*I’ve always wanted to tell this story, but found it difficult due to the word restriction of the newspaper. There’s so much more to tell, and some of you from my high school who were there, feel free to fill in the rest! And now that I see my friend Jana in this photo, I think I may have been a sophomore instead of a freshman. Maybe a part II is in the future! Anyway . . . it’s a bona-fide true-life story, so help me God.
Our football team at Escambia High School was having a few rough years, but our band was awesome.
Our nemesis, Tate High School, battled us for top spot at all the local band contests. They considered their stiff military style to be far superior than our laid-back fun shows. Tate sneered at our old uniforms, laughed at our band room’s lack of air-conditioning and then, called our mamas names. Whereas their director was more John Philip Sousa, ours was Jimmy Buffett, and they hated us for our casual attitude.
The insults and pranks between the bands reached new heights when Tate selected us as their homecoming opponent, which everyone knew was because they considered our team to be a patsy. After we perfected the most awesome halftime show ever known to man, Tate informed us we would have to perform before the game began, because they wanted the entire halftime for themselves.
Of all the low down nerve! No one would even see our show. The crowd would still be trickling into the stands while we played our hearts out. That’s when the plan was hatched by the senior trumpet player who winked at me as I handed him my $1.10.
Even though the score was sure to be lopsided, it was the game of the week and broadcast on live TV. We performed our show to the predicted empty stands, then settled in to watch the butt-kicking take place. Tate’s band played their irritating fight song over and over after every touchdown as their students laughed and pointed at us from across the field.
At halftime, the Pride of Cantonment marched onto the field and launched into “Ice Castles” as their polyester-clad homecoming court sashayed down the 50-yard line on the arms of their cousins.
Operation, “Old McDonald” began to unfold with precision only known to our hometown Blue Angels. Our mastermind innocently walked beneath the stands, carrying a sousaphone case. Hidden below us, he pushed out the metal air grate at the front of the cement bleachers facing the field, and opened the case to release a medium sized pink pig which cost $62.47.
Lesser pigs have worked for Hollywood and not performed as well. He obediently started at one end zone, ran cattywhompus through the legs of Tate’s band, knocked over a couple of color guard girls, then triumphantly relieved himself on the 50 yard-line in front of the newly crowned queen.
By this time, the crowd began to whoop and holler. Three sturdy boys from Tate’s FFA gave chase and added to the commotion by diving in and out of the band, taking out a ticked-off saxophone player. The announcer didn’t know what to do, other than say, “Folks, I think we have a pig on the field.”
Piggy ran on, free and unscathed, through the band as Ice Castles fell apart, and when he crossed into the far end zone, the crowd yelled, “Touchdown!” Girls with corsages cried, their band director cursed, and the TV cameras captured it all for the viewers at home.
Our director and principal looked away to hide their laughter. It was still the era when no one was suspended or sent to juvenile detention and PETA didn’t get their britches in a bunch. Tate students took it as a new opportunity to hate us even more, but decades later, they got the last laugh.
The last time I checked, the odiferous paper mill looming over the school had been updated, property values soared, and kids from my school grew up, moved north and enrolled their offspring in Tate. And although I’ve called them traitors to their faces, they assure me that each time they sit in that stadium and watch their children wear Tate’s crimson and gray, they hum a few notes of Old McDonald and think of the best halftime show ever.
This story first appeared in the AL.com newspapers and is included in the book, The Majorettes are Back in Town and other things to love about the South.