Saturday, March 20, 2010

Four Baton Lessons

I transferred from a small school (50 students K-12) to a big school (about 83 graduates) in my sophomore year. Gaylord had a band.

I loved football Fridays. I loved the half-time shows--the drums, the horns, the cymbals, the marching, 

I wanted to join that band!

Bad. Really bad.

But I couldn't play an instrument. None. Zilch.

Dead dream.

But . . .

What if I learned to twirl?

But how?

My mom knew a little about twirling. She showed me with a broom. And then bought me a real baton.

I spent the whole summer learning to twirl in front of me, pass behind my back, pass under my leg, spin with one hand, throw and catch.

Practiced. Practiced. Practiced.


I showed up for tryouts in my junior year. I thought I would throw up.

But I made the cut! Although now I can't really remember if they cut anyone. But at least I didn't stink enough for them to say, "Strut on out of here."

Miss Majorette. Band member.

 That's me with the glasses.

Lesson 1: If you want something bad enough, you can find a way.

I reached for a star and caught its tail. We majorettes practiced alone and then practiced with the band. I loved "strutting" on the field. I loved dodging horns and drums to take positions through the ranks. I loved freezing football nights when my baton turned to ice and strangers loaned me blankets. I loved throwing (and catching) my baton. I loved feeling like I had done my best, put on a good show.

I remember the band instructor had a saying that went something like this.

"Michigan State walks on the field. U of M marches. We march!"

Obvious what school he favored. But a call to excellence.

Lesson 2: Learning doesn't stop once you realize a dream. Strive for excellence.

My senior year. Head majorette. I don't remember how, and I think my only job was to schedule practices. But I got to wear a big furry hat! And I had to learn how to balance it while still dashing through the horns--who thought it was fun to try and run us over.

The majorettes led the band in parades. I loved marching to the drum cadence and then breaking into our routine when the band struck up the music. One day my hat crashed to the pavement. I hesitated in momentary horror. Then I did what any professional would do. I stepped over it and kept on going. I don't know who rescued it and returned it to me unscathed at the end of the parade.

Lesson 3: Sometimes you just have to step over obstacles and keep going.

The summer after graduation, I ran for Alpine Queen (now Alpenfest Queen.) I chose to perform a routine with my baton, probably to a Sousa march or something. I don't remember. Anyway, I threw the baton up. And missed the catch. The baton hit the stage and bounced on the large rubber end--right back into my hand! And I kept on going.

Some thought I recovered well. Some thought I intentionally incorporated that into my routine.

I knew I messed up.

But I WON the talent competition.

Lesson 4: We might experience failure, but winners always bounce back.

I still have that baton. I think I'll dig it out and hang it here in my writing room.

How have you claimed a dream? What obstacles have you had to step over? Have you had to bounce back from "failure?"

NOTE: Thanks to Jody Hedlund whose posts on dreams this past week inspired these memories. If you haven't checked out her blog, Author, Jody Hedlund, you should!

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King


  1. I learned how to twirl the same way. I started with the figure eight and just kept at it until it got tighter and tighter. I practiced all the other moves I'd see the girls do, too, but I was already in the band and wasn't willing to give it up to become a twirler.

    Great lessons learned from that experience--for both of us! Thanks for the memories.

  2. Great lessons! Thanks for sharing this, and for sharing your story.
    Happy weekend,

  3. Another lesson--sometimes ya gotta choose between two good things. Can't do it all!

    Have a great weekend, you two!

  4. Even brought back memories for me of that same phrase from what I believe was that same band director -- many years later, of course. And then seeing the picture of the old (then new) house -- and the PLANT! Nice job.

  5. Aw, Sandra, what great pictures and I loved hearing your story about your baton twirling days! And each of your lessons is so applicable to anything we want to pursue. What a great post! I'm so glad I inspired you to write it! :-)

  6. @The Lurker: Yes, that same director was there a long time! That plant was around forever, wasn't it? Is that the checkerboard table?

    @Jody: You always inspire me. Aren't the pictures a hoot? Did you get a good look at that television?

  7. I love the encouragement here! Great analogy, and yes I believe the harder you try at something you will get invaluably better. I pray my writing gets much, much, better! Thanx for the encouraging post!

  8. Thanks for stopping in, T. Anne, and for following. I just took a stroll over to your blog. Good stuff.

  9. Hello. I stumbled upon your blog and I am from Gaylord, too! I am interested in blogging reading all that is out there!

    Kate (Prendergast) Burns
    Gaylord Graduate 1995

  10. Hi Kate! How cool. Are you related to Carrie? I graduated with her. :)

  11. I sure am! Her first born! :)
    I am introducing her to blogging.

  12. Small world! Well, maybe not so much when you splatter yourself all over the Internet. ;) Come back and visit again. :D