, like he didn't know what to say next, "Are there any questions?"
One of the most disruptive trumpet players chimed in, "If it's just like marching band, why join?"
Several of the others laughed.
"Um," Mr. Eastman stumbled, "it's not just like a marching band, it's, it's, it's different. You work on your show a lot longer and a lot harder. Besides that, you go on tours where you practice eight hours a day sometimes."
"Why would anyone want to do that?" one of the girls asked. Several of the others laughed.
"Sounds like a club for crazies."
"Why are they called Dragons?"
"*&^%^" Mr. Eastman grumbled just loud enough to be heard, and suddenly the others stopped talking at the unexpected curse. "It's Dragoons, not Dragons. Dragoons were a kind of special unit of cavalry. A long time ago, in the War of 1812, a unit of this type of cavalry was raised in Michigan, somewhere around Detroit. That's why Darien Heights uses the name."
The band director stood up as though to end the presentation as the man had lost the students' attention. Instead, the blonde man pulled a cigarette from the faded jacket he wore and struck it up in a single movement. The unexpected sight of an adult smoking, on campus, accidentally drew their attention back to the stranger.
"Look, I can't explain it very well. I can try to tell you what drum corps is, but you either got a feeling for it or you won't. I'm going to run a film for you. If you're interested at the end of the film, I will leave my name, address, and phone number so you can call me."
Richard wondered why this adult would leave his phone number to teenagers, but shrugged his shoulders. The man's willingness to take a chance somehow fit with the other actions. After about two minutes, the film began to run on the screen: The title ran across "l976 DCI Championships, Vol. 5, the Scarlet Brigadiers."
An announcer's voice came on, "On the line, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the Scarlet Brigadiers."
"Yeahhh!" he could hear screams on the accompanying sound track that sounded more appropriate for a sporting event than a musical performance.
Richard could tell from the cheers and wobbling camera that an amateur filmed this, perhaps this stranger himself. In the distance, across a football field, he could see a semicircle of light red-uniformed girls with tall flags and musketeer-style hats.
"Corps," the drum major's voice almost barked, "Mark-time-mark!"
The music began low, quieter than any high school band, and Richard started to tune out. He glanced around the room at the clarinets, possibly miffed at not seeing any woodwinds, and the trumpet players tossing spitwads at the tubas.
When Richard looked back at the screen, the arc or horns began to expand, even as the music started to build. The flags still screened the players, but now Richard watched with some interest. He could see Mr. Eastman, leaning his arms on the director's stand, waving his hands slightly in time with the classical music the corps played.
Suddenly, all the flags came down, presenting an arc of fifty horns playing at full volume, clearly pronouncing every note, ramming the theme down the audience's throat. The melody blasted away twice as loud as any band Richard had ever heard. It wasn't just the volume either. Something about the way they played, like their lives depended on it, legs pumping as they marched in place, hands tight upon their horns, all as one, drew Richard's interest. His eyes didn't leave the screen until the horns turned, just as the music subsided, yet he could hear the crowd cheering, involved also.
Then, he looked around the classroom. No one seemed to pay any attention to the screen. Richard saw his band director fiddling with his gradebook. Then, he examined again the strange, balding, curly- haired stranger now smoking his second cigarette. Richard's attention returned to the film, and he didn't look anywhere else until the Scarlet Brigadiers burst into a final, ending, triumphant fanfare that sent shivers down his spine, eleven minutes later.
When the corps ended, the announcer's voice gave a final, excited: "From Toronto, Canada, the Scarlet Brigadiers," and the audience erupted into applause.
At that moment, the camera zoomed in for a split second on a single rank of red-faced baritone horn players, gasping for breath, their arms nearly shaking as though their performance had taken every ounce of their will. Amid the screams and cheers, their faces presented, not the triumphant smile Richard expected after such a great performance. Instead they held their red lips tight and cocked their heads back with a look of intensity and grandeur Richard couldn't quite understand. That look meant something, something so powerful he could almost reach out and touch it, yet Richard couldn't decipher its meaning. It simply was.
Then the film faded into white.
Richard sighed: "So that's drum corps."
An Introduction to Drum Corps (May 15, 1977)
"You're sure you don't want me to come inside," Richard's mother asked for the fifteenth time. Richard said nothing, and she continued "54687," pointing to the small house in the run down neighborhood of Remora Park. He looked away from the line of cars and garbage cans as she concluded with little delight: "This is the place."
The station wagon pulled to a stop. His mother continued, "Well, at least let me find out when you're going to finish."
They got out of the car, and Richard followed her up to the gray door. She knocked forcefully, and the door opened a moment later to reveal a twentiesh woman, a young brunette with a distinctive curved nose.
"Are you Mrs. Eastman?" Mrs. Oldar asked in that higher, more polite, tone she assumed when trying not to offend anyone.
"Yes," the lady replied evenly, "and you are?"
At that moment, Richard heard a voice over the brunette's shoulder and spotted part of a face.
"You're the new baritone, right?"
"Yes," Richard said weakly. It'd taken him almost four weeks to gather the courage to call that number written on the board at school. He'd, then, put off his first rehearsal for another week. Now he was here.
"Well come in," Mrs. Eastman motioned.
The mother and son entered into the small living room and took a seat on the couch. Mrs. Eastman took a seat in the small chair that faced the sofa. Besides the stereo and piano, the room contained no furniture. Record shelves, two levels high held a disarrayed and disordered collection of LPs that stretched three quarters of the way around the room.
"May I offer you some kind of soft drink or ice tea?" Mrs. Eastman asked.
"No soda," Mrs. Oldar said, "and I'm afraid ice tea will jangle my nerves." Gradually the two both started to turn slowly towards Richard, perhaps wondering what he would say. Richard said nothing.
Meanwhile, "Monk" Eastman came in and out of the room, ignoring its occupants and dropping off dusty music cases, piles of sheet music, and assorted objects Richard couldn't identify. Monk wore a red t-shirt with scattered holes in both arms, jeans with worn knees, and mismatched socks. He paid no attention to the two strangers whatsoever. Mrs. Oldar observed this with a questioning glance that Richard couldn't miss.
After about three trips, she finally blurted out, "When will the practice be finished tonight Mr. Eastman?"
He looked up, giving a full view of his prominent beard and mustache. "Don't know. Depends when the sun sets." He set down two, dusty big cases in front of Richard's chair. "You play baritone, Ron?"
"Richard," his mother corrected.
"Yes," Richard offered.
"Well," he pointed to the worn cases, "pick a horn."
As Richard reached his hand out to work the latches, his mother said: "Doesn't he have to fill out some kind of form?"
By the time she asked, Monk had disappeared again. When he returned, he'd placed an old baseball cap with a rusted drum corps button over the team insignia that covered his small bald spot.
"What did you say?" Monk asked.
"Doesn't Richard need to fill out some kind of form to check the horn out?"
He considered for a moment looking up at the ceiling as though searching through an old drawer. "Let me see, uh," then he nodded. "Yes, fill it out with Leon tonight, equipment manager."
Richard's mother sighed and crossed her arms. From the look on her face, Richard gathered she wouldn't leave until she felt satisfied that he wouldn't be abandoned somewhere by the roadside. The conversation might've proceeded, but the door suddenly burst open and five young people came in unannounced.
"Ned," Monk said, pointing to the first one through the door, "Can you take care of Ron tonight? He needs a ride to practice and home."
Richard could see his mother mouth the word "Richard!" but said nothing.
Ned put his short, heavy body inside the door and smiled beneath his long curly mustache. "Sure I can," he said combing back his slick, dark hair, and then added, "Where do you live?"
Mrs. Oldar stood up and walked over close to her son. The other six people, meanwhile, started to talk so loud that she didn't need to lower her voice.
"You're sure you want to do this?"
Richard nodded. "Don't wait up."
She shook her head, "Of course I won't."
As Ned's big Buick drove along the highway, Richard studied its occupants. Other than the driver, they didn't seem so much older than he. They had an air, however, of having seen the world.
"Two more weeks and I can kick school good-bye." Ned said and with that he took his hands from the wheel.
"Ned, you idiot," the girl sitting next to him declared. She reached her hands over and took the wheel. As she did this, Richard, sitting behind her in the middle of the back seat, could see the big muscles in her forearms. He'd already had a chance to observe her long, well-formed legs that her shorts did not hide. Combining this with her deep, heavy voice Richard didn't know if he felt attracted or repelled by this female contra player the others called "Jen."
"Oh come on, Jen," Ned said, "you know that's why I have you sit by me."
Ned pointed to a little sign high on the dashboard. Richard could make out a cartoon of a well-formed blonde bending over in a pair of shorts tighter than Jen's that said, "Grass, Gas or Ass, No one gets a free ride in my car."
Jen pointed to the roadside lawn, "There it is Ned. Just stop long enough, and I'll get a mouthful to stuff down your throat."
Richard was surprised to hear them both laugh easily.
"Well I'll tell you," the boy on their side declared in a nasal twang, "If my father gave me a car like this, I wouldn't drive the way you do Ned."
"He's not my father," Ned stated, "He's my stepfather, and I can't help it if he's got money. Just like you can't help it if your old man lies around drinking, Paul."
Paul winced his pointed nose. He stood only about five feet tall and, with his blonde hair, could've been Monk's son, except for the upturned point of his nose and skinniness of his frame. He spoke with a heavy Southern accent.
"At least my dad works for a living instead of sitting in some goddarn office all day."
"I tell you," Ned repeated with emphasis, "he's not my father!"
"Hey," Jen interrupted, "No one ever introduced the new boy." She turned around on the front seat and smiled openly through thick braces. I'm Jen-ah, Jennifer Bershiz, contra." She offered her hand.
Richard shook her hand and her grip overpowered his own.
"I'm Richard Oldar," and slowly added "baritone."
The boy next to her turned around next, "I'm Paul Smith, French horn."
The driver started to turn around.
"Keep your hands on the wheel," Jen protested. "That is Ned Martinucci, first soprano."
"At your service."
He shook hands with the boy on his right, a dark-haired boy named Philip Billioni and Tom McClure, a light-skinned blonde bigger than himself, both first sopranos. Richard had seen them before: they both played for another high school across town from his own. As the car proceeded, they spoke little to the three in the front seat and seemed as uncertain as Richard of their words and manner.
Ned reached his arm back over the seat.
"What are you doing now," Jen asked.
"I want something in my briefcase. Ron?"
"Richard," Richard softly corrected.
"Could you open my briefcase?"
"Your 'briefcase!'" Jen sneered.
"I need it for school. There's a piece of paper I want to show you all."
Richard opened the metal fasteners on the expensive-looking leather case and found a pile of papers topped by a piece of smeared note paper. Dots and lines covered it along with sloppy handwriting and a couple of stains Richard couldn't identify.
"Give that to Jen," Ned said, and Richard passed the piece of paper over the chair to Jen, "Now read that title."
"The Beer Bard-No that's Barrel Polka. So what Ed. It looks like you really spilled beer on it," she mockingly said, "'by Ned Martinucci.'"
"I told you," he said, as though proving a disputed point, "Monk is teaching me how to write. There's proof."
"Check out that contra part:" Jen said, "Beep bop, beep bop, beep bop, beep bop!" She repeated the same two notes for a good minute.
"Have a heart, Jen. This is my first try." He reached out his hand across the front seat to grab the piece, but the blond held the part in her right hand out above Paul and out of his reach.
"Beep bop, beep bop, beep bop, beep bop." She said, "No Ned, I'm going to play the whole part. Beep bop, beep bop,..." She repeated the same two notes endlessly.
"Richard?" Paul asked.
"He can't hear you over all the bopping," Ned said.
"Have you ever marched in a corps before?" Paul asked.
"No," Richard said somewhat apologetically, "but I've marched in bands before."
"Ha!" Ned sneered, "You know what Richard: Every month you play in a corps is worth a year in a marching band. You'll find that out at your first camp."
For a long time no one said anything, and Richard wondered what Ned could mean by that. He put his head down on his chest and listened to the sound of the Buick's suspension bottoming out on the Michigan highway.
The Buick entered the corps practice field, part of a big green circle inside a mile-long fenced area with a sign that said:
"Chrysler-Imperial-De Soto test track. Only authorized vehicles allowed."
As the car entered into the track area, Richard could see the field contained a number of different activities going on side by side: a soccer team practicing, a pick-up baseball game. In the center, amid group of cars, and a crowd of one hundred people, a worn-out truck sat with a sign saying:
"Darien Heights Dragoons" with crossed sabers beneath. "Oh $#@%," Philip declared, pointing to the lines standing at attention, "late again."
Tom, joining in, said, "It's this &^%$ Buick. It just can't go fast enough."
Ned turned slowly over his shoulders. "I'm tempted to take it for a little lap around the test track."
"No!" Jen and Paul protested immediately.
Ned laughed, "Then no one better complain about my Buick."
As soon as the car stopped, Tom and Philip piled out with their soprano cases and tried to scramble into the already formed a semi-circle of horns. The others, however, waited for Ned to open the trunk and get their bigger cases. Ned proceeded at a leisurely pace.
Monk Eastman stood in front of the group of about thirty horns, looking expressionlessly at them through thick sunglasses. He pointed a finger at the six of them.
"Late again Ned." He pointed off to the side. "All of you, except Richard, form a rank over here." Richard stood silently inside the circle and watched the other five line up outside the semi-circle. Several voices in the horn ranks called out to Ned:
"The Late Great Martinucci."
"In his own time zone!"
So there seemed no chance they'd get away with whatever Monk wanted them to do. The others from the Buick formed a little line of five shoulder to shoulder, with their horns in front of them with bells down, and started marching in place with their knees up high, "marking time." They proceeded to mark time until Monk told them to stop-fifteen minutes later.
Monk Eastman now told Richard to stand in front of the semi-circle. The thirty or so horn players stood dressed in jeans and shorts. They varied in age from 12 to 19. A few wore sunglasses, and Richard guessed their expressions showed contempt mixed with welcome. They stood with their legs spread shoulder length apart and their arms crossed over their horns, at "parade rest."
"This is Richard Oldar," Monk said, "He comes from Essex. He's trying to decide whether to play with us or with Flint."
At the point, the entire horn line started to call out some derisive comments about Flint. Richard really had considered playing with Flint because the drive to Flint might only take fifteen additional minutes. The laughter of the others amazed him because at their best show, the year before, he'd heard, these Dragoons had only come within 15 points of Flint.
One of the oldest boys stood off to the side the circle. Monk indicated that Richard ought to go talk to him. He stood over six feet with a broad body to match. He shook his head to clear his face of his long, black hair. He held his hand out to Richard and smiled warmly:
"My name is Randy, and I'm really a first baritone player," he said half seriously "But somebody," and he pointed to Monk, "made me a drum major."
Richard wondered about the remark. He'd always imagined himself in front of some great band or orchestra directing, and here was this drum major saying he'd rather play-
"Have you ever played baritone before," Randy said, interrupting his train of thought, "or just trombone?"
"Trombone. I've tried baritone a couple of times, and I know the fingerings."
"It's not hard," Randy said, "I picked it up from trombone in a couple of weeks." He motioned with his hand down the line of ten baritones. "Let me see, first, second, third." He paused, "You know, we've got enough good firsts and thirds, but we really need some strong seconds. You want to play second?"
Richard paused again. Conventional band logic required the best players to play first, the second best second, and the worst third. Apparently corps didn't work that way. It seemed odder still that Randy would compliment him without ever having heard him play a single note.
"Okay," Richard agreed.
Randy led him to a group of four twelve-year-olds with horns the size of his, and pointed to the biggest of them, a short, bent over boy with short hair shaved almost away. The boy wore thick glasses, and when he leaned over with his horn in front, he looked almost like a turtle or an old man.
"Doug, you want to show Richard, here, the parts?"
Doug made a space next to himself for Richard.
Richard looked around a moment for a music stand and didn't find one. "Where is the part?"
Doug pointed down to his feet at a smeared Photostat with tennis shoe tracks and parts scribbled out and written in that said: "The Flying Dutchman."
Doug shrugged and extended a hand that smelled like old valve oil, "Welcome to the second baritones."
As the practice neared the end of its third hour, the early summer sun started to set. The horns still played in a long semi-circle.
Richard didn't feel so impressed. They kept playing the same song, two measures at a time. Some of the horns, he suspected, couldn't even read music, and the "Flying Dutchman" didn't do too much for him.
With the sun half buried under the Western horizon, the calls went from the instructors to form up into the "off-the-line formation," which Richard guessed had to mean the start of the show.
At the horns sorted themselves out at the back of the field along the traffic cones, Monk led him over to a man he hadn't seen before, a short man with a buttoned down shirt, unbuttoned to his waist to expose his hairy chest. As he moved, the man's curly-black hair flew in various directions as did his clipboard that bristled with papers. In the man's eyes, Richard thought he detected a touch of madness.
"Richard," Monk said, "this is John Miasnick, our head drill instructor."
"That's drill destructor," John insisted, pointing with his finger, "and everyone calls me either Johnny or *&^%."
"Richard here needs a spot."
Miasnick held up his ink pen menacingly. "Here, I'll give you a spot."
The joke finished, he picked up his clipboard. He didn't look at Richard but pointed across the field to the pile of cones forming the imaginary football field behind them.
"Baritone? Hm. There, next to Kevin Ainsbach on the far thirty-five."
"But," Richard protested, but Miasnik continued to point firmly in the same direction. When Richard added another "but," the drill instructor put both hands together and pointed his whole body.
"There!" he repeated.
Monk led Richard in the indicated direction and hurried as the corps seemed about to play. Richard noticed that Eastman seemed to have no concern with directing the corps, leaving that all to the drum major. He led him to another baritone, a big, dark-haired boy about the same age as Richard.
"This is Richard Oldar, taking the second baritone spot next to you. Can you help him for a while?"
Kevin took his right hand off his horn only to point to a spot of grass. Seeing Richard's blank expression, he extended his ragged tennis shoe and dug a hole in the earth.
"Stand there," he ordered. Monk nodded and hurried off the field. Richard felt suddenly lost with a line of flags in front of him and horn players all around marking out their positions. Without meaning to do so, he moved a step or two away from the spot Kevin had indicated.
"Corps," Randy declared, "Ten-Hut." Richard awkwardly brought his horn up in front of him into attention position. He tried to move back into his spot by inching his two feet across the ground.
"Move," Kevin said and pushed him with his shoe the rest of the way.
Someone blew a whistle. Kevin started to mark time, and Richard, watching from the corner of his eye, stumbled into doing the same. When Kevin started to play, eight counts later, Richard did the same although he still didn't know any of the music. He tried hard to watch Randy and Kevin at the same time.
"Forward eight." Kevin snapped, his voice half muffled by the horn. Richard moved forward with the line. Suddenly, he spotted bodies moving directly towards him, a whole group of French horns, until he thought one would hit him in the head.
"Follow the arc eight!" Kevin stopped playing to yell. "Arc," Richard wondered, what arc? Richard could only see two sopranos in front of him. Behind him, Kevin gave him a shove with the bell of his horn.
"Cut-cut avous!" Johnny yelled over the sound of the horns. "Let's take it again."
Richard looked around but could find no dug up piece of earth like where'd he'd begun a few counts before. He looked at the faces starting to move backward into line, and he desperately said: "Kevin?"
The other boy roughly gripped his shoulder. As he turned, the other baritone said. "Look, I'm going to show to you. You'd better pay attention this time."
Richard sighed. "I will." As he put his foot back where Kevin indicated, he breathed a sigh of relief. He realized, though, he'd only run 40 counts, he hadn't played a note, and it still seemed overwhelming.
Ned drove Richard home last. The soccer teams had cleared out at 7:30. The sun had set at 8:00. The drill runs had ended at 8:30 and the music rehearsal when no one could see anything. Richard felt exhausted and frustrated when he got in the car and said nothing as Ned dropped off first Jen, then Paul, and finally Tom and Philip. With the others gone, Ned rambled on about the new girl soprano player he'd met that evening while Richard listened in silence.
"So you think I should ask her out?" Ned said as the car pulled into Richard's driveway.
"Yeah," Richard said without much enthusiasm.
Richard opened and closed the door.
"See you Friday."
Richard said nothing. He entered the house, pausing to look at the lawn he didn't have to stomp on and the big two-car garage without any Buicks. He shut the door gently and felt like he was entering a place he'd left centuries ago. He looked for a second at the two big, comfortable armchairs before marching straight to the refrigerator and swilling twenty ounces of ice water.
When he got to the big hallway, he tried to walk silently into his little room, but he heard a big thunk and remembered, too late, the size of the big baritone case in his hand. He opened the door, put the case down, and fell into his bed almost in a single motion.
"Is that you?" Richard's mother asked from the other bedroom nearest his. "Do you know what time it is?"
He felt like answering that it was long after sunset, but he said nothing. His mother filled the silence:
"Are you really going to march with that, that drum corps?"
Richard didn't say anything, but thought: A whole evening on forty counts of music; people who acted crazy; total exhaustion; wadded up Photostats on the ground; Randy saying "We need some good seconds, we need some good seconds, we need some good seconds."
Did they need him; did he need them?
"Yes Mom, I think I am gonna march with that corps."
From the Drum Corps Reporter
MAYDAY: FIVE LAKES' CORPS PREPARE FOR 1977 SEASON
By Theodore Skidmore
As the Five Lakes Corps put their final preparations together for the 1977 seasons, rumors abound. Is this going to be the year that one of the Five Lakes Corps will actually make DCI Associate Membership? Will more of the Five Lakes Corps make the "A" corps finals at Marion or Butler? Will the Drum Corps Reporter allow me to continue providing all this news to you without paying me a cent?
(From paragraph five)
Rumors suggest the Darien Heights Dragoons will move up into the bottom of the "A" corps division after winning the Five Lakes "B" corps title last year. Two small corps in their area, The Sheffield Zealots and Shropshire Lake Freebooters, have folded, and the Dragoons have picked up a few bodies from them as well as from their high school recruitment plans. Their instruction includes Five Lakes veteran Monk Eastman, horns, assisted by Randy and Luke Battavius, last year of the Scarlet Brigadiers. The drum line is said to be big and instructed by Ken Masure, last year's DCI World Individual Snare Drum Champion. The drill is being taught by Daniel "Bozo" Thompkins and Johnny Miasnik, both of whom marched with the defunct Centurions. The inside scoop has the corps with 40 plus horns and going to Butler and Marion. Their goal is apparently to make the finals in those shows. Who knows what the black
and blue crew might do?
Camping With the Corps (May 19, 1977)
Richard could almost feel the sun physically hitting him. The perspiration had dried on his t-shirt, become wet again, and dried so many times that he no longer noticed the smell. The field lay in a little bowl out in the woods, the cabins several blocks away. If he squinted, he could see the nearest shade, a patch of grass under an oak tree about thirty yards from the hot practice field.
He stared intently at the sight of the fourteen-year-old boy with the long, frizzy hair walking past that shade an empty milk bottle in his hand. As the boy's burned shoulders disappeared into the line of trees at the camp, he mentally counted off the minutes he figured it would take the other boy before he would reach the cafeteria to fill the bottle with ice cold water.
"Let's run it again from the three fronts," he heard a voice say.
Kevin moved across his path. The other boy's tight shorts made his muscular chest seem that much larger than Richard's. Instead of a shirt, Kevin wore the remains of an old flag, draped around him like a sash.
Richard sighed and took three hesitant steps to the right of the other boy. When he started to put his horn down on the ground, he felt a sudden pull on his shoulders. He felt himself yanked three feet, and when the arm released him, Richard automatically put both fists in front of him.
"Stupid," Kevin said into his face, ignoring or misinterpreting the fists pointed his direction, "We turn four, and then we slide eight. You should be right here."
"I thought we..." Richard started.
"Hey," Kevin warned, "the first show is two weeks from now, and if you go the wrong way then,....:"
The line hung in the air, a threat.
"I won't!" Richard snapped.
The comment bounced over Kevin's turned back as he had already turned around and strolled over to talk to a pair of flag girls. Richard looked on for a moment at the two younger girls, dressed in shorts and halters. They watched the bare-chested boy in front of them and giggled.
Kevin scrambled back deftly to his place. Richard wished then that the other might get caught out of place, but that didn't happen. Richard realized also how well Kevin knew the instructors.
He could see, through the burned backs before him, the two drill instructors standing at the front of the football field.
"Everybody-play this time."
Richard brought the mouthpiece of the big baritone to his chops. He tried to wet them, but no moisture came to his tongue. Still Richard felt something touching him when he put the mouthpiece to his face. He pulled the heavy horn out in front of him for a second and looked. He saw tiny particles of a black substance caked onto the blue-gray metal that he'd spent hours of each day shoving into his chops. It occurred to him that his lips had rotted away in the last three blistering days. He wished he could wash the junk out but settled for rubbing the mess out with his hand.
"Corps." He stared forward as he heard the strained voice, "Mark-time-Mark!"
Richard took in a breath of air. His eyes glanced around to find Randy marking time on the podium. He squinted to avoid the sunlight glancing off the horns.
His shoulders felt very sore, and the perspiration began to trickle down his back again as his legs started to move. He thought of taking his shirt off, but when he compared the tight shoulders, the taut stomachs, and the sharp tans of everyone else, to his own meager frame and his short, weak arms, he felt tiny and embarrassed. He wondered, for a moment, if he could ever really hope to march through a show. It'd all seemed so easy a few days and degrees earlier.
The sound came from the horn line sickly. He tried to remember the horn parts, but could only hear himself sticking out, broarping the wrong notes and filling the rests. He turned, two-three-four, and twisted his body to slide the eight steps.
For one brief second, despite thirty tired horn players around him, he could hear himself playing. He was actually contributing to the sound. Then, the move they'd rehearsed all morning, thirty seconds out of a thirteen minute drill, ended. He expected to hear Johnny, the drill instructor, yelling "cut," or "kill it," or something witty, but no one said anything.
What came next, he thought frantically, what came next? He guessed he should be marking time. He lifted his right leg high and felt someone crash into him, which jammed his mouthpiece into his lips. He turned to the left and saw Kevin, his face red, and his fist raised.
"Get moving you *&&^%!"
He moved two steps even as the other gave him a angry shove to get him started. Just then a voice at the front of the field yelled:
"Cut!!" he stopped moving and slowly turned to his left to hear the inevitable.
"Why the &&^^% don't you know that move yet! If you don't know the *&&^ moves, then don't &*^% play!" Then Kevin turned, too angry to continue.
"Everyone back!!!" the drill instructors' voices yelled. They went back, and Richard found himself standing once more in the tiny piece of trampled ground he'd occupied almost the entire day. He could see his own shoe mark and placed himself inside it.
He looked around at the others. Though most looked younger than he, they seemed untroubled, no worries at all. The younger boys laughed and talked. The camp from the week before had covered their bodies with a pink, peeling tan that stood out against the green trees on the distant hill beyond the field of dusty grass.
They spotted the boy with the water at the same time as Richard. Now, he understood Ned's remark about "one month of corps being worth more than a year of band." Even those little twelve-year-olds were doing better than he was because they'd survived a previous season or even a previous month, and they'd learned the art of enduring. The question Richard couldn't answer was whether marching a season simply made them all tougher or served to weed out the weak.
The line from Richard's quarter of the drill formed around the boy with the precious ice water. Richard tried not to notice one of the girls letting Kevin take cuts in line. The bottle moved backwards. No one bothered with cups; they simply swilled down as much as possible. Richard stared eagerly as the water passed into the hands of Mark Thompkins, the blonde boy in front of him.
"In your places everybody," he heard the instructors yell.
"But-" was all Richard said before taking his place again. He felt the warm metal baritone as he picked it up again and took another deep breath.
When he looked at the front of the field, however, Monk Eastman, and not Randy, stood on the podium. Monk had watched most of the drill practice from the shade of the one oak tree near the practice field, reading the horn charts and smoking one cigarette after another.
"Horn line-ten minutes-meet in the pool!"
Heads were shaking as they left the little field and went back towards the cabins. He wondered what Monk meant, but shook his head and went to the bathroom. He placed his horn, bell down, near the sink. He checked to see that no else was around and took a seat in one of the stalls.
"Who's in here," a voice said.
"Richard, Richard Oldar."
He waited for the inevitable joke about "Older than what," but heard nothing.
"Never heard of you-" the other answered. "What do you play?"
"So you're the guy with the blonde hair, right?"
"No, I play second baritone."
"Oh-then you're," he tried the title, "'Richard, 2nd baritone.'"
"Yeah, I guess," Richard said without enthusiasm.
"Well Richard, 2nd baritone, what are we supposed to be doing?"
"Going to the pool is what Monk said." Richard felt very strange talking to someone in the stall, but the other person seemed so friendly. "Why aren't you at rehearsal?"
"I was," he paused, "it's just I had an emergency-a bit too much beer last night." The remark sounded half boastful and half serious.
Richard had heard the cars leave the night before right-after the police came to tell them that their 11:00 music rehearsal was keeping the decent folks in the nearby town from sleeping. He'd watched the older kids, like Ned and Paul, leaving and some of the instructors also piling into cars to head for town. He'd supposed they would invite him, as being one of the few people close to legal drinking age, but no seemed to remember him. He'd felt relieved, in a way, because he didn't think could've gone drinking and practiced today without getting sick. At the same time, though, he'd felt left out.
Richard rose and went to wash his hands.
"If you can wait a minute," the soprano said, "I'll go with you."
Richard stood quietly, reading the names carved into the wall. A moment later, the door opened, and he spotted Phil Sahagun, one member of the soprano quartet that played during the concert number, and perhaps the best horn player in the corps. An assured smile covered the face of the tanned, brown-haired first soprano. Phil extended his hand, then remembered to wash it first.
The two walked outside in the general direction of the pool. As they did, they passed by the cafeteria where the drum line practiced their solo. Since the corps currently lacked the percussion instruments, the drummers hammered away with their respect mallets on the nearest substitute, the camp tables.
Phil pointed to them, watching the wood chip fly as they build large dents into the aged tables, a growing pile of splinters nearby.
"Boy, they're going to be good, aren't they?"
Richard felt tired and frustrated. If he never heard the words "drum corps" again, he'd feel perfectly all right. He started to say this: "Phil do you ever feel like..." but Phil's friendly open smile disarmed him. He looked so honest, so true. "Yeah you're right," he managed instead, "that drum line is going to be good."
As they got near the pool, they started to see strange piles of clothing scattered along the way.
"Come on!" Phil said and suddenly they both started running towards the pool with their instruments still in their hands. In the water, he could see the heads of the horn players and horns bobbing in the water like metal fish.
When they got to the side, Phil pulled off shirt, and tossed it on the cement.
"But I don't have a suit." Richard protested.
Phil just laughed, "Come on!"
Richard tossed his sweaty shirt over his shoulder as he kicked off his marching shoes. Then he ran down the cement deck and jumped high into the air. For a moment he felt like he was flying, and then he fell slowly in the cool water, his horn still held in his hand.
The warm water met and flowed over him, washing away days of grime and exhaustion. He stayed under the waves until the last bit of air bubbled from his mouth. When he surfaced, even his mouthpiece seemed clean and fresh again.
He could see Randy treading water with one hand and holding his baton with the other at the deep end of the pool.
"At the letter C." Randy said.
The kids laughed but brought their horns up.
"Corps, mark time mark."
Richard reacted before the others and got his chops to the mouthpiece. For a second, he could hear himself playing, standing out, even playing some of the parts right, but by then the others had figured out what was happening. Horns joined in until the sound became a single blended whole and Richard could only imagine he heard himself.
For a few seconds, he tried to remember the dots and dashes written down on the wrinkled Photostat shoved deep inside his pocket that the chlorine was quickly rotting away. Then he gave up. He could hear the first baritones above him, the thirds below, and he placed his notes right in the middle. Sometimes he played the wrong notes, but when he played the right ones, they fit in perfectly, like water in a warm pool.
Riding With Johnny and Bozo (May 20, l977)
The old, rusted Nova pulled into the big driveway of Philip's house, and the three boys gathered up their cases. Ned had made it clear to Richard, on the phone, that he absolutely had to drive the new soprano, from the folded Freebooters. Ned hoped that, with no other boys to distract her, he could convince her to go out him. As Richard looked at the primered car, with half it's back seat full of junk, he began to wonder if he hadn't called the wrong person for a ride.
"Hurry up," Bozo said in the ninety degree afternoon heat, "It's getting cold in here."
Johnny added, "and the meter is running."
Tom looked at the car doubtfully, but entered and sat down on the far side, and Richard and Philip filled out the cramped back seat.
"It's crowded back here," Tom said.
"Next time," Bozo responded, "order a limousine."
The car moved in reverse about ten feet before coming to a sudden stop. Johnny held out his hand over the back seat. "Oops, I just ran out of money."
"Goddamn," Philip said as he put out his dollar for gas. Richard dutifully added his own three dollars.
"Will you stop with the jokes already," Tom added along with his money.
In mock sympathy the two adults said, "Aaawwwwww." As the car started to pull out Bozo added, "I've got bad news. You just bought tickets to the evening show."
The car continued across several miles of suburban streets until it reached a neighborhood a little worse than Richard's and then stopped in front of a modest, ranch-style house.
"Why are we stopping here," Philip protested.
"We're looking for your brain," Johnny answered.
"Try checking the gas-" Bozo added, but Johnny walked inside the house.
"Is this Johnny's house?" Richard put in.
"No," Bozo said, "it's his mother's. She's just his landlord."
Richard persisted, "Well how old is Johnny?" He judged the drill instructor to be about twenty-five.
"Too old for you," Bozo said, "And he's not your type."
"What does he do for a living?"
"He works with all the crazy people. He works for the government."
"So he went to college?" Philip asked. Richard knew that Philip planned to go to college just like Richard.
"He went to lots of colleges. He majored in beer drinking, and he got his degree from Fool College at Budweiser University."
By this time Johnny had emerged with an old blue corps tunic made of a heavy material and weighted with two rows of heavy brass buttons. "I'll be glad when we have Rick for the right side of the drill and you for the left, so I don't have to work any more." He tossed the jacket into the back seat on top of Philip, "Next time someone complains about heat from our uniforms," he explained, "I'm gonna make him wear this for an hour."
"Well," Bozo answered, "Johnny, it really is more your color. "
The Chevy entered onto the southbound I-75 from the surface street. Richard observed a number of strange occurrences on this freeway. Cars changed lanes without signals. Drivers stuck their heads out of cars to talk to one another. Older cars seemed about ready to park.
As one, the two instructors observed the five o'clock rush with a single comment, they yelled: "Oh no, the NUTS are out!"
The drive down the highway itself drew more comments from the pair. They talked straight at the other cars as though speaking to someone a few feet away and apparently not caring if anyone heard their remarks. The strange running commentary lasted twelve miles.
When a car almost merged into the Nova's lane, Johnny asked: "Coming over to join me?"
When a car in front of them switched from one lane to another three or four times, Bozo added: "Pick a lane, any lane."
When a driver honked his horn for no reason, Johnny pointed at him and explained: "You're an A*&^."
When a pickup truck almost rear-ended the car, Johnny observed: "But this car doesn't like to mate."
The drive continued all the way to the Darien Heights test track, and the two continued to speak to the "Nuts."
Bozo rehearsed Richard's side of the drill, and Johnny the other as each ran half the horns and flags. Richard made more than his share of mistakes and got appropriate responses. When he forgot to bring his horn up, Bozo observed, just as he would to one of those drivers.
"Late with the horn. Remember you're supposed to PLAY."
When Richard turned left instead of right, Bozo remarked, "No go to your OTHER right."
Richard didn't like making mistakes or being corrected, but when he heard a remark like this, it made him laugh at the same time. He seemed to do better the next time, though, because the comment made him remember the mistake so well.
During one of the drill breaks, when the instructors ran the flags only, Richard asked Ned about their drill instructor.
"Did Bozo ever go to college?"
They both looked across at the man with the flying curls and the unbuttoned shirt waving his arms, his two slightly oversized teeth biting into his lip.
"You know what? He did. He marched corps all the way till he was twenty-one and worked all those summers saving his money. When he turned twenty-one, he started college. I think he's a senior next year at Ohio State."
"Music?" Richard asked.
"No." Ned laughed, "engineering."
"You mean," Richard said, looking across at the two instructors standing at the front of the imaginary field waving their clipboards at the guard. "he comes back every summer just to teach drill?"
"Well what about this guy Rick James. He's not this crazy too is he?"
Ned leaned over laughing for a full minute. Finally, he recovered enough to say "Rick James? He used to be Centurion's drum major two years ago. He must've turned twenty-one two years ago."
"Why are you laughing?"
"They wanted to kick him out as drum major because one time he got drunk right before a show and fell off the podium!"
"On your feet," he heard Bozo saying.
"All these drill instructors are crazy," Richard said.
Ned snorted, "You have to be to teach drill."
"Line up for a full run through," Bozo said and added combing his frizzy hair upward towards the sky. "It's a good day to die."
Johnny drove the car slowly through Richard's suburb past the houses. They'd already dropped Tom and Philip at their houses, and it was nearly eleven 'o' clock. Then Johnny said:
"Do I have to hang a Louie or pull a Richard?"
Richard thought a moment, "A Richard."
"A Richard for Richard." Johnny said, turning right. Richard grabbed the seat as he heard the sound of tires squealing.
"He's Richard than me," Bozo said.
Richard held out his hand and pointed over Bozo's shoulder. "The one with the four trees out front."
"The mansion," Johnny nodded.
"Don't mansion it."
The car halted about ten feet up the driveway behind his mother's car, and Bozo opened the door saying, "It's time to say goodnight and sleep tight."
Johnny waved a finger as Richard got out of the car, "Don't let the bedbugs bite."
For a second, Richard watched the ragged Nova pull out of the driveway and slowly proceed up the street. Then, he could take it no longer and starting laughing uncontrollably.
Ask Your Father (May 22, 1977)
Richard heard the fumbling sound at the door to his house. His mother scrambled in the general direction of the disturbance. He knew that could only mean one thing: his father had come home again.
He looked up from his trigonometry book. He shoved his usual sheath of papers back inside its covers and sat up on his bed. He waited ten long minutes looking over the long rows of titles on the bookshelves his father had completed for him fifteen-years ago. Some of the books belonged to his father, hardcover durable books, dog stories and famous tales for children, and a complete set of the Hardy Boy mysteries. Several years accumulation of dust covered these books because Richard had never opened one of them. Below that level he could see a small section of textbooks his brother "permanently borrowed" from various schools and left when he went off to college. A lesser amount of dust covered these. On the bottom shelf, he could see his own contribution to the collection, hundreds of bright, pastel covered science fiction books with titles like Galactic Space Rebels, Mind Mowers of Venus, and The Plastic Tomorrow. He owned so many now that they lay three deep so that the colors blended together into a lurid whole.
He could hear the conversation outside as his mother and father talked, and his sisters occasionally butted in. The sound moved closer and closer.
Then, the door to his room opened. He could see his father, a short man with a growing bald spot. His face, with long thick eyelashes, glasses, and a half smile resembled his own. His father still wore his pinstriped traveling suit, but he'd already put on his slippers. His mother, starting to run out of stories, had returned to her housework. His sisters' voices faded.
Richard did not rush forward to hug his father or even close the distance across the room. He and his father expressed their affections in other ways.
"How was your trip?" Richard began.
His father smiled, "Well, you've been to Las Vegas once, and you've been a thousand times."
"What was it like though?" Richard asked, not really sure if he had any interest but wanting to avoid the hard subject he knew they'd have to talk about.
His father stood in the doorway starting to tell about that strange world of slot machines. He mentioned the clocks that never stopped and how he'd done all his eating at the cheap breakfast places and spent his dinner account on seeing Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. As he proceeded to talk, his father started to wander, putting his suit coat away and then his tie. Richard followed him, out of his room, into the hallway, and into his parents' room, hearing the story in pieces. Finally his father came to a pause, somewhere between the hallway and the bedroom, Los Vegas and Detroit, and came to the real subject:
"Your mother tells me you've joined a drum corps." Richard knew his father had watched a drum corps show or two and understood the demands of marching with a drum corps.
"Yes," Richard began, "the Darien Heights Dragoons."
"Darien Heights," his father said, "that's a pretty rough neighborhood. Guys get killed there every day."
"We're only practicing out on the test track."
His father sighed. "What about your headaches?" The thought that he could get one of those terrible, throbbing sinus headaches had not yet occurred to Richard.
"I haven't had a headache so far." Richard stated.
"But what if you do? What if you're in some strange city or at some show, and you get sick. What are you going to do?"
"I'll have to just rest somewhere or not play the show."
"They won't like that."
Richard frowned because his father was right. They'd probably call him a "suck" or a "weep". Maybe they'd understand. Maybe not. "It's better to play most of the time," Richard said stubbornly, "than not at all."
His father walked into the kitchen and Richard followed. When he had the door of the refrigerator half opened, Mr. Oldar continued, "And what about your school work? Your mother tells me you're not even getting five hours sleep nights."
"Most of my grades are set. There's only a couple weeks left anyway. The one grade I can change, in trig., I'm studying for. I'm even taking the books with me to practice."
Mr. Oldar shrugged and took the cartoon of milk to the table. He looked around for a paper cup in the dispenser and, finding none, took the first glass he found in the cupboard. He started to pour:
"I thought you and your buddies were going to try to work this summer and earn some money for college" he tipped the cup up, "or something."
"Dad, we've been trying to get jobs three years in a row, and we haven't gotten one yet," Richard maintained. "There are too many kids looking for those kind of jobs."
Mr. Oldar drained the glass to the bottom. "Then you're giving up?"
Richard didn't say anything. He hated his father talking about giving up. His father, he probably thought, wanted to remind him that he'd quit boy scouts two years ago and had talking about quitting band this year. How could his father be so critical of him? He got mostly A's in school, he had some good friends, and he never got in trouble.
Mr. Oldar put the glass inside the sink and rinsed it with clean water. He placed the milk carton back inside the avocado colored refrigerator and sat back down. He picked up the old Time magazine from the stack carefully saved for him and seriously considered.
"You know corps cost money in dues, right?"
"Yes," Richard said, "I can take it out of my savings."
His father turned the page. Richard stared over his glasses. For a second, he really needed to talk, to share, with his father. He wanted to talk about the things that happened at practice, the people he'd met, and the movie he'd seen. He wanted to tell his father why he just had to go. He could only see the thick glasses and the green eyes observing him slightly over the cover of the magazine.
"You really want to do this, don't you, Richard?"
"Yes!" Richard blurted out.
His father put the magazine down and sat silently for a moment, "You're not going to come home crying if you can't cut it, right?"
Richard nodded, and his father picked the magazine up.
"Then if it's all right with your mother," he said, "it's all right with me."
Richard could hear his two parents arguing through the wall next to his room. He tried to concentrate on his trigonometry problem.
"You didn't see those people," his mother protested, "They were like bums."
"Half the time you think I'm a bum, dear."
"You are a bum," his mother joked, "Running off working and letting me make all the decisions. You should see how tired he is when he comes home from those practices, and he's starting to say these weird jokes."
"You can still tell him to quit."
The conversation paused. Richard knew his mother never contradicted his father. Instead she'd try to make his father reverse his own decision, so it sound like she supported whatever decision he made.
"I hope you know what you're doing," she said. "The problem is he's just as crazy as you are." She made the word crazy sound half good and bad.
"I'm sure you're right," he yawned.
"You are. This is just the sort of thing you would've done when you were a kid."
"They didn't have drum corps in my neighborhood."
"You know what I mean. What if he gets sick, and they leave him behind in some strange city?"
"I don't think they will. Besides, that may would be good for him. You've got to let the boy grow up."
Richard crossed the room to the light switch. He took one last look at his rows and rows of books and turned off the light. He took exactly two steps and fell onto his bed. He pulled an earphone from the ground and pushed the play button on his recorder. He could still hear his parents talking as the strains of Wagner started to drown them out. What had Randy said the other night:
"You don't mess with Wagner."
He chuckled and went off to sleep with the Valkyries.
The Image of Drum Corps (May 25, 1977)
Ned pointed at the line of sleeping bags spread out across the floor of the small Riverside Parks and Recreation Building. The bags reached all the way to the grass outside. Richard's back still hurt from having slept outside on the grass.
"I think, perhaps, someone expected a corps a couple sizes smaller than ours."
Richard shrugged. He couldn't imagine that two hours from now he'd play his very first show. He'd played only portions of the show in practice, and he really had no idea what to expect from a whole run-through. As he felt the exhaustion in his upper body, he worried.
He took another bite from his peanut butter sandwich, his third for the day. For breakfast he'd have to try the salami. Just at that moment, he heard the voice of Leon, their black equipment manager.
"Everybody line up for a little corps meeting."
The kids got up, groaning, from their positions around the building lawn.
"We were eating," one of the horns protested.
"You can take it with you," Leon answered.
"That's drum corps," Ned complained, as he picked up his plate, "peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to go."
Leon motioned for the hundred or so young people to seat themselves around a couple of racks of gray clothes containers. Even the instructors came over to join the group in front of the aged Ford equipment truck. Leon combed his hair back slightly and waited for the giggles to die down. Richard took a seat between Ned and Paul with most of the horn line. Everyone seemed in a pretty good mood despite a long day of marching on the lawn outside the side of the building.
"Now listen," Leon began, standing, "I'm going to tell you about the care and feeding of your uniform." A couple of low voices groaned, "And I'm not just talking to you new guys. Before I issue any of these fine uniforms, I'm going to go through a little uniform etiquette."
Richard sighed. He'd seen the Dragoon uniforms before, second-hand blue and black things.
Leon carefully took a uniform off the rack and unzipped its bag end to end. A second later he held out a brand new green tunic with yellow braiding, a gold "x" running from shoulder to shoulder, golden buttons down the front, and gold epaulettes on the shoulder.
"That's beautiful," someone said.
"Your darn right it's beautiful, and you are gonna treat these uniforms with proper respect."
A couple of the contras laughed a little. Over their shoulder, they heard a low voice, "Considering how much they cost, you'd better treat them like they're made out of real gold."
Richard turned over his shoulder and spotted Mr. Menlo, the corps general manager and business manager. He scowled through his thick glasses down at the rest of the corps, and Richard thought he looked cold and distant.
"This here," Leon continued, "is your tunic, not your 'shirt.' You do not take off your tunic at any time, during a show, without an instructor's permission and a Dragoon's t-shirt underneath."
"They could get pretty smelly," Richard whispered.
"Keep the judges away," Ned said loud enough for others to hear.
Leon drew the other principle part of the uniform from the bag, a pair of golden pants trimmed with green stripes along the edges to match the tunics.
"Now any time you are not wearing your tunic or pants, they should be hung up."
One of the sopranos said, "Maybe we should call them our 'hang-ups.'"
Leon heard the remark and almost smiled, but he proceeded in his semi-serious manner. "When you have your tunic and pants on, you are not to eat or drink."
"Can we breath?" one of the contras asked.
"Not till you lose some weight," Leon answered. While the others laughed, Leon opened the next bag on the rack, "Now the guard gets the same tunic plus this." He withdrew a gold skirt. "Now some of the guard been complaining a lot about the old wool skirts with their wool liners." He twisted the skirt inside out and Richard noticed gold liner that looked like silk. Leon stepped forward and handed the skirt to the nearest person, the guard captain. "Now that's soft. Pass that around."
As the guard captain passed the skirt around, Leon proceeded. "Now every time you see our guard, and they're really bringing their legs up, I want you to imagine this material sliding up their thighs, and see if you don't see a smile on their faces."
After about two seconds, Richard looked around and watched the faces of those twelve to sixteen-year-old girls' face turn scarlet as the inevitable catcalls began.
"That's how bad," Leon added, smiling, "we want good leglift."
Next, Leon opened one of the boxes near his feet and pulled out a pillbox shaped object with a golden emblem and a long, feathery shaped object wrapped in cellophane.
"This is not your 'hat.' It is your shako. And this," he took the feathery object out of its case and stuck it in a slot on the shako, "is not your 'bird' or your 'feather,' unless you're a birdbrain. It is your plume. Never carry your shako except like this," he tucked the shako under his arm with the plume pointed upward, "or you may drop your plume and have to pay for some dry-cleaning because the corps cannot afford it."
Inevitably, some of the horn players started to say something, but Mr. Menlo's hard voice cut through the crowd again. "This is not funny. I sent those uniforms back three times to have them remade, and I might send them back again if I don't think you're ready to wear them."
For a second no one spoke, and then Leon motioned to Kevin. A lot of the good spirits of a moment before had disappeared.
"Kevin, you want to model for us."
"Whew..." a couple of flags yelled as he stood up and took the boxes and uniform bag in the truck to change.
"Kevin will show us the proper way to wear the uniform."
From another of the smaller boxes, Leon produced a small pair of white lady's gloves.
"Now these are your gloves," he said. "I don't want to see anybody not keeping these white or gardening with them. That means you wash and bleach them when you have to."
Several players moaned. From the last box Leon drew a pair of immaculate, white leather shoes. "These are not your 'shoes' boys and girls. These are your 'white bucks.' You put 'buck polish' on them. Now I know some of you were using tennis shoes last year and dying them black." He looked directly into several pairs of eyes, "but you are not going to use those tennis shoes and dye them white. Mr. Menlo, as you all know, owns a shoe store, and he's going to sell shoes to anyone that doesn't have them, at wholesale, $8."
"Eight bucks for bucks," Paul whispered to Richard.
"If you take advantage of this generous offer, you are going to clean these shoes and not just keep adding more polish."
Several horn players snapped their fingers. Leon's face now assumed a serious look.
"Look, I know you had a hard day, and I been funning a little with you, but now I'm serious. I don't want to hear about anyone doing anything that would disgrace their uniform or not wearing white gloves or shoes."
The guard captain added, "or gold panties."
For a second the last remark just lay there, until finally Johnny's voice ran authoritatively, from four rows behind, "I will inspect for the panties."
After the laughter died, Leon called over his shoulder, "Are you ready Kevin?"
"Ready," came the reply.
"Now," Leon announced, "I present you with the image of the Darien Heights Dragoons."
Kevin emerged wearing a striking outfit. He wore one white shoe and one black. He wore no suspenders so that his pants sagged below his waist. His tunic lay half unbuttoned over his naked chest. He wore only a single glove with which he held his horn, and his shako turned sideways on his head. He covered his face with the expression of the village idiot. As he started to mark time, his pants worked slowly down from his waist until half his underwear showed.
"Oh my god," someone shouted ironically, "the image of our corps."
Kevin kept marching as though nothing had happened, his face covered with the same stupid grin.
Richard couldn't get used to changing his pants in front of the two fifty-year-old corps mothers issuing uniforms. When he'd offered to go to the bathroom to change, one of them answered.
"We've got one hundred kids to fit tonight. Get those pants off."
"Thirty-two long. Waist thirty-six," the other answered, looking at his body and not his face.
"That one's out in the truck still?"
"Where?" the other answered.
Richard didn't know why, but suddenly they left him alone in the small office of the building being used as a fitting room. After a few seconds, he began to wander around the room and located the hat that someone had left out after fitting. He slid it on his head and slipped his gloves onto his hands.
He looked over his shoulder because he thought he'd heard something. He spotted a stranger, a man who looked taller than Richard with a pointed plume over his shako. A broad powerful, golden cross covered his chest making him appear bigger. Richard couldn't see much of the stranger's eyes beneath his headgear, but his lips opened in an expression between sincerity and uncertainty. Both stood motionless, staring at one another.
Then Richard knew the stranger in the uniform. They'd hung a full length mirror inside this makeshift dressing room. The stranger was he.
A Hard Day's Night (May 25, 1977)
"Oh God I feel tired," Richard thought as he picked up his horn from off his chest and raised it to his lips. He felt the remnants of a peanut butter sandwich rumbling around his stomach. He thanked himself he'd not drunk that soda before the show, or he'd be barfing.
Just at that moment, he heard a drum major's voice from the back of the field. "Hornnnnns up." He made the heavy instrument come up and settle once more onto the aching muscles in his forearms. He understood now why Sue Cormant, the only girl baritone player, lifted weights during the off-season. He felt his shoulders giving under the burden.
"One, two, three FOUR!"
Oh what were they playing, he wondered. His eyes scanned left and right. He could see the red coming to the faces of....How many? He watched the space in front of him, moving his arms, as they tried to collapse under him, in a grim parody of excitement. That hulking piece of metal seemed to weigh a ton. As he watched from the corner of his eyes, he noticed Kevin putting his feet at parade rest, and, two steps later, he did the same. He felt thankful that he didn't have to march during the next number, the concert number.
He tried to watch Randy on the platform yards away as the number began. A man in a blue jacket, polished shoes and the old campaigner's hat, blocked his vision, and he thought "Oh no, that #$%* judge is coming towards me."
He watched the scowling, fifty year-old-man moving closer and closer, pen in hand, looking right and left and marking. The man got bigger and bigger until Richard could see the scowling eyebrows and the tense look of concentration as the judge listened for "ticks," mistakes.
He shoved the mouthpiece to his lip and blew just enough air through it to feel the cold steel kissing him. At the same time, he moved his shoulders up and down and around like he'd seen in the films when the horn players were "getting into it." The slight movements broke even the single note he repeated, and for just a second he could hear himself playing on the rest.
The same instant, the judge swung on his heels to change directions. He watched the hunched old man take three steps, turn to his right, and note something on his clipboard before decidedly walking off.
Richard's eyes wandered around aimlessly, even as he worked the rotor back and forth, until his rested on one of the prettier flag girls a few yards to his left. He admired her trim legs as they remained motionless and his imagination slowly climbed up her thighs, higher, higher. Was she really wearing regulation gold panties, like....
He brought his horn down suddenly, an instant late, and he searched left and right wondering if anyone had seen. He felt the strap too tight around his neck and could feel the perspiration gathering on his fingers from holding on to that horn. Suddenly it occurred to him he might not be able to hold to that cursed piece of metal the other three minutes of the show. The drum major on the podium, the horns around him, they all seemed so far away. He had only pain and perseverance to bring him through to the end. He couldn't believe that he'd ever wanted to do this, or could ever want to do this again.
Looking to his left and right, he could see no faces, only grim smiles, as the others tried to survive just like he did. Far in the distance, he could see only dots, not people, sitting in the stands waiting to see what would happen to these Darien Heights Dragoons. Standing here in the middle of the field, on trampled grass behind his horn, he felt more alone than he'd ever felt in his life.
As he looked out at the stands, however, he made a decision: I'm going to make it through to the end of this show, if they have to amputate my arms and give me oxygen, I'm going to make it through. He breathed angrily from his nose, as the drum major signaled their horns up, and thought: after this nothing will ever seem too hard.
"Corps, Mark time mark...."
He hoisted the baritone back up into the cradle of his arms for the last number. The heavy bell blocked his face out. Was he supposed to turn here? ...Wait....Umm....There.
The panic left him as he stumbled into his line, shoving horns right and left. He imagined they stared at him, but he felt only the jolt of their elbows on his aching arms. He secretly envied the girl on his right, carrying only a tiny soprano, or even the flag on his left with her holster.
The arc expanded backward slowly. He realized with a start that he knew the music here. He blew heavily into the horn, not caring how much he blasted on the passage. Just one simple note after another. His face suddenly felt a pain as his chops failed to hit the right pitch, and he heard more wrong notes.
As he turned slowly, he realized no one else had turned. He remembered Johnny's instructions: Make a big screw up, make it look natural. He slowly turned back as though he'd made no mistake.
He saw the others in his line now, yards away. His mind said: This #$%@ horn is so heavy I could scream. Where are the people I'm supposed to line up with? Is this what it's supposed to all be about. There..
He spotted a line. Five horns with a blank spot. Was that his place or no? Left, right, on the soft grass. Then he slotted himself in. He wasn't playing again, so he didn't bother looking forward at the podium but looked straight right and left. He didn't see the right two faces but spotted Sue's and Jim's, and he knew he'd taken the wrong spot!
He jerked himself in the hole so quickly that he almost hit one of them in the head. Then he felt the sudden impact of something hitting him in the shoulders. His shoulders reeled and his mind screamed: You dumb %$#@. Yet before he could think any more, he saw an entire line of horns bearing down in him. A contra player stood glaring at him, and Richard moved two steps backward, and the big horn gave a space through the line.
Then he saw it: his hole. His white shoes slipped on the grass, but he moved so fast he almost surprised himself. As he slipped through, a soprano nicked him in the shoulder, and he grimaced.
Now he followed, forlornly, every move the boy to his right made. Doby McGinnis would look over every once in a while, glaring up at him, but he kept on following the moves, knowing his show doubled McGinnis's for the rest of the number. He played whatever notes that made sense or sounded right. Richard could hear the first baritones above him, the thirds below, and he tried so hard to put his notes square in the middle.
Oh God, he thought, my arms hurt. By now he could feel his body hunched over, almost insensitive. What if I drop it? What if I don't finish with my horn? He could feel his eyes open suddenly and that hoisted the horn back parallel to the ground. His mouthpiece felt chilly and dirty, and he spat more than played the next few notes before he felt the curved piece of metal sinking away again as his arms lost the force to hold the horn to his face.
He tried to watch the drum major between watching Doby but could only truly see that rusted piece of bronze, his horn. The thought of it being "his horn" angered him. He'd replaced the rotor three times this week, and now the #$% valve wasn't working again. How he wanted to throw it, toss it right it there on the ground!
"Pow," the gun announced. He saw the judging sheets held high. Oh, but one minute to go. Whump. He watched Doby stop and stumbled to a halt.
His eyes wandered to the timpani player in front of the horn line. What was her name? The little one with the black hair back in a pony tail, the puckered little lips. She had to use the case for the drums every practice because she couldn't hold her five drum set, called a "quint," for over an hour. He watched her skinny, childlike legs wrenched over and her little back bent under the weight of her drums. He thought: Oh but she is playing every single note. #$%@ she is playing!
His teeth came together, just like he knew you were never supposed to do when playing. He squared his shoulders and tightened the tension in his forearms until he thought he'd break. The show's ending came near and nearer: he could here the final choruses, nearer and nearer, coming like a miracle or an ambulance.
The final blasts he played had nothing to do with music. The sound was atonal, but he heard himself playing, something, anything, at the sheer promise of letting his horn down in a few seconds, and as his notes blended with that of the others, it almost sounded beautiful. Thirty seconds he heard screaming sound, his elbows locked in place, and his whole body in pain.
Then, Randy's hands came down and the horn dropped to his chest. He breathed heavily, not from playing, but from excitement. He knew his cheeks burned red, and he didn't care if he'd cost the corps a hundred points tonight. He couldn't think about next week or even tomorrow, nor had he any idea whether the corps had done well. Tonight, he'd survived, he, alone, and that was all that mattered.
He looked at the stands and the sea of faces. He could only see a few pairs hands raised on this late evening in May to produce a trickle of applause.
His head reeled from loss of oxygen and a terrible thought:
So this is drum corps?
There Will Always Be (May 26, 1977)
"He's bad, really bad," the first voice said, "he must've made three or four drill ticks for us just last night."
Then another adult voice added, "He's played in bands for about three years, but he can still hardly play a note."
Richard woke up in the very early morning to the sound of these voices. He stirred in his sleeping bag. He felt sure they must be talking about him. For a second he thought of what a terrific relief it would be not to endure another show, but then his mind rebelled. Sure, he'd messed up in the first show, but hadn't everyone made mistakes? He could work harder. No, he could work a lot harder. He did not intend to quit. If he could survive one show....
"I've had people talk to him," the first voice continued, "but he doesn't seem to listen."
Now he recognized the two voices clearly. The first belonged to Bozo, the drill instructor on their side, and the second belonged to Randy. He thought they must be talking from outside the building. He looked around in the darkness, but everyone else seemed to be sleeping.
Then, he heard a third, deeper voice, that of Mr. Menlo, the corps business manager. "Look," he said, "I promised his mother that I'd give him a chance. Monk, you weren't perfect for your first show, were you? He's trying his best, I think. But," and he paused, "you're the head instructor, so you have to work with him. Whatever you decide, I will go with you."
For a moment, Richard heard nothing except his breath coming in and out. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. Then, Monk spoke slowly: "Wait till the horns line up today; then pull him."
Richard put his head down on the cement and tried to relax. All he could see before him were the outlines of the other players, sleeping peacefully. He clenched his fists together and tried very hard not to cry.
The horns lined up after breakfast for the morning practice. They took their normal off-the-line positions at the edge of the field near the building. Richard held his horn tightly against his chest when he heard Randy call.
He snapped the horn so hard that his hand hurt, but he made sure it came up into position on time. Monk stood on the edge of the sidelines, as usual, smoking another cigarette. Mr. Menlo, wearing a worn shirt and jeans, looked very serious as he walked over from the side of the building towards the corps. He stopped at Monk's side, and Richard observed that he stood a good foot taller than the instructor.
"I'd like to speak to one of you a moment," Menlo's hand pointed out towards the line, and Richard started to step forward. Then he noticed the big hand pointed to Leonard, the soprano next to him.
Leonard joined the corps two days after Richard, and his mother escorted him to the rehearsals. In a few moments of Leonard's first rehearsal, Richard had discovered that Leonard knew very little about playing the horn and probably attended a special school for the mentally retarded. The skinny-faced boy answered most criticism with a smile and the same answer: "I'll do better," but he never did. The instructors made it a point to talk to Leonard in straight sentences and not with any of the humorous sarcasm that they used on the other horns.
Richard sighed in relief for they hadn't taken him. As the skinny boy with the braces walked away with Mr. Menlo's hand on his shoulder, though, he felt a trace of anger at Menlo and the instructors. They'd taken Leonard in, accepted him, and now they planned to kick him out. It didn't seem fair or right, but because of his own poor performances so far, he didn't dare say anything. He watched the boy disappear around the corner of the building and gripped his horn tighter.
At four-thirty, the corps started to board the busses to go to the show. Richard held his shako tucked under his one arm and his horn in his other hand.
Sue, the blonde second baritone, and Jim, one of the firsts, stood near him, talking, as they waited for the line to die down. Richard reviewed the show in his mind.
"Did you see them taking Leonard out today?" Jim said.
"Yeah," Richard said, "that was terrible."
Sue laughed, "Terrible? Have you heard him play? I don't think he can play three different notes, and the poor boy is just not all there."
For a second, Richard remembered the remarks he'd heard in the darkness that sounded so similar, "But he joined," Richard said, "to march just like the rest of us. They shouldn't just kick him out!"
"Kick him out?" Sue said. Richard sighed. They hadn't listened to the early morning conversation. They didn't know yet.
At that moment, Johnny appeared, and they heard him clapping his hands as he brought the guard to the busses from where they'd been lining up around the side of the building.
"Hey everybody," Johnny called, "I want to introduce you to the 'new and improved' Darien Heights Dragoons Color Guard."
One by one, the guard filed around the corner of the building, marching to the sound of the steady clapping. They wore their shakos on their heads and held their flags before them at attention position with the ends of the flags in their belt holders. When the captain reached a position in front of the bus, she snapped to the left and marked time. One by one, the flags joined her in a single line, their knee lift kicking their golden skirts right and left. As soon as they'd gotten into position, the seven rifles formed a smaller rank in front of them. The American flag section came last of all.
Richard knew that the American flag carrier, standing at attention in the corner of the field for most of the show, filled the most boring, undemanding position in the corps. Since no flag wanted to march the national colors, the guard captain had drawn lots to select the carrier for the Riverside show, the night before.
Richard shook his head when he saw the American flag section. For about eight beats, the color guard marked time in front of the rest of the corps, their knees rising past their waists in a flurry.
"Corps," the captain said, "halt." Then Richard could see clearly that no girl, but a skinny little boy with braces and drawn lips held the flag like it represented everything he wanted in life. From his expression, Richard guessed that Johnny had explained how important it was and what an honor it was to carry the nation's banner.
"Good job Leonard," the color guard captain said, and Richard saw the boy smile proudly.
As they boarded the bus, Sue commented. "This is drum corps Richard. People quit sometimes, but anyone who wants to stay in always gets a spot."
Richard nodded and felt a warm feeling from somewhere deep inside him. He carefully carried his horn and took the nearest empty seat. He scooted over so Sue or somebody else or anybody that wanted to could take the spot next to him.
From The Drum Corps Reporter
TOLEDO PLAINSMEN SHARP AT MICHIGAN SEASON OPENERS
By Theodore Skidmore
The Toledo Plainsmen looked ready to meet all competitors in the Five Lakes Circuit as they swept the season opener at Riverton Michigan and dominated the field the following night also. The Plainsmen swept all categories in these back to back victories. While all the corps varied in their states of readiness, the Plainsmen seemed the readiest......
(From paragraph five)
The Darien Heights Dragoons proved to be the biggest disappointment of these two evenings. All pre-season I'd heard glowing reports of a monstrous corps, incredible rehearsals, etc., etc. The Dragoons do have a big corps by Five Lake standards (45h, 30p, 30g), but they seemed to not really know what to do with their members or their music. I received no listing of either their repertoire or their instructional staff, perhaps they wish to remain anonymous, and from what little I heard being played, it was impossible to recognize the tunes. The less said about the ragged drill, the better. Obviously, the Dragoons have their work cut out for them if they wish to be competitive in "A" level.5/26 Riverton, Michigan 1. Toledo Plainsmen 55.0 2. Pontiac Lancers 39.9 3. Lansing Legion 38.6 4. Port Huron Patrolmen 34.7 5. Darien Heights Dragoons 34.0 6. Rochester Blue Knights 25.0 7. St. Anthony's Girls 18.0
5/27 Sarnia, Ontario 1. Toledo Plainsmen 54.1 2. Pontiac Lancers 40.0 3. Lansing Legion 38.6 4. Port Huron Patrolmen 33.6 5. Darien Heights Dragoons 33.5 6. St. Anthony's Girls 19.0
The Cool, Cool, Breeze (May 29, 1977)
Richard gathered with the baritones in a little circle around their drum major near the beginning of the rehearsal. Richard could barely see the other horns gathered around Monk in another part of the field. After a half hour warm-up, he felt ready to play.
"You know why we sounded so bad last weekend? You guys hardly put out any volume at all," Randy said. Several of the boys objected to this.
"*&&^ that," said Art Wainwright, a big blonde first, almost as big as Randy.
"We played our *&^$ of," added one of the thirds. Randy shook his head:
"Look, I'm gonna show you what I mean. Art, you get your horn. Don, let me borrow your horn."
Don went to fetch his horn off the ground. Richard raised his eyebrows. They all knew that Don, who couldn't play much, had to carry the horrendous Getzen instrument. Whenever another rotor went bad, they gave Don the faulty one. Don came back, not with his horn, but Richard's. Randy looked at the horn and shrugged.
"It doesn't matter," he said.
Randy faced the group and indicated that Art should stand by his side. He licked his chops, rubbed his hand in the mouthpiece and then he played a quick scale, climbing up two octaves before landing on the original note. The drum major said, half through his horn, and half around:
"So you think you play pretty loud Art."
"You better *&^% believe it."
"Well we'll see. You play a 'C,' and I'll play an 'E.' Luke, give us four for nothing."
"One-two," Luke said. Richard could see nothing but the edges of their bodies around the horns, "three-four."
The two notes began, the "E" slightly overshadowing the "C." Then the "E" slowly crescendoed. Art pulled the "C" up beneath, but the volumes were not equal. Slowly the "E" grew louder and louder. Richard watched as the edges of Art's face started to turn red and his hand gripped the rotor tightly, but no more sound came from the horn. Finally, the "C" died, and Art lowered the horn to stand gasping on the lawn.
The "E" kept going, twelve counts, sixteen counts, always getting louder, more powerful. Richard turned and saw the sopranos looking in their direction. The "E" penetrated and further, and off the distance Richard could see the guard turned in curiosity. The single baritone note got even louder before it suddenly pushed off and disappeared in a blat that would have them turning around even down at the baseball practice a half mile away.
Randy lowered the horn. Only a single trickle of hot May evening perspiration showed any effort on his part. He looked, not at Art, but at the whole line.
"It's not how hard you try. It's knowing how to breathe, using your whole lungs like muscles. There are muscles you never knew you had, and I'm going to teach you to use them."
Randy set the horn down on the grass. "Now Luke can play that loud, so can Kevin sometimes. It's very simple: you have to breathe from your gut," Randy put his hands around his waist, "and not from your lungs. Everybody, put your hands here."
Richard put his hands around his hips.
"Now," Randy said, "I want you to stand there and breathe and feel the air coming in and filling here. After that, the air should rise and fill your lungs all the way to the top. Think of your body as an hourglass. If you want to fill an hour glass completely, you have to fill the bottom glass first. Let's just try breathing in for four first. Everybody four for nothing, and then breathe. One-two- three- four. In!"
Richard opened his mouth and started to breathe.
"No Richard. No Don. Everybody stop."
The baritones expelled their breaths.
"Luke," Randy said motioning, "will you come up here?" The brother of the drum major walked over to stand with Randy facing the section. They both stood over six-feet and had the same dark hair.
"Now," Randy said, "When Luke breathes, I want you to watch what happens. Luke, take in for sixteen," his brother nodded, "one-two-three-four."
Luke opened his mouth, but Richard could see nothing happening. Then Randy pulled up his brother's shirt, and Richard could see the area above Luke's waist start to fill with air. The air then filled, gradually, the bottom and then the top of his hairy chest. When his entire body seemed ready to burst, Randy touched him slightly with his finger and said:
"There you have it-the visible V8."
Luke let the air go in a rush and started giggling.
Randy tried to keep a straight face, "Come on, Luke," he said pretending anger, "I'm trying to show them something."
"Okay, okay but no jokes."
"All right," Randy said, "everybody watch, one more time. One-two-three-four."
Again, Richard observed the enormous amount of air taken in from the bottom of gut to the top of the chest cavity.
"See," Randy said, "See all that air, yeah," he touched his brother's body slightly, "the mighty visible V8."
Again Luke let out all the air and bent over laughing.
"Just don't," Randy concluded, "exhale quite that fast."
Randy assembled the entire horn line in a double arc. Richard felt a little light-headed from breathing in so much air in the last hour.
"Now," Randy said, "from now on we start out with breathing exercises just like this, each practice a little longer. I want you to inhale for sixteen, hold for sixteen, and exhale for sixteen. Take four." He started to clap his hands and mark time, "Mark-time-mark one-two-three-four. Innnnnnnnn!"
Richard started to mark time as he took in air. The first eight counts felt rather good as the oxygen entered deep above his stomach. As they got into the third measure, Randy pointed off into the distance.
"I want to you to think of sucking in those trees."
By the eleventh count Richard felt bloated, stuffed. He sipped in just a drop more of air, all the while feeling that pressure inside him wanting to be released. Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen! SIXTEEN.
"Hold," Randy said. Richard snapped his mouth shut, relieved to have some part of his body keeping the air inside. For eight counts, he felt good marking time, and he watched the others around him. Then all the air, driven by the force of his pumping legs, began to make him feel sickly and pained. By count thirteen, he wanted more than anything else to let that old dead air go. He could feel the stale air, minus most of its oxygen, start to go to his head, his legs starting to sway. Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen!
"Release," Randy said, and Richard let go of too much air in a single count. He tried to slow that desperate flow and managed to make the majority of it leave his body in eight instead of four, but he still had eight more counts to go.
He looked at Art beside him. He could still hear the hiss of the other's exhale as it parted through his slightly drawn throat. Twelve. Even as he forced the old air out, his body started to cry for oxygen, and he had that feeling he got sometimes when he stayed underwater too long. He needed a breath, his body told him, but if he took that breath too early, what about the next sequence?
Randy's hands beat out the rhythm above the diminishing sound of the air rushing away. Thirteen. Fourteen. Deep down in his gut, he could feel his body expelling something from way down inside of him. Could he do it! Fifteen! Sixteen!!
"Breathe!" Randy snapped and Richard opened his mouth, the extension of an incredible void that ran the length of his whole body.
The sequence went on. "breathe----Hold----Exhale." Randy said, "breathe, you've got to breathe strong, right, if you want to play Right! Hold!"
Richard watched the faces of the other's, along with himself, trying to control their bodies natural rhythm, building a hornline from the inside out, breathing in the world.
The Bus Ride to Toronto
The gray and black buildings spread across the plain as the 401 highway disappeared down in their midst. Somewhere, in the middle of all those people, Richard could imagine a field and gardeners chalking out the white lines for a corps show. After five hours of driving, this started to seem like some kind of adventure.
"We're off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz."
The sound of his voice drained in the space between the edge of the window and the air- conditioning vent. For a second, he leaned his head against the cooled glass, but the vibration and the diesel clatter forced him to take it away. His eyes silently glanced around the inside of the high style Greyhound bus.
The instruction staff huddled at the front of the bus, ignoring all the noise behind them. Monk Eastman sat at the front on the right side and stared into the distance, alone with the musical charts spread in a pile beside him.
Luke and Randy sat in the seat across from Monk silently working their way through their copies of the scores and making odd notations. Behind them, Richard could see Sue, his fellow second baritone, and he fondly remembered the sight of her in shorts and t-shirt, her back curved forward so that he could see her round, firm behind and chest. Hearing her play as well as she did, made him feel excited, suspicious, and threatened all at the same time.
"Are you Randy's girlfriend?" he asked her once.
"Sort of," she laughed, "When we're at college, he dates other people.... and I don't."
He wished he could impress her somehow, but he remembered her challenging him, saying he was playing the part wrong. He sighed.
Back one row, behind Monk, he could see Johnny and Bozo each occupying an entire seat with a space next to them. Every four or five minutes, he heard one of them call out a name.
When they called "Richard, second baritone" he feared he must be in some kind of trouble. He hurried to the seat where they sat. Instead Johnny said "look," Richard looked at the a series of charts with dots. Johnny traced his finger around a semicircle before stopping at a single point. "This is you: baritone number fifteen. You play for eight counts in this position marking time and then..."
Johnny turned the page. His finger indicated another paper football field with a whole new set of dots.
"You go to here, following the arc."
The ragged clipboard pages held an entire serious of drawings that charted the entire show, picture by picture. Richard thought: this is what Johnny carries on the field every day. The two of them proceeded to follow Richard's dot all the way through the drill. When they'd concluded, Johnny looked at him.
"Any questions about your show?" Richard looked down at the piece of papers, the running dots that represented him. If only, he thought, he could find all those spots on the field as easily as he could on the bus.
"Why not give everyone a copy of this?" Richard suggested.
Johnny didn't answer, but looked intently at Richard, giving him the feeling then he'd said something unacceptable. Then Richard understood: corps members memorized drill; they didn't read it.
"Kevin!" Johnny yelled, "meet your maker," and Richard left.
His eyes wandered backwards to the small circle of flags, laughing fourteen-year-old girls in T-shirts and shorts, talking to Miles, the xylophone player. Mr. Menlo gave the flags the option of traveling with the drum or horn bus, and almost all chose the horn bus. Richard couldn't blame them. He wouldn't particularly want to ride on a bus where people constantly beat on the back of the seats with long wooden sticks. A girl with long dark hair and two overlong front teeth glanced in his direction, but he looked away.
The three girls and the chunky little boy worked their way across the aisle of the moving bus to join Richard beside him and in front of him. One of the girls started to pass around Richard's books like strange artifacts. Uncertain what to bring to bring on this long trip, he brought what he always brought on vacations: four or five books.
"What is this book about?" the blonde asked, her voice sounding childish.
"It's about an explorer traveling on Mars."
"Why does he do that?"
"He's after some *&^^%" One of the other girls laughed at the sound of Miles' remark. Another of the girls hit Miles him playfully. A twelve year-old blonde started thumbing through Richard's historical atlas. Richard took it out of her hands and opened it carefully.
"Watch," he said and flipped through it page by page so that countries grew, shrunk, and then disappeared quickly. "It's like a cartoon."
The four girls giggled, and he felt the brunette's arm resting on his shoulder. When they got off at the rest stop, Miles touched him with his finger.
"I see you like Karen," he said, referring to the brunette. The leer on his face kept Richard from replying, "Don't you see she likes you? Just like this...put your arm around her." When he touched Richard, Richard jumped. The other boy chuckled and walked away.
He thought of the brunette when the bus started to move again. He glanced at the back seat. Two of the horns, boy and girl, tied their arms together so they seemed almost one.
"Ladies and gentlemen, let me have your attention."
Richard turned and saw Ned standing in the front of the bus with the driver's microphone. His deep voice carried a mock sense of importance. Richard knew he was announcing the results of the "drum corps" card game that had been going on in the back of the bus for an hour or so.
"The results of the Useless Open. In 10th place," Ned stopped to pull up his shorts, "With a score of 73.35....the Toiletville Wipeout."
The words he heard over and over again with little else said. The electrical system on the bus had failed so there was no tape to play on the way back to Michigan and no heat. When the warm May sun disappeared, the temperatures dropped suddenly.
Since the announcement of that number, Richard's mind kept playing it over and over again. He could remember the strained look on Monk's face after they reached the bus. Before anyone boarded the busses, or changed, Randy announced:
"We'll do something about this. We've got two weeks until Frankenmuth. Practices will be Monday through Friday and all day Saturday."
He'd played better, fewer mistakes and louder, than the week before. His arms still hurt a lot, but he'd actually been able to concentrate on playing the music for a few moments. How, then, he asked himself, could their score have dropped? Was it really worth anything to practice?
The lights of Toronto had disappeared, and Richard hugged his old jacket for warmth. He envied Randy with Sue laying in his arms, but the look on neither of their faces seemed very enviable. Randy, he thought, looked lost.
He drew his arms around himself. Others had fallen into a silent sleep. He just shivered and could feel every bump along the road as the bus sailed into a cold night of temperatures frozen at a thirty-two.
From the Drum Corps Reporter
MISSISSAUGA CHIEFS DEFEAT CANADIAN RIVALS
By Peter Submiralty
The Mississauga Chiefs demonstrated an early dominance over their traditional rivals, the Scarlet Brigadiers, at the season's first show in Toronto. There have been rumors that the Brigadiers marched a number of Americans in last season's successful defense of their Canadian National Championship. Apparently, those Americans have deserted their compatriots as the Brigadiers seemed small and disorganized in comparison to the Chiefs' full corps....
(From paragraph nine)
The much-heralded Darien Heights Dragoons proved a disappointment tonight as they floated along near the bottom. Darien Heights rests about ten yards from the Canadian border so the Dragoons frequented this province last season as an entertaining "B" corps. This evening, though, the Dragoons seemed to wander, rather than march, through their drill. Many of the horn players also seemed to believe that there were rather more rests in the show than the writers intended. No one supplied the program writers with a complete repertoire or a list of instructional staff. Their announced drum major, Randy Battavius, though, marched with the Brigadiers last season. I'd suggest that the two corps consider a possible merger next season, so they might march one decent corps between them.
6/1 Toronto, Ontario1. Mississauga Chiefs 58.5 2. Scarlet Brigadiers 52.1 3. Branford Vanguard 42.0 4. London Saints 41.1 5. Riverside Guardsmen 33.1 6. Guelph Knights 32.9 7. Tilbury Silver Knights 32.2 8. Darien Heights Dragoons 32.0 9. Sarnia Charlaines 28.1
You're Doing What? (June 4, 1977)
Lines, go down, field, mark, time march, turn left, no the other left, snap that horn, duh-da-da, duh-da-da-da, dee-ah, dee-ah, snap that horn Richard, bring it down against your chest, good sound today horns, seconds, you should be on a "G," study your part, a big line coming closer and closer with no holes and no faces just horns and bells and pretty little girls in guard skirts that reaches the length of the, can't turn away from it, is that my spot, no dammit that's not it, Randy directing on the podium
"What," Richard's eye slowly cleared and he saw the black dress a few inches from his face and traveled along the cloth upward until he reached the Ms. Jennison's amused smile. "Oh, I'm sorry Ms. Jennison."
The teacher looked about to say something, but then she turned away. One of the girls at his table giggled.
Ms. Jennison continued, "Now we were reading 'The Charge of the Light Brigade.' Would anyone like to comment on its meaning?"
Richard looked around the room. No one seemed to be paying much more attention than he. With only two weeks to go until the summer, no one cared too much about anything other than parties and summer jobs. Craig, one of his best friends, sat two desks away playing with his pencil.
One of the girl's, a dark-haired girl with a ponytail, raised her hand, "It's about a group of soldiers that go out and get killed."
Ms. Jennison turned around in front of the chalkboard in the classroom. "That's a good summary Jennifer, but is there any meaning? What does it say to you?"
One of the class burn-outs blurted out, "Don't fight wars you can't win."
Several students chuckled, but Ms. Jennison smiled, "You may be right Bradley, but..." Richard could see her eyes moving in his direction, and he knew she'd call on him. Ms. Jennison seemed to like him so much that it made him sometimes dislike her.
"Richard?" she asked, "Or are you off in dreamland?"
"It's about heroism. These men are brave. They go into battle even with everything against them. So it's telling us to try, to fight, even if we can't win." He stopped suddenly and remembered the thirty-two and added, "if we agree with the poet."
Ms. Jennison nodded, "Many people like the poem, but not the message behind it. Now.."
Richard found his head starting to lower down onto his crossed arms again as he watched this pretty English teacher taking a poem apart and putting it back together again.
Richard started to walk across the parking lot with his trombone case in his right hand and three or four books in his left. After carrying a baritone the last three days, a trombone, even including the weight of its case, felt light. He heard a voice behind him:
"Hey Richard, where the &^%$ are you going so fast?"
He waited and let Arnold and Craig catch up with him. Arnold put his five-foot body in step with Richard on his left, and Craig put his slightly taller form on Richard's right.
"Where were you this weekend?" Arnold asked. "We were going to have a big football game on Saturday."
The three of them walked across the parking lot and over the big hill that led to their neighborhood as they continued talking.
"I was in Toronto," Richard said, "for a corps show."
"*&&^" Craig said, "they want a lot of your time."
"How did you guys do?" Arnold said.
Richard laughed dryly, "A thirty-two. We only beat one corps." Richard waited to hear their comments. They'd attended a few scored band contests and understood just how bad a corps had to be to get a thirty-two.
"Jesus," Arnold said, "this is really that corps with that guy that came into our band and showed the movies and all that?"
They kept walking. Craig said, "Man, you're tanned. What have you been doing?"
"Practicing eight hours a day in the hot sun. It'll do it every time."
"Look," Craig said, "we've got another big football game for five o' clock. We're gonna have like ten guys on each side."
Richard remembered those football games. They played, without equipment, in a field behind Arnold's house. Most of his friends in the neighborhood attended. He remembered, for an instant, having fun. "Sorry," he said, "I've got practice every night this week."
"Every night!" Craig said, "Why don't you just live on that field. Do you guys think you're the Light Brigade or something?"
Richard thought: Half a league, half a league onward, drove the brave one hundred, judges to the left of them, judges to the right of them, "No, we're the Dragoons, American cavalry."
"Well, Ms. Jennison isn't going to marry you if you keep sleeping through her class."
Richard swallowed. "You think just because I get an 'A...'"
Craig tapped him on the shoulder, "Got ya." The three turned down the street where Richard had to drop them off before continuing home. They passed along the rows of identical ranch-style houses each with one maple tree.
"It doesn't make any sense to me," Arnold said, "if you practiced as hard for band as you do for corps, you'd be first chair in the top band by now. Instead you're spending every goddamn day putting in time for the $#@% corps and not even winning. I mean what's the point?"
"Well," Craig added, as they crossed the street, "Why don't you quit?" and Richard still had not replied.
Richard said nothing, but he remembered something he'd seen, it seemed like a year ago, a picture of the Scarlet Brigadiers ending their unbelievable performance. He thought to himself that the Dragoons would never be like the Brigadiers, never even be in the same class. The two other boys waited to hear what Richard would say when he got to the part of the street where they'd separate.
"Why don't you quit," Arnold said, "and have some fun again?"
Richard turned away from them saying, "I don't know, I really don't know." The baritones in the movie didn't look like they'd ever get a thirty-two, but they didn't look like quitters either.
The Suicide Drill (June 5, 1977)
The whole corps started to line up shoulder to shoulder until Richard heard voices say:
"No, put three feet between you. I want one big circle."
When everyone lined up, Johnny stood in the center with the whole instruction staff. After a long night's rehearsal, Richard felt tired, and he could barely see anyone..
Richard's arms struggled to lift up the horn.
"Last week we got a thirty-two," Johnny said. "A thirty-two!"
Richard felt a vague feeling of discomfort.
"One judge ZEROED us out in M&M. That's right he found more mistakes than he had points to take away from us. Now I don't know about you people, but I'm ashamed of that score. Now we don't have the light to run the whole show now, but what we're going to do is run it in a circle. Every time you'd normally be marching, I want you to mark time-with your feet UP," he paused, "Do all the horn work, all turns, everything. I don't want another thirty-two. A thirty-two is for an a waist not an A CORPS!"
Richard had an awful thought at just that moment. What if he couldn't do it. Thirteen minutes of marking time, throwing knees up in the air instead of simply stepping forward, would be harder than marching a whole show.
"Corps," Randy said from the center, "Mark-time-mark!'
Richard felt his legs pumping and his horn already getting heavy. He took a deep breath as he reached count eight, and snapped the horn to his lips. Richard regretted standing next to two of the flags because the only sound around him was the quavering tone of his horn. Did he really sound that bad on the field? He wondered.
By the end of the off-the-line, sweat trickled down his back. Now, at least he could hold his horn down during the drum solo. Around him he could hear the labored breathing of the two flags. He wished somehow they would order a halt, but the instructors stood in the middle looking distant and grim. Every once in a while they'd point silently and perhaps snap a finger at someone making an error. At the end of the drum solo, he lifted his horn to do a series of horn flashes and maneuvers. He could feel his back twist unnaturally forward to try to take the pressure off his forearms and stomach.
When he raised his horn for the concert number, he wiped the sweat from his eyes. He felt glad when he started to play again because it took his mind off the pains in his arms. He stared across the circle to the others opposite. This whole exercise will only take thirteen minutes, he told himself.
At first he focused on the flags, younger than he, but gradually he started staring at the sopranos across the twilight formation. He tried to see perspiration or signs of fatigue because they all had smaller horns and larger bodies. If only one them would just faint, or stop, then the whole show would have to stop. They didn't even seem tired!
The opening chords of "Central Park North" sounded so weak Richard imagined he could hear each person grabbing the notes for dear life. Randy grimaced but directing, continuing the run through. Between each phrase, Richard could hear gasps and sputters. His eyes remained glued to those three sopranos across the circle. He even blew through one whole measure of rests and suddenly heard his baritone blatting out the wrong phrase. Bryan, the second drum major, glared at Richard, but no one signaled a cut.
He kept playing. He didn't let the mistakes bother him, but he decided that he'd practice just like this, marking time and all, tomorrow in his basement, just so that next time they decided to rehearse like this, he'd be ready. The concert ended on a ragged whole note.
The pause seemed to last a long time. Richard's gaze returned to the sopranos. Across the circle, he could only think of how much less their horns weighed and how much less air a soprano needed just to play a single whole note. He envied and resented them at the same time. He wished, just for a second, one of them would fall. Their bright horns, instead of Randy, had become his focus.
Richard felt his legs, now stiff, rising painfully up his instep.
Suddenly, one of the sopranos, a tall guy whose name Richard didn't know, opposite him wavered. The soprano's body began to sway as his knees stopped rising. The horn slipped from his fingers to fall to the ground. Two instructors rushed to his side instantly and caught the boy even before he could collapse and gently lowered him down.
Richard felt a sudden shock: what he'd wished had happened. Now, if he stopped, no one would blame him with this bigger boy with a smaller horn already on the ground. More than this, though, he knew they'd stop the run-through now.
As he looked at the other two sopranos, across the circle, still marching with their knees up, however, he found he didn't want to stop. His tone had gone bad, he still only knew part of this portion of the show, and he was blowing moves right and left, but he didn't want to stop with only half a song left to go. With each step he brought his knee lift up a little higher, almost to the cleaning position. He thought, it's not going to be me next. He watched as they tried to rouse the boy and waited for the inevitable signal to halt.
Nothing happened. When Randy looked expectantly at Johnny, the latter waved his arms circularly, to say "keep going." Even through his mouthpiece, Richard smiled. He gripped his horn tighter. It had drooped so much now that he had to keep his back bent to keep it at his lips.
Then they hit the last fanfare. When his feet planted themselves, two beats latter than everyone else, Richard took a deep breath. He didn't know how the music, but he played something, loud.
The last note came, and Randy held the ragged sound up for a moment and then cut it off.
"Corps-" he said, "Pa-rade rest!"
For a second Richard stood with his arms folded over his horn and his legs spread apart.
"Corps," Randy gasped, "At ease!"
It was over. Several people fell to their knees and panted. Richard bent far over and tried to control his breathing. He could barely hear Johnny' voice.
"Not bad." He said slowly, "but I didn't know so many of you had asthma. From now on the only thirty-twos I want hear about are revolvers! Tomorrow night, and every night this week, we're going to be working on building up your stamina by running the drill just like this" he paused and adding laughing maniacally, "twice!"
Peanut Butter and Wine (June 15, 1977)
"Come on Richard, will you get in the car!"
Richard checked his bag one last time: toothbrush, underwear, shorts. He suddenly zipped it up, without looking any more and jumped out the door and ran across the lawn to the white Riviera before Ned left without him.
He piled into the wide seat of the old Buick next to Paul and Pat. From the front seat he could hear Ned's usually loud voice proclaim:
"We're off to see the wizard."
The others responded be joining in a rousing chorus of that song. The car proceed a few hundred feet along the roadway when Tom suddenly screamed in agony.
"Oh my God! We're all going to die!!"
Ned slammed on the brakes and scanned the road in front of him for ten long seconds. Then he slowly turned and faced Tom. The others also stared.
"What?" Tom said after a few seconds. "Oh. I saw that in Airport '75." Ed slowly put the car into motion. After a few seconds he started to laugh. The others joined in.
"The way you drive Ned," Jen said. "You probably hear that all the time." Richard looked up and for the first time noticed Jen along with them. In the car he'd not noticed her because her deep voice blended in so with the boys. When she stuck her small hand out toward Tom, he took it and pressed it between his. Richard, sharing the back seat with them, noticed the looks between.
"Hey," Paul said, "listen to this."
He turned the radio up all the way, filling the car with polka music.
"No Paul," Richard said, "they're Germans, not Poles at Frankenmuth."
"Germans? Poles," Ned put in, "If they're not Italians, what's the difference?" When they got to the freeway entrance, Ned pointed the car to the north entrance.
"Aren't we going to meet the bus?" Richard said.
"No," Ned said, "I've got something to do this week end, so you're stuck with me the whole week-end." He paused, "Richard, open the cooler."
Richard opened the square box in front of him and found it filled with bottles of pink wine and an opener sitting in a cradle of cool ice.
"Break out the bubbly," Ned said. Richard looked at the afternoon traffic around them, but shrugged his shoulders. A spray of pink fluid hit the roof and everyone laughed.
"Pass it around," Paul pleaded, and the white bottle proceeded to go from hand to hand. Each boy in his turn took a deep gulp. Richard took a swig and felt the ice cold liquid pass through his throat and felt a tingling sensation pass from his head to his toes. He tipped the bottle up and passed it on. Paul fooled with the tape machine before putting in an unmarked tape. He pushed the play button and filled the car with the gigantic horn line sound that could only be...
"Okay, " Paul said, after about five notes, "name that corps?"
"The Grenada Serenaders," Ned instantly answered.
Jen laughed, "Why do we play this game, Ned, when you always win?"
"I think that's why," Paul said.
"Go around again," Ned gestured to champagne. "Let's drink--to drum corps."
They raised their hands in salute and raised their car shaken glasses, "To drum corps!"
Richard's gaze moved from the bookshelves to Randy's face.
"We got killed last week on our concert," the drum major said. "It sounded like *&^%. That's because people don't," he paused, "know the music. Now this whole week-end, every time we have a break, I want to see music in your hands," he brought a pointed finger around to point at each section in turn, "and that goes for every horn player."
Richard glanced around the semi-circle of horns standing and trying to look at the torn, pocket-folded papers far away on the floor. Every time Richard played a note, his stomach started to slosh around with wine. Somehow, though, the music sounded better. He looked around at the walls filled with books. It felt so strange to practice in a library.
Richard's eyes focused on Randy, who again combed his long shock of hair out of his eyes.
The baritones hit the downbeat weakly, but the sound, unfamiliar to this room, echoed round and round until it came back solid and mixed. Then the sopranos replied sharply. Curt notes magnified in echo. Randy's hands fell as he signaled them to "cut."
From the end of the line, Luke, the baritone leader yelled, "Goddamn it, Somebody's still playing the wrong notes. The parts are right there-look at them!"
Monk, standing across the room, puffed on another cigarette and said nothing. Randy glared meaningfully at the sopranos.
"From B-one more time."
The clock in the gymnasium said eleven. The whole corps assembled in two lines. Mr. Menlo looked them over through his heavy glasses and beaked forehead.
"Thirty-two. That's what we got two weeks ago. Thirty-two." The number echoed around the school gym. "Flint is going to be there tomorrow."
An immediate chorus of grunts and hisses followed. A year ago, Richard thought, no one would've considered beating Flint a possibility. Now, with forty Dragoon horns, they considered Flint their natural rivals.
"No matter what you think of Flint, I want to remind you of a couple of things. We have never beaten them. The closest we have come is 15 points. I hear they have a very good show," he paused, "or at least that's what they're saying. I want you to think how important tomorrow's contest is----tonight." The words echoed around the gym. "Corps--dismissed."
Richard heard grumbling. Richard knew several of his friends had stocked up on beer and had no intention of allowing it to sit idle.
Richard turned, and with the others turned at this. They saw Johnny violently waving his arms, but it took Randy's command of "Corps, ten-hut" which got them back in line. Monk stood next to Randy as his face suddenly turned red. Eastman suddenly snapped:
"Come on-listen when you're ordered!"
"Count off by tens," Johnny ordered. It took a minute, and then the corps arranged itself in ten ranks, mixing horns, drums, and flags.
"Now," Johnny said, "we're going to do a little basic block."
There followed some sighs, and Richard wondered whether the instructors planned to get everyone too tired to go drinking.
"We got the big '0' out in M&M." Johnny reminded them, "Mark-time-mark." The hundred feet hit the floor in unison, and the "crack" of the echoed feet hit the walls. He wondered for a second if the sound could somehow stay there glued to the wall like a recruiting poster for drum corps.
"Right flank," again Richard could hear the snap of feet digging into the floor. His mind focused on his feet, his body poised for each command, he started to feel the strength built by two hard weeks of practicing every single night.
"Richard," Bozo said, "bring that horn around faster, you look like a drunk ballerina."
It felt so cool to be out under the stars and away from the gym. "Come on Richard," Ned almost pleaded as he led out to the Buick. He feebly pulled at the door. Ned pulled out another of the bottles of the pink wine.
"Aren't you going to get the rest of-"
"Drink," Ned said, putting the bottle in his hand. The cold liquid went down his throat taking the sweat away from his back. As Ned drank, he listened to the sounds of the horn players inside, bedding down. The younger ones' chattering faded away.
In the darkness, he could make out a form moving past them, "Hey Tom, you want some-" He felt an elbow in his stomach. "Ow."
"Shut up," Ned whispered, and the form disappeared.
"Where's he going."
"Jen brought her tent." Ned said the last word in almost ominous way.
Richard put the bottle to his lips and mentally started to put the pieces together: the touching in the car, the soft (for Jen) speech between them. He could imagine Tom entering the tent, stroking her long hair, and gripping her small, hard shoulders. The liquid passed down his throat.
"Hey, it's my turn." Ned said.
Richard turned, and suddenly they both began to laugh deeply.
The food fell down onto his plate. "So you're one of the horn players," the friendly, middle-aged lady asked Richard. He smiled.
"Yep," he stated proudly, "I'm a Darien Heights Dragoon."
"Well here," she added some more red sausages, "you can have some more." She wore one of the Frankenmuth festival T-shirts. "We loved the way you played last night."
"What I can't understand," Paul said, his Tennessee twang showing through, "is how we coulda beaten Flint in horns and drums and still come in second."
Johnny, behind them in the breakfast line, replied, "They beat you in M&M by four points. Some of you still march like you're trying out for 'Planet of the Apes.'"
Richard thought of the free food, his better show the previous night, the close second, and didn't feel like complaining.
The Buick Riviera sailed towards home. Richard felt tired and glad he had only a week to go until the end of school. He slept, on and off, despite Ned's playing old corps tapes at full blast. He'd noticed the looks between Tom and Jen and the fact that they carefully placed Paul between them. Through the long drive they avoided addressing one another directly.
The car pulled off the expressway into the mini-mall where Richard's parents waited. Ned sighed. A little circle of cars sat waiting for the bus. As soon as the car stopped, Richard grabbed his horn and bag from the trunk and started to look for his parents.
"Wait a minute Richard," Ned said a little awkwardly, "there's somebody I'd like you to meet."
Richard watched as Ned pulled a garment from his suitcase, a long black robe, and slipped it over his head. He watched the other four passengers disappear, Tom and Jen in opposite directions. Richard warily followed the soprano player to a circle of cars and people. Ned smiled uncomfortably at some older people standing there dressed in suits and nice clothes. They smiled faintly at both boys.
"Richard, this is my stepfather, my mother."
Richard gripped first the scowling man's hand and then the woman's. He felt uncomfortable in his t-shirt and worn jeans. They looked at Richard as if they were inspecting a dog for fleas. Then more hands extended towards him. After he'd shaken the fifteenth hand, he whispered.
"Ned, why are these people dressed like this? Did they just come from church or something?"
Richard shook another hand. Five o'clock on a Sunday afternoon seemed an odd time for a graduation. "You mean it's today?" He asked.
Ned laughed then, as though putting it all in perspective. Then the grim look of the relatives suddenly made sense to Richard as did serving of the wine.
"No Richard," Ned said, licking his lips as though to taste the sweet liquid one more time. "It was Friday night."
Richard tried to smile, but stood there wondering in this crowd of strangers as the Dragoons dispersed into their separate cars.
From the Drum Corps Reporter
FLINT WARRIORS WIN AT FRANKENMUTH BAVARIAN FESTIVAL
By Theodore Skidmore
The Flint Warriors escaped with a narrow victory tonight over their new rivals, the Darien Heights Dragoons. Flint, fielding a small corps, played pretty much the same show as last year...
(From paragraph two)
The Darien Heights Dragoons emerged tonight from the murkiness of the first two shows. Their book (they finally gave me a copy) includes the OTL of "The Flying Dutchman," drum solo of "Boddhisatva," concert of "Central Park North," a short production of "'Round Midnight/Thelonius," and a finale of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." The notes credit the book to Randy Battavius and old-timer Monk Eastman. The Dragoons have new gold and green uniforms. Strangely, Darien Heights won in both drums and horns, but they still lost the show with lower M&M and GE scores. It sounded as if the Dragoons were just happy to be playing the right notes tonight.
6/15 Frankenmuth, Michigan1. Flint Warriors 48.1 2. Darien Heights Dragoons 48.0 3. Pontiac Lancers 42.0 4. Lansing Legion 40.0 5. Port Huron Patrolmen 36.6 6. Rochester Blue Knights 24.0 7. St. Anthony's Girls 20.0
Playing In the Line (June 23, l977)
Richard watched as the corps to their right huddled around the uniformed member sprawled on the ground. By looking just ahead of the horn players down his row, he could see their frantic efforts to get their member up. He swallowed and felt the dryness of this June afternoon.
"And on a day such as this, seeing all these young people," the orator droned on from the front of the field.
He wondered what Randy and Bryan thought about as they heard the anxious yells of parents of other corps members watching their sons and daughters melting away under the hundred plus heat.
"....We have to thank the Lord on a day such as this."
He'd not played well in this early afternoon heat, and he'd heard lots of poor notes. Even lifting his knees for a couple of measures covered him with sweat. He sighed: maybe the drum line had a good show. You could never tell with the drum line. If only the man making the speech would finish, then they could give out the scores, everyone could play off the field, and they'd be out of the sun.
".....this festive occasion..."
"Somebody else," he heard a voice to his left. He shifted uncomfortably as his hands began to perspire from holding the horn at parade rest during this unending finale. The voice down the line continued, loud enough for all the baritones to hear, "I think it's a Saint."
Someone in the line couldn't resist, "Went straight to Hell, eh."
Kevin, standing to his left, laughed loudly. Normally, Kevin would've snapped at the horn player for talking in the line. Richard's head hurt, however, and he wanted to take his mind off it. Hot and humid, this kind of day generally gave him headaches. When he got one of those headaches, the unfortunate result tended to be to throwing up.
Then he heard a voice to his left saying:
"Hey, turn around. Pass it on." He took a slow turn to his left, his horn still at parade rest. He wondered for a second what the meager audience might think, but then he remembered the flags in front of the corps would shield the horns. The hornline slowly turned and faced backfield and watched Luke, the baritone section leader, motioning for everyone's attention. Luke stood with his backs to the drum line and facing the horn line. He moved with the assurance that everyone would listen to him in Randy's absence. Luke's season as a first baritone in the Scarlet Brigadiers commanded any corps member's respect, and like Randy, Luke had a way of carrying his broad shoulders and deep voice that made others automatically listen to him. He spoke just loud enough so that everyone in the horn and drum line could hear.
"We've got to make some kind of decision here," he said. For a second, Richard thought the lead snares wanted to challenge Luke's right to make a decision, but they said nothing and nodded their heads slowly.
To the right of them, Richard could hear a drum major's voice and then a series of clicks on the rims of the snares. He looked out of the corner of his eye and observed the London Saints starting to mark time, and, after four, moving out in parade formation. Behind them, they left four members on their backs, each attended by several corps parents. Richard's head started to throb beneath his shako.
"...these are the youth of our nations....."
"Oh when the Saints," Kevin sang, just loud enough for Richard to hear "go marching..."
"Well," Luke asked the group, "do we stay or do we leave?"
"Do we get our money," one of the horns said, "if we leave."
Luke shook his head, "That's not your worry." His eyes slowly looked into those of his fellow baritones. "I just don't want to leave anybody lying here."
"Let's stay," Jen said.
Luke took a breath, "If we're going to stay, it has to be unanimous. If anyone's sick right now, we go." Luke's eyes looked slowly down the lines of the horns, pausing to look at each person. When he looked at Richard, Richard tried to ignore the growing pain behind his eyes. Ten minutes more and he could go get aspirin and lie down on the bus. He brought to his mind Kevin's joke: "Oh when the Saints," and when Luke looked at him, he smiled broadly.
Luke appeared in thought a second. "Indicate you want to stay by coming to attention." He made the remark offhand without any apparent deliberation, expecting a slow response.
Don Bright, nearest Luke, snapped to attention as they had practiced so many times. The rest of the third baritones followed, each a split second apart. Richard waited until he could see Doug, next to him, start to move, pull the horn up from his chest, and slam it into his waiting arms. The horns came into their hands in a ripple that crossed the front line of the horns, and, without pause, the second rank did the same. In thirty seconds, the entire horn line came to attention, each horn making a slight "thunk" hitting a pair of gloved hands. Luke nodded and turned around. The first snare hesitated and then snapped his sticks to playing position, the rest of the drum line following. When the corps playing members all stood facing Luke, at attention, he smiled proudly.
"We are tough today, aren't we?" He hesitated, "Now let's try that in reverse. Don," he paused just long enough to make the other think about the timing, "Parade--rest."
"....it's young people who give us our pride...."
The horns came down, Clink, clink, clink,....hitting the gold buttons on the fronts of the tunics a sixteenth note apart. When the last horn, a soprano, hit, the first drummer went to parade rest. Richard smiled, and somehow his headache seemed better already.
Luke smiled, nodding. "Now we're talking drum corps."
The baritones, in T-shirts and uniform pants, gathered around the two cases of soda. They stood in an informal half circle.
"Not bad," Tony said, "second place."
"I wonder," Richard said, "what Waterloo and London are thinking. London kicked our butts just two weeks ago."
Luke combed the black curls out of his eyes. "You guys don't get it yet. Corps like that, thirty horns, mediocre show, they're not in our class. We should've been beating them in Toronto, except our show was so messed up."
"I was thinking," Richard said, "we might only be improving a point a week."
Luke laughed, "You can kiss Waterloo and London good-bye. We should've beaten half the corps at Toronto. *&^% the only thing standing between us and winning the American Legion State championship is Flint. Just look at this baritone line."
Richard did look. Even informally, they'd gathered into sections.
At one end stood the four contras, Jen, the section leader, Leon, a baritone who'd played with the corps since its start, Eric Meon, a new switch-over from soprano, and Juan Sagretti, another newcomer from one of the folded Michigan corps.
Next came the thirds. The two McCormicks, blond twelve-year-olds, stood together talking about next to Tony Goodhert, the shy thirteen-year old. They'd played together in this corps also since its beginning years before. Don Bright, probably the worst player in the line, naturally stood next to Richard who sometimes helped him with the music.
Richard stood at the end of the seconds next to Sue, Randy's beautiful and talented sometime girlfriend. Mark Thompkins, didn't really play much and relied a lot on his older brother's involvement in the parents club to make up for his deficiencies, but Doug Baker, the tired-looking fourteen-year-old more than made up for any absence of sound on the drill side opposite to Richard's.
Kevin slouched at one end of the firsts next to Art Wainwright, a blond-haired Canadian who liked to play too loud. Next came Eric Marcelli, a skinny boy who'd been in other corps, and Richard Seegren, a lanky blond who spent most of his time with his girlfriend. Luke stood at the end, at six-foot-two the line's physical and musical focal point.
"Now," Luke said, as he took the cans of soda out of the styrofoam cooler. "See what the show people gave us here. Will each of you take one? We're going to try this one more time. The idiots at this show may not know how to run a finale, but at least they have some sense of hospitality."
They each put their finger in the pull-tabs. "Now, Tony start us off."
As he said this, Richard waited, ready. Tony pulled the tab, and a sixteenth note later, the next person followed. Down the line, the explosions of soda set a rhythm until Kevin, clowning, set his off purposely late.
"Ah," Luke said, pointing to Kevin, "you blew it!" He gave Kevin a healthy slap on the arm. All of them quickly emptied their cans down their throats. Richard savored the liquid that washed away some of the soreness of his muscles and the dehydration.
"Finished?" Luke said, "Then get another one. Let's try it one more time. Kevin, you can lead us off."
After they'd reloaded, however, Kevin didn't wait for the signal but pointed the soda directly into Art Wainwright's face. Art responded by shooting his pop at someone else, and for a moment soda filled the air in front of them. Richard shook his can slowly, meaning to empty it on one of the firsts.
"Wait," Luke said, irritated, "don't get it on the uni-"
He stepped forward right as Richard pulled the tab and cola drenched the section leader's face and hair. For a second, Luke looked angrily through the cola rolling down his glasses. Then a mischievous smile came to Luke as he began to shake his own can.
"You son of a *&^%." He took a step forward, "You are gonna wear this."
Richard didn't even duck or run as the cool liquid drenched him. He looked out through soda at the soaking baritone line and laughed, feeling all right.
From the Drum Corps Reporter
HAMILTON KNIGHTS ENDURE HEAT TO TRIUMPH AT PETERBORO
By Peter Submiralty
In over 100 degrees of heat, the Hamilton Knights continued their domination of their Ontario "A" class rivals. The Knights did not play an inspired show, but it proved more than sufficient against the motley field assembled to challenge them....
(From paragraph two)
The Darien Heights Dragoons hardly resembled the corps I observed two weeks ago in Toronto. They attained seconds and thirds in most of the execution categories with a close second in drum execution as a peak. Their drum content analysis and musical analysis categories humbled even the Knights and suggest the Dragoons are attempting a very demanding show. The show might be too demanding. Like most corps, the Dragoons appeared to be staggering through this afternoon's show, but this time I could identify most of their tunes: Off the line, "The Flying Dutchman," drum solo "Boddhisatva," concert "Central Park North," production, an unknown jazz number, and off the field a pop number. The Dragoons must work on generating some enthusiasm as they presently seem more like a poor orchestra marching while playing a set of difficult etudes than a corps playing a unified show.
6/23 Peterboro, Ontario
1. Hamilton Knights 63.3 2. Darien Heights Dragoons 52.5 3. Waterloo Iron Dukes 51.5 4. London Saints 48.9 5. Riverside Guardsmen 38.8 6. Guelf Knights 33.3 7. Peterboro Sentinels 22.5
Uptown Saturday Night (June 25, 1977)
"Come on, let's go," Ned said, adjusting his shirt in his sweater. He slicked his hair back carefully into place.
Mr. Bright stood behind Ned's shoulders. He was a big, brawny man with a thick beard that resisted shaving. "Now boys," he said, "I understand that you might want to do some drinking, tonight." He struggled for a second then nodded his head decisively, "I've got a whole case of beer in the refrigerator."
Ned looked at Paul, who looked at Richard. Richard nodded: yes, that was what Mr. Bright said.
"I just don't want you to be drinking at the dance tonight. I'm going to be serving drinks, but I'm asking you, Ned, to keep everyone away from the drinks."
Ned drew himself up and nodded his head. "You can count on me, Mr. Bright," he said, trying not to wink, "I'll keep these people out of trouble." He paused, "Is it possible we could have some of those beers right now?"
Ned, Richard, and Paul strolled into the rented hall, self-consciously adjusting their ties and suits. At the desk, they presented their tickets to Mr. Norton, another of the corps parents. Mr. Menlo nodded to them and punched on a hand clicker. Richard felt a little bad about asking his father for twenty dollars to pay for the ticket, but the dance brought a lot of money to the corps besides being, as he explained to his father, the social event of the Dragoon's season. His father had given him the money and permission to sleep over at the Bright's house in Darien Heights.
Ned surveyed the circle of tables and motioned to Richard:
The other three followed a little less boldly but with equal interest. Richard thought how different everyone looked without their shorts and halters, so much older. Ned pointed to a table with five girls and a single open spot.
"That's where I'm going."
None of the girls talked much to Richard, but he dutifully followed Ned and sat down at the nearest table. He hadn't been there long before Art pulled up a chair next to him. The other's bright blue suit, combed back blonde hair, rendered him almost unrecognizable. He held up a glass of liquid carefully in his hand.
"What's that?" Richard yelled over the disco music in the background.
"What does it look like," Art said, "rum and Coke."
Richard looked at the glasses of the three girls sitting with Ned. "Wait a second, they're only fourteen."
Richard and Ned rose to his feet and crossed the room to the homemade bar. He watched Mr. Bright and two other men serving up drinks. Ned followed closely behind.
"Mr. Bright," Ned began reasonably and pointed to the crowd, "do you know some of the people drinking are only fourteen or fifteen?"
Don's father shrugged his shoulders, "No." He stated appearing to consider the matter, "I don't know that."
Paul, now with them, interrupted, "Maybe I'm nineteen."
"No Paul," Mr. Bright said, narrowing his eyes, "I've seen your license."
Ned shrugged his shoulders, "Come on." They walked back to the table, and Ned motioned to the boy at one of the other tables. "How much is it worth to you to buy about five mixed drinks."
"What's wrong with you?"
"I'm feeling a little...young."
Richard looked deep into his third rum and Coke and watched the bubbles fizz. Then his eyes returned to the dance floor and the couples swaying back and forth, back and forth, back and forth to the slow music. He could see Kevin out there, Tom, wrapped around one of the flag girls, and Randy with Sue.
"Richard." He started at the voice behind him. He looked up at Johnny, the drill instructor, dressed in a tie-die dress shirt and dancing with one of the seventeen-year-old flags. "Why don't you go ask one of the girls to dance?"
Mr. Bright's son spoke. He'd sat with Richard so long Richard had forgotten him completely, "We're trying to get drunk."
Richard sighed at that suggestion.
"*&&^% that," Johnny answered, to Richard, not Don, "You can always get drunk, or at least I always can. Get up and 'boogie.' Do the 'drum corps boogie.'" Johnny then moved off, the girls still on his arm, apparently showing the "drum corps boogie" to be a series of spastic jerks. The music picked up tempo. Johnny boogied off and away.
Richard rose unsteadily to his feet. His eyes slowly swept the dance floor and all those couples he'd never seen except in shorts and jeans, dressed in gowns and suits. Then he looked at the tables of girls, four or five at each, huddled close together as though for protection. In the far corner of the room, he saw Ned dancing with one of the younger girls. His eyes met those of several of the girls, but each time one girl would look into his eyes, he'd glance away shyly.
Finally, he took two steps towards the nearest table of girls and declared to the crowd:
"Would any of you like to dance."
They turned amongst themselves and whispered hurriedly for a moment and Richard could hear nothing except the odd high-pitched, "I...maybe..but...," over the music. Then they all turned, and the oldest one declared.
"No, we're sitting this one out Richard."
Richard nodded slowly and retraced his uncertain path back to his chair.
"Look, Richard," Don said, "I got you another drink."
Richard found the glass with his hand, but his eyes went back to the dance floor and couple revolving around and round and round...
"That's great, Don, just great."
Mr. Bright had gone to bed after bringing them home and sharing a night cap. Ned wasted no time in getting another round of beers. The four boys lay on the living room floor in their sleeping bags looking upward.
"You know what I think," Ned began thoughtfully.
"What?" Paul replied.
"The room here is spinning clockwise."
"He's right," Paul said, "how do they get it to do that."
"Boy we're going to hate ourselves in the morning," Richard sighed. "We've got to play that *&^% show tomorrow night, and we got to practice all day."
"You think too much Richard," Paul said.
"That-is tomorrow's problem." Ned said. "All the martinis you can drink. *&^ that's drum corps Richard."
"Yeah," Paul added, "that's corps. Let your drill instructor be Johnny Walker."
The room continued to spin into a whirl of black and gold and running flags.
From the Drum Corps Reporter
PLAINSMEN ROLL AT DARIEN HEIGHTS
By Theodore Skidmore
The Toledo Plainsmen have to be the clear favorite to win the Five Lakes' championship next week after winning yet another victory at Darien Heights. The men and women in yellow and black didn't even bother to play a victory concert after sweeping all the captions from Flint and Darien Heights.....
(From paragraph three)
The hometown crowd in this neighborhood didn't show up in any record numbers, so it's questionable whether the Dragoons made any great amounts of money on this show.
Darien Heights seems haunted by their Flint rivals. Only a year ago, the Dragoons were fifteen points behind Flint, but now they seem to stay only a point apart. Once more the Dragoons took all the execution categories (except M&M X) and lost all the GE captions. The corps seems to get better and better each week, and parts of their OTL actually seemed exciting tonight. Flint, however, seems to improve at the same rate as the Dragoons.6/25 Darien Heights, Michigan 1. Toledo Plainsmen 62.5 2. Flint Warriors 53.7 3. Darien Heights Dragoons 52.7 4. Waterloo Iron Dukes 50.0 5. Pontiac Lancers 42.0 6. Port Huron Patrolmen 40.0
The Small Screen (June 30, 1977)
Richard felt the cool water beneath his back. His eyes glanced at the sun through his thick glasses. With a single finger, he paddled himself around the pool. Somewhere behind him he could hear the neighbors playing something or other on their stereo system, but it made no difference.
How long had it been since the last night without a rehearsal? Flint had beaten them yet again last week. Tonight, he'd drive over to the Bright's house and see it all on television. What did it matter? Did it matter?
"Riiiichard." Was someone calling him from far away?
He padded slightly to his left and sang a few lines from the flying Dutchman. It felt so good just to lie here and gliiiiiide.
"Richard!" His mother yelled. "What are you doing?"
He sat up on the inner tube, "Floating Mom."
"Very funny," his mother responded, "I mean why don't you answer the phone. It must've rung twenty times. Your sisters aren't going to answer all the way from camp. That leaves you."
"Me," he yawned, "yes, I'll get it."
"I had to run out of the car with the groceries just to get to the phone. By the time I got in there..."
"Everybody was gone," he finished her sentence.
She looked at Richard intently. He knew she'd gone to the store a few hours earlier just to avoid hearing him practice another two long hours. Now she watched him drifting with the current he'd created by paddling along so long in the water.
"Are you staying home tonight? We could go out to dinner...."
Richard smiled. He'd gone out so many nights lately. When he got up, he invariably practiced, ate lunch, took a shower, and then took off. It hadn't really occurred to him that, with his father working overtime again, his mother might feel lonely.
"I'd love to Mom, but I'm driving to Canada tonight. The local station videotaped the show last week, and we're going to be the stars. You could..." He hesitated. He didn't really want his mother along at one of those beer and chip nights that the Dragoons so often held when any three got together, but he knew he had to offer, "..go along and see us on the television."
He could see the hurt on her face, but she lowered her eyes slightly and gave the raft a push towards the center of the water. "No. You know I've never seen anyone as tanned as you. You're starting to look like some kind of an Indian."
"How?" He joked, "I guess you've got to think of this as kind of my Indian summer."
See picked up the glasses and placed them back over his face. "I guess it is. Have fun," she said, and couldn't help but make the motherly remark, "but I don't want you.." She couldn't say "drinking and driving," that would admit she had some idea of what the Dragoons did after their shows, so she said, "driving around tired."
"If I have any problems," Richard said carefully not promising not to drink, "I'll just sack out over at the Bright's house."
"Those people must be sick of you by now."
"Give them time," Richard said, "and they'll never wish they'd heard the word 'Dragoons.'"
"I wish I'd never heard the word 'Dragoons.'"
"Give me a couple of minutes, and I'll help you with the groceries."
"No," his mother said, meaning more than her words meant, "you'd better float while you still can."
"Will you guys get in here," Jen said from the other room, "the show is about to start."
Richard looked inside the refrigerator and selected a bottle of beer. Paul waited over his shoulder to get the next one. Mr. Bright's younger son, Dan, a ten-year-old cymbal player, waited for a chance to get something.
Richard moved out of the way and grabbed the container of popcorn to take into the Bright's living room. In the living room, Mr. Bright's two sons, Don and his brother, sat in the two chairs, and Mr. Bright's wife waited for her husband on the couch. Jen, her long legs folded under her, sprawled by the couch in front of their big television and tried to tune in the set. She'd tied her blonde hair back into her usual pony tail.
Paul and Richard sat down on the floor a few feet from her as she turned up the volume of the set. Just at that moment, Ned stumbled through the door with two bags of junk food.
"Well, isn't anybody going to help me?" He said as he spilled bags of chips out on the floor.
"On the commercial Ned," Paul replied.
"Oh yes," Ned said, gathering up the food one bag at a time, "my true friend."
"Will you just shut up," Jen snapped and turned the volume up.
"Damn," Ned said to her as he went into the kitchen, "you're in a lousy mood."
The screen filled with an a picture of an announcer in a blue suit standing in front of the partially filled Darien Heights football stadium where they'd played the week before.
"I'm standing here in Darien Heights High School Stadium, sight of the Freedom Open, a show sponsored by the Darien Heights Dragoons, an up-and-coming drum corps..." It was such a small crowd, Richard wondered how much money they'd made on the show.
Ned laughed as he took his seat on the floor next to Mr. Bright.
"Will you be quiet Ned," Jen said.
Ned looked up. "It's your house, sir. Do I have to be quiet?"
Mr. Bright paused, trying to offend no one, "Not until the show starts."
"Thanks," Ned said and added, "'Dad.'"
Richard leaned forward until his elbows rested on his knees.
"Tonight we're bringing you a taped broadcast from the Freedom Open, featuring the Hamtramck Heralds, the Pontiac Lancers, the Waterloo Iron Dukes, the Toledo Plainsmen, the Darien Heights Dragoons.."
"Yeah!!!" They all yelled.
Richard felt tired. He could barely keep his eyes open.
"On the line," the announcer said, "from Port Huron Michigan, the Port Huron Patrolmen!"
The camera zeroed in on the drum major's red, white, and blue uniform. The colors blurred and receded even as Richard heard the first chords of "Strike Up the Band...."
"Will you get the door, Richard?" He started. He looked at the screen and realized he'd slept through two shows. He'd almost slept through the Dragoons also, but he got to his feet and went to the door.
When he opened it, he saw Tom McClure and Nora Brown. Tom looked down at him, but Nora, a dark-haired girl about Richard's age and height, did the talking.
"Our set's not working at my house. Could we watch the t.v. here?"
Richard turned slowly. He couldn't help noticing the two holding hands. He said to Mr. Bright:
"Do we have room for two more?" Richard watched for Jen's reaction. At the sight of Tom, her eyes narrowed and a deep frown came to her features.
"Sure we got room," Mr. Bright said unaware of any problems. "Just sit down anywhere."
Jen stood up. "No," she said, smiling icily, "take my spot."
"No," Tom started.
"I insist." Jen stood up.
Richard closed the door and went back to the kitchen. He meant to get some chips or something so he could stay awake during the rest of the television show.
A second later, Jen walked into the kitchen, her shoulders held tight. She didn't even notice Richard but angrily opened drawers until she found a knife. Then she picked up a couple of celery sticks and started dicing them so fast Richard thought she'd cut her fingers. Then he remembered she worked as a part-time assistant restaurant manager.
"Goddamn *&^ *&^%," she said. Finding an empty bowl, she threw the greens inside.
"Jen," Ned said, "our show is about to start."
"I'll be right there," she said with an ironic sweetness and stomped her way back into the room.
Richard moved to refill his bowl with the popcorn. At that moment, Tom came into the room, and, seeing Richard, asked: "Where's the beer?"
Richard pointed to the refrigerator. As Tom withdrew two cans, he said.
"Goddamn, Jen really seems bitchy tonight."
"Well what can you expect," Richard said. "You guys were.." He couldn't say the word, but it didn't matter.
Tom shrugged. "You know what it was. There was that weekend in Frankenmuth, and then she just tried to like tell me what to do and..." His voice trailed off. "You know how it is." Tom held an empty beer can, searching for something.
Richard nodded, lying. Though two years older than Tom, he'd never had any kind of steady date, let alone a girlfriend.
"Well," Richard said, recalling the girls with whom Tom shared intimate bus rides. "First there was that flag," he never did know the girl's name, "and now there's Nora, but Tom even though it's two girls later, it's only a couple of weeks." He concluded, "You didn't have to come here."
Tom sighed, "Nora wanted to see the show, and she's been in drum corps a few years. She's not afraid of Jen."
Richard remembered the salad greens. Just the other day he'd had an argument with Jen, and she'd said, "You may be a boy, but I could kick your **& myself." He paused, "I might be."
Tom shrugged. "I'm only sixteen-years-old. What can I do, marry her? Jen and I are dead, done, finished. I asked Ned, you know, and he's known Jen a long time." He threw the can into the trash.
"He also doesn't like you very well." Richard added. Ned considered Tom a hot-dog horn player. He called him 'Mr. Bandman,' and used to sing a little song to the tune of 'Mr. Sandman,' but Richard suspected the fact they both played about equally well, though not equally loud, had something to do with Ned's comments.
"I know that," Tom said. "He thinks I'm a wimp, but he knows Jen. You know what he said. He said, 'leave her alone and stay out of her way, and she'll find somebody else after awhile.'"
"I'm just trying," Richard said, "to keep her from kicking MY butt just for entertainment."
They both went back into the living room. The Dragoons' show had already begun. Jen had succeeded in hushing everyone. Richard sat down just as the camera zoomed in on Randy about to start their final number, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough,"
"One-two-three-four," Randy's voice came through the t.v. speaker.
The horns responded with four long heavy notes and turned backfield, leaving behind two sopranos whose soft playing almost sung the melody. The words went:
"No wind-no rain, nor winter's snow
Can stop me Babe, oh Babe,
If your my goal..."
Then the horn line turned, and Richard could see himself, or at least identify his spot in the line, marking time well as they went into the charge. The words went,"Ain't no mountain high enough; Ain't no valley low enough; Ain't no river wide enough; To keep me from you."
His eyes strayed from the center of the screen as the horns split the line on the screen. In the corner of his eye, he could see Jen staring at the screen. What was she thinking, he wondered. What she looking for Tom somewhere, or was she looking for herself? Even in her t-shirt, if she'd let her hair down tonight, she'd look beautiful, a hard kind of beauty, like no one else. He could never say that to her, though, because she wouldn't respond. She'd think it was stupid, weak. She was unbending metal, not like a knife, but like a contra that would take incredible force to be reshaped, but, once bent, lost its voice along with its form.
He could see the contras marching now into the final company front, Jen on the end. She marched just as well as the boys, better really.
He watched Tom take his empty beer can. Tom didn't waste his time putting it into the cardboard case but tossed it into the trash. Tom's words came back to him, "Dead, done, and finished." Somehow the phrase seemed typical of Tom.
The horn melody divided into three parts as the solo sopranos, the baritones, and lower sopranos each hammered home a different variation on the tune in an arrangement only Monk Eastman could write.
Then it all resolved into one musical line as the feet came to a sudden halt, and the music suddenly struck the final restatement of the "Flying Dutchman" that always sent shivers up his spine when he heard it. He looked across the room at Jen and a single tear ran down her cheek. Was she crying?
No, he decided. It must've been something in her eye. Jen was tough, after all; Jen was tough.
Never Cut the Lines (July 9, 1977)
"You **&&# the part in the off-the-line," Kevin said. "Why the *&^% do you always."
Richard started to tune out. For the fifth time in a day, he listened as Kevin catalogued his faults and his mistakes. Finally, Richard snapped:
"Like you never make a mistake?"
The question seemed to hit Kevin between the eyes. He drew himself up. "Wrong notes? A few. Drill mistakes, no. I can march a tickless show."
Richard's expression showed he didn't believe Kevin. The two stood, dressed in uniform, in a long line of Dragoons waiting to go back on the field for the finale.
Now, Kevin seemed visibly angry. "All right. Go ahead. Next practice you watch, I'll...."
Kevin never finished the comment. As he spoke, a big man, bigger even than Randy, stretched his arms out to try to go between Richard and Kevin. Kevin could only turn when the two hands grabbed him and yanked him from his spot in the line. Richard glimpsed the face of Kevin, grimacing in surprise. With every corps, an unspoken rule existed that when they lined up, you would go around, so Kevin hadn't expected anyone to walk in that direction, let alone lay hands on him.
For a split second, Richard didn't know what to do. Then Richard only saw the uniform, the same as everyone else who'd played until their faces hurt an hour earlier and left the field gasping for air: the Leonards, the Brights, the Randys, and the Richards.
Richard's left hand automatically released his horn to form into a fist that swung in a long arc that ended in the stranger's stomach. The block took the stranger totally by surprise. He appeared more stunned than hurt, but his face became contorted with rage.
By then, three-uniformed Dragoons fell on him and each landed a blow. Richard watched the big man rapidly flee, around the corps, and heard one of fellow horn players announce simply:
"You don't cut through this corps."
Richard helped Kevin to his feet.
"Are you all right?" Richard asked.
Kevin methodically swept the dust of his jacket. He inspected his horn and ran his hand over an old dent.
"Oh, I guess I'm okay." Then he thought, "That *&% didn't get through, did he?"
Richard felt the urge to say he'd hit the man himself. He wanted to tell Kevin how he'd saved the corps honor, but he only said, "No, we got him out."
Kevin smiled, "Good."
"Hey, what were you about to say?"
"I was going to tell you, 'You still missed that turn.'"
Richard groaned, "I didn't think I did." He saw the look on Kevin's face, but he finished what he was saying. "I'm doing something so wrong, I can't even see the mistake. Can you help me with it?"
The other nodded levelly, "All right. I can." He looked straight at Richard, and Richard realized, for a second, the pressure on Kevin being in charge of helping Richard and making sure their rank of baritones, all six of them, did their show right. It'd be hard enough being in charge of those horns, including four rookies, let alone one baritone just as old, big, and smart as Kevin who just didn't seem to listen or take criticism easily. Richard looked straight at Kevin and vowed he'd try harder to listen and learn.
Kevin smiled slightly, for a second not talking to just a "member of his rank" but another person, and nodded his head. "You'll get it, you know." Kevin added carefully, "You're only a rookie: you've got to give it some time. You play well enough. You try hard on drill, but that...you know."
"It's not always enough?"
Kevin didn't answer the question, "You'll get it."
A horn turned around a tapped Kevin, "Be quiet, and keep people out of the lines," came the message.
Kevin turned to Richard, "Yeah I heard," Richard said, and he passed the message on. The two melded back into the formation. Their horns moved to parade rest until they once again formed part of the unbroken ranks.
The Colors of the Rainbow (July 10, 1977)
Richard watched from the far side of the field as the Warriors played their show. Somewhere to the South, Leon nursed their old equipment truck back to Darien Heights. The old truck broke down in route to this show, and no other corps had enough horns or drums for the Dragoons to borrow to take the field, so he watched the Flint corps leaving the field after their show, certain of an easy victory.
"Why can't we beat those *&^%," said Doby, the soprano player, "we've got a better show than them."
Richard shrugged. Week after week, the Dragoons could never close that point to a point and a half distance between the two corps. He clenched his fist:
"Richard," Doug said, and he turned to face the other second baritone, "you want to go 'corps hopping' with us?"
Richard shrugged. Normally, he enjoyed walking around in his uniform after finishing their show and talking to kids from other corps. Tonight, though, dressed in his white t-shirt and jeans, he didn't know, but he felt restless, as if he ought to be doing something. He looked at Doug and the two McCormicks, dressed as anonymously as he, and nodded his head. He started to walk around along the track with the other three boys, and he heard Doby scramble his steps to get behind him.
They got a few steps around, when Richard recalled Mr. Menlo's words at the start of the show:
"The audience isn't going to understand that we're not going to play tonight. So I want you to stay over on this side and let people think we're not here at all."
Jimmy, the younger McCormick, said to his brother, "Mr. Menlo told us not to leave our area."
Richard had a sudden idea, "Well, he also said we were supposed to be invisible."
When they got to the side of the sidelines, they found some members of the Pontiac Lancers. About five of them slouched near the fence, sipping sodas. They wore half their blue uniforms. They saw the approaching boys, and they asked, "What corps are you from?"
Doug started to say something, but Richard touched his shoulder slightly, "We're from the," he remembered the upstate corps he'd read about the day before, "Marquette Argonauts." He tried to look uninterested, as he proceeded, "I wonder what happened to the Dragoons? I heard they were supposed to be good this year."
"Ha," the tallest of the boys said. "They are a bunch of &^^%"
Doug started to say something, but the announcer's voice interrupted them with:
"On the line, from Rochester Michigan, the Blue Knights."
"All right!" Voices screamed.
"What's wrong with the Dragoons?" Richard asked, "I've heard they beat Flint a couple of times."
One of the other Lancers interrupted, "*&&^ we beat them the first couple of weeks."
Richard wanted to laugh at the exaggeration, but he kept a straight face. "Really? I heard Dragoons were the best corps in the circuit."
The Downriver Knights began their show, but Richard and the Pontiac Lancers continued to speak.
"You want to see a good show?" The Lancer said. "Did you see Flint's?"
The Knights continued to play their collection of show tunes, and Richard considered his reply. Richard thought that Flint had played rather flat, perhaps because they had no one chasing them tonight. He liked their show well enough. "They were pretty good."
"Well," another Lancer said, "there you go."
Richard signaled to the others. "We've got to go find one of our guys."
The Lancers waved to them, "Hope you field a corps next year."
"We do too," Richard added ironically. The five Dragoons continued to walk farther around the corner until they found some members of the Hamtramck Heralds. Richard shrugged and approached two girls and a boy dressed in the Herald's gold and black uniforms. They wore no jackets and seemed only slightly interested in the corps playing in front of them. The two girls smiled at the attention and Doug nodded slightly. Richard extended his hand. He yelled over the Knights' concert number:
"Not bad, eh?"
The girls didn't say anything, but the boys said: "They're all right."
"Flint lucked out," one of the McCormicks put in "with the Dragoons not being there."
The girls looked suspicious, and one of them asked, "Who are you guys from?"
Richard thought a second, "We're from Pontiac."
The three nodded their heads. Pontiac beat Hamtramck regularly, but they had always seemed to be on friendly terms. Since no one could know every person in another corps, Richard felt sure they could pass for Pontiac players.
The McCormick boy persisted, yelling over the performance in front of them, "I think Dragoons would've won tonight."
The two girls looked, and the prettier one appeared about to spit. The boys said, "Those *&^% Dragoons. They swiped two of our horns last year."
Richard knew a couple of the horns who'd played in Hamtramck, but he shrugged. "You mean those players didn't get releases?"
The boys scrunched up his face, "Sure they got releases. Our director doesn't want somebody here that doesn't want to be here."
Doug spoke up, "Hell, I'd march with the Dragoons if I had a chance. Their show kicks ass." He looked at the girls through his glasses, "Wouldn't you?"
The one shrugged her shoulders slightly, and the other shook her head, watching the corps on the field. Richard looked over his shoulder back in the direction of the far field, "We've got to get back to our busses for the finale."
The boy smiled, "Right."
Richard led the other four back behind the stadium. When they were off alone, away from the back of the stands where they could hardly hear the ongoing show, they stopped in front of the refreshment stand.
Jimmy McCormick wiped his hair back and said to the others, "What a bunch of *&^%. We talked to some of their guys at the Peterboro show a few weeks ago, and they didn't act like this!"
"Come on," Doug said. "We screwed the Heralds, or that's the way they see it anyway. Pontiac just can't get over us beating them every single week."
"They're crazy," Doby said, finally getting a chance to speak to the older boys. "Pontiac sucks, and those corps aren't even close to us."
"Well," Richard suggested, "let's try one more time."
The others nodded, and he led the small group of horns back around the back stadium until he found another group of corps members. They wore T-shirts and, under a bank of burned-out lights, Richard couldn't tell what kind of uniforms they wore. They looked in their late teens and stood, slouching, between the benches. The nearest one, a tall light-haired kid with glasses, looked at the five Dragoons and held out his hand.
Richard said straightly, "Hey guys, how are you doing."
The other extended his hand and the Dragoons took some of the empty seats beside them, "Where are you guys from?"
Doby said, "We're from the Pontiac Lancers."
The strangers nodded their heads. "You guys do okay." He said diplomatically, "We like your show pretty well."
"I'm just glad," Doby said, imitating anger, "those *&^% Dragoons aren't here. They stole two of our horn players, and their show sucks!"
"Well," the stranger said, "they may suck, but you guys aren't going to beat them this year."
"Come on," Jimmy McCormick put in, "they suck. We beat them in Riverside and Sarnia. They just think they're so *&^% big."
The other boy laughed, "They may think so, but they're going to be the corps to beat next year. We'll be lucky to keep beating them this year." When the other five said nothing, he paused, "Wait a second, you're not from the Lancers, are you?" He sat up, "You're from the Dragoons!"
Richard couldn't help it. He started to laugh, "Yeah, and where are you guys from?"
Then the others started to laugh in return, "We're from Flint." Richard raised his soda, and the two touched metal. "I wish you guys would get off our *&*^%," the boy from Flint chided.
"Oh," Richard said, "give us another week, and we'll be safely ahead of you."
"What happened to you tonight?"
"Our equipment truck died."
"*&&^," the Warrior swore, "yours too? Why can't any corps afford to buy a decent equipment truck or good food."
Richard laughed, "I thought you guys ate good."
"Sure, if you're a peanut butter freak."
Both sides laughed now, and the two groups began to converse with one another. Richard could hear the corps on the field nearing the end of its show and said, "You know I almost marched with Flint. I called their director and everything."
"No *&^%!" The Warrior paused, "I would've never marched with Darien Heights. We didn't think you guys were ever going to be any good."
Richard felt a hand on his shoulder and heard Paul's voice, "Goddamn, you guys, Menlo's looking all over for you. We're not staying for the finale. We're taking off right now."
The Dragoons stood up, and before they left, the Warrior said to Richard: "Hey, you ever get tired of losing, you can come to Flint!"
Richard called back mockingly, "Hey, same to you. We'll kick your butts in Scarboro."
"We'll kick your *&^% in Scarboro and at the American Legion!" The Warrior returned.
The others laughed. As Paul walked with them back to the bus, he asked, "Who were you guys talking to?"
Richard paused before answering "Flint."
Paul shook his head, "God they suck."
Richard didn't answer. This week Flint would suck. They'd have to "suck" until Darien Heights left them safely behind or gave up trying to catch them. Then, they'd be 'just fine.' He looked at the corps lining up for the finale about to begin. He could see uniforms of red, white, blue, gold, green; corps dressed in all the colors of the rainbow.
From the Drum Corps Reporter
FLINT WARRIORS WIN AT PETEOSKEY AND SAULT STE. MARIE
By Lawrence LaSalle
How dead is drum corps in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula? It is so dead that it took a deal with the Five Lakes Circuit for fans of the U.P. to see even two shows this year. With the folding of the Marquette Argonauts, last year's state American Legion champs, it looks as Iron Mountain is one of only two cities capable of fielding a drum corps. The Flint Warriors took both those these shows and look like the future state champs, unless rumors that the Argonauts are not completely folded prove to be true. With the depression in this area, it's just too hard to get kids out of the factories and onto the field.....
(From paragraph three)
A year ago, I last observed the Darien Heights Dragoons and considered them a competent enough "B" corps, but they've improved enormously since then. The Dragoons (43h, 30p, 30g) have a big, but not particularly powerful, hornline, and big, and particularly powerful, drum line. They have new gold and green uniforms not much to my taste, but sparkling. The Dragoons play a mixture of classical, jazz, and pop that seems to be the trademark of their veteran horn instructor "Monk" Eastman. Their show is sometimes exciting and extremely demanding; I believe their opening off-the-line has more pictures than some corps's entire shows. The crowd seemed to appreciate them well enough, but the judges gave first to Flint on Friday. On Saturday night, there was a mishap and the Dragoons equipment truck did not arrive. For a while it looked as though they'd go on with someone else's instruments, but no one corps had enough, and no two corps wanted to risk not receiving their own equipment back, so the Dragoons watched the second show from the sidelines.
7/9 Peteosky Michigan1. Flint Warriors 64.25 2. Darien Heights Dragoons 63.9 3. Pontiac Lancers 47.7 4. Downriver Knights 45.5 5. Rochester Blue Knights 37.0 6. St. Anthony's Girls 25.5 7. Iron Mountain Mounties 22.0
7/10 Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario 1. Flint Warriors 65.5 2. Downriver Knights 47.6 3. Pontiac Lancers 47.5 4. Rochester Blue Knights 35.5 5. Hamtramck Heralds 32.0 6. St. Anthony's Girls 25.0 7. Iron Mountain Mounties 21.0
A Suburban Exhibition (July 16, 1977)
The sound of the knocking persisted no matter how hard Richard persisted in ignoring it. Finally, he heard his mother yell:
"Richard will you come upstairs? Arnold and Craig are here."
Richard didn't bother to put the horn away. He took the horn up with him. He'd been, slowly but surely, memorizing the rewritten part for the concert. He'd play one measure until he memorized it. Then, he'd go on to the next. Then, he'd play both measures together. Then, he'd play looking at the music again to make sure he'd memorized the section correctly.
He looked through the thin metal screen. He could see two boys staring at him. Arnold looked muscular in his short sleeve shirt, and Craig's red hair covered his freckled face. To Richard's eyes, somehow, they seemed younger than he remembered.
"Hello man. Where have you been?"
Richard said awkwardly, "How goes it?"
Craig said, "We wanted to see if you still live here."
Arnold said, "Can you come out, or are you a prisoner."
Richard shrugged his shoulders. He walked through the door and sat down beside them on the porch. He put the horn down on the grass with its bell pointed towards the ground.
"What the Hell is that?" Arnold asked.
"It's a baritone bugle."
"Do you take it with you everywhere?"
"Only when I'm practicing."
Arnold looked a little contemptuous. He'd spent two years in the band and Richard had never seen him take his saxophone home to practice. Then he quit What did he play now, Richard wondered. Then he remembered.
"How's the band going?"
Arnold combed his hair back, "We're still looking for our first gig. We keep trying to play weddings." He paused, "I guess no one gets married anymore."
"Well, I'm playing guitar, Brian Gooder is playing bass, Craig's playing guitar, and Tommy Tuone is playing drums."
"Tuone," Richard said, frowning, "he's a burnout."
Arnold laughed, "So?"
"He can't hardly even come to school straight. He'll be lucky if he graduates next year."
Arnold looked at him, "Boy, but you should see the parties he throws. He's the one that got us invited to that disco a couple of weeks ago. Besides, WE are just in it for fun anyway."
"Party hearty," Craig agreed.
Richard shook his head, "Well, it's your band."
"That's right," Arnold said, "it is. Are you staying over this weekend?"
"This weekend?" Richard tried to recall. He looked out in front of the house at the long row of box-shaped houses. A black roof topped each residence, and each grew a single maple tree. He could hear the cool breeze blowing through the midsummer heat. "This week-end?"
He could hear Arnold's exasperation in his voice, "Yeah. This week-end. Remember, Craig's birthday, the tent, the poker, the beer?"
He did remember the last birthday party, a year before, when they'd come back from a showing of "Jaws" and played poker all night while drinking a twelve-pack of warm beer Craig's sister had bought for them. It seemed more than a year ago.
"When is it?" Richard asked.
Craig spoke this time, exasperated, "Tomorrow night!"
Just at that moment Richard's sister walked across the lawn in front of the three boys to turn on the sprinkler. She wore a pair of short shorts and halter top. As she bent over the water faucet at the side of the house, Richard became uncomfortably aware that the other two stared at her. If she hadn't been his sister, Richard, suddenly realized, he would've stared also.
"She's---" Craig began as she walked back through the front door.
"Fifteen," Richard said, his right hand unconsciously forming a fist, "and she's my sister."
"Then can I have your permission to ask her out?"
"NO!" Richard said, surprised at his own vehemence. These were his best friends, after all, his best friends. Even if they went out with his sister, they were only kids...
Craig laughed, "I was only kidding."
For a second the three said nothing as a car drove by. Then Arnold spoke. "Now I was asking about this week-end. My parents are going to let me throw a party, and we're going to invite girls." He paused, "try anyway. Then afterwards we're going to sleep over out in the tent and drink some of the good stuff."
Richard licked his dry lips. It seemed he was drinking after just about every show they played, splitting a six-pack, taking a few slugs of wine, or something. It seemed a minor part of the Dragoons, but Craig made it seem as if the drinking was an activity all by itself. That somehow made the suggestion seem wrong.
"What's the name of that girl you like Oldar?" Craig asked.
Richard stared off at the trees and tried to think. What was that girl's name? Was it Lena, Pamela?
"Sandra!" Arnold yelled. "Sandra. You talked about her for a whole *&^ year and you don't even remember her name? The dark-haired girl. The long legs. Hell, I don't even know her, and you made me like her."
Richard vaguely pictured her, "Yeah Sandra."
"What do they do to you in that stupid corps!" Arnold asked, "You spend every goddamn weekend at shows, you spend damn near every night practicing, and then I come over to your house and you're practicing for the practice. Do they all practice that much?"
Richard shook his head, "Some of them never lift their horns except in rehearsals."
"Then why do you?"
"I'm a rookie. I need to practice that much."
Arnold waited as a car slowly passed the front porch.
"Then are you going to the party tomorrow night?"
"Tomorrow night?" He sighed, "I'll be in Scarboro tomorrow night."
"Come on man," Craig asked, "you can miss one show for your best friend's birthday can't you?"
"I'll still give him a present," Richard reasoned. "We can always have a party or something later."
"You're crazy," Arnold said, "crazy. That damn horn has stolen your mind." He reached his hand out to grab the baritone, but Richard reached his arm out and gripped Arnold's. For a second, he squeezed as Arnold tried to pull the horn away. Arnold lifted weights and possessed considerable force in his arm, but try as he might, Arnold could not pull the instrument to him and Richard held his arm like a vise. Arnold released the bell and lowered it to the ground.
"All right, all right," Arnold said, "I want to just hear some of this %$#& you play."
"You really do?" Richard asked. They'd been friends for so long, he thought, maybe they can understand.
"Hit me," Arnold urged, giving a gesture for him to play.
Richard got up. He pulled his t-shirt from his back and stuffed it inside his belt like a sash. He yanked the instrument up and put it into his two arms in a single motion. He could see Arnold and Craig looking over the corded muscles in his arms and shoulders, his trim waist, and his deep tan with a slight amount of surprise.
"You've gone African," Arnold said.
Richard didn't reply, but paced himself off to the edge of the driveway. He said, "I'll give you the production number. One of you has to give me four for nothing."
"What?" Craig said.
Richard brought the horn to attention position. After an hour's marching in the basement, it still felt light. He wanted, more than anything, to show his two friends what it was like.
Arnold said, "Corps, mark-time, mark."
Richard brought his knees up four times slowly and then snapped the horn up to his lips even as he took a deep breath. He hit the long whole note solidly and began to walk slowly across his front yard, looking out of the corner of his eye for an imaginary French horn player. As he played the opening statement, he could see the faces of his friends standing a few paces away listening to straight whole notes. In the middle of one whole note, he took a deep breath, and realized that out here Sue's playing would not cover him as he went for air. He thought, then, how little this part said by itself, but he did not stop.
He turned away in a turn of four to face the streets. He'd not noticed how loud he was playing, and he saw the heads of his neighbors out the window pointing towards him. He slid another eight silently, as the French horns, not present, took the melody.
"Forget the part?" Craig said, but by then Richard had snapped his horn back up and made the slow turn to face the walls of his house. He took big strong steps closer and closer, pointing his bell towards the windows, driving the melody home. Five, six, seven, he saw out of the corner of his eye something moving in front of him, but intent as he was, he kept on moving.
Then he knew Arnold stood directly in his path. He told his legs to stop, even though the show needed him to move forward, but felt himself moving onward, onward.
"Goddamn," Arnold said as he jumped out of the way, "will you &&^% stop!"
Richard snapped the horn down, an inch from the wall. He heard the last notes of his part echoing off the wall, across to his neighbor's, and on down the street. The sound didn't belong in a quiet, suburban neighborhood.
"You play like that," Arnold said, "they'll call the &^% fire department."
Richard chuckled. "That does happen."
"Goddamn!" Arnold said staring at Richard, as he would a total stranger.
"Dragoons," the announcer said, "you may leave the field."
Randy gave the command, and the corps began to mark time in their final procession. They'd been crowned "A" class champions, but still had to give the field to the Open class champions, the Mississauga Knights. Beyond the rows of horns, Richard could spot Randy's white gloves as he brought the horns up. The baritones came in softly, under Paul Sahagun's quiet solo. It seemed a strange time to play this tune, off the field, but Richard didn't care.
They'd go back to the little church tonight and have a celebration of this sort of victory over nobody. There'd be beers and girls and..... Somehow, though, it would be different drinking and talking and laughing with these Dragoons. Richard could not think of how it was different, but it was different, just as it was different playing on the field and playing in his own yard.
The baritones rested eight beats as the French horns took the melody. Then, he felt the mouthpiece and the heavy flow of air going in. When he took a breath, Sue kept playing to cover him, and then he covered her, so the seconds' part flowed continuously. The line built slowly, slowly, and he watched Randy's hands moving in the air, and then suddenly he thrust his bell, with those of the others, into the air, as the arrangement burst into a climax.
With his head up, he could see the fans standing, saluting them, the "A" corps champions. He wondered what Arnold and Craig were doing tonight and how many Craigs and Arnolds were listening. Was the difference between him and them only one of uniform, or was it something else?
They'd won their class tonight, but not the show. It seemed a strange kind of victory.
From the Drum Corps Reporter
MISSISSAUGA CHIEFS OBTAIN ONTARIO PROVINCIAL TITLE
DARIEN HEIGHTS DRAGOONS PREVAIL OVER WEAK CLASS A FIELD
By Peter Submiralty
Drum corps, like life, abounds with ironies. Take, for example, the case of the Ontario Provincial Championships. A year ago this proved a climactic battle between two potential DCI members, the Chiefs and the Brigadiers, and a four-way struggle for the class "A" crown. This year, however, the Chiefs needed hardly to leave their busses to beat their arch-rivals. The Dragoons, perpetually the bridesmaid to corps such as the Hamilton Knights, found themselves victors, instead of victims, due to a scheduling conflict that put dominating Hamilton far to the South. So the Ontario championship proved to be an anti-climax......
(From paragraph three)
With Hamilton gone for the week-end, one would've expected a rather lackluster performance from the Darien Heights Dragoons whose single Canadian sponsor allows participation in this event. Instead, the gold and green corps played undoubtedly its best show of the season to place closely behind the Brigadiers in some categories on the horn and drum sheets. The Dragoons managed to generate some excitement with their jazz-based concert number, and their exit threatened to give them the only other standing ovation of the evening. The audience, however, retained its composure. Some conjectured as to what would've happened had Hamilton been here on this evening, but they were not, and Darien Heights absorbed the "A" corps title.
7/16 Scarboro Ontario
Ontario Provincial Championships
Open Class1. Mississauga Chiefs 78.5 2. Scarlet Brigadiers 74.0
Class A1. Darien Heights Dragoons 67.65 2. Branford Vanguard 59.0 3. Lysong Cadets 53.65 4. London Saints 53.0 5. Harrow Grenadiers 43.3
Class B1. Elksboro Scouts 28.0 2. Chelsea Sabers 15.0
Playing For the Band (July 17, l977)
"How did we ever get involved in a band show?" Richard wondered, glancing around the big tent at the high school kids carefully seated across the tent from the Dragoons. Compared to the Dragoons, the band kinds seemed so clean-cut and, somehow, fresh. The bands had practiced for an hour or two that afternoon and then sat down to watch the drum corps grind through a long, six-hour sessions that ran from lunch till dinner.
"I think," Ned said, "Mr. Menlo knew that guy that was organizing the show. We had a free week, and they needed an exhibition, so here we are $700 richer."
Just at that moment Monk, Randy, and his brother Luke emerged from the tunnel that led into the little tent. Randy held a baritone, Luke a contra, and Monk a soprano playing a spirited version of "When the Saints."
Richard looked down at his fried chicken. Even though they were down four horns at this exhibition and would have a hard show ahead of them, the drill instructors had insisted that they play full force for two full run thoughts. Now he felt too dehydrated to eat anything.
Bozo, their side's drill instructor, sitting a few away, said to Richard, "Look at the bright side, you can't lose tonight."
Monk, Randy, and Luke turned an imaginary corner and stopped to serenade the eating members of the corps. Jen and a couple of other old veterans sang along to the polka-like tune. The contra part went "Oomp Pa. Ooom Pa. Ooom Pa Pa Pa Pa Pa...""They all come out to meet her, But she would never show. They would try to greet her, But she'd never say Hello. They'd try to get her drunken, But that would never go 'Cause instead of going down her It'd go right up her nose. Down her nose; Down her nose; That's where that booze Would always have to go..... "Monk is sure fired up," Paul said.
"That's because he's our secret weapon," Ned said.
"What do you mean," Richard asked.
"You'll see." Ned pointed, "Do you want the rest of that chicken?"
"No," Richard replied, handing Ned the plate.
"Well they give us this food free," Ned said, taking a big bite of the chicken. "I'm not going to waste it."
Richard walked across the tent to the one drinking fountain located on the band side, with his cup in his hand. He turned on the fountain and watched the ice cold water launch into a long arc and fielded it with his cup. Two of the players from the nearest band crossed the room to stand near him. They took a minute looking at each other before one gathered the courage to ask:
"You're with that drum corps, right?" His voice showed a certain undisguised envy of Richard that surprised Richard. He couldn't remember anyone envying Richard Oldar.
"Yes" Richard said matter-of-factly, trying to look as important as their interested stares implied, "The Darien Heights Dragoons."
The skinnier of the two exclaimed, sighing. "By God, you guys play hard."
Richard smiled and self-consciously combed his dirty hair back a little. Then all those weeks of having Bozo on the same field came through, and he couldn't resist saying, with his straightest face, "You should see when we're really putting out."
As he turned, he could hear the one whisper to the other, "I've got to hear those guys tonight!"
When they lined up for the show, Richard discovered the little surprise that Ned referred to.
As they lined up for the entry onto the field, Richard noted the contra line. Jen's departure for work that night left an enormous contra hole in the left hand side.
Then Richard saw that Monk dressed himself in a uniform, apparently intending to march in Jen's place. Richard had to laugh when he saw Monk's beard hanging over his tunic.
"Who is that old guy?" Tom kidded.
"Hey rookie, do you know your part?" Another horn player asked.
"Listen to me," Monk said. "Just ask me to play the part in concert."
"All right," one of the sopranos said, "play the part in concert."
Monk lifted the horn and played: "Bump, bop, bam, boom, bum."
The horn players applauded slowly at hearing the correct notes.
"Perfect." One said, "Now play the part in the off-the-line."
Monk laughed, lifted the horn that draped over his shoulder, and played the exact same notes. When he finished, he repeated, "Just ask me to play the part in concert."
"Corps," Randy said, "ten-hut." The horns snapped to attention. Randy's eyes roved from the sopranos down to the contras. When he spotted Monk, he visibly restrained himself from laughing. Finally, he couldn't help but say, "Dammit Monk, now we look like a senior corps."
Monk responded by picking up the horn and playing a single "Blat!"
Richard couldn't believe it. The concert actually sounded excited. He could hear the sopranos cooking on the melody and the baritones beneath, driving them onward. Then the melody passed to the heavy horns, and he helped pushed it home with deep, long breaths. He could feel the night's excitement all around him as the band crowd responded to the this, their first drum corps, with enthusiastic applause.
He took a final, big breath and pulled out "all the stops" as the concert built to a climax. Even with horns missing, it sounded powerful and built to a big conclusion.
Then it happened, right after he'd lowered his horn. Someone in the soprano line keeled over, just as the note cut off. The body fell to the ground in a heap of green and gold.
He brought his horn up on command and tried to remember who marched that spot. Weeks ago, he'd watched members of the Saints melt in that unending afternoon show, but this was different. This was someone he knew. Then it came to him with a start: It was Ned. Ned had fainted!
"Corps-mark-time-mark!" Randy commanded. Richard slowly turned to face backfield. The corps seemed to be leaving Ned's body lying alone in the middle of the field.
The moment the corps dismissed after the finale, he searched for his friend.
"Where is Ned?" he said, making his way through the crowd of parents and dismissed Dragoons. "Where's Ned?"
Paul found Richard immediately. Randy, taking off his gloves, motioned to both of them. "Let me talk to a second, both of you." He led the two away from the others to the far side of the bus.
"Now Ned," Randy warned, "faints about once every other year. He's a good horn really, but he gets too excited." Randy paused and took off his gloves. "Fainting is a cycle. A horn player gets carried away, and he plays too loud. So then he takes a deep breath, and the air goes to his head. He gets light-headed, feels like he's not getting air, and so then, right away, he takes another deep breath. He keeps taking them faster and faster and faster until finally he hyperventilates and faints."
Randy shook his head, "I don't want him doing it every night. See, he can stop it, just by controlling his breathing and not panicking. Anyone can play loud without fainting. You do it and so do I."
Paul and Richard nodded.
"Now I'm gonna ask you to do a bigger favor. See, I told him a lie, and so did Monk. We told him we were going to kick him out if he fainted again."
"*&^," Paul said.
"Now," Randy said, "I want you to do a big favor. I don't want you, when you talk to him, to go and make a big thing and act sorry for him. You give him all that attention, and in the back of his mind he might want to faint again."
Randy's face looked serious, and for the first time Richard could see that no matter how much Randy kidded Ned, he cared about Ned also.
"I don't want him to do this again. So please act pissed off. Now, he's over by Mr. Menlo's car. Remember what I say, "'no good horn player ever faints.'"
The two boys walked to the side of the big station wagon. They spotted Ned lying on a blanket with his tunic by his side and his head on the ground. He didn't look like the boy Richard met at his first practice who acted so self-assured. Richard looked at the short, squat soprano player, who always spoke as if he knew everything, but now looked so weak, like a child. Lying there, half-stripped, Ned somehow reminded Richard of the band player speaking to him before the show though the blond boy physically resembled Ned in no way. Paul spoke first:
"*&^^% Ned, what'd you have to go do that for?"
Ned raised his head, "So you're going to hassle me too? Randy already said he'd `kick my ass' if I fainted again."
"*&&^," swore Richard, "Some example you set for us rookies. I wonder what those band people thought seeing you lie down on the field."
"Hey," Ned protested, "I played a good show until then."
"Sure you did," Paul said doubtfully, "What do you expect to happen Ned? You eat all that food on a hot afternoon before a show, like a #$%^ pig. You should expect to get sick."
Ned sighed, "A man can't even be sick in peace."
"You're not sick," Richard added, "You just wimped out in the middle of a show. And if you do that again, Paul and I will 'kick your ass.'"
"That I'd like to see.."
"**&^ Ned," Richard said, "I'm a rookie, and I'm not wimp enough to..."
The more he went on, the angrier Richard felt. Ned's expression seemed to change under the verbal assault. He sat up on the blanket and buttoned his pants. He cleared the black hair back into place. He started to resemble the old Ned.
Richard kept on because every word he said seemed to take away a little bit of that picture of the pitiful child in the big gold and green uniform lying in the center of the field while a drum corps marched slowly away.
We've come so far, Richard thought, and we're not going to leave anybody behind with so far yet to go.
No Reaction (July 23, 1977)
"Do you all hear, no reaction tonight, no matter what happens." Johnny said as he walked past the line of horns. Richard put the strap from his shako under his chin. He had a very bad feeling about this. He remembered this part of Canada well enough because here they'd taken a thirty-two a month and a half ago. He took his position in the long line of green and gold stretching from the bus towards the outside of the stadium. Kevin, in front of him, cursed to himself.
"We must have really ^&*% up this time."
"But we played a good show." Richard said.
"There's always the drum line," Kevin said, "I heard Johnny say he and Flint's instructors were comparing sheets."
Richard nodded. The flags, he knew, generally marched a good show when they could hear the horns doing well, but the drummers kind of lived in their own world: their good and bad nights seemed to have nothing to do with those of the horns. He could remember meeting them in the showers the week before and asking how everything had gone, and the drummers just stood shaking their heads.
He followed the cascading line as it suddenly moved forward.
"Everybody stop talking," Randy said as he passed by the horns. The corps were lining up, side by side, single file along the side of the stadium. A few feet over, Richard could see the all-girl corps, the Charlaines, dressed in red and black. Normally, he'd have spent some of his time dutifully observing the legs of the girls below their short, pleated skirts, but today his eyes drifted over farther to the Flint Warriors. It was bad enough to play a bad show, but to have Flint do well....
"Everybody move back a little, pass it on." Kevin said. Richard moved back about three inches. It would be nice to have Darien Heights at least win the "battle of the longs" tonight over Flint. Sometimes a corps would go to ridiculous lengths to seem "longer" and "bigger" than their rivals. In reality, though, Flint's smaller corps couldn't match that of the Dragoons in terms of size.
Suddenly everyone was marching, and he knew the finale had started inside. The line started forward. As he came onto the field, somewhat abreast to members of five other corps, he wondered again why the corps playing the others on always chose a number that changed tempo four or five times. The music suddenly changed to 3/4 and Richard jumped to try to get back in step.
Richard looked between the heads of the other horns to the group of drum majors receiving awards. He couldn't see Randy, but he could see the short, black boy in the blue Warriors' uniform. So far scores ran a bit low.
"In 5th place, with a score of 53.5," Richard tightened his grip on his horn, "the Charlaines."
He breathed again. For a second, he'd feared a really bad surprise.
"In 4th place, with a score of 54.65," oh no, he thought, we're back in the fifties again, "the Lysong Cadets."
He breathed much better now. At least they were in the top three. Hamilton had obviously won and Flint come in second. That explained the "no reaction" command.
"In third place, with a score of 65.5," the number was not so bad, better than he expected, "the Flint Warriors."
It took a second for Richard to register what he'd heard. He watched the Warrior's drum major come forward, salute, and take the score sheets and the check. Then he thought to himself, "Oh my God, we beat the Flint Warriors. We beat the Flint Warriors!"
"In second place, with a score of 66.3," No it's not possible, he thought, we couldn't have won. Had the whole string of seconds and thirds finally come to an end? "the Darien Heights Dragoons."
It doesn't matter, Richard thought, we beat the Flint Warriors. We finally beat the Flint Warriors!
"And in first place, with a score of 69.65, the Hamilton Knights."
Richard watched each corps parade past Hamilton and play its way off the field. He waited for Flint to march past before remembering that Flint didn't have to pass the Dragoons to leave the field because they had to pass the winners, Hamilton. He listened for parts of their show.
"Don't say anything," Randy said, trying not to smile as he carried the second place trophy back towards the horn line, "on the field or off."
"We beat 'em Randy," Art said pointing a thumb upward above his horn.
Randy smiled, "Yeah we did. We'll play 'The Flying Dutchman.' How far should we go?"
"All the way." A horn voice yelled.
"Yeah," someone yelled, "all the way."
Richard frowned, thinking of how horns were not supposed to talk on the field, but Randy didn't seem to notice. "All the way. Corps: Mark time mark!"
Packed in tight formation, everyone grabbing instead of breathing in air, the opening fanfare burst out like artillery firing. Somewhere up in the audience, excited parents along for the trip or members of the growing Dragoons contingent of fans applauded from the emptying stadium.
Mr. Menlo was already waiting by the busses outside the stadium and led them into a semicircle. Randy ordered them to stand at ease. Richard had a warm feeling inside and felt pleasantly light-headed. Just as everyone had gotten into position, Mr. Menlo started to say something. Menlo's face showed a deep satisfaction, and he held the envelope with the check for the prize money tightly in his hand, but Monk, standing nearby, seemed, curiously, neither pleased nor displeased.
"Now you played a-"
He stopped when he saw a potbellied man in his forties in a red, white, and blue Flint Warriors jacket walking into the middle of the circle. Several voices simultaneously "booed" until they saw the look on Monk's face. Randy was not five feet away from the Warrior whose jacket said "instructor," and Richard remembered what he'd once heard Randy say about the Warriors instruction staff:
"You know I pity those guys, their instructors, in a way. I mean we play in jazz bands, orchestras, but all they've ever done is play in a drum corps. *&^% most of them can't even write a measure of music, but they think that's all they need."
Randy nodded slightly to the Flint horn instructor. The man looked so different from Monk or Randy, so balanced, so average. He looked like he'd be far more at home at a parent's club than a Dragoon's horn line rehearsal. The Warrior instructor spoke to the corps although he looked at Randy and Monk.
"I'm coming here to congratulate you. You have a good corps, and you played a good show." The horn players looked at each other, a little astonished, as the man reached out his hand to Monk. Monk took the man's hand and shook it. Then the Flint instructor said:
"Keep in mind, we play in a lot more shows together," and he smiled slightly, "and we might get you guys yet."
As he walked away, Richard remembered the night they'd talked to those Warriors. The Dragoons had done exactly as Richard promised: they'd "kicked Flint's ass." Now, as the horn instructor walked away, Richard impulsively cheered "all right!" Several others cheered also.
The Warriors instructor turned around and nodded his head in acknowledgment before turning back around. Mr. Menlo looked as if he wanted to speak but then shook his head, and he quietly clapped for the departing Warrior. Randy placed the trophy carefully on the grass.
"There may be a lot more shows," he looked around at the crowd of fans and parents now surrounding the corps, waiting for a possible victory concert, "but tonight let's play some music. 'Central Park North,' Horns-up."
The forty plus horns rose into position with a single clink:
Richard took a deep breath and heard Randy scream, "One, two.., one, two, three, four!"
Richard took a deep, deep, breath and smiled at the taste of the cool, clean air. Even little victories felt so good.
From the Drum Corps Reporter
CHIEFS RECEIVE FINAL ENDORSEMENT FROM CANADIAN JUDGES
By Peter Submiralty
The Mississauga Warriors (60h, 35p, 40g) sounded excellent indeed in Seneca for their nearly hometown audience and rumors about the score the judges gave for their exhibition proved more interesting than the remainder of the field. Best estimates gave them about a 79. The coming weeks, I suspect, will find their scores trimmed by a respectable ten points. Hamilton, meanwhile, overwhelmed the "A" class field.
(From paragraph three)
The Dragoons continue to grow with each show. As their drill execution improves, I can decipher a regular kaleidoscope of disappearing formations in their off-the-line which more than occasionally complement the music. Weak spots for the Dragoons continue to be their short production number, "Round Midnight," whose only reason for inclusion in the show may be its author, Thelonius Monk, shares a name with their horn instructor, and their off-the-line that might be, finally, too difficult for any "A" corps to execute. The Dragoons scored a kind of moral victory by defeating their Michigan arch-rivals the Flint Warriors though I would suggest that the Canadian judges might have expressed some prejudice against the all-American Warriors in favor of the bi-national Dragoons. Only further contests will tell.
7/23 Seneca Ontario1. Hamilton Knights 69.65 2. Darien Heights Dragoons 66.6 3. Flint Warriors 65.5 4. Lysong Cadets 54.65 5. Charlaines 53.5
Exhibition by the Mississauga Chiefs (79?)
At The Border (July 24, 1977)
The man in the blue uniform looked down inside the interior of the old van. Richard guessed the guard must be in his early twenties. The man examined Monk's face carefully and scrutinized the teenagers traveling with him.
"Good afternoon sir," he began.
"Hello," Monk said, staring ahead and not taking his hands off the steering wheel.
"What is your citizenship?"
Monk paused, "We're all United States."
"What was the purpose of your visit to Canada?" His eyes continued to rove until they stopped at Larry, the snare drummer, wearing a long hippie-type hat over his long locks.
"I'm an instructor with the Darien Heights Dragoons," Monk said, showing the patch sewn to his weathered corps jacket, "and these are some members of the horn line."
The guard looked a little dubious. He pointed his clipboard at Randy.
"I play baritone," Randy said.
He looked at Sue.
She smiled so her braces shone, and draped her arm over the seat, "I play baritone too."
Then the guard pointed at Richard. Richard said evenly, "I play baritone too."
Then he looked at Larry. Larry shrugged his shoulders, "I'm with them."
The guard shook his head and noted something on his clipboard. Monk sighed. The guard asked, "Do all these boys and girls have their identification cards, or are they your children?"
"I'm," Monk hesitated, then restated, "They have their IDs."
The guard nodded. Then he closed his eyebrows, "One last question. If all of you are supposed to be in some drum corps, where is the rest of the corps?"
Monk looked at the man's clipboard, then at the officer's face, and replied. "Their bodies are in the trunk."
The guard waved them over to an empty curb a few hundred yards ahead. Richard knew Monk only made the remark when he realized the guard intend to search the vehicle anyway.
Sue laughed, "Rookie day at the border patrol."
When they reached the McDonald's, Monk went in and placed the order for the hundreds of hamburgers the corps would require. Richard wondered, as the bus arrived, if Monk would've done this if Mr. Menlo hadn't decided to leave immediately after their victory over Flint the night before. He couldn't imagine Mr. Menlo spending money so freely.
He took a seat with Randy and Sue at a table as far away from the building as possible, and the three ate their hamburger and fries. Sue sat close to Randy, her arm almost touching the drum major's, across the table from Richard, but they looked directly at Richard. Instead of feeling left out, he felt included in their intimacy.
"Well," Randy said, between fries, "how are you enjoying your first year of drum corps, Richard?"
Richard smiled. Randy always said things with a slight backwoods accent that made the person addressed feel like a distant cousin. The manner fit Randy so well it had to be natural. It was one of those things that made most horn players try so hard for Randy.
"It's weird, right now," Richard said, "I feel at the end of the show like I can could play some more. I could march another song or two."
Randy took up a French fry and dipped it, pointing the end at Richard. "You know what it means. It means you're getting tough."
Richard laughed, but Randy held out his hand and squeezed Richard's forearm. "See Sue? Solid muscle."
Sue laughed, her round face became rounder, and her braces shone. She seldom laughed with the other seconds. He wondered then if he put her on edge sometimes because he tried so hard to play better than she. Consciously, he knew Sue more than equaled him as a player or marcher, but it was hard, subconsciously, but somehow her very attractiveness made him want to surpass her as a Dragoon.
"Now," Randy said, "the object is to give absolutely all that you have. You're finding out you've just got more than a couple weeks ago." Randy must've seen the look go across Richard's face. "Hey, I've been hearing you. You're doing well. *&^% so are all the baritones. It's just that now you can give a bit more. You should come off the field feeling like you've got nothing left."
Randy looked at him squarely, sipping his soda, "Is anyone in the line having trouble with their parts?"
Richard fumbled, "Not that I know of."
"Does any part sound dull, dead to you?"
Richard paused. He'd not really considered the music as changeable. Sure, they'd changed some parts two or three times, but no one had ever asked Richard what he thought about it. "I'd have to think about it, but I really do love what Monk wrote."
Sue looked at Randy who returned a wink, and then both started to laugh. They touched one another again on the shoulder and then both chuckled over some private joke.
Randy looked down and ate the last French fry. He looked at Richard, "Do you want another hamburger?"
Richard paused. Would Randy want to pay for him? He started to put his hand in his pocket. Randy stood up:
"I'll split it with you. I want to get in line before they start making those two hundred hamburgers."
For a second, Richard looked at Sue. With Randy, he'd seen her totally differently, and he wondered what would happen if he said more to her. Would she continue to act like just "another second" if he talked with her now?
"What's so funny about what I said?"
"Oh," Sue said, "it's not you. It's just that Randy wrote all the music except the concert number. That's why he keeps asking what people think about it."
Richard thought of all those articles he'd read in the Drum Corps Reporter saying "book by Monk Eastman." All this time as he'd watched Monk pacing the sidelines, smoking one cigarette after another, having Randy direct, he'd thought: well Monk wrote the music, the book.
"But," Richard started, "if Randy wrote the music and directs, what does Monk do?"
Sue considered for a moment. "It's hard to explain."
"Try me," Richard answered.
"Richard, I've been with corps five years. "Monk, he's been with corps for almost twenty years. When Monk started, way back in 1960 or so, most of the corps were senior corps. Most of the guys in those corps never learned how to read music."
"Then how did they learn to play their shows?"
Sue held up her hands to show him. "They'd say," she lowered her voice like a man's. "'Baritones play valve, rotor, both, open first four notes of the show,' and then they'd play it."
Richard shook his head but didn't see what that had to do with right now.
"Monk marched about ten years, until he was eighteen, before he even learned to read music. He never played in any bands like you or I because back in those days, drum corps people just never mixed with band people. When he was about eighteen, he taught himself how to read music using his horn and some parts written for the guys that knew how to read; there were more 'readers' by then. He learned how to write horns charts, when he was twenty-one or so, by doing it because the corps he was in needed somebody to write their music. For free, of course"
Richard frowned, "You mean he never went to college?"
Sue chuckled, "When he was eighteen, he started in the factory working at Chrysler. He barely graduated from high school. Since then, he's flunked music theory three times in junior colleges."
As she spoke, he could see Monk guiding the horn players over to a table two away from their own. Monk spoke a little to the boys there, about age twelve, but visibly faded from their conversation. In the distance, he could see the other horns unloading from the Dragoons' rented school bus.
"Now Monk," Sue said, "doesn't know *&^% about formal composition or voice-leading."
"You mean," Richard said sighing, "he never wrote any of the music for Centurions or any of those other corps?"
Sue smiled, "There were times when Monk was writing and instructing two or three corps at the same time. He wrote every note Centurions played, and he was their general manager and business manager, all at the same time, even though he can't balance his own checkbook." She chuckled at some memory, and Richard smiled in return. "Some nights he'd tell us 'everybody take home your horns and uniform,' and then one of our creditors would come the next week, and he'd say 'sorry we don't have any horns for you to repossess.' He did all that, and sometimes he was the only adult that would travel with that corps."
Again, she started to smile talking about the Centurions, and Richard realized she had many good memories about the folded corps and Monk.
"It may sound crazy to you that he'd do these things just to keep some of these corps going, but he did because he loves corps, he needs it. He'll give blood to keep a corps going if he hears something, not the way things are the moment, but the sound of the way it's gonna be. He was working with Darien Heights when they only had fifteen horns because he could hear what we'll be hearing if this show ever starts to 'hype.'"
Sue paused and Richard stared at the quiet man looking out the window and smoking a cigarette.
Richard paused, "I'm not sure I understand."
Sue tried again, "Drum corps is changing Richard. Look at Randy and me. We've got 16 units of music theory. We understand why Mozart's symphonies sound good. We haven't even finished college yet. When Randy graduates from the university next year, he will be able to direct any marching band in the state, name his job, but....."
Her voice trailed off,
"But what?" Richard said. From all he'd heard so far, he didn't know what to think about the blonde man, across the room, smoking another cigarette.
"But Monk has something, a feel. He can't tell you about a four-one resolution, but he can write one in about one minute and know if that's what fits a drum corps show. He can't explain a Mozart sonata, but he can turn one into an off-the-line number that works. In a way, Monk's been cheated because he's never worked with a real winning corps so no one's ever heard his best work, but he HEARS it. Somewhere inside him is a DCI show just waiting for a corps to grow into."
She'd grown quiet as she spoke. "Now when he lets Randy write and direct, I want you to understand that he's giving Randy a chance to do it himself, to get something of the experience it takes to be a great writer for drum corps."
Richard understood her to mean that writing for a drum corps was harder than writing for a marching band and that it meant more than just putting together chords and lines. Richard sat wondering. Maybe he now understood the way Monk sometimes looked at Randy. Those odd blue eyes hadn't been showing envy or exhaustion but something far more important and deeper and harder to comprehend.
Sue continued, "We'll get to certain points this year, that Randy just can't take us beyond. So when you see Monk pacing, he's waiting, wanting to do it himself, but letting Randy do it, until we've reached a point...."
Just as that moment Randy returned with the hamburger. Richard watched Monk stand up and nod his head slightly, even though no one else spoke any more at his table, as if he heard some silent tune.
"What are you two talking about," Randy said.
"That we'll need him to go on."
"Who," Randy asked.
Sue suddenly smiled. "My boyfriend."
Randy looked and Sue and the expression on her face, and apparently guessed she did not intend to explain. He shrugged his shoulders and went along with the joke although the joke was on him. The drum major held out his finger, pointing:
"Where is he? Wait, I thought Richard was your boyfriend."
The three of them laughed as Randy continued. "Well I hope you're rich as your name 'Richard.'" Sue punched him slightly in the shoulder. "No seriously, you want to talk about expensive tastes? This girl,....."
As the three continued to talk, Richard could see Monk, sitting at his table and waiting.