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1. Stars & Stripes

2. Nice to see you again

3. I never want to see that dentist again!


None of this would have happened if Coby Ballantine hadn’t fallen off the wagon at the last Fourth of July picnic. He started celebrating early and by about 11:00 we knew were in deep trouble. The concert was scheduled for 2:00, after everyone had time to digest their hot dogs and potato salad, but there wasn’t any way in the world that the community band could perform Stars and Stripes Forever lacking both the conductor and the only piccolo player. Coby was both, and Coby was in no condition to participate.

Elmer Goff stepped up and said he’d attempt the reedy tweets of the piccolo part. All of us kind of thought Elmer might have had a hand in getting Coby in the condition he was in; Elmer always wanted to play with the band but, to put it politely, be had a tin ear. Desperate times call for desperate measures, though, so Ballantine was out and Goff was in. Elmer headed for home to pick up his instrument, and Coby headed for the Baptist church to sleep it off under the watchful eye of Brother Paine.

Somehow I found myself agreeing to stand on a wooden box in front of the band and wave my arms in what I hoped was the proper tempo for the piece. Certainly I’d heard the march often enough to know how it should sound, but trying to convey that to a bunch of enthusiastic but very amateur musicians might be something else altogether.

We got through the day, though, and if the piccolo sounded a little like Happy Birthday there in the middle, everyone at least accepted that Elmer Goff did the best he could. Elmer walked a bit taller for a while, which was a good thing, I suppose.

The main thing that came out of that day was that Coby got religion.


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