A Prairie Christmas Chapter 8

“You just got off the phone?” Angela questioned me.
“Yeah. I made two other calls.”
“Be careful about the toll calls. The moms keep track.”
“That’s why I need a job. I need to get my driver’s license.”
“For pizza delivery. You still need a car,” Angie was busting my chopsTim 234
“Maybe my mom will lend me her’s,” I said hopefully.
“Don’t worry. We’ll let you use ours. You’re our brother,” Amy was the positive one.

Angie just looked disgusted. “Don’t expect us to drive you around and help.”
I just smiled. The high from talking with Tommy was mellowed out by Anna and Hippie, teen mom and pop.
“My friends are pregnant.”
“Oh, no. What are they gonna do? They can’t get an abortion.” Angie jumped on it.
“Stop stressing. It’s all good. They’s already married. It’s good news. They even got two moms to help. Just like us.”
“We ain’t pregnant and that ain’t changing.’
“Stop the single mom paranoia. I’m the ‘new kid in town.’”

 

 

“Maybe I’ll be the one who gits a girl pregnant.”
“You do and ya ain’t usin’ the car.” Typical over-reaction.
“Well, anyway, yer meetin’ them this Christmas. They’s comin’ to visit.”
“What’s the moms say ‘bout that? You gotta move back to the second floor if’n you start invitin’ people to stay.”
I kept laughing at their reactions as they came up with further restrictions on my sense of hospitality.
“They’s Mima and Pipa lives in Harlan County. I convinced Hippie to introduce his new family to ‘em, so’s they stop prayin’ for ‘em all the time. They got no need ta stay here. Calm down.”
I failed to mention Tommy. Dario 03

Trying to fall asleep, I couldn’t get Tommy out of my head. Jace slipped under the covers with me, hoping I was able to pump up a little wood. No such luck. He rolled over and ignored me. Maybe my fascination with Tommy was me reverting to pre-pubescent boy mode. My tendency to over-think things hadn’t gone away.

Soon the girls were yelling at me to get up so they could dress me for school. They must have done a good job because all day people came up to me to say hi and compliment me on the Friday coffee shop show, or the football game fight band or the choir performance. Tim 411Word/gossip got around quickly at Aims High. ‘Gator dragged me to the gym and introduced me to his football coach, Red Ball. We asked him to be our bowling team coach. He laughed but agreed that anything that kept his boys busy during off-season was a good thing. He promised to call the other coaches in the area to schedule competitions. He wasn’t sure about girls partnering with the guys. He told us to propose rules and regulations to govern the new sport. At lunch, ‘Gator’s boys introduced their choices for bowling partners, so there were four more girls sitting with us. We named it the ten pin table. The twins seemed more comfortable no longer the only girls with the jocks. I realized that they didn’t have many friends. Maybe being a twin meant you didn’t need friends. I was a good influence on them as it seemed everybody in school was now my friend. ‘Popularity breeds contempt.’ Tim 501

After lunch ‘Gator took us to meet with the marching band director. He had heard about our performance at the State game. We asked if we could join the band in the stands as a ‘spirit’ component. We dropped the name fight band as too violent-sounding. He agreed to place us next to the percussion section which would add rhythm to our rock songs. He also would have a mic there for vocals and a single amp for our guitars.

After final bell we met Miss Hull at the band room. She was mildly upset we had let the football players ruin our performance on Friday night. I explained how we chose songs to get the college kids to think about how things were different from the sixties. I think she was a little offended that we were challenging the prevailing wisdom of her generation. We discussed the songs we planned for the football game spirit band. The lyrics to ‘Search and Destroy’ grabbed her attention.

We agreed it was too satanic for a school event. She complimented us on the other songs and for being so creative. I was adjusting to increased adult supervision, remembering how Mike Sr. had told me that the reason Dade County locked me up was because I refused to be supervised. 03

Mom picked me up to go for my driver’s license. I took the written exam and barely passed. The road tester told Mom I needed more practice, but he passed me anyway. The moms were pleased that the twins were willing to share their car. I had to promise that my job would not interfere with my school work. The manager at the Pizza Pit was surprised I got my license so quickly. He told me to come back the next day, so he could check my car and auto insurance.

Monday’s mail had a large envelope from Jay. He had gotten a Little House of the Prairie script. It wasn’t the school dance episode but was the holiday show, ‘A Plum Creek Christmas.’ LHOTP Xmas I figured I could play Christmas carols and not have to act. Mrs. McCarthy was pleased I had a script. She asked the whole class if we wanted to do the show at Christmas assembly in December. We spent the rest of the period discussing the roles and who would play whom. I missed Mr. Clark, but it wasn’t Shakespeare. That night I got around to actually reading the script as part of my homework. The other students had seen the episode which ran Christmas 1974. It was insanely insipid, cloying and cutesy. My evil brain started plotting updates to involve the audience with comic pranks.. The pony, Bunny, was my first inspiration, remembering the donkey role in Midsummer’s Night Dream. donkey01 Bunny would become a comic character, shifting her loyalty at a change of the breeze. More than a little pony prancing would be written into the director’s notes. I warned myself not to take too much for granted, as Mrs. McCarthy may have someone else in mind as director.

“Gator kept up his bromancing of me. Tim 409 I wondered if his posse was as interested. I think they gladly followed his lead and enjoyed wherever he took them. Halloween was Friday night. The boys had a football game that night and afterward was a barn party, an Iowa tradition that was promised to ‘blow my socks off.” The twins and I were anxious to try out our performance of fight songs for the ‘spirit’ band. We also practiced the Eagles’ ‘New Kid in Town.’ Tim 448 My new-found popularity matched the irony of the song’s lyrics.

Tuesday night was my first shift as delivery boy for the Pizza Pit. Amy insisted she accompany me on my rounds, as navigator, since I was ‘new to Ames’ and barely knew my way home, let alone all the street names. The manager checked the car for reliability and the insurance validity.
“This yer girlfriend, gonna ride along?” he asked.
“No. I’m his sister. I’m helpin’ out,” Amy spoke up.
“Well, good way to git tips is for her to take the pie to the door.”
“I’m jist the navigator.”
“Well, jist sayin’.”
“’S’kay. I need to work on my charm.” I wasn’t worried, just annoyed, as he was trying to hit on Amy, who was oblivious.
I was to work the 5pm to 7pm shift, dinner hours. The moms had told me I needed to be home for homework. Wednesday night was choir practice. I wouldn’t get rich but at least have pocket-money. Dad would be proud.

“What’s a barn party?” I quizzed Amy as we did our deliveries.
“There’s plenty of abandoned barns out in the country. Everyone hangs out at one, drinking and doing drugs until the girls will put out.” Amy was blunt.
“No choir girls, I’m guessin.’”
“Ya got that right.”
“I’ll pass on it then.”
“’Gator’s feelin’s may be hurt,” she needled me. Tim 442
“He’ll git over it.”
“Ya don’t wanna get laid?”
A sore subject, my butt reminded me.
“Naw. I’s off sex fer awhile.”
She gave me a funny look. “Being true to yer Florida girlfriend?”
“Not that. We’re not exclusive. Still getting’ over my trip here.”
“Did something terrible happen?” She dropped the country accent. Tim 454
“Kinda,” I wasn’t ready to talk about being raped.
She looked at me, and when I didn’t saying any more, “Well, whenever you wanna talk about it, I’m here for you.”
I stopped the car and gave her a tight hug. It felt good. Having sisters rules.

The week went by quickly. Choir practice was weird, with Jace floating around the church, checking everything out like he owned the place. With my lower tenor voice as a foundation, the girls harmonized perfectly. We were overwhelming to the regular members. I was afraid they would resent our dominating the hymns. The choir master had us stand separately, singing in rounds, so we weren’t competing with the rest of the choir. It was fun.

“Gator was worked up about the football game.  11The team was undefeated, but he was not taking anything for granted. We were seated with the band. After warm ups, the team was in the locker room for the coach’s pep talk. When they burst onto the field, we played Queen’s ‘We are the Champions,” getting everyone pumped up. Rock music was new to football. The mic’d vocals and amp’d guitars were loud and rocking. We sang the national anthem; when I threw in the Hendrix psychedelic riffs it blew everyone away.

 

 

The crowd was into it. Right from the kickoff, ‘Gator and the boys were pumped. The defense was on the field at first. The visitors were knocked back on every play. On third and long, ‘Gator blitzed the quarterback as he dropped back to pass, smothering him for a big loss.
The girls and I were ready, jumping to the chorus of ‘Dirty Deeds.’ As we repeated the simple line, the crowd got into it, singing along,

“Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap.
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap.
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap.
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap.”

‘Gator jumped up and did a little war dance in front of the prone quarterback. He instantly drew a fifteen-yard penalty for taunting.
The girls and I instantly changed to the verses of ‘We are the Champions.”

“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
I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face
But I’ve come through
(And we mean to go on and on and on and on)
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”

The whole stands were singing along now. ‘Gator went from dejected to exultant. The opposing team still had to punt the ball away. Again ‘Gator blitzed. The kicker was so rattled, he missed the ball which bounced once and was picked up by ‘Gator who romped down the field for a touchdown. We restarted the ‘Champions’ as he raced into the end zone. He ran off the field, holding the ball high over his head, to the cheers of the crowd. Tim 105 ‘Gator lined up with the special teams for the kickoff. We went ahead and played ‘Search and Destroy,’

 

As the ball flew over the heads of the players on the field, ‘Gator steamrolled the opposing players in his way. The return man barely had time to catch the ball before he was crunched with a crushing tackle. The ball dribbled out of his hands. “Gator being Johnny-on-the-spot, picked up the fumble and had his second touchdown within five seconds of the first. The game proceeded from there, with Aims High leading 35-0 at half-time. The visitors changed quarterbacks to start the second half. We played ‘New Kid in Town,’ with the stands all pointing and laughing at the hapless second-stringer. I noticed a few jokers pointing at me during the song.

 

 

 

 

The truth hurt – not really. The game remained a rout. As the teams ran off the field, we played ‘Champions’ for a final time. We waited for ‘Gator and his crew outside the gym. When he came out he was surrounded by a group of muscular college students, his friends from the State team. Several adults tried to speak with ‘Gator, but his college friends told them to get lost. They were evidently college recruiters. Tim 430
“Ferget it,” one of them told them. “He’s coming to State next year.”
I dubbed his life, ‘’Gator-World.’ Even the college students called him ‘Gator. When he saw us waiting for him, a big smile broke out and he rushed over.
“Those songs really rocked my world. See my two touchdowns?” he crowed. Tim 263
“Oh, we missed those,” I kidded him.
“No way,” as he lightly punched my arm.
“Oh, ‘Gator, you’re so great,” the girls got into mocking him. Real friends never hesitate to knock you down a notch.
He looked at them, realizing they were being sarcastic. One notch was enough, as he just laughed at himself. “Well, it was the whole team, not just me. We crushed ‘em.”
All three of us punched him on his bulging bicep.
“Pizza,” he announced. I inwardly groaned, remembering I had to been at work a few hours ago

“Ya already did yer shift,” the boss complained, as we piled into the Pit.
“I’m a customer, this time,” I clarified. “We’re coming from the football game.”
“Didcha win?”
‘Gator flexed. “Do we look like losers?” Tim 485
“What’s ya want. It’s on the house,” the boss proved himself human. I should have warned him about football players and pizza, but I figured he should already have known.
My respect went out the window when he greeted Amy, “How ya doin,’ darlin?’”Tim 450
We put away four pizzas in no time. There was no offer of seconds. We got down to business about the Halloween night’s festivities. It was too late for trick or treating, but the barn party beckoned.
“We ain’t going to a ‘barn party,’” the twins announced. “We have reputations to maintain.” Tim179
“Well, I ain’t goin’ neither,” I decided.
“Ya gots ta go,” ‘Gator lamented. “Bring guitars, so as y’all kin play at the party.”
“They got power at this abandoned barn?”
“Jist play acoustic. We’ll all sit around and sing ‘Kumbaya.’”

I was impressed that ‘Gator had some music knowledge, if not discerning taste. The Seekers? Pete Seeger? Joan Baez?

We drove to the Hyland house  to pick up guitars and let the moms know where we were going. They immediately proscribed a midnight curfew which we refused to acknowledge. We would have had to leave as soon as we got there. We insisted on taking the girl’s station wagon,  instead of riding in the boys’ pickups. I rode with ‘Gator until he picked up his comfort girl/cheerleader. We drove all over Ames picking up each of his posse member’s girlfriends, before heading out-of-town to the mysterious barn location. We shortly were driving on dirt roads, off the main highway. Twenty minutes later we spotted the party, lit up by a circle of pickups with their headlights on. The sounds of Boston were blaring from a pickup’s radio

 

 

Stadium rock meant sitting on your ass and slowly waving your hair around – long guitar solos played at a stately pace. I hated it. Good old country would be an improvement. Where was Willy Nelson? Probably out behind the barn, getting stoned.

Everyone went in different directions once we parked. The girls grabbed me by each arm. It was their first barn party. The chaos was infectious, if not the sounds. People we barely knew, ran up to us, offering beer and/or joints. My forsaken life beckoned, but I remained a protector of the girls, who recoiled at the offerings of demon alcohol and pot. We found a group of all females who welcomed additional abstainers. Tim 260
“Go ahead, Andy. I know yer chompin’ at the bit to at least have a beer.”
“Y’all sure you’ll be alright with the other girls.”
“Don’tcha worry ‘bout us. We’ve bin spurnin’ these burnouts fer years.”
I nervously laughed, but figured I could probably have a beer without ruining my reputation, ‘the new kid in town.’
I wandered to the nearest group of guys, with a few girls attached to their boyfriends’ hips.
“Ya wanna, beer, Andy,” someone I had never spoken with asked.
“Sure, thanks,” as he handed me a PBR tall boy.Tim 449
“Shotgun, shotgun,” the cry went up. I let him punch a hole in the bottom of the can with a church key. Lifting the can to my mouth, I popped the tab and the whole can drained down my throat until I choked and the remainder soaked my shirt. In ten seconds I was high.
“Woo-ey,” I yelled, as everyone slapped me on the back. I wandered from group to group with similar downings of beer. Finally, ‘Gator came up to me, his girlfriend on his hip, looked me in the eye, “You’re wasted.”
“Damn straight, mate,” I rhymed, putting my arm around his shoulder. Tim 358 He beamed at everyone, with both his girlfriend and new best friend wrapped around him. We stumbled from group to group, partaking of excessive amounts of beer. Finally, we ran into the girl group, the twins took one look at me, “You’re wasted,” and tore me away from ‘Gator. We both thought it hilarious.
“Where’s them guitars?” ‘Gator asked. “I’s sick of lame rock. Where’s Boston anyway?”
I stood there swaying, with Amy holding me up and Angie off to get the guitars from their car. I plopped down and once we started playing, everyone formed a circle. ‘Gator went to turn off the horrid radio music. I remembered I wanted to hear country music and started playing the Dead’s ‘Truckin.’ Tim 444

I played a long intro, getting everyone relaxed into a country mood before kicking in the vocals at a faster pace. The twins sang the ‘Truckin’ chorus, getting everyone to join in. Once we finished, ‘Gator announced we needed pot to be in a Dead Head mood. He stared at a long hair who laughed and pulled out a joint, that went around the circle. I played ‘One Toke over the Line.”

I instantly missed Tommy’s fractured ‘who do you love?’ and ‘I sail away’, but the twins hit it perfectly. No need for pinching. Someone held the joint for me as the twins sang, so I got a no-hands hit. Next ‘Gator came over and gave me a shotgun hit. Tim 92 I swear our lips almost touched. I jumped up, exhaled, and played the low notes of ‘Spirit in the Sky.’

Jumping around, my head whirled from being totally high for the first time since Cocoa Beach. When was that? The girls jumped up, more to keep me from stumbling than from their own exuberance. The circle broke up as we raced from group to group. Norman Greenbaum in Iowa – imagine that. Next I returned to the Dead’s ‘Friend of the Devil,’ my reaction to being with so many drunk and stoned friends.

 

 

The girls had been following me around. I was too stoned to notice I was overdoing it, until suddenly I wanted them to notice . After ‘Devil,’ I whispered ‘Bobby McGee’, making them smile.

We just sang the chorus, “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” When Amy sang “He’s looking for that home and I hope he finds it,” it was too much for my overloaded stoned mind. I sat down hard, with tears streaming down my face. The girls stopped playing and hugged me, whispering that I had found my home, which caused another outburst. My wimpy self had exposed itself. Tim 399 ‘Gator and the boys were stunned as I choked. ‘Gator instinctively knew what to do and joined the girls around me. His strength got me to finish the song:

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose,
Nothing, that’s all that Bobby left me, yeah,
But feeling good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues,
Hey, feeling good was good enough for me, hmm hmm,
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.

La la la, la la la la, la la la, la la la la
La la la la la Bobby McGee.
La la la la la, la la la la la
La la la la la, Bobby McGee, la.

La La la, la la la la la la,
La La la la la la la la la, hey now Bobby now Bobby McGee yeah.
Na na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na na na na na
Hey now Bobby now, Bobby McGee, yeah.

Lord, I’m calling my lover, calling my man,
I said I’m calling my lover just the best I can,
C’mon, where is Bobby now, where is Bobby McGee, yeah,
Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lord
Hey, hey, hey, Bobby McGee, Lord!

Yeah! Whew!

Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lord
Hey, hey, hey, Bobby McGee. “

Songwriters
FOSTER, FRED L / KRISTOFFERSON, KRIS
Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

 

I finally looked up to see fifty people standing around us, all singing the final stanza. I felt good but chagrined that I probably had ruined the barn party.
After that song, we all broke up. ‘Gator led me to the twins’ station wagon. The monster on the gridiron that evening was my gentle giant after midnight. Tim 524 Angie drove as the three of us sat together on the front bench seat, me in the middle, riding pussy. I felt ashamed and glad.
“That’s the end of partying for you, boy,” Angie proclaimed. “That pot knocked you for a loop.”
“Did I embarrass myself a bit,” I murmured. Tim 387
“A bit? I’d say a bit more than that,” Angie rejoined.
“I thought it was sweet,” Amy defended me. “I never seen a boy cry before. At least not since kindergarten.”
“That’s me, the five year-old,” I sniffed.
“Ah, Andy. It’s okay. Y’know yer too damn lovable.”
“But maybe your heavy metal rep suffered a blow,” Angie laughed.
We all laughed and I felt better. I started singing ‘Crimson and Clover,” Tim 323

We all sang it bouncing along the dirt road. Both girls hugged me. Unlike Hippie, Angie didn’t run off the road into the barren corn fields. Halloween was over. It was all Saints Day.

It was two o’clock when we got to the Hyland house.  The moms were both sitting up, ready to pounce on the curfew violation. They instantly knew I was drunk: beer’s smell – a dead giveaway. The fact that both girls had not indulged, saved all of us. The moms appeared to have lower expectations for boys. We sat around the kitchen table, relating the day’s and night’s adventures.
“You played at the football game and also at a barn party? What’s this need to perform at a dime’s notice?” Mom asked.
“It’s Andy,” Angie accused me. “He needs too much attention. He’s a performance junkie. Then, when he’s got everyone going, he breaks down in tears, making all those nasty metal heads love him. It’s disgusting.”
“People can’t help themselves for wanting to be with him,” Amy explained “It was the line, “He’s looking for that home and I hope he finds it,” that set him off.” He needs us, Moms.” Tim 413

Molly put on her shrink cap, “Remember that he had a nervous breakdown when he arrived here. It wasn’t just from a hard bus ride.”
“Oh, Mom. He told me terrible things happened before he got on the bus.”
Hey, I’m right here, I thought. My little life’s not that important.
Molly turned to me. “I’m glad you’re able to share your troubles, Andy. That you trust us is very important. Sometimes a shrink can help bring out what troubles us, but family can be more effective. When you’re ready to share, remember we all love you. Nothing will change that.”
Maybe being gang raped as a truck-stop prostitute may be an exception to that acceptance. Being stoned didn’t help the discussion. We soon went to bed. It was four o’clock.
“Good night, Jim Bob,” the girls called out from their room.
I sniffed again and gulped, “G’night.”
Halloweens tend to wear me out. Tim 331

Saturday was the Iowa State football game against Colorado. ‘Gator was at the kitchen table chatting with the moms when the three of us came down at ten o’clock, insufficiently rested with five hours sleep.
“Bowling practice this morning,” he announced. The moms giggled. “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 stalled.
Everyone laughed at me. “Iowa partying too much for the Florida boy,” ‘Gator scoffed.
“I hope you were entertained at least,” I grinned at him.
“That’s my boy. A little caffeine, and he’s all piss and vinegar,” the girls were shocked, while the moms couldn’t stop giggling.
I inhaled the coffee and was ready to go. The girls jumped into ‘Gator’s pickup and refused to move over to give me room. ‘Gator solved it by letting me in on his side. He was perfectly happy to have me riding pussy.
“Are you punishing me for having a good time last night?” I accused the girls. Tim 426
“Yeah. Such a great time, crying, blubbering, and falling all over yerself,” Angie went right for the jugular.
“Maybe ya fergot all the singin’ and playin’, plus everyone givin’ me beers. Could be yer jealous?”
“I really wish we’d gotten drunk and stoned, so we could ferget how foolish we looked.” Tim 440
“Give the boy a break,” ‘Gator took 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 cautioned 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’ts complain so much,” ‘Gator settled the argument.

Bowling was instructive. I was pissed after their scrutiny and took it out on the lanes. The posse had newly recruited girls to be their partners; Clarence had Joan; Noah had Betsey; Henry had Bitty; and, Buzz had Doris. They were all excited, having already visited Goodwill and purchased bowling shirts and polyester trousers, when we showed up. Except for the feathered hair on both the girls and boys, we looked like escapees from the 50’s. ‘Gator took me aside to discuss which twin we wanted 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.”
“We don’ts wanna cramp yer style.”
“It ain’t stylin’ to be havin’ nervous breakdowns. Fer at least today, I’ll pair with Amy and you can lean on Angie.”

“Ya still look right wasted from last night.” Tim 409
I went along with his logic. The twelve of us took three lanes, so there were two teams on each lane. ‘Gator made 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 made me bear down and score the highest game totals overall. I even had three strikes in a row. “Gator nullified the cut-throat competitive spirit by cheering for me against himself. He was irrepressible, making me laugh. Pizza at the Pit made me feel more like myself. We were ready for State College football.

The opponent this week was Colorado, ranked in the top 20 nationally. ‘Gator took us down on the field and introduced us to the head coach, who remembered how our antics the prior week with the band had pumped up their defense.
“I hear some recruiters were after you at your game last night, Brock,” the Coach noted.
“Don’tcha worry none ‘bout them, Coach. I ain’t a-goin’ no where else 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 called 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 met with the band director. He was excited we had come back, remembering our efforts the previous weekend. He asked if we’d sing the National Anthem. I asked if he knew the Jimi Hendrix version. His eyes widened to indicate he did.
“How’s ‘bout I play that and you get the band to follow along as I turn all those chords into psychedelic riffs?”
He pursed his lips while thinking how it could be done.
“Okay, but if we get into trouble just say you spontaneously decided to do it your own way.”
“’S cool,” I agreed, while trying to figure a way to do Dixie as well. I really couldn’t see it, but remembered Tom Petty’s ‘Rebel’ song. If we were going to get the stadium rocking, what better song. I whispered my plans to the twins. They were aghast at breaking rules, as they saw 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 changed 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 the notes into psychedelic trips.”
“We ain’t trippin’ with you’s, Andy”
“Let the music be yer drug.”
They both gave 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, but if y’all don’t feels the same, I’ll try to play it like y’all wants.”
They still looked dubious. It was time to set up with the band. After the director gave his final directions, I spoke 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 looked up at Jace, seated just above the band and rubbing his hands, anxious to jump in. He made me smile. aussie02
It was time for the team’s grand entrance, running out the tunnel onto the field. I could feel them trooping out. We started 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 changed a line)

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

They still hadn’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 knew the song and were cheering it on to the chorus. The 15,000+ people were starting to yell and stomp, building up to the entrance By the time I’d finished, ‘Gator in a State jersey ran 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’d the players as they streamed out the tunnel, and then ran down the sidelines, keeping the cheering going. By the time the teams were lined for the national anthem, the cheering had settled into a dull roar that made the stadium vibrate. ISU football stadium The twins and I stood up. I turned my amp to max, hoping more than the girls would hear me over the roar. The girls & I sang,
“Oh say…..” as I hit the screaming, brain curdling screech of the Hendrix riff jimi-hendrix02
“can you see..” and I went even higher.

 

 

We played all the way through. The drums came in at one point. All the band members who weren’t playing their instruments were singing along in encouragement with Amy and Angie. It was sweet. As we ended, the many non-musical gun-toting patriots knew enough that we were still the ‘home of the brave,” and added to the roar as a final crescendo.
Whatever was in my mind, it must’ve been Jace-inspired because I instantly went into the ‘We Will Rock You’ section of ‘Champions.’

The whole stadium was repeating the chorus, as the teams lined up. Suddenly I was playing the major lead to ‘We Will Rock You.’ Colorado kicked off. A small return man gathered in the ball, took off to his left, evading several tackles by the streaking special teams defenders. Cutting past all the defenders, he found a lane on the near sidelines. We jumped into ‘Champions’ as he streaked toward the goal line. ‘Gator was the first person to reach him as he ran 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 was 7-0 State.
The game roared along. The defense did its best but Colorado led 21-14 at half-time. With the band marching around the field,

‘Gator came over with cups of Gatorade.
“They already named a drink afta ya ,” I broke 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 ordered.

We were pretty burned out. The second half started and State caught up 21-21. Each side responded to the roaring, marching up and back on the field. No one was able to breach the defenses. Every time they needed to dig in and hold, we played ‘Dirty Deeds.

repeating the chorus until the line held, as well as after any unfair penalty flags by either side.
Finally Colorado mounted a last-ditch drive and scored just inside the two-minute warning. It was do or die for State. ‘Gator paced the entire State sideline, waving his arms, yelling at players and screaming when a play went right or wrong. It was 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 picked me up and carried me around the band area. The girls kept singing. The lame offense gathered themselves and marched down the field. The game came down to the final play, with 3 seconds to go. The ball on the 2 year-line, a quarterback sneak scored. 28-27 Colorado, with the extra point to decide the outcome. Gator was screaming at the Coach, who turned around and nodded, causing him to exhort the stands to be even louder. The offense remained on the field, going for two points and the win. They weren’t ready to settle for a tie. I played the Queen, 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 was not the charm. The pass play failed. Colorado had won, 28-27. The stadium deflated. I sat down hard and started playing Pink Floyd, nodding at Jace who winked back. Still sharing moments after all this time, ‘Wish You Were Here.’

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

I played long leads. Jace held Angie as she played the rhythm with his spiritual help. As I wailed the leads, ‘Gator started howling like a dog. Tim 292 People in the stands picked up the cry. The loss was hard, but music reaches people where they really hurt. Everyone hurts sometime in their lives. Every time I sang the chorus I felt the pain of the rape, and how I got to that ditch in Dothan Alabama, streaming down my cheeks with the tears.
The band director addressed 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 formed up and marched from end-zone to end-zone, singing the cheer song and playing it as the people in the stands sang along. No one wanted to leave.
What a game.