Thursday, January 14, 2010

Growing Up in Himni, Utah - Episode 14

There were three Baritonists in the Himni High School Band. LeGrand Morris (Grandy), Michael Simper and myself. In the band room we sat on the back row, but in front of Rob Hanke, who played the Sousaphone and needed a bit of elbo room in the back corner opposite the drummers. Mitch Warner played the tenor sax and sat right in front of us.

Mr. Hess, our band teacher, had listed the student’s names in alphabetical order. He then assigned each a consecutive number, in that order. When it was time for roll call, he just called on us to count off in the appropriate sequence. As luck would have it, Morris, Parker, Simper and Warner stacked up right in a row. Our numbers were 27, 28, 29 and 30. We soon took to calling out our numbers in four part harmony. Grandy would sing his number and hold the note, then in succession, the others would add their number and harmonious note. Rob, not wanting to be left out, often added a deep bass sousaphone drone as foundation for our performance.
We were a “harmonious” group in more ways than one. We saw eye to eye on most things and were pretty much inseparable even when not in the band room. The previous summer, all of us except Michael had gone to Boy’s State together. Michael’s big brother Ronald had gone with us. Michael was a year younger. We talked often of Boy’s State, of the fun we’d had. Mitch and I were still corresponding with Rhonda and Wanda, twin girls we’d met while up there in Logan. Michael was desperate to have the same experience. It’s hard to say this about Michael, we liked him a lot, but he was a bit odd. I know what you’re thinking, but I mean even odder than the rest of us. He was even awkward around us, his best buddies. He always treated us with a kind of awe and respect, like he couldn’t believe we liked him and that our friendship was somehow tenuous.

Michael invented the “blip boid.” I think he intended it to be sort of a combination sign somewhere between “the bird” and a salute. To correctly execute the blip boid you had to hold your right arm out in front of yourself with the forearm in a vertical position. The hand was held in a relaxed posture with the index finger and thumb extended, but also somewhat relaxed. Once in this position you slowly elevated the hand while twisting it back and forth in a jerky, syncopated motion until you got it about half as high as you could reach, where you stopped until all responding blip boids had been completed. Michael insisted this be our club high sign. Trouble is, we didn’t have a club.

Maybe Michael thought going to Boy’s State was the final initiation that would make his membership in our club complete. It must not have occurred to him that we’d all be gone next year. Or, maybe he thought that he’d fall in with other Boy’s State alumni in our absence. Anyway, he mused about it a lot and was constantly seeking the mysterious key that would insure his invitation. One day, off the cuff, I mentioned that never in the history of Himni High had the newly elected Student Body President failed to be invited to Boy’s State. His insecurity prevailing, Michael asked, “So I run for Student Body President, but what if I lose?”
That was no problem, because never in the history of Himni High had the loser of the election for Student Body President not been elected Senior Class President…and never in history had the Senior Class President failed to be invited to Boy’s State either. It was a sure thing! Michael was elated!

“Would you guys be my Campaign Committee?”

Now Mitch and I, in particular, were into politics. We’d gone to Boy’s State after all, plus we’d gone to Model United Nations twice and were steeped in Mr. Parker’s (my dad) American Problems class. We were the quintessential campaign committee! We didn’t tell him that neither one of us got elected to anything more important than Dog Catcher at Boy’s State.

The next few weeks were spent developing strategy, painting posters and overcoming Michael’s Pip Squeak image. The latter was a challenge. We decided the jocks were out. Michael’s challenger was Ricky Hanley, a jock – who had money. Our attention turned to the shops. If we could turn out the vote in the Auto, Wood and Ag shops we could kick Ricky’s butt. There was a reasonable population in that end of the school. That group was typically disinterested in such things as school elections. The academics were already pretty much in the bag on account of the persistent rivalry between academics and sports. Yup, the shops were the key.
In those days there was a common phrase used by the greasers down in the shops. As an insult cum challenge they would often offer a surly “Eat My Shorts!” Quite often that, or more commonly, “EMS” was scrawled on the restroom walls. We appropriated “EMS” for ourselves – Elect Michael Simper!
It was a good strategy and it might have worked. We’ll never know, though, because Mitch and I panicked and stuffed the ballot box – and got caught.

Ricky Hanley was declared the winner and Mitch and I were hauled in on the carpet. The Disciplinary Council consisted of the Principal, Mr. Steckler, Coach Harker and Mrs. Celestia Hopewell. We were doomed. Mr. Steckler informed us of the charges and explained that if found guilty, we’d be suspended for a week and our diplomas would be held until we’d completed 100 hours of community service. The biggest implication, I thought, was that it took Mitch out of the running for Valedictorian. He and Emily Allen were in hot contention for the honor and I couldn’t bear to have him lose it this way.

The witness, Marci Merriwether was called and before she was even halfway through her deposition, Coach Harker declared, “I move we convict ‘em. It’s clear they done it!”

“Did,” Mrs. Hopewell sharply replied.

“Did what?” Coach Harker queried.

“The correct English is “did it”, sir, not “done it.”

There was ice between them
Mitch offered a subtle blip boid in my direction. I responded.

Coach Harker raged on at the vile act we’d committed. He always hated Mitch. Mitch could have been an All State Quarterback. He was smart enough, athletic enough, tall enough, and charismatic enough to have done the whole thing. He just had no interest in sports and that killed Coach Harker. His bitterness was showing like a girl’s slip.

Mr. Steckler finally got him settled down and turned the attention back to Marci. Meanwhile, I observed Mrs. Hopewell scratch a quick note which she passed to Coach Harker. When he held it up to read it, the light was such that, I could see the name Ted Traynor was scrawled on it. Ted was next year’s hope for a successful football season. I still can’t believe what came next. The coach mouthed the words, “You wouldn’t!” She responded with a most resolute glare
The exchange was interrupted by Mr. Steckler, who dismissed Marci. She gave us a nasty little sniff, letting us know she was getting her revenge for the Golden Emerods incident. The Principal called for a vote. “By a show of hands, who finds the defendants guilty?” All three hands went up. He was about to declare our sentence when Mrs. Hopewell interrupted, “Due to extenuating circumstances, I propose that we ease up on these boys a bit. They’ve been assets to our school. This is the first time they’ve appeared before this council. May I respectfully suggest that we limit their punishment to community service and leave this little affair off their academic records?”

Mr. Steckler smugly suggested her proposal be put to a vote. “All in favor of the lightened sentence, suggested by Mrs. Hopewell, please signify by raising your hand.” Mrs. Hopewell’s hand went right up and not so swiftly, so did Coach Harker’s!

Mr. Steckler’s jaw hit his chest. Mitch and I were pretty shocked too. We came away shaking our heads. After all, who’d have thought that the greatest lesson in politics of our high school career would have been taught by an English teacher!

You might be interested to know that, though Ricky Hanley was the new Student Body President, he didn’t get invited to Boy’s State. Neither did Wes Whickham, the Senior Class President. Michael Simper, however, was invited and was elected Senator, his campaign slogan – EMS!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love Himni.....thank you

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