The Goose Against Marching Band Battle Royale

Ah, late summer. It brings back memories of that new school supply smell, long evening shadows, the quest for autumn shoes, and the foot-ache and dread that was... band camp.

I suppose it's no surprise to any of you that I was a Bandie. In fact, my particular brand of dorkage almost definitely assured it.

Think about it: what do you do with a tall, gawky, over-achieving teen girl who trips over her own two feet and would rather be invisible?

Why, put her in an unflattering uniform complete with a hat plume shaped like a guinea pig... stuff a flute in her hand... and shove her out onto a football field in front of thousands of her peers and neighbors!

It's so obvious!

And band camp was the year's precursor to all that was guinea-pig-plumes and white rubber spats. It was one long week of summer, filled to the brim with marching, music practice, field formations and...


Hundreds of them.

Yes, nine months out of the year, Edgar Allen Poe High School Marching Band (name changed to protect the innocent) held sway over the field outside of our place of higher learning...

And the other three months, it was home to three hundred honking, flapping, pooping and snapping Canada Geese.

With extra emphasis on those last two items.

The first day was usually the worst. The obligatory eews and Ohmigods from the woodwinds as we took our first unavoidable steps in goose guano... The territorial honks of hatred and disenfranchisement from the feathered Canadian squatters...

It pitted flautist against fowl, baritone against bird, in a determined play for power.

But usually, after several hours of 60 teens pushing 'em back, pushing 'em back, waaaay back-- and hooting and tooting louder than they ever could-- the geese would get the message. They'd concede it was a battle well fought, and graciously clear off for other fields. Like the one in front of Rico's Mexicale Casa.

Until one year, these winged wonders had apparently had enough. They weren't going to accept our Eminent Domain. No, folks-- they tossed down some feathers in front of our poo-covered tennies and they said, "Bring it." And that was the year of the Goose Against Marching Band Battle Royale.

That Band Camp started like any other one, as I recall. With flautist Krissy McCartney trying to find quality nail painting time at parade rest... Angela Armstrong rolling down the hill with her bassdrum at least once... And the Color Guard in a quest for independence and personalized flair, not quite willing to bow down to the idea of synchronization...

But as we learned our moves on the field, and crisped our skins under the blazing August sun, our beaked bystanders had not cleared off per usual. No, instead, they hung about critiquing our formations, assessing our tactics, and analyzing our weak points.

And the weakest point was apparently saxophone player Doug Minnelli. Doug, like many of us, had joined marching band less for the love of music and more for the rockin' band trip to Disney World. This was proven in his playing. Squeaking by as a second chair player, he also squeaked in terms of tone. And perhaps it was this that caught the eyes and ears of those feathered fiends.

Where Day One might have involved assessment and analysis of our protocols, Day Two they launched the attack. It started with six geese singling out Doug in particular, charging at him with wings flapping and beak snapping.

Doug retreated with a bob-and-weave move, running back into the ranks to hide in the relative safety of the tubas.

At first, we thought this was all pretty funny, since none of us were really keen on Doug's playing, either.

"Hey, Doug, maybe they think you're one of them! Maybe it's a girl goose. Better be nice to her, this could be your only chance for a girlfriend!" his fellow saxes taunted.

But each day, these protected predators continued their quest for field domination, focusing their energies on us all, but in particular on Doug Minnelli with the kind of cold calculation rival hockey teams use to wear down a star player.

Five days. Five days of goose-stepping to the latest Olympic anthem and Neil Diamond's "America" while dodging biting beaked fury.

By day three, Doug was developing an eye twitch that interfered with his music reading. By day four, we were all having nightmares about great monsters with razor-sharp talons and vice-like jaws, where our imminent demise would be preceded by a deep, hellish honk.

Eventually, we ended up spending our time inside in Orchestra Practice. Our bandleader, Mr. J., said it was because we'd be doing a few special indoor competitions this year. But we all wondered if that hadn't just been our director's way of regrouping without conceding failure. Those geese would enjoy their meadow until the frost was in the air and they'd gladly choose to leave it behind for warmer climes.

Leaving the final score-- Canada Geese: 100. Marching Band: one giant goose egg.

Vote for this post at Humor-blogs, where you might just get goosed, but probably not in the same way.


Alice said...

I'll admit that I laughed at "band camp" first. And then when you told us you played the flute..I could only think of 'American Pie'. ROFL. What DID you do at band camp?

And after I finished chuckling at that...I could only shake my head and snicker at poor Doug. You created some great mental imagery here! Is there any chance you have a pic of yourself in the guinea pig plumes?
And thanks for the kind words. I can't quit now anyway since Pokemon Master Nick is just finishing up my new look and I already forked over the $$ for it. I think Babycakes would kill me know. ; )

Da Old Man said...

I absolutely can't relate to this post. In High School, I was a jock. Oh yeah. I played varsity--second board on the Chess Team, 3 years running.

Unknown said...

Alice- Ah, band camp is not in the sense anything like camping. It really should be called "Intensive Pre-School-Session Week Long Band Practice."

It's from very early in the morning until about 4pm. And it involves learning the marching band routines from half-time, as well as all the associated music, parade marching, and then the pieces the band would play in orchestra.

We'd go home each night with sore legs and feet, because we'd be standing most of the day in the sun.

It was a lot of work, but it usually helped us get up-to-speed for the football games and competitions.

There may be some pics of me somewhere in my band uniforms. I'll have to see.

DaOldMan- Oh, well, then actually I'm surprised at your openmindedness of even COMMENTING on the web site of a former nerd like me. Gosh, I mean, you first-string Chess guys used to beat the tar out of us bandies... :)

Anonymous said...

At least your band director could whip you all into shape. My director tried it twice during band practice and threw her hands up. Phew, we managed to get out of that one. I was in woodwinds too, with one of those stupid clarinets. You know it was the darnedest thing, every football game the grease on the cork would freeze up or something and I'd have to quit playing to retrieve the bottom of my clarinet. heh heh heh. I may have helped it along a few times too.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the UK where we didn't have things like band camp. The only things we did in fields was drink stolen cider and look at nudie mags.

Maybe we should have had band camp.

Unknown said...

Chyna- Ah, yes, the instruments that would fall apart in the cold, freeze together, or glue your lips to it... Good times, good times!

Tiggy- Didn't I just see that on "Eastenders"? :)

Greg said...

That dang movie--no one seems to be able to get beyond the words "band camp".

Fortunately, we didn't have the geese, but there was horseback riding, if I recall correctly.

3rd clarinet, here! With dents in my head (and later, thankfully, the band helmut) from the Mad Glockenspielist(I believe you'll know to whom I refer...).

You really are a great humor writer, you know!

: )

Unknown said...

Greg- Horseback riding-- in band camp? Wow, I suddenly feel gypped. We just worked like horses. There was no fun in band camp.

Well, we DID get to march through the local streets once playing "Do Waa Diddy." But other than that...

OHHHH, I quite forgot our mutual friend was a Glockenspielist. Hm. The danger of friends with mallets, I suppose.

And thank you... you're a sweetheart. :)

Anonymous said...

I have yet to figure out how I became a first chair, I so hated that instrument and looked for every possible way to get out of playing that thing. Would even intentionally break the reed in class just so I'd have to go get another one. There is just nothing cool about a girl with a squawking woodwind. I so dreamed of being a sax player. Now they are cool! Or a drummer.

Unknown said...

Chyna- Isn't that often the way it is? The stuff you hate to do, you turn out to be good at? :)