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In high school I was a member of the marching band. Every one of my siblings had been in the band and by gum I would be too. I hated it.
I enjoyed the music and I loved playing the trombone, but I hated it because of the parades. You see we didn't have a football team so there wasn't the fun of marching the formations and putting on the shows related to drum corps type displays with the majorettes in skimpy little outfits and tight knee high boots and panties and leather whips and….
We marched in parades. Veteran's Day parades. Memorial Day Parades. Easter parades. Christmas parades. Oh the Sun Came Up Today—Let's Have a Parade parades.
It seemed like every 10 days or so we were loading our stuff up in a bus and driving to some tiny town to celebrate the 138th year of having a coal mine or some other form of silliness.
I especially hated being in the marching band when Halloween rolled around.
In our hick towns, the marching bands in Halloween parades made for interesting, slow moving targets for hoodlums such as myself. We were targets that were frequently on the receiving end of a barrage of eggs, corn, and sometimes…bags of excrement.
It wasn't so much that I was afraid of getting hit. No, I'd had shit slung at me before—after all I am the baby of eight kids—no, it was that I wanted to be one of the throwers of malevolent poultry products.
The town where we went to school is named Millerstown. It's along the Juniata River just eleven miles from my hometown of Liverpool. That's where the real Halloween Mayhem usually occurred and that is where my last parade took place.
My senior year I had planned well to raise my share of Cain after marching. I had stashed a long, black duster in the shrubs near where our bus parked. With the coat was the rest of our standard issue, hoodlum uniform: black stocking cap, leather gloves, road flares, quarter stick firecrackers, a dozen eggs, and four bars of paraffin. My coat weighed about fifty pounds with all the armaments, yet was very pre-Columbine chic.
Marching with me in the front row was my best pal Leroy Kratzer. Leroy and I were both first trombone players and easily the most agile and fit of the band. I guess the configuration of trombones up front is unusual and was viewed as purely a defensive measure by our band director to protect some of the clarinet and flute playing pencil necks.
During the Main Street portion of the parade we marched and played unmolested. The Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive arranged for marching band never sounded better. The Liberty Bell March by John Phillip Sousa (aka the Monty Python Theme) sounded better still as our confidence improved in the safety of the band. I even heard some of the meek tooting masses behind me say that we were “safe” this year. I knew better.
One of the other trombone players, Rick Wilson, was absent. Absent from marching on Halloween Parade night meant: lurking on a side street with 4 of my friends and a basket of eggs.
As we made the loop off of Main Street down by the dress factory, I saw the wall of white dots coming in at us from about 20 degrees above the horizon line. In fact, I saw one egg leave Rick's hand and come right at me. The ovoid projectile glanced off the bell of my trombone and hit Leroy squarely on the jaw.
While I was laughing at Leroy's yoke covered head, a line drive egg slammed into my right ear and enveloped my whole head with egg. Thanks. Thanks a lot.
The tuba was a prime target and our tuba virtuoso, Kevin Weibly also presented a large target. He was covered in eggs. I ducked down and turned my back against the barrage to see the French horns hopping and skipping like wild west cartoon characters avoiding bullets.
The lead drummer, Kirk Siffin, had wisely hoisted his three drum rig up to cover his face and body as the eggs made a drum cadence of their very own.
Thomp, thomp, thomp went the base drum as Scotty Reichenbach hid from the eggs that were hitting it.
The assault lasted no more than half a minute, but it left just about all of us with at least a little bit of egg on our faces. Several of the band members who'd received full on face shots were weeping softly.
Semper Fidelis sounded like crap as we slogged our way back up the hill towards the school and to relative safety.
After the parade I quickly washed up and was eager to slam a few eggs of my own into the open collars of my friends. Leroy and I found the boys lurking at a pre-determined meeting place in the visiting team baseball dugout.
Rick required an egg be stuffed in the back of his pants immediately.
Jeff Potter, he got an egg down the shirt along with a light pat to the gut.
Dave Fegley didn't know it but he really needed that egg pressed into his forehead.
Tom Smith seemed hungry for egg and wound up with a raw egg broken on his teeth at close range. Now we were even and could start the night off with a clean slate.
In less than a minute we were avenged and it was time to begin looking for the police.
It didn't take long; in fact, a police car came directly at us as it pulled off of Main Street, causing everyone but me to disburse. I was so heavily laden with firecrackers, eggs and other paraphernalia that running wasn't yet an option.
I walked as casually as one wearing a black ski mask and overcoat carrying 50 pounds of illegal stuff walks as the police cruiser paced me not ten feet away. Sweating bullets, I kept walking slowly, trying to act like I might have a young child at the house next to us on whom I was waiting. I even casually waved.
When I waved at the cop, he rolled his window down. Mistake, Mr. Policeman. Big mistake.
My friends had quickly scampered around the row of houses and into a narrow alley between houses where they had a great vantage point to fire off a couple dozen eggs.
Just as the window of the car was fully down and Mr. Byers, the town cop leaned out presumably to ask me a question, eggs pelted the cop car, landing in the window, crashing into the doors, covering the lights.
Five young boys can get about three dozen eggs aloft in seconds. So many eggs hit at once that it sounded like a baseball bat swung half-heartedly into the door of the car dead center on the police badge decal. The car went from black and white to black and white with yellow smears.
During the assault I was forced to walk calmly by the cop car, lest I be implicated as a member of the gang that was attacking. I ducked several of the eggs but got hit in the side by at least three.
All of the boys throwing were on the baseball team. All of them gave it their absolute best efforts at hitting the cop's open window. Most of their work was successful.
The lights flared on, the siren screamed and I could hear the cop radio in a call for back up, yelling through egg on his face, “I'm being hit, I'm being hit!”