A Prairie Christmas Chapter 8 Part 2

Saturday is the Iowa State football game against Colorado. ‘Gator is at the kitchen table chatting with the moms when the three of us come down at ten o’clock, insufficiently rested with five hours sleep.
“Bowling practice this morning,” he announces. The moms laugh. “Unless you’re too wore out from the party.”
We were in our bowling gear, so we had no excuse. “Just let me get some coffee,” I stall.
Everyone laughs at me. “Iowa partying too much for the Florida boy,” ‘Gator scoffs.
“I hope at least you were entertained,” I grin at him.
“That’s my boy. A little caffeine; he’s all piss and vinegar,” the girls are shocked, while the moms can’t stop giggling.
I inhale my coffee and am ready to go. The girls jump into ‘Gator’s pickup, refusing to move over to give me room. ‘Gator solves it by letting me in on his side. He is perfectly happy to have me riding pussy.
“Are you punishing me for having a good time last night?” I accuse the girls. Tim 426
“Yeah. Such a great time, crying, blubbering, and falling all over yerself,” Angie goes right for the jugular.
“Don’t fergit all the singin’ and playin’, plus everyone givin’ me beers. Could be yer jealous?”
“How I wish we’d gotten drunk and stoned. Then we could ferget how foolish we looked.” Tim 440
“Give the boy a break,” ‘Gator takes my side. “There’s always plenty o’ fool’s play at that them there barn parties Y’all girls don’t party enough ta know how crazy some fools git.”
“Okay. I’m sick o’ bein’ called a fool. I do know we played lots of songs that ever’one liked. I’d say we’s the life of the party.”
“’Til ya broke down and cried on our shoulders.”
“I broke down ‘cause that song means a lot ta me. Maybe’s yer too uptight to feel real emotions.”
“Whoa, Cowboy. Don’t be attacking yer rescuers. Next time ya might find yerself naked and defenseless.” ‘Gator cautions me.
“Yer right, ‘Gate. I was foolish, but that’s me. I hopes y’all ain’t ‘spectin’ me ta be purfect.Tim 450
“How’s ‘bout we concentrate on knocking down ten-pins. They don’t complain so much,” ‘Gator settles the argument.

Bowling is instructive. I’m pissed after their scrutiny and take it out on the lanes. The posse has newly recruited girls as their partners; Clarence has Joan; Noah has Betsey; Henry has Bitty; and, Buzz has Doris. They’re all excited, when we show up, having already visited Goodwill and purchased bowling shirts and polyester trousers. Except for the feathered hair on both the girls and the boys, we look like escapees from the 50’s. ‘Gator takes me aside to discuss which twin we want to be paired with.
“Well, Amy’s the nice one, but she might be overwhelmed by your big personality. Angie’s the more down-to-earth and most in need of your enthusiasm. The girl’s got grit.”
“Maybe grit is what you need if’n you git all blubbery agin.”
“Don’ts you worry none. I’m off beer and pot for a while.”
“Don’t wanna cramp yer style.”
“It ain’t stylin’ to be havin’ nervous breakdowns. Fer at least today, I’ll pair with Amy. You can lean on Angie.”

“Ya still look right wasted from last night.” Tim 409
I go along with his logic. The twelve of us take three lanes, so there are two teams on each lane. ‘Gator makes it a competition by assigning a team from each lane to Andy’s Whales (a reference to blubbering) and the other team to Gator’s Alleycats. All the ribbing makes me bear down and score the highest game totals overall. I even have three strikes in a row. “Gator nullifies the cut-throat competitive spirit by cheering for me against himself. He is irrepressible, making me laugh. Pizza at the Pit makes me feel more like myself. We’re ready for State College football.

The opponent this week is Colorado, ranked in the top 20 nationally. ‘Gator takes us down on the field and introduces us to the head coach, Coach Commings remembers how our antics the prior week with the band pumped up his defense.
“I hear some recruiters were after you at your game last night, Brock,” the Coach notes.
“Don’tcha worry none ‘bout them, Coach. I ain’t a-goin’ no where else other than here.”
“Appreciate that, Brock.”
“Well, I gots me a new name. They’s callin’ me ‘Gator, after my friend Andy here said I reminded him of a Florida ‘gator he fought last summer in the Everglades. Says it was a 24 foot long one.”
“Wasn’t quite a battle, Coach. That ‘gator chased us up a tree.”
“Yer a bit scrawny fer fightin’ ‘gators.”
“That’s why ‘Gator’s my friend, now.”
“What can I do ya for, boys.”
“Since ‘Gator’s cheering the players on from the sidelines, we’d sure like ta help by being a spirit section for the marchin’ band. We’ll play rock songs to git this stadium a’rockin’ an’ a’rollin.’”
“Linda Sue,” he calls the head cheerleader over. “Set up these kids with the marchin’ band director. They’s to play fight songs to git the crowd a-goin.’ You girls and ‘Gator will stir them up from down here on the field.”

We meet with the band director. He’s excited we came back, remembering our efforts the previous weekend. He asks if we’ll sing the National Anthem. I ask if he knows the Jimi Hendrix version. His eyes widened to indicate he does.
“How’s ‘bout I play that and you get the band to follow along as I turn all those chords into psychedelic riffs?”
He purses his lips while thinking how it can be done.
“Okay. If we get into trouble, just say you spontaneously decided to do it your own way.”
“’S cool,” I agree, while trying to figure a way to do Dixie as well. I really can’t see it, but remember Tom Petty’s ‘Rebel’ song. If we’re going to get the stadium rocking, what better song. I whisper my plans to the twins. They are aghast at breaking rules, as they see it.
“Y’all just back me up on the chorus, which goes, ‘Hey hey hey, I was born a rebel.’”
“What about the national anthem. We don’t know how that Hendrix guy changes it.”
“Ya don’t knows Jimi Hendrix?”
“Jist that he was a drug addict who died.”
“The greatest guitarist ever. Ya knows the National Anthem, jist follow me as I turn all them notes into psychedelic trips.”
“We ain’t trippin’ with you’s, Andy”
“Let the music be yer drug.”
They both give me long looks. Hope
“Okay. If’n ya don’ts like it, I can tell. I’ll go back to the standard version. I jist love the music. if’n y’all don’t feels the same, I’ll  play it like ya wants.”
They still look dubious. It’s time to set up with the band. After the director gives his final directions, I speak up.
“We’re tryin’ sumthin’ different here, puttin’ rock inta marching band. We hopes y’all will join in if the music moves ya. Don’t hesitate. If ya make a mistake, the music will tell ya how ta git it right. You’ll feel it.”
I look up at Jace, perched on a railing just above the band and rubbing his hands, anxious to jump in. He makes me laugh. aussie02
It’s time for the team’s grand entrance, running out the tunnel onto the field. I can sense them ready to troop out. We start to play the long buildup to the Champions’ chorus.

““I’ve paid my dues
Time after time
I’ve done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I’ve made a few”

(Then I change a line)

“We’ve lost the last few games
But we’re coming through”

They still haven’t burst out on the field, so I kept repeating

“And we mean to go on and on and on and on”

building tension and excitement. Some people in the stands know the song and are cheering it on to the chorus. The 15,000+ people are starting to yell and stomp, building up to the entrance By the time I finish, ‘Gator in a State jersey runs the team onto the field. His arms raised in victory pose. Tim 359

“We are the champions my friends
And we’ll keep on fightin’ till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
‘Cause we are the champions
Of the world”

“Gator high-five’s the players as they stream out the tunnel. He runs down the sidelines, keeping the cheering going. By the time the teams are lined for the national anthem, the cheering has settled into a dull roar that makes the stadium vibrate. ISU football stadium It’s time for the National Anthem.The twins and I stand up. I turn my amp to max, hoping more than the girls will hear me over the roar. The girls & I sing,
“Oh say…..” as I hit the screaming, brain curdling screech of the Hendrix riff jimi-hendrix02
“can you see..” and I go even higher.

 

 

We play all the way through. The drums come in at one point. All the band members who aren’t playing their instruments are singing along in encouragement with Amy and Angie. It is sweet. As we end, the many non-musical gun-toting patriots know enough that we are still the ‘home of the brave,” and add to the roar as a final crescendo.
Whatever is in my mind, it must be Jace-inspired because I instantly go into the ‘We Will Rock You’ section of ‘Champions.’

The whole stadium was repeating the chorus, as the teams line up. Suddenly I play the major lead to ‘We Will Rock You.’ Colorado kicks off. A small return man gathers in the ball, takes off to his left, evading several tackles by the streaking special teams defenders. Cutting past all the defenders, he finds a lane on the near sidelines. We jump into ‘Champions’ as he streaks toward the goal line. ‘Gator is the first person to reach him as he runs through the end-zone, the whole stadium singing,

“We are the champions my friends
And we’ll keep on fightin’ till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
‘Cause we are the champions
Of the world”

After the kick, it is 7-0 State.
The game roars along. The defense does its best but Colorado leads 21-14 at half-time. With the band marching around the field,

‘Gator comes over with cups of Gatorade for us.
“Theys already named a drink afta ya ,” I break up.
“Nah. Some Coach in Florida made up a drink with the same exact chemicals as sweat. Don’t mind the taste. Y’all is doing great. This is a better workout than last night’s game. Now drink, and no cryin’,” he orders.

We are pretty burned out. The second half starts and State catches up 21-21. Each side responds to the roaring, marching up and back on the field. No one is able to breach the defenses. Every time they need to dig in and hold, we play ‘Dirty Deeds.

repeating the chorus until the line holds, as well as after any unfair penalty flags by either side.
Finally Colorado mounts a last-ditch drive and scores just inside the two-minute warning. It is do or die for State. ‘Gator paces the entire State sideline, waving his arms, yelling at players and screaming when a play goes right or wrong. It’s pure adrenaline. We played ‘Search & Destroy’ and  ‘I Wanna be Your Dog’.

I reached for my inner Iggy and threw myself on the ground, still singing into the mic. Tim 190 The band members pick me up and carry me around the band area. The girls keep singing. The lame offense gathers themselves and marches down the field. The game comes down to the final play, with 3 seconds to go. The ball on the 2 year-line, a quarterback sneak scores. 28-27 Colorado, with the extra point to decide the outcome. Gator is screaming at the Coach to go for two points. Coach turns around and nods, causing ‘Gator to exhort the stands to be even louder. The offense remains on the field, going for two and the win. They aren’t ready to settle for a tie. I play the Queen anthem, Tim 101

“We are the champions my friends
And we’ll keep on fightin’ till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
‘Cause we are the champions
Of the world”

Third time is not the charm. The pass play fails. Colorado wins, 28-27. The stadium deflates. I sit down hard and started playing Pink Floyd, nodding at Jace who winks back as my tears stream. Still sharing moments after all this time, ‘Wish You Were Here.’

 

‘So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail
A smile from a veil
Do you think you can tell
Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts
Hot ashes for trees
Hot air for a cool breeze
Cold comfort for change
Did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in the cage’

Songwriters: DAVID GILMOUR, ROGER WATERS
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, IMAGEM MUSIC INC

A band member plays the second guitar, with Jace guiding his fingers. The tears are flowing again. The twins are despairing as ‘Gator runs up. Hugging them and noticing my tears, he burst into tears himself. The girls start bawling. Soon most of the band is weeping. We tried so hard, but it isn’t enough. As the song fades out, the stadium is stilled.
I started the intro to ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’ The girls came in as usual on the chorus.

 

 

I play long leads. Jace holds Angie as she plays the rhythm with his spiritual help. As I wail the leads, ‘Gator start howling like a dog. Tim 292 People in the stands pick up the cry. The loss is hard, but music reaches people when they really hurt. Everyone hurts sometime in their lives. Every time I sing the chorus I feel the pain of the rape and how I got to that ditch in Dothan Alabama. Those memories stream down my cheeks with the tears.
The band director addresses his musicians.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of. You played your hearts out, inspiring and being inspired by the players on the field. We’re going out on a high note, playing ISU Fight Song.”

 

 

The band forms up and marches from end-zone to end-zone, singing the cheer song and playing it as the people in the stands sing along. No one wants to leave.
What a game.

‘Gator, the twins and I are alone in the band section, in a group hug, as everyone leaves the stadium.
“That’s why I love football,” ‘Gator declares. “It can break yer heart but ya jist keep comin’ back.” Tim 409
I’m stunned to realize that he has won me over. I hated sports last year, especially football. But cheering, crying and hugging with ‘Gator has affected my heart. Is there enough room in there for the big lug? Jace looks worried but nods there is.

The high school posse is waiting for us at ‘Gator’s pickup in the parking lot. They nervously watch him as we walk up, unsure how he is reacting to the loss.
“That was the greatest game ever,” he declares. “We’ll git ‘em next year, ‘cause I’ll be out there on the field.”
The guys surround him, slapping him on the back, and congratulating him on being the most amazing cheerleader. A couple of them even high-five the twins and me.
“Y’all was so much better than the marching band. You rock,” Noah says. Tim 444

We gather at the Pizza Pit. I barely have time for a slice before my shift starts. I come and go with multiple deliveries until seven o’clock. The gang has stayed, laughing at me because I have to work. The other girls from the bowling team are there. The twins are only partially suppressed by all the testosterone. My coming to Ames has changed their lives. I wonder if they want boyfriends. ‘Gator is acting like a big brother to them and me. It is just the way he rolls. Anyway, he has the cheerleader/comfort girl to take the edge off his hormones. Best not to think too much about it.

After my shift is over, we all go to the Hyland house and regale the moms with the day’s exploits. The moms don’t seem fazed by the damage a dozen teenagers inflicts on the house. ‘Gator names it the Aims High Bowling Clubhouse. He takes the moms around the downstairs to pick out where all the future trophies will go. He is all about trophies, deciding that the basement needs a makeover as a playroom for the clubhouse. He knows where to get a Foosball game. I suggest Pong pong but no one has heard of video games yet. It is still 1975.

At nine we all leave for the weekly unchaperoned football party. We tell the moms we will only make an appearance and come right home. We don’t want to seem stand-offish. The Moms understand. We’re home by ten and in bed not much later. I blame my exhaustion on the bowling. The last thing I hear before putting my head to the pillow is, “Good night, Jim Bob.” I mumbled something back. I’m out like a light.

A good night’s sleep and the three of us come down for breakfast with big smiles dressed all in white for church. Tim 305 I’m ready to holy roll and make up my own tongues language. The girls say they will jump on me and embarrass the devil out of me if I try. The devil being invoked prompts an ensuing conversation about whether I’m really possessed, unable to stop trouble following in my wake. I switch that thought to wake-boarding and the hope that summer is on its way with glorious days wake boarding on the lake. It’s November 2nd.
Molly takes out the Sunday newspaper.
“I’m glad you gave us your side of the events at the football game yesterday. The fact that you are again in the newspaper is beginning to make me nervous.”
She shows us the headline, ‘Raucous Rock Invades State Stadium,’ and proceeds to read a review of our performance.
‘Football games may never be the same, as a teen rock band, calling themselves The Triplets, invaded the hallowed grounds of Iowa State Cyclone Stadium in order to whip up frenzy among State fans by playing rowdy rock ‘n roll as the State football team faced Big Eight rival Colorado. The local team responded with one of their better games of the year, finally falling to the visitors 28-27. A last second two point conversion failed after Coach Cummings went for the win, rather than settle for a tie. (see accompanying article on the Sports page).
My question is whether rock n roll should supplant the traditional marching band entertainment we love. The roar of the crowd never lessened during the whole game, prompting this spectator to experience a throbbing headache that ruined the team’s performance on the field. Being forced to listen to the devil’s music seems unfair to the many older fans who remember the spirited band music of the past. Songs, such as the reported ‘I want to be a Dog,’ caused students to howl and roll around on the ground. I have now visited Dante’s first circle of Hell and want to hear no more. Please, Iowa State, ban amplified rock and roll at your football games.’

We sit there with our mouths open, listening to the diatribe. I hadn’t thought about all the old people who still enjoy attending the game but despise rock music.
“We weren’t just entertainment. We injected spirit into the players. They almost won against a highly ranked opponent. How can anyone complain about getting the crowd to cheer for the home team?”
“Obviously, not everyone agrees with you, Andy. Maybe you should consider cutting back on your performing.”
“We’re just having fun, Mom,” Amy takes my side. Tim 440
“Unintended consequences, dear,” Molly answers. “Best to learn these lessons while you’re young. Giving a sourpuss a headache is a lot better than someone actually getting hurt.”
“Better to perform to kids your own age,” Mom tells me.
“Maybe we shouldn’t sing in church today. Some old person may sink to the sixth ring of Hell and blame us,” Angie applies her whacked out pessimism.
“You sing like angels, dear. No one questions what you do in church.”
“Well, it made you both cry last week,” I reveal what I observed.
“Those were tears of joy, not sorrow.”
“It was so sweet,” I conclude “When I got the girls and ‘Gator to cry at the end of the game, we were devastated.”
“You’re crying again?” Molly looks concerned.
“We had put everything into the performance, yet the team still lost. The tears were bleeding from our souls.”
The moms stare at me. I’m being too spiritual. Jace mocks me.Tim 95 Mom serves the breakfast she has prepared. No pancakes this week. It is endless eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. We need the nourishment that excessive pizza fails to deliver. Everyone has seconds. When I ask for thirds, Molly takes out oven glazed cinnamon rolls. It’s so tempting we feel we might be banned from church.

Regardless, in short order, the twins and I are seated with the choir with the moms beaming at us from the pews. Our voices are a little raw from all the signing that weekend. The choir master asks if we’re okay.
“We were supposedly invoking Dante’s ring of Hell yesterday,” Angie tells him.
“I thought that newspaper article might be about you guys. Do you want to skip your solo?”
“Oh, no. Andy needs his attention fix to get through the day.”
“It is All Souls day. Maybe being a little raw will make us soulful,” I suggest.
“Well, this is not a Catholic Church, Andy. But finding the notes to match your soul’s needs will make the hymn come from the heart.”
“We’ll try,” we promise.
“Instead of Amazing Grace, why don’t you do ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot?’ The rest of choir can back you up if you feel too raw.”
We knew he is inspired. Tim 413

 

 

When it comes time for our solo, we do our best not to cry. Our voices never break as the tears roll down our pink cheeks. It isn’t just the moms who match our tears. The choir behind us adds tempo and bass to our rising alto/soprano lilt. Cheers of ‘Halleluiah’ break out as we end and sit down. The choir master is beaming.

Pastor Blake opens his sermon with remarks about us.
“I can’t help but comment on the beautiful singing we have experienced these past weeks. Choir Master Key has been blessed. With the Muller twins’ high voices that have joined with their step-brother Andy’s forceful tenor/alto, it creates a pitch perfect performance. We all feel blessed to have them with us. Many of us have prayed for this family. Perhaps God has answered those prayers with these wondrous hymns. Thank you, Lord.”
He continues into his regular fire and brimstone sermon, which he delivers in less than his thundering manner. Having emptied our tear ducts, we remain dry-eyed, looking out from the choir to the congregation. The moms look straight ahead, barely able to keep their composure in light of their acceptance by Pastor Blake. Some of the people who emphasized how they were praying for us look shocked. Many heads turn to see the moms’ reaction. More than a few tears are shed.

The service over, we stay with the choir on the front steps, joined by the moms. Choir Master Key is shyly beaming,Premieas many people stop to congratulate him following the Pastor’s compliment. I realize how important the Pastor’s words and opinions are for the members of the Church. Catholic priests are notoriously opinionated which diminishes their influence. Here in the heartland, one pastor’s words are taken truly to heart. Apparently, no one is praying for us this week.

 

Next: https://timatswim.com/a-prairie-christmas-chapter-9/

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