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Your Basic Block (August 1, 1977)

The bus was slowing down. Richard could feel it. He put his hand to his head. At least, he thought, I might not get a headache after all. Six hours he'd ridden this bus, all the way from Darien Heights.

The air brakes cut in a moment later, and he looked out the window. All he could see was an old, triangular looking church. The usual noise on the bus stopped as everyone glanced at the old building.

"I sure hope we're not going to stay there," Paul sat.

"Everybody off," Menlo said and groans greeted the command.

"Hey, let's just wait for the next stop," Ned joked.

Richard dragged himself off the plastic green seat of the old school bus and joined the slow line straggling off the bus. It was even hotter outside than on the bus, and he was already sweating as he crossed to the rear of the bus to find his duffel bag tossed on the ground by the unloading crew. He did not look forward to two weeks of practicing day and night on this tour, and he wondered how much the Dragoons show could improve past its present level.

"Will you look at that place."

"We always stay at the dumps."

The grumbling grew as the horn players started to retrieve their instruments. Richard started to move towards the church, and his eyes momentarily met those of Mr. Menlo. The corps manager's owl-like face scowled as he surveyed the corps, and suddenly he snapped.

"Basic block formation-everyone!"

At first the talking and commotion were too much for anyone to hear this, but Menlo repeated himself:

"I said-basic block formation-NOW!!"

The instructors started echoing his commands. A boy in front of Mr. Menlo started to pick up his suitcase, but Menlo snapped, "Leave it. Leave the luggage. Just get your bodies in line!"

Richard followed the others to a spot in the middle of the church parking lot.

"First rank-here-," Mr. Menlo said," I don't care what instrument stands in what rank, just get into line!"

Richard could hear people scrambling behind him.

"Five seconds-Five-four-"

Richard heard feet slamming on the tar.

"Three-two-one- A-Ten-Shun!"

Richard snapped his horn in front of him. He brought his heels together. From the front rank, he could see the look of anger and concentration on Mr. Menlo's face. Ken Masure, the drum instructor, whispered something in Menlo's ears, perhaps mentioning that the drums never rehearsed basic block or marked time, but Mr. Menlo just shook his head.

Monk Eastman stood silently by Menlo's side. As the corps stood at attention, Monk whispered something to Mr. Menlo. Menlo replied in a low growl that Richard could not understand. Monk looked at the horn players and then nodded. Randy stood by his side looking more than a little confused.

When some of the kids started to fidget, Menlo yelled, "Don't move!"

A cold trickle of sweat ran down Richard's back. He tried to remember if Mr. Menlo had ever run drill before. Monk said something in his ear. Menlo turned, but keeping one eye on the block, replied. Then they both nodded their heads. Monk walked away off. A moment later, Johnny shuffled to the front of the ranks. His perpetual smile remained there, but he looked quite serious.

"Hey guys," he said, clapping out a rhythm, "let's pretend like we're a drum corps. Mark-te-Mark!"

Richard generally hated marking time, but at least it would take some of the cramps out of his legs from the long bus ride.


His right foot planted against the tar as he shifted forward. "Heel and roll," he thought.

"Watch the lines, dress right." The words came from somewhere off to the right. He could see the vague outline of two or three bodies from the corner of his right eye.

"To the rear-March."

"Tighten your postures up. Imagine you've got a marble between your cheeks." Bozo added.

The turn came suddenly. Richard dug his foot to the ground and his body shifted. For a second, his eyes saw skewed rows, and then he was around, facing a long row of heads. I've done a perfect turn, he thought, I did a perfect turn!

"Corps-right flank march!" Four later he heard: "left flank march."

By this time, those who'd missed the rear turn were just about back in position and, concentrating harder, did not miss this turn. Richard could feel the weight of his body shifting from his to leg to thigh to..

"Corps....to the rear....march!"

His leg muscles tensed in as he dug in again and came round. Now, he could see Mr. Menlo directly before him, silhouetted against the old church. Although it was past six, the hot August sun still blazed. They kept moving forward, closer, closer. The corps moved to within a single foot of their director. Richard could see the intense concentration in Mr. Menlo eyes, his lips drawn tight, controlled, head surrounded by yellow. Suddenly he said:

"Corps...mark time mark."

He stood not three feet from Mr. Menlo. By now his breathing had settled into a regular rhythm. The instructors gathered next to Mr. Menlo. Mr. Menlo looked squarely ahead as they marked time for one minute, two minutes. Richard felt strong, far stronger than when he'd played for this corps at his first show. He even felt relaxed with his feet moving up and down like pistons and his right hand wrapped around his horn. His mind focused only on his body, under control, ready, and moving. By now, the stiffness had disappeared, and he smiled at himself and actually wanted to hear the next command. He thought: come on; give us a flank; give us a turn; I can march like this all day!


"Boys and girls," Mr. Menlo said, not bringing them to parade rest. "We paid a lot to come here. People have taken time off their jobs. We paid late registration fees. We are lucky to have a place to stay at all!" He paced in front of the line, "That's why I want to make sure you are going to make everyone feel proud of you. We didn't come here to not make the finals or to do a poor job. Now when you got off the bus a few minutes ago, you looked like bums."

He let the remark float back to the last row.

"But now I see some of you, anyway, looking like The Darien Heights Dragoons. I want to see all of you looking like that, or, I swear," and he formed a fist, "I'll load the busses, and we'll turn around and go home!"

"Corps," Johnny said, "mark-time-mark!"

This time Richard could hear the feet colliding with the tar. He swallowed as he recalled how hard they'd worked those nights with the suicide drills, and he could feel his feet reaching the inside of his calf, what Johnny called "the cleaning point." The slight smile returned because he realized he was actually enjoying this little session of basic block. It felt so good to focus his mind onto one thing, making his body a moving part of this large body, the Darien Heights Dragoons.

"Corps" Mr. Menlo said, nodding his head slightly, "halt."

Clomp. The two hundred feet hit at the same time.

"That's better," Mr. Menlo said. "I'm going to dismiss you in a minute to put your suitcases away, and then practice will begin. First, though, I want to show you something. Would the following people step out in front of the front rank and face everybody else-Mira, Art, Mike, and Richard, second baritone."

Richard moved quickly at hearing his own name. He feared he'd made some serious mistakes, but he couldn't think of what they were. The little rank formed on either side of Richard. He looked out into the faces of the Dragoons. They looked so serious. He felt totally exposed.

"Just this rank. Mark-time mark!"

The four of them began marking time. Richard stared into the long rows of Dragoons. He could see them dressed in all different clothes, but a common, concentrating expression covered all their faces.

"See these four. See how they're marking time? See that leg lift?" Mr. Menlo said, "At the prelims tomorrow, that's what I want to see from everyone."

Richard could feel the lines of his smile turn up. He didn't care that he felt a little groggy still from the bus ride. He didn't care that a little perspiration started to trickle down his back. He didn't care about anything else except that he'd never felt so proud before in his life.


Sucking at Seven (August 2, l977)

"Corps ten-hut," Randy yelled from the podium. "Mark time march!" Richard raggedly brought his horn from his right to both hands and started marking time.


He listened carefully but did not hear any announcer saying, "and there they go-The Darien Heights Dragoons."

He waited until the soprano joined him on the left and Paul on the right before the three of them marched off as a single rank. He reviewed the mistakes he'd made. How could he have blown the final chorus of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" when he had only to play a single note? He'd also forgotten to empty his spit valve going backfield before the finale and sounded like he'd been playing underwater. Then, there were the drill mistakes.

The corps piled past the nearly empty stands of Marion, Ohio in their ranks of three. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the few people in the stands. They'd already taken off their shirts, the men anyway, and liberally applied suntan oil. They glanced at the Dragoons through thick sunglasses and around long, paper cups of pop. For a second, their lack of applause bothered him, but then he remembered they'd see thirty more corps today, so they were not likely to be impressed with this corps that came on during their breakfast. The judges, on the other hand, would feel fresh and fill their sheets with all the errors they'd picked off on this weak performance.

As Randy led the corps across the fields outside the stadium, Richard wished he'd get the signal to remove the shakos and "trail" the horns at their sides, but the ranks before him continued marching at full attention in full uniform. He remembered how on the bus over to the field everyone had griped about not getting any breakfast and being woken at five for this show. Now, this seemed unimportant as he considered their slim chance of making the "A" corps finals.

A few hundred yards from the field, still a long way away from the busses, Randy formed the corps into three concentric circles of horns, drums, and guard. Only when the entire corps stood marking time in formation did the drum major remove his own shako and signal a parade rest and halt. His face looked more angry than tired, and in a violent motion he cleared the hair from his eyes. He took a deep breath:

"That sucked," he said. "Do you hear me, THAT SUCKED!"

For the first time, Richard observed Randy losing his composure. The low thirties scores hadn't shaken Randy; all those second places hadn't shaken Randy, but this poor prelim show had.

"I was supposed to tell you that the parents had a special breakfast back at our building, but damn it, you don't deserve it. The instructors were going let everyone rest a couple hours today, but..*&^!"

He paused and looked at them. "You just beat yourselves. Those people out there are just gonna think 'there's another sucky corps,' but I know better. Bryan,"

The other drum major, standing next to the guard, started, "What?" Generally Bryan kept a low profile off the field, talking with a only couple of the flags and horns. When not directing, like now, he seemed a bit shy.

"You feeling like directing a lot?"

"Umm," Bryan said sheepishly.

"Because if you," and he pointed his finger at the whole corps, "play like this in Butler at 7:00 IN THE MORNING, I swear I will walk off the field and go to breakfast!" As Randy's face had gotten redder and the tirade continued, the drum major hadn't noticed the man coming behind him. He looked rather mild, about forty, and wore a blue suit, white shirt, and red tie. The man held a prominent clipboard in front of him. He stood by Andy a second and timidly interrupted.

"Are you the Darien Heights Dragoons?"

"Yes," Andy replied sighing.

"Where is your head instructor?"

"He's back at the bus waiting for us."

"Well," the man considered, pointing away, "then you can lead them this way." He took two steps before Andy replied.

"For what?"

"We need a picture for next year's program."

Randy looked at him for a moment, apparently puzzled, "How do you even know we'll be coming next year?"

"We don't, but we like to plan ahead so we can start finding our advertisers, so we can get the sponsorship for next year's show."

Andy looked at the Dragoons and then at the man, as though analyzing something totally alien, "We don't want a picture." He looked at the corps, and they shook their heads. Richard just wanted to get away from that field.

The man frowned, "You don't want your picture taken?"

"No." Randy said, "No one ever mentioned a picture to our corps. We just want to leave. So we are going."

The man disappeared, and Randy shook his head, as if clearing away the last two minutes and the whole morning with it. "Let's get out of here. Corps. Ten-hut."

The horns snapped back to attention. Randy put his shako back on, and, one by one, the three lines followed suit.


Now Richard could feel his legs pumping nice and high, and from the corner of his eyes, he could see others doing the same. Bad show or no, they could at least leave the stadium marching well.

The corps got about 100 yards when Richard noticed a sudden change in direction, and, a moment, later they arrived at a baseball field with a small set of bleachers. Randy motioned for them to sit down. Richard saw the same man with the clipboard, and, with him, another older man dressed in the same sort of outfit. As the corps started to climb the bleachers, the two, apparently satisfied, nodded to Randy and walked off.

"Up in the stands as closely as possibly," Randy motioned, "you can talk if you want."

"God this sucks," Luke said.

"What are we doing?" One of the sopranos asked.

Randy smiled grimly, "We're taking a picture."

"Why are we doing that?" Paul asked as he sat down.

"They told me: 'no picture, no check.'" Randy replied.

The photographer appeared more than a bit nervous as he faced the clearly unmotivated corps. He said, "It's just my job you all understand that."

No one replied, but half-heartedly moved when told to do so. "Drums I need a semi circle... baritone on the left...."

By the time he finished, Richard could feel more than a trickle of sweat dripping down his back.

"Cut!" The man announced. "That was fine."

As they filed from the stands, Ned yelled, "Let's hear it for the photographer." The whole corps applauded as they started to rise. As they went out, several of them stopped to shake the man's hand.

"No hard feelings, eh?" One said.

The photographer shook his head. "Sometimes, I think I want to be involved in drum corps, but not today."

As he walked away, Richard could still hear him mutter. "Won't even take a picture? These people are crazy."


The Big Name Corps (August 3, 1977)

"Hey Richard, you want to go see the Black Lancers."

Richard looked up from the metal of his horn. He'd spent about 45 minutes polishing the silver-brass. It didn't look any better; he could still see evidence of ten long years of hands holding it, smearing it with the perspiration off anxious fingers, until the covering chrome started to wear away. He could see sopranos across the room polishing their new two-valve horns, and he wondered how much those twenty new instruments had cost the corps.

Ned stood a few feet away. He wore a shirt that said "Scarlet Brigadiers" and had a violent lightning streak across the front. He said,

"Come on Richard. We'll get some brews after."

"How can we..." Richard started. He thought about the finals show the next night that they'd been so lucky to make.

"Come on," Ned said, already starting to walk along, "I already talked to Randy, and it's okay with him. They're just a couple of buildings down."

As Ned walked up and past the sleeping bags lining the church, he gathered a few younger kids with him. At the door, they met Kevin.

"Where are all of you going?" He demanded, a little contempt in his voice.

"None of your business," Ned said.

"We're going to see the Black Lancers practice," one of the flag girls said.

Kevin snorted, contemptously "Ha! Enjoy it."


The group of twelve walked down the street together. Looking right and left, Richard could see various other corps kids walking around, talking, and looking at them with equal curiosity. Random horn and drum noises circulated down the street from the schools, businesses, and churches housing different corps. Ned turned decisively at one of the big Lutheran churches with three battered busses parked outside. The flag girls with Richard giggled and pointed, and he remembered the time he went on a field trip in the fourth grade. He sighed.

He knocked at the door once, and a motherly-looking woman, Richard guessed to be one of the parents traveling with the corps, answered:


"We're from the Darien Heights Dragoons, and we're here to watch the practice."

"Oh," she shrugged, "this way."

She led them to a large social club-like room. Some of the younger kids moved close behind Richard. Finally, he could see the other corps' horns, about fifty, their ages ranging from ten to twenty-one, in a half circle. The instruments gleamed so brightly Richard knew that they had to be new. An elderly gray-haired man stood in front of them, pacing slightly with his ear to the line, but a big blond boy gave the commands:

"Corps! Mark-time-mark"

The loud sound echoed in the confined room. Richard's eyes roved left and right until he found the baritones. He looked intently, evaluating, until he suddenly noticed several of them staring at him, not their drum major.

"Cut," the instructor softly said. They brought their horns down. The gray-haired man started to speak. "Baritones, I want you to....."

"Hey," Ned whispered, "that must be Silver Garstoni. You know how many DCI corps he's taught?" The horn instructor appeared absorbed in his horn charts. He wore a pair of baggy trousers and a sport shirt with a cheap suit coat draped over. His hair was slicked back with gel so he looked rather like a Mafia don or the owner of an import-export business. Richard knew Garstoni must command a good salary while the Dragoons' instructors worked for free. The Black Lancers had to really have the money.

"It's got to sing," Garstoni ended, bringing his hand up. It didn't matter to the two boys opposite Richard. They pointed their fingers at the cluster of young Dragoon girls and the older boys with them. One Lancer started to smile, and then, thinking better of it, leaned his head back contemptuously. The other said something to the first and Richard thought, or imagined, they said the word "Dragoons." The two Black Lancers leaned back on their heals like princes.

"Sopranos, I want that melody to sing," the gray-haired man said waving his arms, "I want this song to swing, bomp-a-dee-dump dump, not ba ba ba ba."


When they opened the door to their church, Richard heard an unholy blast of music. They found all the other Dragoons in a big semi-circle around Johnny's radio, all staring in the same forward direction.

Art Wainwright appeared in his shorts and a pajama top.

Richard could smell at least one beer on his breath. They followed him over to a big bowl of mixed cereal, and everyone took a handful. A strange mixture of punch filled the nearby bowl, but Richard didn't think it looked alcoholic. The girls with Ned and Richard dispersed to go sit with the other flags.

"Where the *&^% were you guys?" Art asked them.

"Corps hopping," Richard said, "What's going on?"

"You missed almost all of it," Art said, "Johnny organized a talent show."

"Smells more like a chugging contest to me," Paul said.

"There's some beer outside, if you've got a dollar."

Doug came over to get a handful of the cereal, "*&^, you guys missed the best part. Sue did some of her dancing." He started to wiggle his squat form to show them.

Ned snorted, "We went to see the Black Lancers."

Ned, Richard, and Paul sat down together near the back of the room he guessed served as some sort of church activity center. Boys and girls had shoved their sleeping bags back against the wall to clear room to sit. Randy sat a foot away, not paying much attention to the stage show.

Paul Sahagun stood at the front of the room with a microphone plugged into a tape player so the machine served as an amplifier. He wore his usual t-shirt with a tie clipped to the front:

"Now," he said, "our last act of the evening, from various places in Michigan, Diana Raunch and the Su-Perms!"

Three forms strode into the gyms. They all wore identical gold skirts, obviously borrowed from the guard, and matching white T-shirts that showed bulging breasts. As Richard looked, he recognized Johnny, Bozo, and Monk, dressed in drag. At the same time, they pulled back their skirts to reveal their hairy legs.

"Well girls," Johnny began in a false soprano, "let's hit it." The three started to sing as the audience hurled socks, papers, and insults. Their terrible voices belted:

"Stop! In the name of lust,
Before you break my parts.
Stop! In the name of lust,
Before you make me barf...."

"What did you think of the Black Lancers," Ned whispered.

Richard shrugged his shoulders, "I don't know. They may not be good, by they sure think they're good."

Ned laughed, "So do we. So do we."

Randy, sitting next to them, sighed, "Not good enough. Not good enough."


The Dream (August 4, 1977)

Richard held his shako in his right arm and leaned over the railing at the front of the small Ohio stadium along with perhaps a thousand others in different uniforms. Ginger, Diane, and Sandy, three of the flags, happened to be standing there with him next to some guys in green cadet-style uniforms from some corps in Florida. Technically, he realized, as did everyone else standing there, that he should be finding his corps to line up for the finale, but he couldn't resist the temptation of watching part of the show of this last corps.

He didn't feel particularly worried about the Dragoons tonight. They'd made the finals. That was the goal they'd been shooting for, and he felt as if he'd played a competent enough show. Everyone had played a good enough show, horns, drum, guard. The crowd had responded with about as much applause as Michigan audiences.

Like the others standing here, he'd read about this next corps in the Drum Corps Reporter. They'd taken some thirds in "Open class" shows against the best corps in the East, and, on a good night, they could beat the Scarlet Brigadiers. Someone in their corps management had made a clerical error, so tonight they would mop up the "A" corps field instead of taking a third or fourth in "Open" class. Everyone talked about them as the next eastern DCI corps. But the reason Richard risked getting in trouble, by being late to the finale, was their show. It looked as if Legion were the corps to watch.

The corps wore baby blue tunics and pants with long red sashes that looped over their shoulders. On their heads they wore red, cowboy-style hats, not shakos, with long plumes that extended backwards jauntily. Richard counted about fifty horns, not so many more than the Dragoons.

"Are the judges ready?" The announcer's voice asked.

Down on the field, one of the men in dark blue uniforms waved a clipboard.

"Is the corps ready?" The announcer said next.

Their drum major, who wore a glow-in-the dark all white uniform, strode forward to confidently salute the judges. Meanwhile the whistles and cheers began.

"They're always ready!"

"Go go true blue!"

Most of the usual between-corps chatter died down as nearly all of the audience prepared to hear this corps they'd apparently waited for the entire evening.

"On the line, from Edison, New York, under the field direction of Jennifer Cyrus and Patrick McGwayne," as the announcer continued, even he started to get excited, "the Edison Legion!"

A roar rose up from the audience sounding like "VRRRRRRR..." so that the drum major in white waited thirty seconds so that his corps could hear him. Then Richard watched him starting to mark time and clapping his hands to give a visual symbol to his Legion.

The baritones came in first, a low, swinging funky sound. That base line continued as the corps came on the field. The baritones seemed so relaxed-sounding, as if they were playing in somebody's garage, and yet they were together.

"Go for it!" Somebody shouted from the stands.

Richard sighed as he thought how tight and over-controlled the Dragoons sounded in their own concert number, which was also jazz.

As the baritones continued their part, a pair of sopranos stepped out in front of the moving soprano ranks. They played a series of lines, first one and then the other, answering. Each call came back with a sharper response. Sixteen bars of trading the melody ended with them sliding towards a high note together. Richard recognized the tune as Sly and the Family Stone's "Higher."

As the two sopranos out front joined their note together, the horn line linked in a single front. All fifty horns came in along with the two soloists so that they hit the audience with a wall of sound on the melody line with the words, "I want to take you higher!" A shiver ran down Richard's spine.

"Wow!" One of the girls said. "I wish our horns could play like that."

Richard shook his head as the other corps' show continued. This Legion had just ruined all his thoughts about the Dragoon's show. When he analyzed the Legion's show, he knew that they had no real advantage over the Dragoons: The Dragoon's book had more depth, their drill had more pictures and field coverage, and he suspected the Dragoon's even played "cleaner."

He looked at the field again as the whole horn line suddenly froze in mid-step for eight counts, restating the melody, and he felt that sensation again. It couldn't, he thought, just be that the Legion had those ten extra horns.

His eyes strayed away from the field and he glanced at the two flags standing near to him. Both of them stared intently on the field, but they were moving slightly, and as he looked down their gold and green uniforms, he could see both of them tapping their white boots against the tar track. Looking down the rows of the stands, he could see feet tapping, hundreds, maybe thousands. Then, he became aware that his own white bucks tapped along with the corps' tune.

He looked back at the field as the Legion formed into a company front to finish the number. He knew the second they brought their horns down what would happen next, what never happened when the Dragoons played. The audience rose to its feet spontaneously, applauding, to return something of what they'd received from the Edison Legion.

"God," one of the flag girls said, "I wish our corps could be like that."


Richard lay on his sleeping bag listening to the sounds of the others snoring. Now, he thought he knew why Randy and the other instructors had made no comment on tonight's placement. They'd made the Marion finals, their goal, but it wasn't enough. Something was missing in the Dragoon's show. When they played it was as if they were talking to themselves; when the Legion played, they spoke to the whole audience, and the audience replied.

As he nodded off, in the distance, he seemed to hear an announcer's voice.

"On the line.........."

All of the stars shone on in the stadium. The Drum Corps Reporter headline read "Oldar returns to Dragoons."

He saw his father pointing to the newspaper and saying to the other corps parent. "That's my son."

"I don't understand," the other man asked, "why your son ever left the Dragoons."

"Well," Mr. Oldar replied, "They needed Richard in Toronto as drum major. You know, Scarlet Brigadiers needed to pull together. In the winter they were near to folding."

"Well not last year," the woman replied, "they almost won the DCI."

"Wait till you see the Dragoons tonight," Richard's father promised enthusiastically. "They are going to win the DCI."

"Well that," the woman said, "is because your son wrote all the music. How many corps have new tunes written just for them?"

"Yes," his father said proudly, "but let's be quiet. I want to hear it all."

Richard stood on the platform surveying his sixty-man horn line. Not a one of them looked less than six feet tall, even the girls, and they looked even taller in their brand new War of 1812 style uniforms with white crosses, blue tunics, and white striped pants. Richard looked out on that mighty horn line, their brand new horns shining in the lights, and smiled.

"Horns-up," he commanded and the instruments snapped perfectly into place.

"Are the judges ready?" The awed announcer asked. One of the judges raised his clipboard in a signal. The announcer continued, "Is the corps ready?"

Richard swung his free arm around twice in a double pirouette that ended with his left hand saluting.

"On the line," the announcer began dramatically, "from Darien Heights, Michigan, under the field direction of Richard Oldar and Randy Wiasnak, the Darien Heights DRAGOONS!"

The cheers rose from the entire stadium and Richard waited patiently, looking down on those rows of horns, that seventeen man drum line, and the hardest marching color guard in the DCI. He spotted Ned and Paul, at the end of the near line, preparing to step out and play their duet in his brand new composition. He gave an "okay" signal. From the front of the field he watched Randy salute him from the back of the formation.

"Go go Darien Heights," fifty people screamed.

"All right Richard," one of the girls from his high school yelled.

"My son, the drum major," his mother said softly, but her voice reached him anyway.

He straightened to his full six-feet of height and said forcefully "Corps, Mark time mark!" The baritone line started them off heavily, and Paul and Pat took two steps forwards as the drill began. The whole drum line moved forward in a block, like a moving building.

Richard felt those directing muscles in his forearms as he waved his white gloves and stomped his feet on the podium. Not a drop of perspiration soiled his brow as he knew the Dragoons were the best corps tonight and no one could touch them.

Wait, something was wrong.

Suddenly he stopped marching. His feet stopped on the podium with a "clomp." The crowd continued to cheer and the show continued, but he felt a terrible feeling in his stomach. He waved his arms to everyone, to signal a halt, but the show kept going. Paul and Ned started their solo. He turned around to face the audience. No one's eyes met his; instead they stared at the Dragoons, playing "Higher."

"Wait," he called pitifully, "that's not my song. That's not our show! That's the Edison Legion's show."

The crowd cheered more, "All right Darien Heights!"

"You're not cheering for us! You're not cheering for us!!"


Richard woke up in the darkened church. He murmured to himself, "Thank God that was all a dream, just another dream." He tried to go back to sleep but couldn't get comfortable on the wooden floor. He wondered how many of them could sleep tonight.



From the Drum Corps Reporter


By "Rotor" Reynolds

"We didn't know we were gonna be this good." That's what the guy from New York with the Edison Legion jacket on told me when I asked why they weren't in the open class, but, hey, he was laughing. They were probably laughing all the way to the bank. Edison won this show laughing. I mean you've got to see their show if you haven't. They play Can-Can music and the girls come out and lift their skirts (The view is fiiiiine). Then they play Beatles music and these four guys come out with..I'm not gonna spoil it for you even if they spoiled the evening for all the real "A" corps who've been trashing it out down in this division the whole year.....

(From paragraph number ten)

Then there was this corps from Michigan that calls themselves the Dragoons (not Dragons, boys). What that has to do with their gold and green uniforms, I don't know. They played something classical off-the-line and then some jazz. Then they play some more jazz. Then they play this Supremes song at the end. The fans really didn't get into it. I didn't really get into it because I was having my hot-dog. That's the trouble with these ten-corps finals. By the time you're ready to watch, you've missed three corps. I'll have to watch them closer next year.

8/2-3 Marion, Ohio 8/3 Marion, Ohio

U.S. Open "A" Class Prelims

1. Edison Legion 75.0
2. Hamilton Knights 70.5
2. Toledo Plainsmen 70.5
4. Peoria Royal Guard 69.5
5. Flint Warriors 69.3
6. Bismarck Frontiersmen 68.8
7. Morristown Lancers 67.7
8. Haightsburg Majors 65.5
9. Darien Heights Dragoons 65.5
10.St. Petersburg Prelates 63.5
------cut-off for finals----
11. Kensington Cadets 65.55
12. Waterloo Iron Dukes 65.35
13. Seattle Rangers 64.4
14. Burton Cadets 63.4
15. Pontiac Lancers 63.0
16. Downriver Knights 57.7
17. Arlington Black Watch 56.6
18. Port Huron Patrolmen 53.5
19. Cryon Fusiliers 53.0
20. Royal Regiment 52.9
21. Lysong Cadets 52.5
22. London Saints 50.0
23. Kent Lancers 51.0
24. Les Nonexistents 50.9
25. St. Ignatius Cadets 50.0
26. Oak Park Cadets 48.6
27. Limburg Guardsmen 48.7
28. Peterson Grenadiers 47.0
29. Athens Phalanx 44.7
30. St. Anthony's Girls 35.0
31. Hamtramck Heralds 29.0
32. St. Croix Scouts 28.5

U.S. Open "A" Class Finals

1. Edison Legion 76.1
2. Toledo Plainsmen 70.7
3. Hamilton Knights 70.7
4. Peoria Royal Guardsmen 69.5
5. Bismarck Frontiersmen 69.0
6. Flint Warriors 68.1
7. Morristown Lancers 67.7
8. Darien Heights Dragoons 64.5
9. St. Petersburg Prelates 63.8
10.Haightsburg Majors 63.5


Now That's Drum Corps (August 5, 1977)

Supper for the corps should've started twenty minutes earlier, but the rehearsal continued. These kinds of rehearsals made Richard regret the week of practice that stretched between the Marion and Butler shows. He knew it would be a week with a monotonous schedule: wake up at six; breakfast at seven; rehearse eight to twelve; lunch twelve to one; rehearse one to six; dinner six to seven; rehearse seven until the instructor's thought further instruction would bring the police; party after practice until the lights out at eleven.

The horns halted in their double arc at the end of the off-the-line. The music slowed in tempo as they brought their two legs down together for a halt. Richard looked between the arc in front of them to find Randy standing on the podium directing the final series of chords. Beside the podium, he could see just Monk's head, pointed towards the ground, absorbed in his own thoughts, a cigarette in his mouth. The last measures built louder and louder in the hot afternoon.

Suddenly Monk turned towards the horn line. He took two steps, and Richard watched his hand snatch the half-burned cigarette from his mouth. His eyes turned to face the center of the field, and suddenly he was yelling as he cut through the horn formation.

"Stop. &^%% it! Stop!" he yelled. One after another, the horns stopped playing, and as he broke through the middle of the second arc, the horn instructor tossed his cigarette to the ground and rubbed it in violently. Then he turned towards the podium.

"It doesn't work Randy," he said. "It's not drum corps."

Randy shrugged his shoulders absently. "Hey. It sounded right to me."

For a good minute, Monk said nothing. The horns didn't say anything either but waited silently in their spots. Finally Monk spoke:

"It's fine," he said, "for a symphony, but not for an off-the-line. We've got to end with something that DRIVES, pushes." He put his hand on his chin and looked up at the clouds for a second. Then he clapped his hands together and spun on the heels of his shoes. A wild light seemed to appear behind the calm blue of Monk's eyes.

"Horn players," he said, "break up into sections and rehearse whatever parts you need. I'll be with you in a second."

The baritones crowded around Luke.

"What's going on?" One of the McCormicks asked.

Luke smiled, "Just you wait a moment."


"Play this," Monk said, holding up a sheet of note paper. A series of parts in drying ink covered it. Richard crowded close, but could barely see the part.

"I can't see it." Richard said.

"It's only three notes," Luke snapped, "you ought to be able to memorize it fast enough. Now let's go."

They backed up just far enough so their bells didn't touch.

"One-two-three-four." They played a heavy chord, followed by two driving repeated notes. They got into the second measure when Monk snatched the part from before them and yelled impatiently:

"No! I want to hear DAAAAA! Then de-ah de-ah de-ah." He held the part back up. "One-two-three-four."

They hit the first note harder and Monk nodded, and the baritones played the pair of notes as Monk had said. Quickly, the instructor lowered the piece of paper.

"Better, but there's going to be a push here. You're going to go faster and faster. The end is going to be Bum-bump bump ba Dump." Seeing the looks on their faces Monk quickly took the nearest third's horn and showed them the fingerings. "Open, open, open, rotor open."

They played it again, and Monk nodded his head twice.


"Did you just write this," Luke asked.

"Na," Monk said, turning to go to the next section, "I think I heard it on a jazz album once. Now, quickly," Monk said, clapping his hands to hurry them and calling to the whole horn line. "I want to see you at the two arcs, thirty-two counts from the end." As they got to their position, Monk explained, "Now it's going to go like this. We have that same chord from Wagner." He looked around at the horn players, as though remembering again that they still stood there at ease. "Horns up."

They brought their horns to their lips. Monk frowned, "No. I want to see those horns SNAP. Horns down."

The horns went down.

"Now. Horns UP." Richard snapped his horn into position. He could see Monk's head only through the row in front of him.

"Now it's going to be that chord. Let's hear it. One-two-three-four."

Richard played and heard the smooth, majestic sound.

"Then I want everybody to halt four and really, really kill that next chord. Let's try it. One-two-three-four."

When Richard hit the chord, he could hear a burning musical conflict, like two dogs fighting or three corps playing the exact opposite thing. Richard guessed it might be a "C" chord impaling a "C flat."

When they brought their horns down, somebody said, "Yeah!"

Monk looked at them, "Pretty mean eh? You gotta slam your feet into that parade rest to accent that note. Then we're gonna take those last eight notes going faster and FASTER. After four counts, point your horns up `to the box'. I want to see legs going up and down. Both arcs are going to straighten so we end in two lines."

"Monk," Johnny called from over Monk's shoulder, "the drill needs the two arcs."

"Too bad," Monk said simply, "you'll have to change it. I need MOTION to bring this song to an end. After you see Randy cut you off, it's going to be horns down and then parade rest, so you end the last measure with a snap. Everyone got it?"

Richard didn't have it at all, but Monk looked so intensely involved he hoped he could somehow figure it out just by doing it. It didn't matter, he thought, what anyone said as Monk had already climbed the platform, and Randy moved off to stand on the ground and observe.

Monk stood in the center of the platform. He brought his two arms forward and started marking time hard enough so that Richard could hear the instructor's tennis shoes colliding with the wood. The energy seemed to flow from his stomping feet up into his outstretched arms.

"Corps," he commanded, "Mark-time-mark!" Slowly Richard marked time through the last note of Wagner's overture. Then he slammed his foot down and heard that grating chord shattering the operatic harmony. As Monk stopped on the podium, his shoulders heaved down, he clenched both fists, and his teeth gritted together, almost tasting the note. After four counts, Richard started marking time and moving forward. While the baritones almost physically drove their harmony onward, the sopranos played something like a frantic version of half the melody. As the volume increased, Monks arms seemed to rise higher and higher directing them. Then the baritones lifted their horn bells so that the sound would blast double the volume to the lucky listeners in rows thirty to forty-four. Monk's directed now with clenched fists as the baritones ended with their "Dump-dum-dum-Dee- dump!"

Then Richard snapped his horn down to his hands and brought it hard against his chest, ending in parade rest formation.

Monk, halted on the podium, looked out at horn line, and suddenly a smile crossed his face. For the first time since Richard had known him, Monk laughed. The sound came from deep inside the horn instructor's chest and the horns joined with him until the sound felt powerful enough to fill a stadium. Monk wiped the perspiration from his forehead and spoke to them:

"Now THAT is drum corps."


Moments of Scarlet (August 6, 1977)

Richard and Ned stood holding their towels and razors in their hands behind two of the other boys using the sinks in the small bathroom. "*&^," said Ned, "I think I'm going to die if I don't take a shower soon."

Richard put his fingers to his nostrils "Either that or we are."

"Stop complaining," one of the parents said behind Richard, "there are lots of worse places to stay than this. We're lucky to have a place to stay at all in this little town."

Luke stood up in front of them and wiped the shaving lotion off of his face. "Why don't you guys go up the street to the Brigadiers' place. They're staying in the 'Y,' and they've got showers."

Richard started to put the shaving lotion on his face. "They'd let us use their showers?"

"Sure. Why not. They're out at prelims today. You can go during lunch."

Richard had this sudden fear of walking into another corps building unannounced and having everyone stare at him, "You're sure it's all right?"

A voice said behind them, "Yeah it's all right! Now will you guys get going so that we can get a chance to shave."

"Good ahead," Ned said over his shoulder, "cut your nose off."


The Marion "Y" looked modern and well-equipped. It was just the sort of building the show coordinators would send a big, relatively famous corps like the Scarlet Brigadiers. Richard had passed the building several times during the week and heard horns practicing, but at the Marion show every building had horns practicing during this week. Now only a pair of cars lay in the big parking lot beside the building.

Ned led Richard and Paul to the door and knocked a couple of times timidly. When no one answered, he hit the door a lot more fiercely. When he'd hit it three times, the door suddenly opened to reveal a small, elderly black woman who scowled at the three boys.

"What do you want?" She said.

"We're here to use the showers," Ned said.

"Why?" She said, obviously suspicious.

Richard wanted to say "because we stink," but instead he replied, "we're from the Darien Heights Dragoons. One of..."

"Dragoons," she said, interrupting. Suddenly she smiled, "Why didn't you say so? Come on in."

She led them through a main entry desk, past a large gymnasium filled with over one hundred knapsacks and suitcases and into a long hallway.

"You are from Randy's corps, right?"

"Yes," Richard replied.

"Randy and Luke lived with me last year when he played baritone with us in Toronto. Randy was a nice boy. He used to drive me to the market."

"They lived with you," Paul said, showing a little disbelief.

The woman laughed, "Oh, I forget. You are from Detroit where the white people never live with the black people. Isn't that right?"

Richard felt uncomfortable talking about it. In his Essex area, blacks constituted only a tiny element of the population, but in Darien Heights they were perhaps 30%, and yet the Dragoons had only a pair of blacks. "Yeah, I guess it is."

"Well, don't worry about it. I have eight boys and girls living with me and marching with the Brigadiers, and only two are black."

Richard tried to change the topic of the conversation, "Are your son or daughter marching?"

"My daughter Elisha is in the color guard, and my son, Jeremiah, is the corps director."

Richard stopped suddenly, "THE Jeremiah?" He remembered the tape of the Scarlet Brigadiers, and the black drum major with the long frizzy hair directing in an ecstatic frenzy that seemed to both mirror and inspire the excitement of that powerful hornline. Richard knew Jeremiah had become overage last year. Richard had seen many drum majors, but none like Jeremiah.

She laughed, "He will like the way you say that." She pointed to a door that said "Men." "That is where you go. Take your time. You are very welcome."

Richard suddenly knew she was teasing him for what he hadn't said. He awkwardly added, "Thank you very much ah, ah, Jeremiah's mother."

She chuckled and disappeared down the hallway.


"Come on let's go," Paul said, tucking in his shirt, "we've got to be at practice in ten minutes."

Ned proceeded to tie his shoes as slowly as possible. "Goddamn Paul, you worry too much. What are they going to do, kill us?"

As he said that, the door to the shower burst open and with a loud scream five big boys burst in. The biggest of them weighed almost 250 pounds and led them on a charge towards the three Dragoons.

"Get 'em! Get 'em!" They screamed.

Richard leaped to his feet and dropped his tennis shoe. He raised both his fists as the charging boys came at them. The Dragoons moved back to back to defend themselves.

"Get 'em!"

The Brigadiers linked their arms back to surround the three Dragoons and suddenly halted. The biggest boy, a massive six-footer with a short haircut suddenly thrust his arm out towards Ned. His arm stopped an inch away from Ned and suddenly the hand opened.

"They call me Bonk, short for 'Bonkers,'" he said. He took Ned's fist and shook it. Suddenly the others all started laughing.

For a second, the three Dragoons stood motionless, fists still in the air, breathing erratically. Then they gradually relaxed.

"What corps are you guys from?" a long-haired blond boy said as he shook Richard's hand.

"The Dragoons."

"Whooo, baby," Bonk said, "Randy's corps. What are you guys doing tonight?"

"We have practice till ten." Ned said.

"*&&^%," said another. "Why don't you come over for an hour after that, and see how the other half lives?"

"The better half," another Brigadier corrected him.

Richard looked at Ned who looked at Paul who looked back to Richard and nodded. Ned and Ned's girlfriend had asked him to go, 'corps hopping.'

"Sure, why not."

The biggest one slapped Richard on the back so hard he almost fell over. Members of both corps responded by laughing.


Richard held his third Canadian beer a little unsteadily. He began to understand why Luke had warned them to "be careful" over at the Brigadiers' little party.

The Brigadier management, Bonk explained, didn't make any pretenses about managing the lives of their horns and drums: the corps equipment managers actually bought liquor in town and sold it at a profit to the kids, whose ages ranged from thirteen to twenty-one. Richard, Paul, and Ned sat as part of a circle of about fifteen other horn players, swapping stories. Richard and Paul mostly sat and listened as Ned held up the Michigan end of the conversation.

"So that's how the Centurions got banned from this little city in Michigan by the judge. He got so mad seeing his city's fountain stacked with empty beer bottles."

Richard sighed. He felt so welcomed just sitting here with these somewhat older boys. He knew that the Brigadiers would be lucky to keep their DCI membership and would not retain their Canadian National championship. They talked, though, like they were still the eighth best corps in the world.

"So," Bonk continued, "I brought the horn down so hard against my chest that the *&^% thing bent like a pretzel."

Some of these Brigadiers wore their hair long, longer even than girls. A couple of them were black, and there were a couple that looked so clean-cut they looked more like members of a choir. Yet they all sat here lopping up beer and listening. As he looked across the circle, he could swear that one of the boys was signaling him. He looked again. The head nodded to him.

Richard got unsteadily to his feet and walked around the circle of horn players in the room full of sleeping bags. The boy looked a little older than Richard with blond hair and the kind of pudgy little boy looks that often attracted girls. Richard thought that the boy looked like an elf.

"You wanna try something real good?"

Richard shrugged his shoulders, "Why not?"

The Brigadier led Richard out of the big room and out the exit to the outside. As they walked along, Richard could see several couples making out, but the blond boy made no effort not to disturb them. When he came to the back of the building, he peeked around the corner. Then he motioned to Richard.

Richard glanced behind the building, and he could see just a glimpse of about ten people sitting in a tight circle. They were handing something around, and the smoke rose above them. The blond boy motioned to Richard to come with him.

After two steps, someone in the circle heard the two boys, and there was a sudden flurry of motion as the big glass object in their hands, which looked curiously like a large beaker, disappeared behind their backs. He became aware of a sweet, but unpleasant odor.

"Who is it, man!" A voice said angrily.

"Just Andy," the blond boy declared.

Richard stood for a moment watching the others as they took the object from behind their backs and produced packs of matches. In the moonlight, they looked like a curious shadow of the circle he'd seen inside a few moments before. One boy passed a bottle of pills.

"You ever had a hit of this before?" Andy said.

"Yes," Richard lied. The more he smelled it, the sweeter that odor became, and somehow, the more he disliked it.

"*&&^%," Andy said. "You have not. Why don't you join us?"

"We'll make you an 'honorary Brigadier.'" One of the boys said.

Richard suddenly looked at his watch. "*&^% our curfew was twenty minutes ago." He knew now that this was true, but at the moment, he only worried about leaving this place.

"So?" Andy said, "You already missed. You can't get in any more trouble by being a little more late."

"No, I've got to go." For the first time, he noticed that odor coming from the blond boy as well. He could feel nervous perspiration starting to gather on his back as he tried to find a reason to leave.

Andy shrugged his shoulders in the moonlight. "Suit yourself," Andy said and sat down. "Good luck at Butler."

"Yeah," Richard said absently and walked back into the gymnasium. When he got there, he found Ned and Paul, a little drunker and still sitting in the same place.

"Hey, we got to go," Richard said, "we're way over curfew."

"But they were telling us," Ned said, "they might need us next year."

"It's after curfew?" Paul said, "Let's go."

Ned shook his head and stood up to leave with the other two.

"Hey," Bonk said, "if you ever want come up and play with a big time corps, we've always got spots for guys with balls who can drink Canadian beer."

"We'll think about it," Ned promised.

When they got out into the street, Richard could see the other commercial buildings, all temporary lodging for corps, with their lights out.

"You know," Paul said, "those guys were all right."

"Yeah," Ned answered unsteadily, "all right."

Richard said nothing. When they got back to the Dragoon's building, Paul and Ned couldn't avoid disturbing several people as they found their sleeping bags in the darkness. A couple of corps parents responded to the noise.

"You three will be on work crews all day tomorrow!" One of the angered parents declared.

Richard heard the command and knew it meant hour's worth of dirty work, for violating curfew, but somehow hearing a parent's strong voice made him feel better. He sat on his sleeping bag as he heard Ned starting to snore noisily. Luke, two bags away from him, moved over to sit next to him.

"How was it?"

"It was all right," Richard said, "but..."

"But what?" Luke said sleepily.

"A whole bunch of guys were smoking something."

"Oh," Luke said, unsurprised. In the darkness, Richard could hear the rustle of a sleeping bag as the section leader turned over to go back to sleep.

Richard asked Luke, "Luke did you ever?"

Luke responded. "It was there, but I didn't want it. It's always there in some corps."

Richard sighed. He wanted to remember the movie he'd seen, that look on the baritone player's faces. Were some of those very same baritones from last year's movie out in that circle tonight? He wondered. He wished he could get that smell out of his head.

He thought of the Brigadiers he'd seen and the field and ones out in the darkness. They'd even invited him to join.


Your Father (August 11, 1977)


Richard and Paul sat with a couple of the other horn players sipping sodas next to the church they were staying in. Richard leaned his head back and put his visor over his eyes. Richard guessed the temperature had to be ninety degrees. First it was the hangover, and now it was the heat.

"Richard," he heard a voice say. He looked up at Gina, one of the flags who said, "Your father is here."

Richard sighed, "How do you know it's my father?"

"Look, the way he looks he has to be your father."

Richard looked up and saw that it really was his father. He wore his typical dress shirt, open at the collar, and a pair of pants probably from one of his work suits.

For a second, Richard tried to look at the corps camp like an outsider. There were the trash cans full of dead beer containers, the sleeping bags, boys and girls sleeping only a few yards away. There was...

"Dad," he said awkwardly, "what are you doing here?"

"Actually, I was working in Pittsburgh, and I found I had a day off before I have to be at my next assignment, so I thought I'd come down and see you practice. Is that all right?"

"Sure," Richard said. He wondered if his father would want to stay for dinner. Had his mother sent his father to check up on him?

"Let me go put on a sport shirt," his father said, "and I'll be back in a moment."

By the time his father returned, the call for practice had already come. Richard removed his t-shirt and picked up his horn. On days like this he never bothered to put it away until the end of the day.

The corps assembled behind the little building. Mr. Oldar stood next to the building, in the shade, a lone observer. The instructors walked back and forth, in the midst of the formations, as the show ran.

What would his father think of these rehearsals, he wondered: running the same seven counts over and over again; boys and girls almost totally naked; instructors yelling and cursing just as much as the kids. Mr. Oldar stood observing. Then, after a while, he sat down, and finally, leaning against the old building, he fell asleep.


Mr. Oldar woke up about three hours later as they were completing their last run through. He watched the horn line leaving the field, covered with sweat, and the drum line following them.

"What did you think?" Richard finally thought to ask.

"Interesting, Richard," he said evenly, "very interesting. We can talk about it over dinner. Can you go out to McDonald's or somewhere with me?"

"Well," Richard paused, "actually I have to help set up for dinner tonight." He didn't think he ought to tell his father about violating the curfew, "so I only have an hour."

His father shrugged his shoulders, "Why don't I just eat here?"

Richard swallowed, "Well, all right."

As Richard helped serve, he watched his father proceed through the long line past the folding tables with the usual paper plates and rations of peanut or bologna sandwiches, soup, pasta, milk, and cookies. His father looked more than a little out of place with all the kids and even with the corps parents who wore old shorts and T-shirts. Mr. Oldar made it a point to introduce himself to all the adults, but spotting Johnny wearing his Hawaiian shirt and "ragged-ass shorts" and Bozo with curlers tied in his uncontrollable Afro, his father looked clearly perplexed.

When Richard finished setting up, he tried to lead his father off to a deserted section of the lawn, but Paul, Ned, and some of the flag girls could resist the temptation to join this older Oldar. When Richard sat down, he could hear they were still laughing over one of his father's jokes.

Ginger pointed to Richard, "Your father was telling us about the time you wiped out on your bike."

"That took fifteen stitches," Richard said, turning red, "and I wasn't allowed to ride for two weeks."

"From what I hear," his father said, "you're going to have corps stories to tell for years to come after this tour." The two girls giggled.

Richard shrugged his shoulders wondering what exactly Ned had told his father. Richard said, "I'll have enough to write a book." He started to take a bite of his third peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the day.

Ned and Paul got up, and Ned said. "Come on, girls, we've got drill to rehearse."

After a short argument, the girls took the hint and left.

His father chewed on one of the cookies, and pointed to the ongoing scenes on the lawn. "So this is drum corps life."

Richard shrugged, "I'm afraid so." He proceeded awkwardly, "I don't know what Ned and Paul were saying...."

His father chuckled, "Look Richard, I was kid once too, you know, and it sounds like some of your instructors still are kids. We did all the same kinds of stuff in fraternity. I'm just going to tell you to watch out for yourself. Remember who you are."

Richard swallowed, and thought, grimacing, who am I anyway?

"Your mother tells me you paid $200 for this peanut butter and beer tour."

"Something like that," he feared it might be more.

"Well," his father said crushing the paper plate, "as long as it's once in a lifetime."

Richard looked at him squarely, "But what about next year? We're going to make DCI Associate status, and then the next year after that.."

His father sighed, "One thing I learned in fraternity was this: college is the important thing; fraternity is a luxury. If you want to go to college after next year, you're going to have to work or borrow. No matter whether this corps wins or loses has to nothing to do with that. Now what is the most important thing to you?"

Richard didn't speak for a second, and his father shook his head.

"I mean in the long run, what is most important?"

"College," Richard could now answer without reservation.

"Well," his father said, "then you don't want waste your future on something like this." He looked at his watch. "I've got to get going." He straightened up his sport shirt and thoroughly brushed the dust off his pants. He carefully tossed the paper plate in the trash.

Richard watched his father walk out to the car. He heard the engine turning over then the calm sound of the company car disappearing into the twilight.


The Hype (August 12, 1977)

Around four o'clock things started to change. Practice ended early for the afternoon. The whole staff gathered on the field for the final run through. Randy warned everybody:

"Please don't play unless you have to on this run through."

Richard felt as if he could play. He'd been playing and working since 8:00, but he did not feel down. He could see the stubble inside his mouthpiece where half his lip wore away, but it didn't hurt really. He could hear Kevin singing next to him, a loud raucous tenor sound that didn't blend well with the sound of the horns. He kept playing as they entered into the concert formation.

Since the day he rewrote the ending of the off-the line, Monk seemed a different man. He constantly rushed on the field and in and out of rehearsals. In five minutes, he'd rewrite a part played without change for four months. He lit cigarettes only to stomp them out. Some time, in the last week, he'd said "excellent," "good job," or "*&^%" to everyone in the corps. Now his eyes seemed to meet everyone's straight on. Randy and the other instructors mostly listened, and Monk did all the talking.

It was as if the Dragoons had finally reached a point along the road and found Monk had been there waiting for them all along and happy to find they'd arrived safely. Had the corps finally reached the point where the Dragoons had become identical with the vision Monk had seen three years ago?

The run through ended suddenly when Mr. Menlo ran onto the field. The weather was over 90, and perspiration covered his shirt. He yelled to Randy to stop.

Randy put his arms out to signal a halt and climbed down off the podium. The horns died in mid-phrase, and the drums let off a few more rimshots before falling silent. Mr. Menlo called out:"Everybody come in!"


Richard had spend most of his free moments during morning practice discussing the corps' place in the finals with his friends. The finals at Butler would be ten corps long, and, like the prelims, would wear down the judges. So a corps on too early, no matter how good, could only move so many places because the judges would get looser as the night went on, miss more errors, and score higher. Richard knew Mr. Menlo had gone to hear the final scores from the prelims just finishing at the stadium.

"Everyone," he said, "we are still in sixth place."

Richard cheered, his hoarse voice joining the others. Mr. Menlo waited quietly for the excitement to die down. Then he added.

"But Flint is in fourth."

Richard cursed a little and heard "Boos," but he knew very well that Flint had registered months before the Dragoons and gotten an ideal spot near the very end of the prelim schedule. At least Flint wouldn't be so fresh for the finals.

"Maybe," Mr. Menlo said, "we can show them tonight."


Richard followed through the food line. Kevin stood in front of him and one of the sopranos behind. He took one of the paper plates and watched the serving lady ladle up a bowl of soup. He took a half of a peanut butter sandwich and grimaced at the thought of another peanut butter sandwich. He took his glass of Kool-Aid and sat down on the ground outside the church.

It was odd, but he didn't feel like talking. In fact, whenever he looked at his food, all he saw were lines and arcs. Normally, he worried a lot about making mistakes and getting tired in the afternoon before a show, but now all he could think about was the show itself.

Usually, corps meals were very loud and lively, but this afternoon the Dragoons ate in a strained silence, not looking at one another.

"Corps, mark time mark," he heard in his mind. "Form the baseball," he could see the line of horns facing down field "mark time twelve," his feet went up to his waist, "turn on the arc...."

"Well Richard."

His head jerked back angrily. The others joined his stare at Ned; then all slowly nodded their heads back into their paper plates. Everyone's mind seemed focused.

"Shut up, Ned," someone said.

Ned looked for a moment as though he had some kind of comment to make. Then his expression became serious also, and he sat down. Richard stared at his potato chips and heard a few murmured remarks over his shoulders.

"You don't know anything," a voice said.

"Shut up," another voice replied.

"*&^% I just spilled my Kool-Aid."

He could imagine Randy standing on the podium. "Slide twelve. Then halt." His fingers moved on the fork and spoon like a valve and rotor. The voices in the background faded into nothingness.


They filed onto the bus almost silently with their horns in one hand and their golden shakos in the other. Monk had requested that no one speak on the bus unless absolutely necessary, but it didn't matter: Richard wanted to talk to no one and, looking at the faces, the feeling seemed shared. For a second, he stared out the window at the parent volunteers in the church parking lot putting away the food and waving good luck.

As the bus started to pull out, Monk stood up at the front of the bus.

"All right," he said, and heads snapped back. "Now what we're going to do is sing the show. As you are singing, I want you to imagine yourself doing the drill. Tonight, you're not going to play the show or march the show. You are going to LIVE the show! One, two, three, four..."

The bus rolled onward to the sound of fifty voices singing "The Flying Dutchman." Richard closed his eyes, and he could imagine the field beneath him, moving, and envisioned himself making no mistakes. Again he moved his fingers, now on the polished baritone, and his deep breaths sent the air up to his head. It was as if something inside him was coming out with every note he sang, and, looking around the crowded bus, he could see the same thing written on every face. He thought, "We are the Dragoons, We are One!"

The sound swelled to a big finish, just as the bus reached the field at Butler. The few straggling fans standing in the dirt parking lot stadium looked up in wonder at this corps that arrived singing.


They got off the bus instinctively needing no directions and still singing the next song in the repertoire. In the distance, Richard could see the red uniforms of some corps he couldn't identify as well as twenty or thirty busses in various states of disrepair belonging both to the corps that had made tonight's finals as well as those who hadn't. The small crowd of casual onlookers watched the golden and green singers file off into a single line.

"Line up by sections," Randy said, "quickly." Richard found his place with the small circle of baritones. Luke stood in the center, the uniform not hiding the broad width of his shoulders.

"Everybody, put your hand in." Richard heard Luke say and held his hand out and watched his white glove disappear into the crowd. There were big hands, small hands, but they all looked the same in that pile of white. "I hope everyone has a good show tonight." Luke said, in a calm, serious voice. "On three-'balls!'" Luke said, "One. Two. Three."


The word rattled around between the cars several times. The horns broke up and started to get into on-the-field formation. This resolved to three abreast.

Richard felt happy, happier than he'd ever expected to feel before a show. He had this feeling he was going to do something completely different than he'd done before. He followed the long lines that went into the stadium. As the single horn line walked through the gate, Bozo, Johnny, and, finally Mr. Menlo were there waiting. The adults, in turn, took each gloved hand as the horns passed.

"Richard!" Bozo emphatically said as he would to an old friend he'd seen for the first time in years.

"Do a good job," Johnny added, patting him fondly on the shoulder. Richard found himself smiling warmly at each of them and forgetting all the times they'd teased him for drill errors.

Mr. Menlo said nothing but grasped Richard's hand firmly like one adult would another and smiled. His grasp was warm and solid as a rock. He looked squarely into Richard's eyes with a look that was almost paternal:

"You can do it."

Richard said nothing, but a lump formed in his throat, and he knew, at that moment, he could do it.

After the hours of quiet, entering the stadium to the sounds of five thousand people cheering another corps made him feel a sudden jolt of excitement. He followed the lines around the back of the football field and into position. When he got to the forty, he paced off eight steps towards midfield and two steps back, then went to parade rest.

"All right Dragoons!" he heard somebody say in the stands. Though another corps played on the field, these visitors' stands held all the corps that'd already performed or not made the finals and included more than a few Dragoon fans from other corps. Standing up in the third row he could see Monk Eastman, his ragged old corps jacket contrasting with both the audience around him and the gold and green corps facing him. He stood up in place to direct the on-the-field warm-up, his face covered with concentration and concern.

"Go gettum Monk," one of the corps parents said. Behind him he could hear the other corps finish their show, receive some final applause, and the announcer say:

"Let's hear it once more for the Bismarck Frontiersmen."

Then Monk gave the all-clear signal, and they started to warm up. He could suddenly hear himself playing again, not in his mind now, but in his ears. The silence around him filled with fragments of songs and warm-up exercises until Monk suddenly brought his two arms out. Richard then felt the little pieces of music resolve into a single, bone-crunching dissonance as two musical chords fought against each other.

Monk pulled his arms back further and the volume increased. Beneath them, the drums started a mounting series of rolls. The tension between the baritone and soprano notes pulled harder and harder, as Monk's hands waved them on louder and louder. The excitement became visible as Monk's quiet face became covered with a look of tension. Monk's arms pulled for more and more, and his blond curls moved wildly out of place. Suddenly, his teeth clenched, he brought his arms up and the horn line resolved the dissonance into a single, shattering, united chord that released the hours of tension with a single blast that rocked the back stands. Monk raised his hands high above his head and finished the chord with a triumphant smile leaving the note to echo round the stadium.

When Monk cut them off, Richard could hear the random yells.

"Go get 'em Dragoons."

"Make it your night, Darien Heights!"

"Corps," Randy barked, "about face."

Suddenly, instead of facing through forty-three horns, he could see nothing except thirty-five yards of green field and, in the grandstands, a sea of waiting faces. Only a few knew the Dragoons well enough to yell anything, but to Richard it didn't matter. In a few moments, they'd know the Dragoons very well. He smiled at that thought and waited impatiently for the show to begin.

"Are the judges ready?" the announcer's voice said, and Richard watched the men with the clipboards walking across the field signaling. Seeing them, he didn't flinch but smiled beneath his shako, feeling the power of the horn line all around him.

"Is the corps ready?" Bryan, the other drum major, standing at the front of the field, turned and made an elaborate salute. "On the line, from Darien Heights Michigan, under the field direction of Randy Wiasnak and Bryan Jones, the Darien Heights Dragoons!"

There was a limited amount of applause. Richard licked his lips in a last preparation. Once, weeks ago, or was it years ago, he'd stood on the field for his first show and felt all alone. Never had he felt less alone than at this moment. He was a Dragoon.

"Horns up." Randy said.

He took several deep breaths, keeping his body motionless.

"Corps," Randy said, and he took one last deep breath, "mark, time, march!"

The first strains of the Flying Dutchman bolted majestically from the baritone line, better than he'd ever heard before. After eight counts, he lifted his legs to start marking time.

A strange feeling then came over him. He couldn't feel his legs move, nor could he feel his arms holding his horn. He knew his body was doing these things, but it came so naturally, like he was standing off by himself, watching and cheering as body was played the show. As the song proceeded, he realized he was playing and marching better than he'd ever played before. This feeling of being detached from his physical self allowed him to think about the show as never before, or even, as the veterans said to "live the show."

So, he thought, this is what they mean by "hype." He'd heard the word so many times before. He'd heard of guys quitting corps, good corps, simply because they never had this feeling and guys that stayed in a lousy corps just because it "hyped."

It all seemed so beautiful, so right. Strangely, marching his own show, he felt more attached to the others than ever before. It was like they were all spirits holding onto one another five feet over above the ground making music out of this moment and cheering each other onward. He knew Monk Eastman standing somewhere on the sidelines, was seeing, for the first time, his vision, their vision, the Darien Heights Dragoons. Richard had forgotten all about churches, judges, and busses, everything except playing in this marvelous corps. Tonight, no matter what, the Dragoons were winners.

The thoughts of placing well or poor disappeared from his mind. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered except the Darien Heights Dragoons, tonight, right now, the shortest thirteen minutes of his life, which he wanted to last forever.


From the Drum Corps Reporter


By Aaron Sum

The Toledo Plainsmen managed to make their arch-rival Hamilton Knights the bridesmaids yet again as they snatched the American International Class "A" title. The finale looked strangely like a Five Lakes Circuit championship...

(From paragraph three)

After a dismal showing at Marion, the fired up Darien Heights Dragons proved the surprise of the evening. I'd not seen the Dragoons this year, and I expected a rather boring, semi-classical show, but the corps brought the crowd to its feet both with Wagner in the OTL (The Flying Dutchman) and their Supremes finale (Ain't No Mountain High Enough). Together the Dragoons instruction staff has experience in ten styles and five corps, but it all worked right tonight.

8/11-12 American International "A" Prelims

1. Hamilton Knights 71.0
2. Toledo Plainsmen 70.9
3. Peoria Royal Guard 70.0
4. Flint Warriors 69.9 24.
5. Lynois Cavaliers 69.3
6. D. Heights Dragoons 68.5
7. Bismarck Frontiersmen 67.1
8. Kensington Cadets 66.5
9. Royalwood Kingsmen 66.1
10.St. Petersb. Prelates 66.0

----cut off for finals----
11. Haightswood Majors 65.4
12. Waterloo Iron Dukes 64.4
13. Burton Cadets 63.3
14. Pontiac Lancers 62.5
15. Seattle Rangers 60.0
16. Downriver Knights 58.5
17. Memphis Blues 57.5
18. Arlington Black Watch 56.6
19. Port Huron Patrolmen 54.0
20. Royal Regiment 53.9
21. Lyson Cadets 52.5
22. London Saints 52.0
23. Charlaines 51.0
24. St. Ignatius Cadets 50.,0
25. Morristown Lancers 49.55


"A" Corps Finals
1. Toledo Plainsmen 70.6
2. Hamilton Knights 70.3

3. Darien Heights Dragoons 68.5
4. Flint Warriors 67.9
5. Peoria Royal Guard 67.0
6. Morristown Lancers 66.8
7. Kensington Cadets 66.5
8. Bismarck Frontiersmen 66.3
9. St. Petersb. Prelates 66.0
10. Royalwood Kingsmen 63.0

A Small Town in Pennsylvania (August 13, l977)

Richard hummed to himself as the bus rolled along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He sat near the front of the bus, the section reserved for instructors, sleepers, and little kids. The serious making-out continued at the back of the bus and the inevitable card games, pillow fights, and arguments somewhere in the middle. Richard took another deep breath and looked out the window. He wondered if it was going to rain again.

In a way he wished he could go back to those early rehearsals when he'd been too tired to think of anything except playing and anyone but himself. Now he wondered about his rank, his line, his show, his corps, the whole season.

He glanced at the back of the bus. Tom and Philip sat at the back of the bus with their respective girlfriends; Philip had only been with his girlfriend one day and yet they were heavily involved.

In front of him, he heard one of the little kid's sleepily ask, "Are we there yet?"

Richard gave her the standard drum corps response used between leaving the first parking lot and pulling into the last, "Five more minutes."

As he looked out the window, he remembered that once, about the time of the real Dragoons, pioneers traveled this road westward to settle states like Michigan. Now he counted the farms and cows and read the signs for toll roads. A cool rain had fallen after Butler, the night before, and today promised to be another cool, rainy day. He hummed softly. As he hummed, he could hear the sounds of people sleeping behind him.

They had only this one more show in Pennsylvania before they'd head home. Then, a couple weeks later, the Dragoons would win the American Legion State Championship in Flint. After Butler, he now understood what Randy said two weeks ago when he said that the Warriors had "peaked," but the Dragoons could go a lot further.

He thought about the blue and red Flint corps for a moment. He imagined himself playing with Flint. They'd come off the line to "Concerto de Naranjo" and then more or less stay in the same formation, moving it up and down around the field, the rest of the show. Did they know they wouldn't catch the Dragoons this season?

He shook his head and reminded himself Flint had beaten Darien Heights perhaps fifteen times, or so it seemed to him, so Flint had gotten more glory than it deserved.

He could see Johnny sitting several seats in front of him, the tops of his black curls high above the seat. This morning Johnny had said:

"Whenever you think about the American Legion show, I want you to think about Iron City beer." He did remember Iron City beer, the stuff they'd loaded one whole section of his bus with so they'd have something for the victory celebration in Flint.

He thought about the show tomorrow night. He hadn't heard of any of these strange Pennsylvania corps except for the headliners, the Black Lancers.

"It just doesn't add Monk." He heard Mr. Menlo say two rows in front of them, just above the buzz of the engine. "We can't keep going like this for another year."

Richard put his shoulder towards the window to eavesdrop on this conversation.

"We can win this show." Monk offered.

Mr. Menlo said. "That's not it Monk: it doesn't matter. We could win the DCI, and it still wouldn't matter. It's so many things: those extra horns." Richard could imagine Menlo with a calculator, adding it up.

"We needed forty-five horns."

"I'm not arguing that. It's just that that's $5,000. Then there's uniforms. That's $30,000. Then there's taking the whole corps out to dinner-four times!"

"Damn," Monk said, "they deserved it."

"$500 a meal, times four. Then there's this tour, busses, food. Just think about the gas prices. Gas prices have doubled since you took your last tour with the Centurions. That's thousands of dollars right there."

"What are we going to do?" Monk said slowly. Then he rephrased, "Then what do you think we should do?"

"As a businessman now, I'd say raise revenues and cut expenses. As a corps director, I say...."

"We're going to DCI next year," Monk said firmly, "I have to take this corps to the DCI."

"...I'll have to think about it."

Richard looked out the window as clouds continued to gather overhead.


Territown resembled many small Midwestern towns Richard had visited, except that it had its own little slum. The bus drove into a long street, just off the main street lined with broken down old shops, second hand stores, and a bunch of unwashed types standing out on the street. The corps busses pulled up in front of the local VFW hall, located in the middle of this section of town. Across the street, the only other open building was the Mercy Hall Soup Kitchen, which looked very busy.

"Everybody get your stuff," Mr. Menlo said, "this is where we're staying."

As the teenagers stepped off the school bus, a crowd of people began to gather and observe their every movement. Ned said to Richard, as they grabbed their sleeping bags:

"Now we've hit rock bottom. We're sleeping on Skid Row."

"As long as it has showers," Richard said, "I don't care."

As he said that, a long-haired drifter in a t-shirt and jeans stopped to stare at one of the flags, Jean, a small twelve-year-old. She stepped behind Richard and the McCormicks.

"I'm scared," she whispered as the man continued to look.

"Remember," Richard said, "there are one hundred of us."

With the girl close behind, he walked into the long old hall past two elderly gentlemen dressed in flat VFW campaigner hats. As the kids walked by, they saluted the boys and girls.

Richard put his sleeping bag down near the far wall and, in a single motion, unrolled his bag onto the cement. He said something over his shoulder to Ned.

"I'll be so glad to get home."

He turned and saw, not Ned, but a scraggly looking adult. The man's hair hung down to his shoulders, his clothes looked very aged, and his smell almost overpowered Richard.

"Yeah man," he said.

Richard froze. Several of the horn players noticed this strange man, and several vagrants had also entered from the street. In their soiled shirts and unbathed condition, the Dragoons, Richard thought, didn't look all that different from the bum.

"Why the *&&^," Toby began, ignoring the fact that the man stood twice his height.

"Why the *&^ are you here?" Kevin said, moving forward. The man's face turned angered red:

"How come they let you *&^ stay here and not me."

Richard gave what seemed a reasonable reply, "We're a drum corps."

The man appeared to be pondering that answer when Richard heard Mr. Menlo say, "Everybody, pack your stuff. We're leaving in five minutes."

Richard hastily rolled his sleeping bag with one hand and grabbed his duffel bag with the other.

"That's right," the man said, "you can't stay here either. Get out of here, you *&&^ dumb corpse."


The bus drove out of the little town and to an old Congregational church about a mile outside of town. They waited on the steps of the old building while Mr. Menlo went to look for the owners to see if he could talk them into loaning the building for the night.

Richard looked at the old stone building with the cornerstone that read, "Territown, 1844." His folks were in the New World even then. They came to America because they got kicked out of Germany, and only fifteen years later some of them would die fighting for an American ideal in the Civil War. His relatives, the farmers, had been no older than he when the joined the Union Army. What could he tell those deceased Oldars that he had done to compare with that? Could he tell them that the Darien Heights Dragoons and won the American Legion Championship? He looked again at this unrestored church in a run-down town.

"Now," Bozo said, holding up his clipboard, "if anybody wants to order something, you better do it right now. We're not letting anybody go off into that town tonight."

Ned got into the line first, "We're gonna want a six-pack?"

Johnny, sitting on the step next to the other drill instructor, looked at him, "For how many people?"

"Three," Ned replied.

"Fine," Bozo answered. He spoke to the whole line at once. "You earned the right to celebrate, but you guys got to play well tomorrow night."

As Ned gave the money, he said bitterly, "So we can take another second place."

Johnny snatched the money and laughed, "The Black Lancers? Ha! You play like you did at Butler, and you can kick their asses."

"They came in fifth at Butler," one of the sopranos said, "in OPEN CLASS."

The soprano didn't have to tell Richard. They'd all watched the Open Class final and seen Scarlet Brigadiers take a distant fourth behind the Arlington Fusiliers, the Lexington Minutemen, and Essex Legion.

"So?" Johnny said, "You guys can play five points better if you want. They can have a down evening. You got a chance."

Richard shrugged his shoulders. The Black Lancers had sounded pretty impressive to him a week ago.


The space cruiser blasted at the evil Marathian warship with all its moleculizers blazing. Tentacle-like zappers fell apart from the ship....

"EAE," he looked up from his book and sat up inside his sleeping bag. He glanced at Ned and watched as twenty-five girls ran across the room in their nighties and pajamas to rush to the boys' side of the church.

"What the Hell was that?" Ned asked Richard.

The girls pointed up high across the other side of the room. None of them spoke until finally Cecilia, one of the youngest flags, spat out a single word to Richard:


Richard had expected someone to turn off the lights several minutes before, but the adults, engaged in some kind of staff meeting outside, apparently had forgotten the time.

Richard put on his shirt and strode to the other side of the room, hearing excited whispering behind him. He looked high into the darkened rafters forty feet above and finally said:

"Hello bat."

He walked back and got back half inside his sleeping bag.

"Is it still there?" One of the younger kids asked.

Richard replied loudly, "It's there all right."

"What are we going to do about it?"

Richard shrugged, "Bats eat rats and mice. We're probably lucky to have it here."

None of the girls showed any signs of leaving the boys' side of the room. The older girls on the other side, however, showed no signs of leaving. Finally, several of the flags convinced two of the sopranos to take a broom and kill the winged creature. As the two boys walked forward, the whole body of younger girls, and a number of boys, followed closely behind. As they got to the other side of the room, they started to climb a ladder leaning against the wall.

Richard picked up his book and resumed reading. Paul, nearby, spoke up. "Why aren't you worried Richard?"

"Bats don't bite you unless you're a rat or an insect. Come to think of it, though," he turned the page, they might bite if they have rabies."

Ned, interested, one bag away, asked, "Bats carry rabies?"

"Yes," Richard said.

"What's that Richard," Ned climbed to his feet and cupped his hands to his mouth so that the sound would carry across the room, "you say BATS CARRY RABIES?"

For a second, the crowd of hunters halted. Then they stampeded back across the room, running over bags and sleeping bags until they all rested safely on the boys' side of the room.

Richard and Ned looked at one another and tried not to laugh.


Richard felt the slight trickle of perspiration running down his back, but he didn't care. He could feel the line forming for the conclusion of their exit number. The horns almost seemed to be screaming "Ain't No Mountain High Enough!" After eight counts he dug his feet into the ground, and with the other, raised his bell to the audience and belted home the final choruses. He hoped the final measure would never end, but when it did, he could hear the last note disappearing into the Pennsylvania air, even as he brought his horn down to parade rest.

Then something curious happened. The crowd seemed different. Their faces all moved upward at once. He glanced at Randy for the signal to leave the field, but the drum major stood motionless. Then it suddenly occurred to Richard the crowd had given them, was still giving them, a two-minute standing ovation. The Dragoons had undoubtedly played their best show, but never had an audience reacted like this!

As the last corps on, they did not leave the field completely, but Randy formed them into parade formation after leading them off before the audience. As they made the block, Richard could see the Black Lancers on the inside of the track waiting to play themselves on.

"Corps. Mark time march." Randy said.

The Dragoons moved around the corner to the beat of a single snare. When they got near the Lancers, Richard looked into the faces of these boys and girls they'd gone to see a week before. He guessed the Lancers had been waiting in formation throughout the Dragoon's show and hearing everything. Their drum majors barked out orders to line up their high-priced horn instructor, Mr. Garstoni, paced back and forth in his striped suit in obvious irritation, but the Black Lancers, the DCI Associate Members, glancing at the Darien Heights Dragoons, seemed to look worried. Richard tried not to smile when the Lancers paraded past and onto to field, but it seemed like everything was going as it should. There was nothing the Dragoons could not do.


From the Drum Corps Reporter


By Reginald Clarion

The Erie Black Lancers won a very close contest tonight over the visiting Darien Heights Dragoons. In fact, before the penalties were subtracted from the two corps, they lost. The Lancers were coming from a strong fifth place showing in the Butler "Open" class, and their show seemed not up to their usual standards. Their all-classical repertoire is pleasing, if unfamiliar, and Lancers won the M&M and horn execution categories tonight, being beaten in GE and drums by the visiting Dragoons.

The Dragoons came on last tonight and with an evening's more rest than the Lancers played an inspired show. Their off-the-line of "The Flying Dutchman" and exit of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" were among the most exciting moments of the evening. It was their concert, though, of "Central Park North" that brought the audience to their feet. Along with many others, I was surprised by the Dragoons tonight and certain they'd won the show-until I heard the scores.

8/14 Territown, Pennsylvania

1. Erie Black Lancers 72.1
2. Darien Heights Dragoons 72.0
3. Kent Lancers 55.5
4. Owakwak Knights 48.8
5. Towanda Emerald Lancers 45.5
6. Algany Canalmen 40.0
7. Chinos Privateers 38.8

The Long Trip Home (August 14, 1977)

The six Dragoons walked into the Jim's restaurant in Loyal Park, a Detroit suburb, at four a.m. and seated themselves at the center table of the empty place. After a moment, Richard looked at Ned.

"I'm not sure this place is open," Tom said.

"How much more 'open' do you want," Richard said, pointing to the empty tables on either side of him.

The six sat down with Jen facing Ned. Richard and Paul sat on Ned's left, and Philip and Tom on Jen's right. Ned shrugged his shoulders after glancing at the menu, "How many of you just want to go home?"

Tom and Phil raised their hands. After a moment, Jen raised her hand, "I've got to work in four hours."

Ned made a gesture of counting the upturned hands with his finger. He nodded his hands and everyone lowered his hand. "Well, then it's decided. We stay."

"How do you figure," Philip asked, "It's three to three."

"My car just voted to stay."

At that moment, the waitress appeared. She looked about twenty and her hair looked disarrayed, and Richard guessed she'd probably been washing dishes or something, not expecting customers. She looked at the six Dragoons in their ragged street clothes and green and yellow corps jackets. She sighed.

"Would any of you," she glanced at Ned, who smiled his sweetest smile, "like coffee?"

"I would," they all answered. She shook her head and put a note down on the order form.

"Would you like dinner or breakfast?"

"Dinner," said Tom.

"Breakfast," said Ned.





She looked at them a minute and then filled out the tops of six separate little pads. She said:

"This isn't some kind of gag is it? I mean you're not some kind of fraternity-" when she saw Jen she stopped in mid-sentence.

Ned smiled, "Would we put you on?"

She dutifully put down their orders. When she finished, she asked, "Well what are those jackets for, some kind of soccer team?"

"Boy," Richard said, "I get a kick out of hearing that."

"We're from," Philip paused, making sure no one would interrupt him, "the Darien Heights Dragoons. The drum corps that almost won in Territown Pennsylvania." Richard knew she wasn't really understanding, but in a way it made it seem more significant, like part of some secret order of knights or special club. "And we're going to win the Michigan American Legion Championship on August 24th."

The waitress nodded her head and said, "Oh."

"Cream and sugar with the coffee," Paul said.

She didn't bat an eyebrow, "Of course."

"What are you going to do when we get back to civilization?" Richard asked Paul.

"Damned if I know. I might just sleep for about a week."

"Don't forget to sleep on the floor."

The group began three different conversations that changed rapidly and reached across the table, down the sides, and diagonally over.

"I just hope my Daddy's working when I get home," Paul said. "He don't drink too much when he works. When I left, he was sleeping underneath the table."

Richard thought Paul looked thin. Then, again, they all did. Paul, however, had stomach problems.

"You'd better get your stomach checked Paul. You don't look so good."

"&^%," Paul said, "I'm not sick. We all lost a lot of pounds on this trip. It's those damn peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You ought to look at yourself."

When the waitress returned, she looked down in disgust. Tom and Philip had arranged the coffee cups into a long rank along the center of the table.

"This," Tom said, explaining the drill on the table "is where you've got to pick up these guys here for your rank."

"Excuse me," the waitress said, "Are you going to drink your coffee or just play with it?"

Ned pointed to the steaming pot in her hands, "Please, just leave the pot and the cream." As she walked away, Ned poured a steaming eight ounces into each cup, spilling the excess into the saucers. He then said, "Anyone not wanting cream, please say something."

"I don'.," Philip began.

"Too slow," Ned laughed, pouring the cream swiftly, "You snooze, you lose."

Each of them reached out a hand to grab a saucer. Tom spoke to the group. "Everybody raise your cups." They dutifully reached across the table until the six pieces of pottery touched. "To the American Legion Champions, The Darien Heights," he paused meaningfully, and the others spoke in unison:


Richard felt the warm feeling partly from the coffee and partly from the promise of victory.


The Buick halted in front of the railroad tracks. Ned put the car into neutral and turned on his side in the driver's seat. Richard watched the cars slowly passing by. He could hear the others snoring, but he heard Philip sleepily say:

"You know, Ned, if you just drive down about two blocks in that direction," he pointed, "we could drive on a road that goes right under the train.

Ned replied, "Aw *&^%. Just relax Philip and enjoy it."


"Richard," he heard his mother's voice. Had she come all way to Butler just to see him. "Richard?" Was this Territown? Where was his sleeping bag? He felt around his shoulders and felt that it was not there.

"Richard," his mother repeated, "are you there?"

Finally, he knew. He was home. He'd gone with Ned. They'd stopped at the railroad. Then, he realized he must've come in the house after the train. He must've gone to his room in some semi-conscious state.

"Yeah, Mom, I'm here."

"Well, it's almost one 'o' clock in the afternoon. Do you want to go with your sisters to see 'Star Wars?'"

He got up unsteadily to his feet. He still wore the jeans with the holes in them and the faded Dragoons' t-shirt he'd washed in sinks so many times that the letters faded half away.

He opened the door and for a second didn't see his mother clearly. Her heavy form looked like so many corps mothers. Then he smiled.

"Sure let's go."

Her eyes traveled from his disordered hair down to his feet, "Not like that. You look like a real mess." She sniffed, "And you stink. You smell like," she paused, "trombone spit."

"Baritone spit," he yawned, "Where are the showers?"

"What are you talking about? The shower-"

"I mean, where's my duffel bag. Are the girls in the bathroom?"

"No," she said, "Now take your time. I'm washing all those clothes you took with you. Washing them twice. There are some clean ones on the dresser. Now go take a bath."

He stepped into the bathroom. He shed his clothes on the floor and stepped into the shower. He turned the water on scalding hot. Automatically he started singing as soon as the water hit his back:

"The Flying Dutchman will be here.

Before you know it.

He'll be bringing you a beer.

You're gonna flow it."

"Richard?" his mother said. "What is that nonsense you're singing?"

"It's the words to the 'Flying Dutchman.'"

"It's an overture," she said, "it doesn't have any words."

Richard laughed, "It does now!"

"The Flying Dutchman flew around.
Now he's returning.
The Flying Dutchman hits the ground,
And now he's burning....


He walked slowly so as not to outdistance his two sisters while he let his mother walk by his side. He noticed now that he automatically brought his left foot down in time with hers. He thought about his two sisters. They didn't seem so much like "little" sisters any more. In fact, in their shorts and halters, they looked no younger than many of the flag girls. He bet that once they put on those gold and green uniforms, they'd look about five years older. As Ned said "a year in drum corps is worth...."

"We may have to split up to find seats," his mother said as they walked down the aisle with their popcorn and soda towards the seats. "'Star Wars' has been selling out even for the matinees."

Richard shrugged his shoulders, "'Star What'?"

Reyna, his little sister, asked, "You haven't heard of 'Star Wars'?"

His mother shook her head and pointed to four empty seats near the front. "Let's sit here. Quickly, the movie's about to start."

As the screen turned to black, Richard heard the opening fanfare from the movie. The song sounded vaguely familiar. Then he remembered Monk had been fooling around, having some of the horns play some chords until it became a melody, hacking the tune out with the horns like another person might sound a tune out on the piano.

"Oh yeah," he whispered, "we played that just three days ago."

Brave warriors, fighting onward victory, he thought, sounded just like the Dragoons.


"So you guys got to come to see the State Championship," Richard concluded. "We are going to kick ass."

His mother grimaced. She'd stared at Richard all during dinner as he downed a healthy portion of hamburgers and fries and finished some of each of his sisters' dinners also. He sat back comfortably and looked at his mother. He realized now that she'd been watching him through the whole meal, studying him, as if he were a stranger. She'd stopped talking the moment the waitress appeared and asked him, not her, what they wanted to order. She'd listened to his stories from the tour, the search for the showers, his getting singled out from the basic block, "sucking" in the Marion prelims, almost winning at Butler, and giving the Black Lancers a scare the night before.

As he listened to himself, he realized how far away this all sounded, and could understand why his sisters listened so intently. In his retelling, he'd made the hard parts seem like epic struggles and the easy parts seem like dynamic victories. He realized his Dragoon tales were starting to have the same aura as all of Ned's Centurion stories.

"I'm a little confused," his mother said. "What I see, Richard, is this. You look, well, like you aged a couple of years." she paused.

He noticed now that even his shirt fit around his broadened shoulders and hung around his tight waist. His tan made him look so dark he looked a different race than his sisters.

His mother continued. "For what? I'm not sure I see the point in all this."

Richard laughed, "All this stuff I'm telling you about was fun! Besides that, Mom, after this, nothing in life will ever seem too hard for me. Not only that we're going to win the American Legion Championship, We're gonna kick Flint's," he paused, "rear, and be the best corps in Michigan once and for all!"

At that moment, the waitress arrived with a large pot of coffee.

His mother said, "There must be some mistake. No one here ordered-."

"Oh," Richard interrupted, "that's for me. You can just leave the pot. Do you have any cream?"

The waitress shook her head, "Sorry sir. I'd have to go get some."

"Ahhh," Richard said, "that's all right. I'll drink it straight."

His mother sighed.

"A toast," Richard said, as he filled his cup and raised it. "Let's toast the Oldars." His sisters enthusiastically repeated.

"To us." and raised their glasses of soda. His mother hesitated but raised her glass. As the three cold glasses met his steaming cup of coffee, however, he could see his mother still shaking her head. Wait, he thought, until she sees us at Flint, and we win! He drank deeply. Once she sees us win that show, Richard thought, she'll understand.

Saturday Night at the Movies (August 18, 1977)

Richard wiped the perspiration from neck caused by the summer heat. He wanted, more than anything else, to sink into his bathtub at home and not come out until somebody banged on the door.

"Hey Richard," he recognized the voice immediately as belonging to Ned, "Can you go to Monk's house tonight."

Richard finished putting his horn in the case. Since Ned had driven to practice tonight, he really had no choice if Ned wanted to go.

"Now you're not going to tell me you have school tomorrow are you. You know how often it is that Monk holds a real party?"

Richard just looked at him and shrugged his shoulders, "Sure, I guess." He thought about it a moment. His mother would expect him at eleven, "but I've got to tell my parents where I'll be."

"Oh you can use Monk's phone."


Thirty minutes and a stop at the liquor store later, the two arrived at Monk's small house in Monk's seedy neighborhood on the edge of Detroit. From the street, Richard could see all the lights were on, and the house was full. From the cars out front, Richard guessed half the horn line must be there. Jen greeted them at the door, and pointing to Ned's beer, said:

"You really bought the cheap stuff tonight."

Richard remembered coming here earlier in the season in the hectic hours before a practice. Now he could hear laughter coming from all the rooms and perhaps thirty people just sitting on the floor. People passed him right and left with hands full of beer and chips.

"Richard," Paul said, enthusiastically raising his can. He drunkenly drew a thin arm and offered it to Richard. "My buddy."

Somewhere in the background Richard could hear the stereo system playing very loud. Every several minutes the sound would change. One minute there'd be a symphony, then rock and roll, then a polka. He nodded to Monk's wife, seated at the kitchen table, holding her chin in her hands. Long ago she'd been a flag herself. Now she just watched uncertainly as thirty near-strangers occupied her house.

One of Monk's boys peered out from his bedroom watching, until his mother caught sight of him and chased him back to bed. His brother sat in the living room plinking "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on the piano. Richard remembered then that Sue told him Monk never learned to play the piano, except to pick out a chord or two.

Seeing Richard, Mrs. Eastman smiled slightly and motioned towards the refrigerator. He opened it up to find it filled to capacity with cans, bottles, and traces of food. He drew two cans from the plastic and, finding no other way they would fit, shoved the other four in sideways.

"Hey." a voice said as he bumped into Bryan, the second drum major. His shoulder hurt from the collision, but he asked.

"Do you know where the phone is?"

"Why?" the other said, taking a sipping from a plastic glass.

"I've got to tell my parents where I am."

The drum major shrugged as though not quite seeing the necessity. "Why?" Then he pointed to the kitchen table.

Richard dialed the number. After several rings, he heard his mother's voice: "Yes."

"Um, this is Richard. I'm over at Monk's house."

"What are you doing there?" she said a little suspiciously. Richard knew it would be better to tell the truth.

"Monk is having a party."

"Why is he doing that?"

Richard considered that for a moment before saying, "I don't know." He didn't seem to be doing too well, so he resorted to switching the blame. "Look I don't know, but I'm riding with Ned, and he wanted to go."

"Oh." The she paused. "I don't want you driving," and then she said what she meant, "if you're drinking."

"All right," he said, wondering why he'd decided to be honest. "Why are you on my case? I was gone two whole weeks, and you didn't know what I was doing."

His mother sighed, apparently resigned, "that didn't mean I liked it."


"It's starting," somebody said when the music stopped. There was a general rush into the living room, and Richard felt bewildered but followed them. He found everybody seated in neat rows, some on top of others, facing a screen. He found seat in the back row, next to Ned, and stretched up on his knees to see the screen.

His eyes wandered the small beige room. A long shelf ran halfway around the entire room, stacked fully with albums, each put away but in no particular order. Above that, another set of shelves held tapes. The shelves continued, fully finished, until the last one with no albums that sat unvarnished on its brackets with four or five supermarket romantic novels lying on it. Four speakers occupied each corner of the room, each six or seven inches off the old rug.

"What is it-"

"It's Monk's corps movies," Ned explained, "he doesn't show them very often. He's got movies of just about every corps he marched with or worked with." Richard watched the instructor bending over a black box covered with dust from some closet.

Richard had seen so little of Monk that night. Monk had disappeared, with the other instructors, to some staff meeting with Mr. Menlo and only reappeared at the end of practice. Now he looked tense and distracted, and Richard couldn't figure out why he'd decided to throw a party.

"Who do you want to see?" Monk asked.

"Centurions!" Paul called out.

"No, No," Randy protested.

Sue, sitting with her arm around him, slapped him, "Come on. I want to see the Centurions."

Monk nodded absently and fumbled with the projector while a couple of the horn players raised the screen. He reached into a long film box that was lined neatly and pulled out the second to the last film. When he'd prepared the film, he turned it on.

The screen started on a group of kids in t-shirts and jeans. Most of them had beards, mustaches, and long hair and looked in their early twenties. Richard thought they looked more like a motorcycle club in their jeans and t-shirts than a corps. The camera panned a row of horns until it passed a younger boy, already big, with long, dark hair. He looked a little out of place and even self-conscious.

"Randy?" somebody said. Looking at the face, Richard could hardly believe it was the same person.

"Mark-time-mark" the camera backed off, and there was the director in t-shirt and jeans, with long blond locks like a lion or terrorist, undoubtedly Monk Eastman.

The horns went up, and they began to play. It was obviously a film from one of the late practices because they began doing the drill as well as playing. The horns sounded solid, but not spectacular. Richard had heard so many Centurion stories he expected something unbelievably good. The faintly classical song Richard couldn't identify. He whispered to Ned, "You know, we're better than they are."

Unfortunately the song ended just as Richard started speaking, and his voice carried. Richard could see Monk turning, a shadow against the white background of the screen, his features hidden.

"Maybe." he said.

Then the screen suddenly showed the Centurions again, as though spliced on. There were fewer now, but the hair had grown even longer. The few uncertain faces from the first scenes had disappeared. Even watching them in street clothes, he could see a difference between them and the Dragoons. Maybe it was the way they seemed to slouch at parade rest or the way the horn players' faces never seemed to turn red, no matter what the note or volume. They moved, so sure about what they were doing that it seemed almost sloppy.

After the final number, somebody asked about the baritone quartet. Monk turned the machine off and on, and suddenly the Centurions began marching in reverse. He heard snickers around the room, and then the film froze on the four big baritones. Randy and Luke were not among them.

"The guy on the left, Jim Hall, is with the Los Angeles Sinecures as an instructor." Monk said, "The next guy over, Tommy Nesance, is still playing with the Atlanta Rebels. The third guy over is your favorite drill instructor." The indicated baritone wore a button-shirt with all buttons closed except one and kept his slicked down hair neatly parted.

"Johnny?" one of the girls suggested.

"That's Bozo!" one of the flags exclaimed. Monk started to roll the film forward again.

"What happened to the other guy?" Tom asked.

For a minute no one said anything. Then Monk added slowly:

"I do not know." The tape concluded a minute later. "Ten minute intermission," there were groans, "I have to use the can."

Richard rose with the others to head towards the refrigerator. He looked down into the tape case. It seemed to be in chronological order. Those on the left dated from the early sixties and those on the right to the seventies.

"Ned, does Monk take films of every corps he's with."

"Na, they have to be good enough. He never films a corps unless he thinks they might do something great or go out of business. I'll be damned if I know why. I think it's a superstition thing."


Richard drove home because Ned felt too "up" after three beers. He didn't tell Ned he'd had three himself because he really felt sober. As he drove along in the darkness of I-75, looking at the dim marker signs, he could hear Ned snoring in the passenger's seat.

He could still hear the final chords from the Centurions film, and he thought about the last film in the box with no label-yet.

Preparing For Battle (August 24, 1977)

As they heard the prelim scores from one of the corps parents, Richard felt assured. They'd beaten Flint, apparently, and they hadn't even played a particularly inspired show. Some corps from Marquette had beaten Flint also. It was a good way to start a championship day.

"Who are those guys?" Paul asked Ned.

"They're from the U.P.," Ned said, "they won the American Legion last year. They're called the Marquette Argonauts."

"Oh yeah," Richard recalled, "we heard about them in Sault Ste. Marie."

"Well," Ned said, "they had some kind of depression in the U.P. last fall, and a lot of them had to quit to get jobs. From what I heard from the Iron Mountain people, they starting putting their corps back together in June, and they're playing their same show, note for note, as last year."

"Can they beat us?" Paul asked.

"Look," Ned said, "This is drum corps, and the Five Lakes judges are not the most reliable in the world, but if you mean are they as good as we are, I don't think so. Centurions beat them every year, and we're as good as the Centurions."

Richard forgot about the other corps when he spotted Mr. Bright standing in front of them to take their order for the upcoming victory celebration.

"Let's go for whiskey," Paul said.

"I'd settle for beer, Iron City beer," Richard put in.

"What do you suggest, Mr. Bright?"

"For a victory celebration," the big man smiled, "why not champagne?"

Ned nodded his head, "Right. Pink champagne. Two bottles!"


In the breaks in the afternoon's rehearsal, the only topic of conversation remained victory. Randy ran the rehearsal, and none of them saw any sign of Monk.

"A whole &^^% season without a win," Philip said, "at least this one is ours."

"It's so sweet," Tom said, "I can taste it. Finally, we're going to win something."

Johnny, looking at his watch, suddenly yelled from the front of the field, "Get on the busses everybody. Get those 'doggies' rollin.'"

"What about our..." Ned started.

"Take your uniforms with you," Bozo said, shooing them on, "Come on. We can't afford to take a late penalty."

The busses quickly covered the three blocks between the elementary and the Flint's big concrete stadium to park between several other worn school busses.

As the horns started to file out of the busses, they passed the guard heading the other way, and the two lines crossed through in a disorderly pass. They followed the long arc, and Richard could hear the sounds of Marquette echoing off the walls. Randy instructed them to sit down in two arcs on top of set of wooden bleachers just outside the stadium. Richard felt relaxed, but ready, his mind coming to a fine, hard focus.

"What we're going to do," Randy said, "is a silent run-through, right here on the bench. You can lay your horns in your laps. You don't need to march. Just focus your minds on seeing yourself doing your show, doing your show right. Ready."

Randy removed the left shoe from his foot and started to beat out a tempo on the blocks. Quietly, he said, "Corps-a-ten-tion!"

In their minds, they snapped to attention.

"Corps. Mark time mark!'

He could see the audience, imagine himself taking a deep breath of fresh air and marking time on the field. He brought his lips together and heard the strains of the "Flying Dutchman" reaching out and igniting the Flint audience. He glanced around at the other horns and could see their minds were already on the field.


A few parents, the instructors, and Mr. Menlo stood waiting for the Dragoons.

The guard already stood at parade rest, the drums behind them, when the horn line halted. Randy signaled to the far end of sopranos to Ned. Ned snapped his horn to his chest with a solid "clink," and one by one, precisely the horns followed suit, "clink. clink. clink. clink..........in a long din of metal.

Eyes forward, Richard could see Johnny mentally timing each sound, and when they'd fallen on time, he smiled and brought his two hands together like a mad scientist who'd invented some potent ray. They all waited for Mr. Menlo or Monk to speak.

Richard thought Monk looked strangely haggard. The horn instructor had worked so hard these last few weeks that his energy had seemed almost endless.

Now Monk's eyes were bloodshot and Mr. Menlo obviously would be the one to do the talking.

"Now, this has been a long season, Dragoons, and you've all worked very hard. You've heard of the Marquette Argonauts by now, I guess. A few of our instructors saw them in the preliminaries," he looked up and then narrowed his eyes. "You people play the kind of show you played at Butler, at Territown, at practice run-throughs this last week, and they don't have a chance. We can win!"

He nodded, satisfied at his own statements. He turned and looked at the instructors standing a big distance from him. "Do any of you have anything to say?"

Bozo moved forward and a rare serious look covered his face, "When you guys came out here a minute ago, not even playing," he paused, "I was impressed!"

Ken Masure pointed his stick at them, "Go kick some *&&^"

Menlo turned to Monk and sighed. The look he gave the horn instructor told Richard that something had passed between. Their relationship had taken some turn that he couldn't analyze. Menlo seemed to take a deep breath, as though dreading the word, "Monk?"

Monk rubbed his tennis shoe on the ground and looked down, like he was rubbing out a cigarette, "Some people say that a corps that doesn't win a single show isn't ready for any kind of DCI competition."

Mr. Menlo stared at him, but Monk looked straight outward, his bloodshot eyes looking wild, almost trapped.

"No matter what happens," he said, and his voice started to choke with emotion, "No matter what happens," he gathered himself to go on, "I'm proud of you all."

Randy brought his white, gloved hands together once, twice, and then started to clap out a slow rhythm. Spontaneously, the drums withdrew their sticks from their parade rest position and started to click them on their edges of their instruments along with Randy. Finally, the horns, catching on, started to bring their horns up and down against the metal buttons on their chest, so that, they moved forward to the sound of a loud "Clink, clink, clink!"

Then Randy started to say a single word over and over, and it caught on with all the others. Mr. Menlo heard them and shook his head as they said over and over again:

"Monk! Monk! Monk! Monk! Monk!"

We Can't Possibly Lose (August 24, 1977)

The last strains of the drum solo echoed in the stands as Richard brought his foot down firmly into the formation for concert. He dressed right and left a final time to reassure himself of his positioning. The standing ovation at the end of the off-the-line did not surprise him. He'd never heard Wagner played with that kind of concentrated power, but now as he stood there, before they'd even played a note, he could hear the crowd gearing up for "Central Park North."

Randy, on the podium, gave the signal for "Horns-Up!" Richard watched him and couldn't help but hear the cheers coming from this Flint crowd.

"Turn 'em on Randy!"

"Take it home Darien Heights!"

"Get your rights Darien Heights."

Randy clenched his fist slightly and mouthed a silent, "All right!" Then vocally he said, "One-two-three-four!"

Richard took his breath during the downbeats and came in strong. He could hear the jazz melody breaking out around him frantically. The attacks went clean and hard until the melody passed to the baritones. In the stands, he could hear, even over the music, chears as the baritone melody rolled forward like a freight truck.


"Give it to them."

Suddenly the baritone line stopped. Then, with the others, he turned his upper body down the line of horns, muffling the sound as a French horn player stepped forward to softly sing the melody line. Eight, ten, counts, Richard played those low whole notes as the French horn finished.

The snare drums behind him started the part on the cowbells, and Richard slowly brought his horn back around. Phil Sahagun and Luke now stood in the middle of the line, trading hot jazz solo lines back and forth as the horn line behind them answered every bar or so. Randy gave them the cues for the accented lines from the podium as the excitement build, as the horns slowly turned their bodies towards the audience until.....

Suddenly the beginning melody returned, and the horns placed their left feet out, in parade rest position, so they could "get into it." Faster and faster, the melody moved in a crescendo that filled that stadium with Dragoon. In their spots, the horns moved at will, playing with all the force within them, and the crowd started to rise as the song built to a furious, sudden ending. The horns snapped down into parade rest.

"WHORREOEOEOEOO!" The crowd yelled instantaneously. Those not already on their feet joined the others. Randy started to give a "horns up" for the next measure, but then shook his head and waited patiently as the applause continued and continued. Richard, knew, then the Five Lakes crowds had finally found out about this corps they'd been hearing for an entire season. He wanted to smile, but instead his face naturally formed into a look, like he'd seen long ago on a film in a high school band room.


Richard kept telling himself not to believe in miracles until they happened, but every score he heard reassured him the Dragoons had won the American Legion State Championship. He could see the Argonauts out of the corner of his eye, dressed in distinctive red, white, and blue cadet, style uniforms. They looked smaller than the Dragoons.

The announcers voice continued, "And in third place, with a score of 72.0, the Flint Warriors."

A muffled echo of applause came from the hometown audience. They could hardly be pleased by this third place finish, and Richard found he felt sorry for Flint. They seemed nice enough people.

"And in second place," the announcer paused. Richard could feel the tension in his shoulders as he gripped his horn. His knuckles would turn white in a moment.

"No first," the old announcer paused, "we have some trophies to give. For the best M&M."

Richard gritted his teeth. He wanted to curse, but he knew that corps rules forbade talking on the field during a finale unless an emergency arose.

"The Flint Warriors." He wondered how Flint would take that. They lost the show but got a nice little piece of metal.

"Top drum line," the announcer said, "to receive the Wiley J. Compost trophy, the Darien Heights Dragoons."

Wild cheers came from the audience, and he could imagine Randy or Bryan coming forward, taking the trophy, saluting, and stepping backward into the colorful line of drum majors.

"Top horn line," the announcer continued, "to receive the Major Alfred Dundee traveling trophy," he paused, "the Darien Heights Dragoons!"

Now Richard knew they'd won the show. They'd taken drums and horns. Even if they'd blown it in M&M, it couldn't be close.

"Now," the announcer's voice paused, "in second place, with a score of... Wait a second, I'll tell you both scores first. Second place has a score of 74.5. First place has a score of 74.6."

A single tenth, Richard thought, the difference between ending a season triumphantly and a final, ironic joke.

"In second place, with a score of 74.5, receiving the Arnold Glastein trophy,..." how long did that pause seem to hold, the whole stadium saying nothing until finally, he took a deep breath the way Randy had taught them:

".......the Darien Heights Dragoons."

A roar came from the crowd that Richard couldn't believe. He swallowed heavily. Hadn't this crowd given them three standing ovations an hour ago? Now they were cheering for:

"Our American Legion State Champions-the Marquette Argonauts."

He could see them in the audience, and to the left the Argonauts started a spontaneous celebration, throwing shakos, plumes, and hugging one another. Like one of those movies, they'd come back from the dead to kill the living.

"%$&^," someone said next to Richard, and he knew it had to be Kevin, and, once the silence broke, others joined in.



"Goddamn those *&^% judges."

"Corps," the announcer said, "will play off the field in reverse order of finish past our state champions."

"Everyone turn around," he heard the message in his ear. He passed it to Kevin, who passed it as "turn the *&^% around."

Randy stood in between the horns and drums. He took deep breaths to keep from losing his control. His entire face looked red. Looking across the circle, Richard could see some of the drummers crying, and he wondered how many horns were crying. With that, he felt a overpowering pressure on his eyes:

"Look," Randy said, "we were screwed, but that's drum corps. Next year, we'll have a DCI top 25 corps and we can laugh at this show, but for now," he hissed through his teeth, "we must keep it together."

Behind them, they could hear several corps playing off.

"When it's our turn to play, we'll play 'Ain't No Mountain.' When we get near the stand, I want you to send that anger through your horn or drum, nowhere else, until it's all, all, all, gone!" He turned quickly, barely able to finish the sentence.

"Our second place corps, the Darien Heights Dragoons." the announcer said, indicating it was time for them to play off. Randy face formed a grimace that he suppressed with his ironically spoken, "One-two-three-four.!"

The horns came in far too loud on the introduction, but Randy made no move to bring them down. They started to move forward in their off-the-field block. The soprano soloists moved to the left of the line, and the sound calmed down just enough so they could be heard.

The melody passed back to the baritones just as Richard's line turned the corner on the edge of the field. He went by the judges box; they'd already gone home, but the crowd of drum corps fans remained to hear the Marquette corps' victory concert. They cheered wildly.

Then he could see the small box of Dragoon fans and parents. He saw his father and mother and his two sisters. He saw the corps mothers who'd chaperoned through the long tour. He saw Mr. Menlo standing with his arms folded across his chest, his head sunken into his chest, apparently absorbed in his own thoughts.

The baritones drove the melody home with driving force, "AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH!"

Then the music broke for a quiet, or more quiet, section. He could see the instructors waiting on the edge of the field. Johnny and Bozo stood fidgeting, and Ken Masure looked like he wanted to hit someone.

The final charge, the baritones and sopranos driving home the melody, came as Randy and Bryan walked over to shake the hands of the drum majors of the Argonauts and the flags dipped forward to salute the Upper Peninsula corps' flag. The sound screamed all around Richard, an ironic restatement of the song's theme of their being no obstacle too big: "AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH, NOTHING CAN KEEP ME, KEEP ME FROM YOU!"

Richard's mind kept saying "We lost. We lost. We lost."

Then it ended, and the horns came down to parade rest, just past the Argonauts and a five minute march from the busses. A single snare drummer played on the edge of his drum to give the Dragoons a tempo as they marched. Over their shoulders, Richard could hear the announcers say:

"Marquette Argonauts, the field is yours."

Monk stood with his wife and youngest child in the corner of the stadium watching the Dragoons leave. He wore the same faded jacket, and appeared to be staring at the stadium lights, his expression unreadable. As the horn line filed past, he nodded his head to Randy and reached deep in his pocket for another cigarette.

Richard knew now that they'd never drink that bottle of champagne.

From the Drum Corps Reporter


By Theodore Skidmore

It was almost like a scene out of one of those old movies, a corps rallying together to barely edge out a victory. The corps was the Marquette Argonauts, folded earlier this year because of a recession in their hometown. The Argonauts regrouped about mid-July and relearned their exact same show from last year. They practiced this show every night and only played two shows in Wisconsin before the American Legion. The blue and white Argonauts looked impressive if familiar (39h, 30d, 30g) in the prelims although they lost to the Dragoons. Though defending champions, they chose to go on in prelim position and pulled the upset of the season, by edging Darien Heights in most of the execution categories to top an inflated sheet of scores....

(From paragraph two)

Many people believed the Darien Heights Dragoons had won the show as they had the prelims. The Dragoons were clean enough throughout, and they had what I'd not seen in their show: excitement. The Dragoons received three standing ovations at their ends of their concert, off-the-line, and finale. With the scores what they were, they have to be wondering, but then again that's drum corps for you.

8/24 Flint, Michigan

Michigan State American Legion Championships prelims

1. Darien Heights Dragoons 74.0
2. Marquette Argonauts 73.8
3. Flint Warriors 72.0
4. Pontiac Lancers 58.5
5. Downriver Knights 57.5
6. Port Huron Patrolmen 55.5
7. Lansing Legion 53.5
8. Oak Park Cadets 48.9
9. Petosky Tornadoes 45.5
10.St. Anthony's Girls 39.5

-----cut-off for finals-----

8/24 Flint Michigan

Michigan State American Legion Championships finals

1. Marquette Argonauts 74.6
2. Darien Heights Dragoons 74.5
3. Flint Warriors 72.0
4. Pontiac Lancers 58.5
5. Down River Knights 57.5
6. Port Huron Patrolmen 55.5
7. Lansing Legion 52.5
8. Oak Park Cadets 48.9
9. Petosky Tornadoes 43.2
10.St. Anthony's Girls 35.0

Al Coda (December 16, 1977)

Richard heard his mother calling to him over the sound of the horns. He rose to his feet and took two steps to the door. His mother looked at him, "How many times are you going to play that record?"

"Mom," he said simply, "The Dragoons are folding."

Her looks softened. "What happened?"

"It's hard to explain. Monk Eastman had this this dream. He was going to take a corps from nothing, little kids, and get them to the DCI in four years. The corps just never had any money. But Monk wanted that dream so bad that he kind of ignored the money part and all that. Monk believed he could make that DCI corps so badly that he made everyone in the corps believe it too. Then...."

His mind wandered over the past three months. It had all seemed so easy there for a while. He'd returned home and school had started. Six days a week he went to school, did his homework, played in the band, and even visited some of his old friends. The seventh day, he reserved for drum corps. Ned or he would drive to those rehearsals and they'd talk about the summer all over again. The fact Dragoons had lost in Flint seemed unimportant because they were going to be a DCI Associate member.

It seemed hard to believe, at first, but when he played Monk's new horn charts, spotted sixty or so horns at each rehearsal, and looked at that pile of contracts on Mr. Menlo's desk, it was easy to believe. Monk and Menlo no longer appeared to talk to one another, but that didn't seem to matter so long as rehearsals went so well. Now, though, it was all gone, and the failures of the past seemed magnified when he thought he'd never march with Dragoons again.

Without the intensity of the Dragoons, one day a week, he didn't know how he could slough through the rest of the week.

His mother sat down on the bed, ready to listen. Richard thought for a second of his sisters. He'd wanted to talk to his mother for so long, to tell her that his sisters had discussed joining Dragoons. He'd worried about what she'd say. Now, well he'd never have to tell her. He took the seat next to his mother and both looked, not at each other, but at the bookshelf with its dog stories, Popular Automobiles, and pastel science fiction books.

"I always did think those drum corps people were a little weird," she said. "They acted so, so crazy, but I really did like them."

Richard nodded though he thought her words sounded like part of some kind of funeral. "Oh come on, Mom, you never liked them because you thought they were going to kill me that first night or take me away."

"Well," she said, "Monk Eastman never seemed all there, even at Flint when I couldn't believe you guys lost."

Richard frowned, "But we did lose, lost what should've been ours." Just like Menlo had said, they'd lost every show.

"Richard," his mother said looking at him, "life can't always be some kind of intense adventure, and good guys don't always win. Besides, do you have to be playing with the Dragoons to be their friends?"

Richard answered, "Um," he paused, "no."

"Then don't sit here moping. Go call somebody and do something. Golf or go shopping or something. The corps will still be folded when you come back. Call Ned."

Richard smiled, "Yeah, I can do that."

His mother said, "All dreams have to end Richard." She stood up and touched his shoulder slightly, "I've got to go make supper," but when she got to the door she turned back to say, "and Richard there are other dreams, you know."


Richard put his trombone back into his hand. He looked around the practice room at Wintergreen high school's senior band. He just couldn't get used to putting less air through a baritone sized mouthpiece, that seemed somehow wrong. Ever since marching season ended for Wintergreen a month before, all the band director ever seemed to be telling Richard was "Richard too loud." He just seemed to get carried away whenever he got to anything that read "ff." He needed to play loud, somehow.

He thought about the marching band for a moment. He'd only made the band at the last minute, auditioning the day after the American Legion. He'd memorized the music. He'd known the drill better than anyone; he'd even told the band director how to improve it. When the day of the big festival came, Richard blew his brains out playing that band show. He'd come off the field in a drum corps high, not smiling, and feeling good about the world.

The moment he got off the field, however, he could already hear the clarinets babbling about the dance and the trumpets laughing because they had blown a passage. They looked with their clean hair and their white faces and Richard, his sweat covering his head, his face red from playing, and they laughed. They laughed, and in a moment his mood evaporated.

Sitting here in the bandroom, he now knew it wasn't their fault it was his. He'd expected them to want something he wanted-to experience something they might not even want to experience.

He looked at the markings on the page: "pp." He didn't know if he could play pianissimo; in the corps they played only "double piano." He put the mouthpiece to his chops and turned away from the music and began picking out a line. First position equaled open, rotor equaled second position. After a minute, he could pick out the "Flying Dutchman," but it sounded in a different key, all wrong. The sound disappeared in a roomful of woodwinds...


"Richard," his sister said, "Ned and Paul are at the door." Richard walked into the living room and let them in. They looked strange in their long, warm coats and hats, out of place in the December night and even more so in the Oldar's brown living room. Jen, Tom, and Philip came behind them, and Richard motioned them into chairs in the living room. Richard wished he could offer them a beer, but no one in his family drank anything harder than coffee, so he'd settled for stocking the refrigerator with a six-pack of cold sodas. They sat facing each other, Tom and Paul on the couch and Richard, Jen, Philip, and Tom on the chairs.

When they'd all sat down, Paul said, "What are you going to do Richard?"

Richard said, honestly, "I don't know."

Ned leaned forward anxiously, "I've heard that the Black Tornadoes need horns."

"You want to drive twelve hours to practice?" Richard said.

"It's not like that," Paul said, "Till the season starts you only come one weekend a month. Then you live there over the summer." He added for Richard's benefit, "a lot of college kids do that."

"I should really," Richard said, "be saving for college and working next summer." College, he thought, is the important thing now. Are there other dreams?

"*&&^," Philip said, "you've got your whole life to work." He put his feet up on the table.

"Dragoons are really finished?" Richard said.

"Well, I've heard that Menlo's declaring the corps bankrupt," Ned explained, "but he might have some kind of reorganization scheme up his sleeve. All the kids are gone anyway."

"They're not fielding anything?"

"Will you get off it Richard!" Tom snapped, "Dragoons are done, finished, dead." He shook his head, "And we don't need releases from a dead corps. We can go anywhere we want."

"But that's not the point," Richard said, "I mean we can go-"

"That is the point," Ned said. "I hate to agree with Tom on anything, but in drum corps you play the best place that'll take you. We ought to go to the best corps that'll take us."

Richard sighed, uncertainly, "Then you'd play for any DCI corps that'd take you?"

Tom put in, "Yes, I would. Dragoons never won a *&^% show, and it's time to go with someone that will win some shows."

Richard turned from Tom's face to Paul's "Is that it, Paul? Let's just go find the winner and go with him? Is that all the matters?" Paul did not look so sure.

Paul shrugged his shoulders, "I just want to go somewhere that's not gonna fold in the next two weeks." Paul had played with Centurions a season also.

At that point Richard remembered the soda in the other room. "Does anybody want a pop?"

"Yes," they yelled almost at the same instant, and Paul added, "and don't shake them up."

As soon as Tom took his soda, he started to take the tab, but Richard's hand shot out, "Wait."

Tom smiled and said, "Oh yeah."

They all pointed their cans above the living room furniture, and Richard said, "Start from you Paul." Splat, splat, splat, splat, splat -delay. They all turned to laugh as Ned purposely opened his can a split second too late.

Philip took a sip and said, "The trouble with you Richard is you make everything so &^%$ complicated. I'm going to college same as you next year. If I can borrow the money, then so can you."

Tom slurped and added, "There are just winners and losers. The Dragoons were losers. Let's go join some winners."

Richard sighed, depressed, "Winners and losers." As he said that last word, he looked at Jen again. She had her hair combed into a long ponytail, and she was actually wearing something he'd never seen on her before: make-up. She looked and frowned as Tom spoke. Richard said:

"What do you think Jen?"

"I'd like to be with a winner," she said, "but I've heard that the Scarlet Brigadiers are desperate for experienced horn players-"

"Oh no," Tom declared, "the Scarlet Brigadiers?" Richard remembered the usual struggle the Brigadiers went through about this time of year to find anyone willing to play another season. Usually a corps or two would fold, and with any luck, they'd field another championship-sized corps of some type. After his little visit to them, he had his own reservations about their corps. This last season they'd lost their DCI membership and their Canadian title, so they might be ready for revenge or....

"Wait a second," Ned said, "are you talking about going to a corps that makes every season a rebuilding season, that throws out a whole drill in June and learns a new one on the tour?"

"They never go broke," Philip observed.

Jen, exasperated by the interruptions, spoke louder, "They're just as desperate as when Randy and Luke marched with them two years ago."

Ned, suddenly realizing the irony, started to chuckle, "You don't mean that Randy and Luke are-"

Jen nodded, "going to march with them again. Randy's probably going to write the music for them. With maybe fifteen or so horns from the Dragoons and few more here and there...?" She held her hand out indicating them.

Ned chuckled grimly and said, "Do you mean to tell me that you're willing to drive to Toronto for a corps that's a long shot instead of going to a corps that never gets lower than 8th in the DCI?"

Ned's voice showed how unconvinced he was. Then Ned looked at the others' faces and realized what their looks meant. When he saw they were serious, he stopped laughing. Suddenly he changed the conversation:

"Where are the other instructors going?"

Jen answered, "Masure's going back to Illinois to work with a little corps called Lynois Cavaliers. Bozo graduates in June. Bozo and Johnny are going to work with a Catholic high school band in this new competitive marching band circuit they're organizing."

"Can't you see them now," Richard joked, "they'll be standing beneath the windows with these band kids and the nuns watching them."

Paul imitated Johnny's grand gesture with the hands, "Oh no, the NUNS ARE OUT!"

Tom said, "Some nun will probably tell Bozo to get a haircut."

"Maybe," Richard said, "It's a kind of divine punishment."

"Yeah," Jen said, "for giving us all Hell."

For a moment, they just laughed at the picture of those two trying to direct a group of teenagers intent, not on the comic duo's antics, but schoolbooks and afterschool activities. Jen took another sip of soda, however, and brought the focus of the conversation back.

"I hear," Jen said, "it's beautiful in Toronto in the summer."

Tom rubbed his chin in thought.

"Well," Philip said, "I don't really want to go to Wisconsin all by myself."

Jen smiled at Paul in triumph, "You can always go to Wisconsin with Ned."

Paul shook his head, "Wherever you guys are going," he pointed his finger at the group, "you can count me in. Where are you going Richard?"

"If it can be done and I can still go to college, I want to stay together, playing or not," his throat tightened with emotion, "with the rest of you whether it's Toronto or Wisconsin or," he started to say Hell, "or Flint or Marquette."

Richard raised his can and the others met him in the center of the table, except Tom and Ned. Ned still shook his head and started to laugh:

"Goddamn you all must be crazy talking about playing for the Scarlet Brigadiers."

Paul took a sip and a troubled look went across his face. "What about Monk?"

For an entire minute, no one said anything, thinking about the man they'd left sitting in his living room with his legs and head folded inward. Finally, Ned said.

"You know, he could go anywhere he wants. He's as good as any of these *&^% music major horn instructors. He just wants too much. He wants to take a corps from scratch; he wants it all his."

"When I was there," Philip said, "he was saying he'd never instruct another corps again."

Tom held up his, "Four up; four down. Maybe he should just give it up."

Richard sighed. "Monk will be back. Give him a year or two. By the time we're all old enough to march in a senior corps Monk will have another corps going just as good as Dragoons. As long as there's drum corps in Michigan, Monk Eastman will be there."

"*&&^," Ned said, "you've only known Monk a year. What makes you so sure you know him."

"I'm just tired," Tom said, slamming his can on the table, "of hearing all this Dragoons *&^%. What was so *&^% great about us anyway. We never won a single *&^% show the whole season. So what! It's all gone, just like the Centurions. The Dragoons are dead, dead, dead."

Richard stood up and crossed the room. He took a single record from its case. He knew now that once he put that record back away, he probably wouldn't play it very much any more. He didn't want to wear out the grooves. Besides, he thought he'd be very busy after today. Carefully, he lay the needle on the automatic setting and sat back down in his chair.

"It has nothing to do with winning or losing shows," Richard said, as the music began. "You want to know how I know Monk Eastman will be back? Just listen."

The stereo began to speak quietly with the voice of forty-five horns. A slow chord built through a crescendo, then stated its melody. Just as suddenly, the music faded and a pair of horns cried softly the tune to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

He watched their faces as they heard this final song of their show. Tom remained stiff and Philip, his eyes started to dip. Paul looked squarely at the stereo. Ned did not look at the unmoving stereo but at Richard so that their eyes met, each waiting to see the other's reaction. Ned still held his arms tight across his chest, apparently dead set against going to another "loser corps." Jen looked out the window so that no man could see what she saw out in the darkness.

Tom looked at Richard and swallowed. Finally, he nodded, meaning he would go with them also.

The melody built up. The baritones drove home the tune while the sopranos played the same line half above. Then came the two measure break as the horns turned to the sides, and Richard could see the audience in Ned's eyes watching as the horns turned to build from almost nothing to an unbearable heat, and that rush went up and down his spine, that rush he'd felt so many times on the field, that came from them and not the music.

Richard knew then that this wasn't an ending, at least not for him. There were other dreams, lots of other dreams, and he would try to grasp them in his hands, hold them like his horn. Maybe some would evaporate, prove to be only air, and some would rust, but he would try to reach them just as they'd tried to win a State Championship. And it was the trying for those dreams, even more than attaining them, that really mattered. That much he'd learned from corps, that and that some people could mean so much to him, more than any dreams.

Richard was lucky, and he knew it. College, career, whatever he wanted, it could come to him if he tried hard enough. But Monk, Richard knew, corps was all Monk had, his only dream, and that's why Richard knew that Monk would be back with another corps, another show, another vision, as long as he could find kids and parents to share his dreams.

When he saw the tears in Ned's eyes, he wanted to turn off the sound. He'd made his point, and he knew his friend would go with him, but instead he let the Dragoon's build towards their triumphant, powerful finale, and for a second, he remembered all the other horns, the drums, the parents, the guard, he'd never probably never see again. He let the last chord echo off the walls of his living room and heard the announcer's final send-off:

"There they go-the Darien Heights Dragoons.."

He put the record back into the jacket, the jacket back into the rack, and closed the rack securely. He looked at the others, smiling, frowning, crying, even laughing, but their eyes seeing something else, something beyond themselves. He wanted to say, "corps never die. As long as there are records, and movies, and memories, they live forever. They may fold, but they never die."

But he didn't say that, he didn't need to, for they already knew.

The End

Pud: Drum Corps Language of the 1970s

*&&^^^ or **&&^ (n,v,adj, or adv): any one of many curse words used in drum corps sentences.

A corps or class A (adj or n): the second highest category of drum corps competition. Top "A" corps might reach the low seventies.

al coda (n): at the coda, i.e. the ending.

American International Open (n): the now defunct two class championship held in Butler Pennsylvania, an important show in the seventies.

American Legion (n) 1. An organization of American veterans of World War I. 2. The championships sponsored by the American Legion. The American Legion national was considered second only to the VFW in the sixties, and the Legion state championships often retained status as "the" state championship in the 1980s.

B corps or class B (n or adj): the third highest, usually lowest, category of drum corps competition. High scores might reach a fifty.

baritone (n): 1. a large, trumpet-shaped, valve and rotor instrument playing in the same range as a trombone or baritone horn. 2. the player of such an instrument.

basic block (n): see block.

bass (n): bass drum.

bass drum (n): 1. a bathtub shaped percussion instrument struck with very large sticks. 2. the player of such an instrument.

bell (s)(n): 1. xylophone or other key instrument played in a drum corps 2. the player of such an instrument. 3. the end of a horn through which air passes.

big name corps (n): a famous corps, likely a DCI corps or one with a long history of excellence.

Black Lancers (n): a big name corps from New York.

blacks (n): a term for black, laced shoes, used by those who don't want to just call their footgear "shoes" if another corps has "bucks."

block (n): 1. a square or rectangular formation. 2. a drill involving such a formation.

book (n): the musical selections played in a corps' show.

booster club (n): the parents and other interested adults involved in touring with a corps, chaperoning, and raising money.

box, the (n): the announcer's booth, used by the GE judges to see the impact of the corps show most effectively. Hence the command "horns to the box" gives those judges a good blast from the horns.

bucks (n): white, laced shoes popular with corps.

bugle (n): instruments played by drum corps horn lines. Since all corps horns are technically "bugles," they are referred to by their range, i.e. "soprano, contra," etc. Corps instruments evolved from being traditional army bugles, with no valves, rotors, or piston, to three-valve instruments used in the eighties. The seventies marked a transition period with some horns having two valves and others still stuck with the inferior valve and rotor.

business manager (n): the person charged with balancing a corps' books and raising as much as $400,000, in today's dollars, to tour.

Butler (n): the American International Open.

Centurions (n): former Michigan American Legion champions and a corps known as much for its off-the-field antics as its playing.

charge (n): any musical climax accompanied by a move forward.

chops (n): lips or embouchure.

circuit (n): an organization formed generally by corps managers and interested outsiders to hold and promote shows in their area.

classical music (n): music by symphonic composers. While a number of corps marched to classical tunes, the classical language did not penetrate drum corps as using Latin terms seemed to imply, at some subconscious level, that drum corps was not own unique form of art. Band musicians, after all, used classical terms.

clean (v and adj): 1. to eliminate errors. 2. relatively without error.

cleaning point, the (n): the point to which a person's feet were supposed to rise in uniformity with everyone else's so there would no "ticks." In most corps, this meant the inside of the knee.

color guard (n): the non-playing members of a corps, other than the drum major, generally including rifles, flags, sometimes sabers, and the American flag section. During the winters, color guards have their own competitions.

color guard sergeant or captain (n): the color guard commander; equivalent of the drum major for the guard.

color presentation or color pres (n): a number required by old VFW rules in which the American flag section comes to front of the field. The DCI eliminated the color presentation rules because the suitable songs had been played to death.

company front (n): a formation in which all members form a single line with elbows touching. In drum corps, this generally refers to the horn line formations.

concert or concert (n): a musical selection played while the corps remains stationary. Full concentration on music usually makes this the most exciting numbers of any corps' show.

contract (n): a piece of paper signed before a member marches a show with a corps promising that he will only march with that corps for the coming season. Corps sometimes have members sign contracts as early as September for the next season. These pieces of paper were introduced to keep smaller, growing corps from becoming unintentional feeder corps to better, predatory corps.

corps (n): drum corps.

content analysis, musical analysis, percussion analysis, etc. (n): Judging categories introduced in the seventies to rate a corps' show according to the difficulty of their music or drill and reward those attempting the most difficult shows. Generally, not a significant part of the total score in this era.

contra (n): 1. a large, bell-front horn playing in the same range and sharing a mouthpiece with a tuba. 2. a player of such an instrument, generally possessing considerable shoulder strength.

curtain (n): an imaginary line running across the field, according to those who see the corps show as musical theatre.

cymbal (n): 1. a percussions instrument consisting of two half trash can lids smashed together, generally played by the youngest percussionists. 2. the player of such an instrument.

Darien Heights Dragoons (n): see Dragoons.

DCI (n): Drum Corps International

DCI Associate Members (n): one of the corps in places 13 to 25 at the DCI championship. Associate members are guaranteed about half the amount of appearance money as full DCI Members, receive some say in the rules-making sessions, and get on the records.

DCI Member (n): one of the corps that places 1 to 12 at the DCI championship. Besides making "the finals," DCI members are guaranteed a certain amount of prize money for each show they play, regardless of place, get to vote on DCI rules, and get on the records. Membership helps ensure financial survival and good recruiting.

DCI Tour (s)(n): a series of shows designed to maximize the number of performances and minimize costs by running in a geographical sequence from one city to the next.

d.c. al coda (n): a musical notation meaning to return to the beginning, play from the beginning to the "coda" sign, and then skip to the "coda," the ending.

Dragoon (n): 1. a member of an elite cavalry unit, the term faded after the Revolutionary War era. Monk Eastman selected the term for the Darien Heights corps because battles took place outside Detroit during the War of 1812. Records show that the governor of the Detroit territory, William Hull, tried to dress his troops in bright uniforms of "gold and green," but that few of his homegrown militia could afford the expense. During the war, Michigan troops did not distinguish themselves and surrendered, with Hull and Detroit. After Perry's famous Lake Erie victory, William Henry Harrison's army marched north to free the city and defeated the fleeing British in Ontario at the Battle of the Tams. Ironically, the only "cavalry" troops mentioned in this series of battles are the mounted Kentucky Rifles, the driving force behind Harrison's victory, but they wouldn't have called themselves "Dragoons," nor dressed in green and gold, nor drilled in Michigan, nor hailed from Darien Heights. 2. a corps from Darien Heights, Michigan.

dress (v): to look right or left to make sure that one is in line.

drill (n and v): 1. all the non-playing activities of a corps for its show. 2. to practice such non-playing activities

drill analysis (n): see content analysis

drum and bugle corps (n): 1. a unit of as many as 120 horns, drums, and guard that performs an integrated show of marching and music in a series of competitions. 2. the marching drum corps plus all of its parent supporters, booster club, and anyone feeling involved enough to give money or time and buy a corps jacket. 3. more than one drum corps; the plural is the same as the singular.

drum corps (n): drum and bugle corps. This term, however, is usually used instead of "drum and bugle corps."

drum corps bum (n): a person who spends all his time hanging around drum corps, usually one corps, and having no visible means of financial support.

Drum Corps International (n): 1. an annual championship, considered to be "the" drum corps championship, held yearly in a different area of America or Canada

Drum Corps International (n): 2. an organization consisting of representatives of the DCI Member and Associates plus members of various regional circuits that meets to formulate rules, confer, and further the interests of drum corps, especially member corps, around the world.

drum corps nut (n): 1. a person who talks drum corps day and night, believes that "Jesus Christ Superstar" opened at a show in Kansas, and arranges all his vacations around the DCI tour schedule. 2. Anyone married, engaged, or involved with such a person.

drum major (n): the on-the-field director of a drum corps to whom playing members look for tempos. Drum majors may be genuinely knowledge assistant instructors or, in corps that have excellent off the field staff, just someone who looks good in tight pants.

Edison Legion (n): one of the best Eastern corps.

execution (n): the judging categories that access horns, drums, and M&M by subtracting from a perfect score for each mistake, "tick," found. There is "horn X," "drum X," and "M&M X."

exit (n): finale.

feeder corps (n): 1. a corps formed by a "big name corps" in order to train members for the corps. 2. a corps constantly preyed upon by a better corps so that it is not allowed to improve whose members and instructors resent this relationship to the predators.

file (n): a line defined by each person standing behind another.

finale (n): the last number of a corps show, usually marked by a demure tune, the final gun sounding, and a final dramatic conclusion.

finals (n): a night show following a series of prelim shows in which only the top corps from the prelims perform in reverse order of finish: the best corps goes on last.

firsts (n): the subsection of baritones or sopranos playing the highest, usually most difficult, musical parts.

Five Lakes Circuit (n): 1. An organization formed to promote drum corps in the Michigan area and schedule shows. The name refers to the five Great Lakes, and member corps hail from Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario. 2. The shows arranged by such an organization.

flag (n): 1.a piece of metal or wood with something strung on the end of it that can be twirled or moved to create visual excitement.

flags (n): 1a. Corps flags come in three sizes: large, usually called "pikes," that are too long and clumsy for anything other than harpooning whales; medium, which can be twirled; and the small size introduced in the seventies with which entire routines can be performed. Flags are held by pouches that descend from over the shoulders with straps. 2. The players of such implements.

flank (n): side, left or right depending on the situation.

Flint Warriors (n): See Warriors.

fold (v): to go out of business. This was a word frequently used in the seventies.

four for nothing (n): four counts given before beginning a maneuver or playing.

French horn, mellophone, or middle horn (n): 1. a bugle playing in the same range as a band French horn. There are technical differences between a French horn and mellophone bugle, and some corps preferred, and bought, one or the other. A horn instructor caught with some of each called them "middle horns." 2. the player of such an instrument.

GE (n): general effect.

general effect or GE (n): the category of the judge's scoring sheet that evaluates the amount of aesthetic pleasure given by a corps drums(drum GE), horns(horn GE), or M&M(M&M GE). Since this category is so subjective, it causes innumerable arguments between fans, judges, and instructors. Originally, the VFW scoring scheme weighed GE as only 10 points and execution as 90 points, so many boring corps, playing simpler shows, scored higher. By the seventies, DCI rule makers had made GE scores account for nearly 50 points, and controversies raged.

guard (n): color guard. This term was used about equally with "color guard."

gut (n): the lower portion of the lungs above the waist, called "diaphragm" by well-meaning band directors. Corps instructors liked the hardness of the word "gut" and its clear distinction from other meanings of "diaphragm."

horn (n): 1. any brass instrument used in corps. 2. the player of such an instrument, never called a "bugler."

hype (n or v): 1. a feeling of being totally involved in a corps show and inspired. 2. to have the feeling of "living the show." This term originated with jazz musicians, but in jazz "hype" generally refers to an individual playing a solo he "improvises," makes up as he goes along; in corps "hype" is a very social feeling.

jazz (n): 1. a form of American classical music. As more corps started playing jazz, jazz vocabulary terms started to replace and augment military terms, which had mainly dealt with marching.

judge (n): a uniformed, certified representative of one of the judging associations evaluating corps performance. Originally, the VFW and American Legion certified nearly all judging; by the 70s, the DCI or attendant circuits certified most judges, and judges tended to be music professionals and not just corps followers or veterans.

Traditional VFW judging accorded "X" 90 points and "GE" only 10. In DCI judging, GE judges sat in "the box" while "X" and various analysis judges roved the field listening for errors.

junior corps (n): corps in which member must not have turned 22 by September 1 in order to march. By 1977, there were some 300 junior corps left spread across the United States and Canada.

kettle drum (n): a. a tympani drum marched by a corps with a strap to supports its massive girth 2. the player of such an instrument.

lick (n): a musical phrase. The term is borrowed from jazz.

line, the (n): 1. the horn line as a whole. 2. a musical phrase. 3. a section of the horn line, such as the baritones. 4. a marching formation.

M&M (n): marching and maneuvering.

Marching and Maneuvering (n): the judging category that evaluates drill.

marking time (v): marching in place with the instep of the foot travelling to the "cleaning point," either the inside of the opposing knee,(most corps) or the thigh (Dragoons).

mellophones (n): see French horns.

merger (n): a joining together of two corps into one. In the seventies, mergers were mostly for membership growth in the hope the resulting corps could compete better.

middle horns (n): see French horns.

military (n): the armed forces. The military formed the original basis for drum corps and the vocabulary. Early corps included men that played bugles for the services and were often sponsored by American Legion or VFW posts.

musical analysis (n): see content analysis.

night show, the (n): the finals.

OTL (n): off the line, the first number of a corps show.

oblique (n): a diagonal line as in the phrase "dress the *&&^ oblique!"

off-the-field (n): the final number of a corps' show. Under VFW rules corps had to actually leave the field at the end of their show and finish playing behind the far goal line. "Finale" or "exit" supplanted this term.

off-the-line (n): the first number of a corps' show called "off the line" because, under VFW rules, a corps had to start on the goal line. The term continued to be used because announcers liked the active sound of it better than any substitute such as "preparing to play."

on (adj): really playing well. The term was supplanted by "hype" which could a noun or verb or even an adjective. Used in sentences such as "they're really ON tonight!"

on the line (n): part of a traditional corps introduction. The formula goes. "are the judges ready....is the corps ready....on the line....under the field direction of....from.....the......"

open class (n): the top drum corps competition class as coined by the U.S. Open and adopted by the D.C.I. A top open class corps of the 70s could hit above a ninety with a show that would defy rational analysis.

parade rest (n): a position assumed with legs separated at shoulder width and arms crossed over the chest with either sticks, flag, horn, or just chest underneath.

plume (n): an ostrich feather stuck into a shako.

prelims (n): a one, two, or three day contest, usually during the day, in which corps compete in reverse order of when they enter. Scores are announced and posted as quickly as they are added, not at the end, so fans can see who has a chance to make the finals and guess at their eventual position between trips to the concessions stand

production number (n): a number not the concert, OTL, or finale, traditionally an upbeat number in the manner of a Broadway musical "production number" leading into either the concert or the finale.

provincials (n): Ontario and Quebec province championships.

pud (n): 1. the grimy substance left on the inside of a mouthpiece after a day of playing hard in blistering heat. 2. fecal matter.

push (n): a high point in the music; may or may not be a "charge."

rank (n): 1. a line defined by each member standing to the side of another. 2. a group of horns or guard that shares most of their drill. Usually such a rank has one player that takes charge of rehearsing and helping them.

releases (n): a piece of paper that negates a contract and allows a person to play with another corps. A corps that officially folds is considered to have released all its members.

riff (n): a repeated passage; this is a jazz term.

rifle (n): a piece of white or black wood or plastic designed to resemble an actual rifle and twirled or tossed with one or two hands by a member of a corps color guard. A corps rifle cannot fired, a good precaution when the judging is poor 2. the player of such an implement.

rote method (n): a way of teaching a horn part by showing the fingering, playing a note, and having the learners do the same. The rote method was extinct by the seventies as most horn instructor took the time to teach new horns that didn't come from bands how to read music.

rotor (n): a mechanical contraption with the same effect as a valve except actuated by a long lever, a deterrent to potential corps members used to playing on trumpets or baritone horns unless they desperately want to march. A good rotor worked 70% of the time.

run-through (n): a practice performance of an entire show.

Scarlet Brigadiers (n): a Toronto-based former DCI Member and Associate corps with a reputation for "stealing horns" and hard-drinking. The Scarlet Brigadeers made the DCI finals three years in a row and only narrowly missed the finals in 1976 due to a very poor score in M&M X.

seconds (n): a subsection of the baritone or sopranos playing beneath the firsts and above the thirds. As many corps parts are chords, the seconds often determine if a chord is major or minor.

senior corps (n): a corps whose members(in theory) are all eighteen before September 1 of their performing season. By the seventies, only two dozen or so senior corps remained, almost all huddled in the Middle States area. Senior corps competed in their own shows and championships, the DCA, the equivalent of the DCI. As adults, seniors didn't have the time to play shows as difficult or clean them as much as the juniors, but more experienced players often made the very top senior corps as entertaining as top junior corps. The senior corps shows had a certain "beer festival" atmosphere that corps fans either hated or loved.

show (n): 1. a drum corps member's individual music and drill, usually referred to as "my show" or "your show." 2. an entire drum corps musical and drill presentation, usually referred to as "the show." 3. Any musical contest involving drum corps, usually referred to as "tonight's show," "next week's show," etc.

show business (n): the American musical theatre. In the seventies, corps discovered their ability to reproduce Broadway and Hollywood musicals and started to swipe vocabulary from Broadway. The basic conceit was that the corps show was like a musical with horns. Thus we have words like "staging," "the curtain," etc.

slide (n or v): 1. a movement in which the upper body remains facing forward, usually towards the front of the field, while the lower body marches in a different direction, often on an oblique. 2. to perform such a maneuver.

snare (n): 1. a high-pitched drum with pieces of metal, snares, on the bottom to make it sound like it's saying "shhhh." 2. a player of such an instrument, considered to be one of the elite in the drum line. A corps' potential, in the seventies, was often measured by totalling its horns and counting its snares.

sopranos (n): 1. a trumpet-sized bugle sharing a mouthpiece and range with that instrument. 2. a player of such an instrument.

sops (n): sopranos

staging (n): the way in which a show presents a show to the audience in the "Off Broadway" school of show design.

tenors (n): 1. drums basically like a snare, but without the snare. Corps assembled groupings of different sized tenors so that a single tenor player could play different notes. Tenors were differentiated according to the number of drums lashed together from "doubles," to "triples," to "quints," and, the back-breaker, "octs." 2. The player of such an instrument, always referred to as a "double," "triple," etc. and never as a "tenor."

thirds (n): sopranos or baritones playing the lowest, and usually simplest, parts. Thirds were considered very important because they played the roots of chords, and without them, a corps would not have that "full sound."

tick (n): a mistake.

tickless (adj): without error, a theory more than a reality.

total show concept (n): the idea that horns, drums, music, etc. ought to build the entire show into a unified, artistic whole. This resulted in corps playing ballets, operas, or symphonies and even involved handing around leaflets to explain the show. Detractors said, "If you can't just see and enjoy, it's not drum corps."

tunic (n): the uniform top, usually worn over a corps t-shirt or, on hot days, as little as possible.

U.P. (n): the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the habitat of hearty people, deer, and few drum corps.

U.S. Open (n): The biggest non-D.C.I. show of the year, held in Marion, Ohio, with "Class A" and "Open class."

VFW (n): 1. Veterans of Foreign Wars, an organization of U.S. veterans that sponsored many drum corps and wrote the rules followed by most drum corps until 1972. The VFW Championship was considered the only national championship. With the formation of the DCI, the VFW's influence waned although the states' VFW championships remained important shows in many states. 2. The national championship show itself.

Warriors (n): 1. A number of Indian tribes lived in the Genesse Valley. The Warriors are specifically named after the Humagumawugi branch of the generally peaceful Ottawa tribe. They did a little farming and did not participate in the Indian atrocities of the War of 1812. After the war, the tribe found they no longer possessed the title to their lands, but lingered on, becoming weakened by disease and alcoholism. Some politicians advocated sending the remaining Humagumawugi to the Indian Territories, but none were found to be transported as they'd all died or been absorbed. Their ancient tribal burial ground is now a Buick factory. 2. A Flint drum and bugle corps, named after the tribe above, competing in class A.

water (v): to simplify.

Afterward: NinteenYears in the Making

Every once in a while, I'll be talking to a new acquaintance, and I'll mention drum corps. That used to happen to me within ten minutes of meeting that person; now it takes a month or two, but sooner or later I always mention it. The acquaintance will ask: "What is a drum corps?"

I never have a good answer for that. If I say, "it's like a marching band," I know that person will not understand exactly what I mean, nor can I say, "it's like a fraternity." It always seemed to me that someone ought to write some work of fiction or non-fiction that would explain drum corps well enough that an outsider could get a "feel" for drum corps.

It seems like I was explaining drum corps to my friends when I was very young and my father used to take me to shows. While my friends were imagining themselves as great baseball players or models or something, I was imagining myself as the drum major of a "big name corps" and even inventing whole circuits of imaginary drum corps.

These past thirty years, then, I've waited patiently for someone to write "the great American drum corps novel." I'm afraid that drum corps people are not literary-minded enough to be interested in writing a novel of this type because most were more musicians. About 1990, I decided, if anyone was going to write about drum corps, for better or worse, it might have to be Daniel R. Fruit. So while this book is meant to introduce drum corps to neophytes, it's also designed as a celebration for old corps veterans.

This isn't my first attempt to tell this story. During my senior year at college, I wrote a drum corps story for my creative writing class. I only got a "B" on the assignment. I rewrote the story, and I still only got a "B." I gave up, after this, for ten years. Every once in a while, however, I'd tell someone "Some day I'm going to write a drum corps novel. Some day."

I really starting gearing up for this book about seven years ago.. My first attempt was a book called "Old Corps Stories." I was going to write a whole bunch of stories about a single corps, each story seen through the eyes of a different character. The project collapsed when I realized that the central vision of the one corps kept fading because the characters had their own lives which, off the field, diverged rapidly; they shared only corps. While the book might have been entertaining for veterans, anyone not knowing about drum corps would be totally lost.

So I started to work on BUGLES, and I found I myself dreaming of marching again, like I used to when I was on tour. One night, I had this particularly vivid dream that this senior corps was going on the field without me. They said, "Come on! We need you."

All I could reply was "My chops are busted from that bike accident. My eyes are 20-900. I've got work to do," and when I woke up, they'd loaded their imaginary busses and gone. Then, I knew I had to finish WHEN THE BUGLES CALL MY NAME. I centered the book around a single person, Richard, not a strong hero or a genius, someone knowing nothing about corps at the start, the kind of ordinary person who filled most drum corps lines. I filled the book with real incidents that I remembered with surprising clarity, and mostly based my characters on people whom I loved, hated, and marched with. I wanted the reader to experience what drum corps was actually like. Drum corps veterans may say, "it wasn't like that for me." My answer to that is to encourage them to write down their stories also. After all, a Marquette Argonaut would certainly have a different tale to tell.

Drum corps is a medium of sight, sound, and feeling, which no writer can reproduce. Though this may not be "the great drum corps novel," I've done my best to repay my debts to those who inspired me, and at this point, I can only say, with Richard:

"After this, nothing will ever seem too hard"

Corps dismissed!

The Original Back Cover of the Novel


So That's Drum Corps?

"Oh God I feel tired," Richard thought as he picked up the 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 for not having drunk that soda before the show, or he'd be barfing now.

He heard the drum major's voice, "Hornnnns up!"


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."


Right. Left. Right left. His eyes looked over her shoulder at the florescent lights flashing overhead. This dancing all seemed like marching somehow. He could feel the clunk of their heels on the floor, and he felt a sudden gladness just to be moving, a strange sensation of being wrapped in motion with the music that he'd only felt before on the field.....


Ned said, "A year in a drum corps is like six years in a marching band."


It all seemed so beautiful, so right. Strangely, marching his own show, he felt more attached to the others than ever before. He knew Monk Eastman was standing out their somewhere on the sidelines seeing, for the first time, his vision, their vision, the Darien Heights Dragoons.


"On the line," the announcer said, "under the field direction of Randy Wiasnak, the Darien Heights Dragoons!"


The "great drum corps novel" unfolds in this story of friendship and growing up. Richard Oldar joins a struggling drum and bugle corps, the Darien Heights Dragoons, led by the seemingly crazy Monk Eastman. As the corps struggles from the dregs of their class towards their goal of winning the state American Legion Championship, Richard struggles to find his place in the corps and its place in him. Along the way, he learns about more than just music and marching: he learns about himself.

Put on your shako, tie up those bucks, grab your horn, fall in line, come to attention, for


$8 obo Laramie, Witney, and Barney