A Prairie Christmas Chapter 8

“You just get off the phone?” Angela questions 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 is busting my chopsTim 234
“Maybe my mom will lend me her’s,” I say hopefully.
“Don’t worry. We’ll let you use ours. You’re our brother,” Amy is the positive one.

Angie just looks disgusted. “Don’t expect us to drive you around and help.”
I just smile. The high from talking with Tommy is 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 jumps 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 keep laughing at their reactions as they come 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 fail to mention Tommy. Dario 03

Trying to fall asleep, I can’t get Tommy out of my head. Jace slips under the covers with me, hoping I’m able to pump up a little wood. No such luck. He rolls over and ignores me. Maybe my fascination with Tommy is me reverting to pre-pubescent boy mode. My tendency to over-think things hasn’t gone away.

Soon the girls are yelling at me to get up so they can dress me for school. They must have done a good job because all day people come 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 gets around quickly at Aims High. ‘Gator drags me to the gym and introduces me to his football coach, Red Ball. We ask him to be our bowling team coach. He laughs but agreed that anything that keeps his boys busy during off-season is a good thing. He promises to call the other coaches in the area to schedule competitions. He isn’t sure about girls partnering with the boys. He tells us to propose rules and regulations to govern the new sport. At lunch, ‘Gator’s boys introduce their choices for bowling partners, so there are four more girls sitting with us. We name it the ten pin table. The twins seem more comfortable, no longer the only girls with the jocks. I realize that they don’t have many friends. Maybe being a twin means you didn’t need friends. I’m a good influence on them as it seems everybody in school is now my friend. Tim 501Popularity breeds contempt.’

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

After final bell we meet Miss Hull at the band room. She is 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 are different from the sixties. I think she was a little offended that we were challenging the prevailing wisdom of her generation. We discuss the songs we plan for the football game spirit band. The lyrics to ‘Search and Destroy’ grab her attention.

We agree it is too satanic for a school event. She compliments us on the other songs and for being so creative. I am 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 picks me up to go for my driver’s license. I take the written exam and barely pass. The road tester tells Mom I needed more practice, but he passes me anyway. The moms are pleased that the twins are willing to share their car. I have to promise that my job will not interfere with my school work. The manager at the Pizza Pit is surprised I got my license so quickly. He tells me to come back the next day, so he can check my car and auto insurance.

Monday’s mail has a large envelope from Jay. He has sent a Little House of the Prairie script. It isn’t the school dance episode but the holiday show, ‘A Plum Creek Christmas.’ LHOTP Xmas I figure I can play Christmas carols and not have to act. Mrs. McCarthy is pleased I obtained a script. She asks the whole class if we want to do the show at Christmas assembly in December. We spend the rest of the period discussing the roles and who will play whom. I miss Mr. Clark, but it isn’t Shakespeare. That night I get around to actually reading the script as part of my homework. The other students have seen the episode which ran Christmas 1974. It is insanely insipid, cloying and cutesy. My evil brain starts plotting updates to involve the audience with comic pranks.. The pony, Bunny, is 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 will be written into the director’s notes. I warn myself not to take too much for granted, as Mrs. McCarthy may have someone else in mind as director.

“Gator keeps up his bromancing of me. Tim 409 I wonder if his posse is as interested. I think they gladly follow his lead and enjoy wherever he takes them. Halloween wis Friday night. The boys have a football game that night and afterward is a barn party, an Iowa tradition that is promised to ‘blow my socks off.” The twins and I are anxious to try out our performance of fight songs for the ‘spirit’ band. We also practice the Eagles’ ‘New Kid in Town.’ Tim 448 My new-found popularity matches the irony of the song’s lyrics.

Tuesday night is my first shift as delivery boy for the Pizza Pit. Amy insists she accompany me on my rounds, as navigator. I’m ‘new to Ames’ and barely know my way home, let alone all the street names. The manager checks the car for reliability and insurance validity.
“This yer girlfriend, gonna ride along?” he asks.
“No. I’m his sister. I’m helpin’ out,” Amy speaks 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’m not worried, just annoyed. He is trying to hit on Amy, who’s oblivious.
I’m to work the 5pm to 7pm shift, dinner hours. The moms have told me I need to be home for homework. Wednesday night is choir practice. I won’t get rich but at least I’ll have pocket-money. Dad will be so proud.

“What’s a barn party?” I quiz Amy as we do 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 needles me. Tim 442
“He’ll git over it.”
“Ya don’t wanna get laid?”
A sore subject, my butt reminds me.
“Naw. I’s off sex fer awhile.”
She gives 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 drops the country accent. Tim 454
“Kinda,” I’m not ready to talk about being raped.
She looks at me. When I don’t say any more, “Well, whenever you wanna talk about it, I’m here for you.”
I stop the car and give her a tight hug. It feels good. Having sisters rules.

The week goes by quickly. Choir practice is weird, with Jace floating around the church, checking everything out like he owns the place. With my lower tenor voice as a foundation, the girls harmonize perfectly. We overwhelm the regular members.  I worry they resent our dominating the hymns. The choir master has us stand separately, singing in rounds, so we aren’t competing with the rest of the choir. It’s fun.

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



The crowd is into it. Right from the kickoff, ‘Gator and the boys are pumped. The defense is on the field at first. The visitors are knocked back on every play. On third and long, ‘Gator blitzes the quarterback as he drops back to pass, smothering him for a big loss.
The girls and I are ready, jumping to the chorus of ‘Dirty Deeds.’ As we repeat the simple line, the crowd gets 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 jumps up and does a little war dance in front of the prone quarterback. He instantly draws a fifteen-yard penalty for taunting.
The girls and I instantly change 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 goes from dejected to exultant. The opposing team still has to punt the ball away. Again ‘Gator blitzes. The kicker is so rattled, he misses the ball which bounces once and is picked up by ‘Gator who romps down the field for a touchdown. We restarted the ‘Champions’ as he races into the end zone. He runs off the field, holding the ball high over his head, to the cheers of the crowd. Tim 105 ‘Gator lines up with the special teams for the kickoff. We  play ‘Search and Destroy,’


As the ball flies over the heads of the players on the field, ‘Gator steamrolls the opposing players in his way. The return man barely has time to catch the ball before he’s crunched with a crushing tackle. The ball dribbles out of his hands. ‘Gator being Johnny-on-the-spot, picks up the fumble and had his second touchdown within five seconds of the first one. The game proceeds from there, with Aims High leading 35-0 at half-time. The visitors change quarterbacks to start the second half. We play ‘New Kid in Town,’ with the stands all pointing and laughing at the hapless second-stringer. I notice a few jokers pointing at me during the song.





The truth hurts – not really. The game remains a rout. As the teams run off the field, we play ‘Champions’ for a final time. We wait for ‘Gator and his crew outside the gym. When he comes out he is surrounded by a group of muscular college students, his friends from the State team. Several adults try to speak with ‘Gator, but his college friends tell them to get lost. They are evidently college recruiters. Tim 430
“Ferget it,” one of the State players tells them. “He’s coming to State next year.”
I dub his life, ‘’Gator-World.’ Even the college students call him ‘Gator. When he saw us waiting for him, a big smile breaks out. He rushes over.
“Those songs really rocked my world. See my two touchdowns?” he crows.
“Oh, we missed those,” I kid him.
“No way,” as he punches my arm.
“Oh, ‘Gator, you’re so great,” the girls get into mocking him. Real friends never hesitate to knock you down a notch.
He looks at them, realizing they’re being sarcastic. One notch is enough, as he just laughs at himself. “Well, it was the whole team, not just me. We crushed ‘em.”
All three of us punched him on his bulging bicep.Tim 263
“Pizza,” he announces. I inwardly groan, remembering I just got off work a few hours ago.

“Ya already did yer shift,” the boss complains, as we pile into the Pit.
“I’m a customer, this time,” I clarify. “We’re coming from the football game.”
“Didcha win?”
‘Gator flexes. “Do we look like losers?” Tim 485
“What’s ya want. It’s on the house,” the boss proves himself human. I should warn him about football players and pizza. I figure he should know.
My respect went out the window when he greets Amy, “How ya doin,’ darlin?’”Tim 450
We put away four pizzas in no time. There’s no offer of seconds. We get down to business about the Halloween night’s festivities. It’s too late for trick or treating, but the barn party beckons.
“We ain’t going to a ‘barn party,’” the twins announce. “We have reputations to maintain.” Tim179
“Well, I ain’t goin’ neither,” I decide.
“Ya gots ta go,” ‘Gator laments. “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’m impressed that ‘Gator has some musical knowledge, if not discerning taste. The Seekers? Pete Seeger? Joan Baez?

We drive to the Hyland house  to pick up guitars and let the moms know where we’re going. They immediately proscribe a midnight curfew which we refuse to acknowledge. We’d have to leave as soon as we got there. They insist us on taking their station wagon,  instead of riding in the boys’ pickups. I ride with ‘Gator until he picks up his comfort girl/cheerleader. We drive all over Ames picking up each of his posse member’s girlfriends, before heading out-of-town to the mysterious barn location. Soon we’re driving on dirt roads, off the main highway. Twenty minutes later we spot the party, lit up by a circle of pickups with their headlights on. The sounds of Boston are blaring from a pickup’s radio



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

Everyone goes in different directions once we park. The girls grab me by each arm. It’s their first barn party. The chaos is infectious, if not the sounds. People we barely know, run up to us, offering beer and/or joints. My forsaken life beckons. I remain a protector of the girls, who recoil at the offerings of demon alcohol and pot. We find a group of girls who welcome 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 laugh, but figure I can probably have a beer without ruining my reputation, ‘the new kid in town.’
I wander to the nearest group of guys, with a few girls attached to their boyfriends’ hips.
“Ya wanna, beer, Andy?” someone asks.
“Sure, thanks,” as he hands me a PBR tall boy.Tim 449
“Shotgun, shotgun,” the cry goes up. I let him punch a hole in the bottom of the can with a church key. Lifting the can up-side-down to my mouth, I popped the tab and the whole can drained down my throat.I choke and the remainder soaks my shirt. In ten seconds I’m high.
“Woo-ey,” I yell, as everyone slaps me on the back. I wander from group to group with similar downings of beer. Finally, ‘Gator comes up to me, his girlfriend on his hip, looks me in the eye, “You’re wasted.”
“Damn straight, mate,” I rhymed, putting my arm around his shoulder. Tim 358 He beams at everyone, with both his girlfriend and new best friend wrapped around him. We stumble from group to group, partaking of excessive amounts of beer. Finally, we run into the girl group, the twins take one look at me. “You’re wasted,” they tear me away from ‘Gator. We both think it’s hilarious.
“Where’s them guitars?” ‘Gator asks. “I’s sick of lame rock. Where’s Boston anyway?”
I stand there swaying, with Amy holding me up. Angie runs off to get the guitars from their car. I plop down and once we start playing, everyone forms a circle. ‘Gator turns off the horrid radio music. I remember I wanted to hear country music and started playing the Dead’s ‘Truckin.’ Tim 444

I play 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 announces we need pot to be in a Dead Head mood. He stares at a long hair who laughs and pulls out a joint, that goes around the circle. I play ‘One Toke over the Line.”

I instantly miss Tommy’s fractured ‘who do you love?’ and ‘I sail away’, but the twins hit it perfectly. No need for pinching. Someone holds the joint for me as the twins sing, so I get a no-hands hit. Next ‘Gator comes over and gives me a shotgun hit. Tim 92 I swear our lips almost touch. I jump up, exhale, and play the low notes of ‘Spirit in the Sky.’

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



The girls follow me around. I’m too stoned to notice I’m overdoing it, until suddenly I want them to notice.  After ‘Devil,’ I whispered ‘Bobby McGee’, making them smile.

We just sing the chorus, “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”  Amy sings “He’s looking for that home and I hope he finds it.” It’s too much for my overloaded stoned mind. I sit down hard, with tears streaming down my face. The girls stop playing and hug me. They whispered that I had found my home, which causes another outburst. My wimpy self exposes itself. Tim 399 ‘Gator and the boys are stunned as I choke. ‘Gator instinctively knows what to do and joins the girls around me. His strength gets 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. “

Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC


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



We all sing it bouncing along the dirt road. Both girls hug me. Unlike Hippie, Angie doesn’t run off the road into the barren corn fields. Halloween is over. It’s all Saints Day.

It was two o’clock when we got to the Hyland house.  The moms are both sitting up, ready to pounce on the curfew violation. They instantly know I’m drunk: beer smell – a dead giveaway. The fact that both girls had not indulged, saves all of us. The moms appear to have lower standards for boys. We sit 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 asks.
“It’s Andy,” Angie accuses 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 explains “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 puts 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 turns 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 also be 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 oesn’t help the discussion. We soon go to bed. It was four o’clock.
“Good night, Jim Bob,” the girls call out from their room.
I sniff again and gulp, “G’night.”
Halloweens tend to wear me out. Tim 331

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 you were entertained at least,” 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 was 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 re starting to yell and stomp, building up to the entrance By the time I’d 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 streamed 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 sang,
“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 march 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’


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.