a wandering woman writes

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

High Stepping

My name is Erin C.

And I was a band nerd.

There I've said it. If you all choose to surf away to cooler climes, I'll understand. I just thought it was time I came clean.

Last week's Semana Santa bands left me nostalgic for my trusty white band cap, and the thousand bobby pins I'd commission to hold it just so, perfectly stiff, so that from a distance, no one, but no one, would know I was a girl. Girlishness was reserved for flag bearers and baton twirlers. I was a manly piccolo player.

You must know I did not march in just any old marching band. I was 1 of more than 300 (I kid you not) members of Purdue's All American Marching Band, proud owners of the world's largest bass drum. Four drum-men pulled the drum and a 5th jumped into the air to swing out a note. (Still not kidding.) In fact, the year I marched we unveiled the world's largest cymbals, both of them, veering at each other across the field until they crashed in the center.

An All American Marching Band with a sense of the ridiculous.

I marched one season before my parent's divorce sent me out in search of a job. I feel rhythm everywhere and from everything. What could possibly compare to marching down a street or dancing wildly around a football field to the beat of 30 drummers pounding their hearts out?

Today my nostalgia carried me over to the Purdue band site for a march down memory lane.

We played this as we made the Block P, a football field sized P of white-capped musicians.

And we played this every halftime to a thundering chorus of Midwesterners, hats and hands clasped over their midAmerican hearts.

So, there I was a few minutes ago, high stepping my way through my brief marching career, when it surfaced. A wisely repressed band memory. THE memory. Right up there with the graceful if fatally-timed fall overboard that earned me my Chicago sailing nickname: Splash.


As an oversized, "all-American" marching band, we would spell out words on the field, you see. We could spell anything.

The music holder attached to my wrist held my marching instructions -- coded letters and numbers that told me in what direction to march, when and for how many steps. On the fateful, memorable day in question, I, unfortunately, was the designated "end" man, leading my little squad of 4 around the field. Yep, Splash. In the lead.

I don't remember how it happened. Patriotic euphoria over the day's rendering of "I Am An American"? A strong prairie wind in my marching instructions? Well placed worry about Monday's chemistry exam? Whatever the cause, I lost myself, and marched my squad straight out behind the squad next to us. I went left when I should have gone right, 3 loyal piccolo players in tow.

And on that sunny October day in West Lafayette, Indiana, before 40,000 spectators in Ross Ade Stadium and who knows how many Hoosiers watching back at home....

the proud Purdue marching band blasted away at the Hail Purdue fight song

and marched to the end zone


spelling out


That unexpectedly long tail on the F was 3 gullible piccolo players, and their fearless leader.

Rumor has it the amazing marching PURDUF morphed as it travelled down the field. Four white hats bobbed in panic then dashed into place.....

as PURDUF became PURDUE.

When I left the band to take a job at the local cinema, the band director never said a word. He always seemed so happy to see me behind the candy counter.

Labels: , ,


  • I think that "Splash" is an adorable sailing nickname. :D

    By Anonymous Adrift At Sea, at 2:07 AM  

  • Have you thought what would happen if in a spanish football match you had a band playing "I'm proud to be Spanish" with a big spanish flag?

    One of the many things that are different in the USA and Spain.

    To show such a proudness of your nationality would not be considered a propper thing to do.

    The Civil war too near I suppose.

    By Anonymous Alex, at 8:41 AM  

  • Lol delicious ... purduf kind of has the same sound as splash (or do you have to be in my head to hear that?)

    I guess it was predictive ... marching to the sound of your own drumbeat and all that :)

    By Blogger woman wandering, at 10:08 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 11:00 AM  

  • Thank you, Dan. I'm not sure my team members enjoyed it quite so much the day I earned it - smack in the middle ofa race we were leading by a mile. (Ok it felt like a mile...)

    Alex, that's why I included the link - the contrast struck me, as did the contrast in ME and maybe in where my country is at the moment, how proudly I'd be likely to shout that now...how much I remind myself to separate what we DO right now from what I know we ARE....(Do you remember when Zapatero didn't stand as the US flag passed by, one what do you call that holiday Armed Forces Day? in Madrid? This is why that may have been received as a much stronger slap than he meant to send...Lots of my paisanos see the flag in a way the Spanish don't..)

    Di, you're right! the sounds I mean! hahaha, I think I just have a thing for soft landings...splash, purduf...

    11:00 AM

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 11:03 AM  

  • Great tunes! I love marching bands!
    Does it make you all goose-pimply when you look back?
    Sounded like Steve Martin on the recording!

    By Blogger cream, at 11:02 AM  

  • Oh my dear, this made me laugh out loud. One of my favorite posts of all time! YOu are so adorable I can't stand it sometimes.

    By Blogger Laura Young, at 10:24 PM  

  • Yes, cream, goose pimply, goose pimply! I keep going back and replaying the drum cadence and the fight song. Why would have I guessed you loved marching bands?

    I don't know about adorable, Laura. You see why I used to say my life was one long I love Lucy episode? I couldn't make this stuff up. :-)

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 10:42 PM  

  • NERD!!!

    All kidding aside, nice blog you have here, and I think it's great you decided to leave it all and take off for Spain. Quite inspiring, actually.

    By Blogger dingobear, at 9:24 AM  

  • See, even nerds can have idle dreams turn into very cool lives.....:-)

    thanks, dingo bear!

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 9:06 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home