We last heard from Donna Leal over a three-week period several months ago, on Feb. 4, 11 and 18, 2005. This past summer, Donna did a little traveling with both Madison Scouts and the Cavaliers. </>Her thoughts as a rookie volunteer in the three Fanfares mentioned above were so innocent and charming I asked her to keep track of her thoughts during her travels this summer, when she returned to drum corps as an experienced volunteer. We'll be reading about her enthusiastic 2005 exploits during this and the following installment. If you've shared a unique experience with a corps, please share it with us by contacting me at boomike@dci.org. July 16, 2005 Gatlinburg, Tenn. You know, for all its usefulness, a computer can be one of the biggest time wasters available to the paying public. I leave in less than 24 hours for my second year on the Madison Scouts cook truck and I'm sitting at the computer comparing scores. It's not as though I don't have anything else to do. Thank heavens Mike Boo is in Kalamazoo! As I enjoy annoying/entertaining/offending him with my musings, my joy dwindles when he's out and about on important drum corps business and unavailable to respond to my e-mail. The absence of Michael shall force me to push away from the computer and attend to last minute urgent packing matters. Truthfully, I haven't procrastinated like I did last year and am ready to journey to Lexington, Ky., to meet my beloved Scouts and head to San Antonio! July 17, 2005 Lexington, Ky I don't want to go. This is not a good sign. It's not for any specific reason that I want to stay at home -- I just don't want to go. What excuse can I give for not showing up in Lexington? I forgot? The dog ate the car keys? I have been diagnosed with an exotic, rare and very serious (but not fatal) disease and have been confined to my home because I'm incredibly contagious? That wouldn't be right as people are depending on me, so the car is packed for my journey to the Bluegrass State. The trip to Kentucky was unremarkable, other than massive traffic snarls. As a result, I am later arriving at Winchester High School than originally planned. The Scouts were on the field when I got there, so I sat on the steps of the cook truck, my luggage piled in front of the walk-in cooler and waited for everyone to return. The first person I see is food truck worker, Mike Anello. Last year my first glimpse of Mike was an ominous one as he was working on that ghastly 'bago's air conditioning -- I am happier to see him this year. I soon meet my fellow workers on the food truck for the week -- Kathy Plante (whose son Jon marches with the Scouts) and Ed Lujan (whose brother Fred is a Madison alumnus). And of course there was Madison Scout cook truck extraordinaire Debbie Krebs, the sister I never had. I also brought treats to share in the form of rum balls and dip. I stash my luggage then start socializing. In the words of Carl from "Sling Blade," Ed and I "made friends right off." It appears as though I've got someone to pal around with this year. I am also extremely pleased to find that Scout alum Jeffrey Paugh will be on tour with us this year. I like Jeffrey. I don't know why, I just do. Tormenting him throughout the week by telling him how madly in love with him I am will ultimately bring me a great deal of pleasure. Although I'm never quite sure just how much Jeffrey enjoys my declarations of love. As I expected, my feelings of reluctance at going on tour evaporate and I'm excited and happy beyond belief. We soon load up and depart to Alabama. I'm hitting the road with the Madison Scouts. The staff bus has been completely refurbished and is now quite stylish. The first section of the bus has been designed with seats providing a conversation area. Cody Pileski (corps manager) has his own section complete with little office, while the back of the bus is now equipped with bunks. The bus has been planned in a way so that those who take a while to wind down at night won't disturb -- with our chattering and antics -- those who are aware of the wisdom of getting a good night's rest. Some of us spent the first leg of our journey playing Catch Phrase, while others found it more enjoyable to read the latest adventures of Harry Potter. For the uninitiated, Catch Phrase is a game where one is given a word or phrase, then tries to describe that word or phrase to fellow players. The object of the game is for someone else to guess the original word within a specific time limit. Strict rules are to be followed. If you travel our nation's roads in any capacity with a drum corps member, staff, volunteer or fan and don't have a Catch Phrase game, then someone certainly needs to buy one. It is an enjoyable way to waste some time. Perfect for those long drives between shows! Our first stop was at a truck stop west of Knoxville, Tenn. A UPS truck probably heading to the Knoxville hub was fueling beside our bus. I wanted the driver to ascend from the cab so I could ask him if he knew my UPS buddy Charlie Merritt, but he refused to cooperate. Perhaps he thought I was some sort of crazed UPS stalker. I'm even happier with the staff bus when it comes time to retire for the evening. It is a luxury liner compared with that horrid 'bago. Sleeping in that old thing was like being a package in a UPS truck. One was always getting tossed about. I must admit that positioning my person in my bunk (and naturally I chose the one above Jeffrey's) that first night was no easy feat. I eventually wedged myself against the window. I will confess, however, to horrible visions in which the window popped open and I was thrown out. My fears were without merit and I eventually went to sleep. The motion of the bus awakens me and I open the curtain slightly and look out into a black velvet Alabama night. I smile to myself and drift back to sleep. I'm on tour again with the Madison Scouts. July 18, 2005 -- somewhere in Alabama The high school we stayed at will remain anonymous, as it was squalid. The bathrooms were beyond disgusting. A mean athletic director refused to let the women (all seven of us) use the women's shower facilities, forcing us to shower in the men's locker room. Cold showers?! I'm still traumatized. I was horrified by his lack of graciousness and breeding. What kind of southern gentleman was he, I ask? I apologized to Kathy and Debbie on behalf of all southerners for this man -- who was obviously an oaf and a boor -- and for his ghastly manners. (There now. You see why I chose not to reveal the name or location of this school. Some other corps -- and I have nothing but pity for them -- may have to stay at this wretched facility one day.) All complaining aside, there was something inherently Southern about sitting in the hot Alabama sun drinking iced tea and peeling peaches for a peach pie, and I did enjoy the atmosphere. Ed and I are attending the show tonight. It's the strangest thing. I don't know why some of the fans (and I use the term loosely) even bother attending a show. They spend the entire evening visiting with friends, chatting on cell phones and gobbling nachos. Ever so rarely is their attention diverted by what is happening on the field. I tried to eavesdrop on what appeared to be a tumultuous spat between a mother and daughter, but the mom wouldn't speak loud enough for me to hear what she was so incensed about. But in all fairness, some of those in the audience display remarkably high standards of fair play and a keen sense of justice. When the Bluecoats took the field, and were greeted with the familiar "Blooo." A woman sitting near us was practically trembling with indignation. Furious over what she believed was a tasteless display of bad manners and poor sportsmanship; she shouted, "Don't boo them!" into the humid, still Alabama night. "They're not booing, they're saying blue!" I assured her. "Oh," she replied, mollified by my clarification. This is the first time I've seen the highly touted "Carmen Project" and I must say I'm impressed. Carmen (whose real name is Rebecca) causes quite a stir when she makes her appearance and finally quiets down the soft drink-swilling, gossiping fans. For the first time this evening, their attention is focused on drum corps as opposed to the latest high school happenings. Carmen/Rebecca dances beautifully and really brings fire to the show. We had some time before leaving for our next destination, so Ed and I walked to a near-by Books-A-Million. I had decided I needed reading material. My search was fruitless, so Ed and I found ourselves enjoying blissful coolness relaxing in plush, comfortable chairs near the caf?©. Meanwhile, members of the participating corps from the evening's show buzzed all about. It was amazing. These remarkable young people rehearsed in the draining Alabama sun all day, marched a show, and were still full of vigor. And there Ed and I sat having peeled a few peaches, worked in a kitchen, and watched the show, yet we're the ones who were beat up! At some point during the evening, I decide to begin calling Ed "Papa Smurf." I don't know why, it just seemed like a good idea. Upon noticing his hands stained red from drink mix, I decide "Strawberry Shortcake" might be more appropriate. This is eventually shortened to "Cakie" for reasons I cannot begin to fathom. We are on our way to Pascagoula, Miss., when I notice that a sticker from this morning's fresh peaches has attached itself to my shirt. Given my southern roots and an errant sticker, Ed promptly decides my nickname should be "Peach." I'm agreeable to that moniker. July 19, 2005 -- Pascagoula, Miss. It's another typical summer day in the Deep South. Although, it's warm, there is a nice breeze bringing with it the tangy aroma of the Gulf of Mexico. I miss vacationing at the beach. Next year, I'm going to Sanibel, Fla. Ed and I again attend the show together tonight. We use the break between corps to call Steve Mackin, a friend of his and a former marching member of Cavaliers. I enjoy speaking with Steve, and decide I have a new best friend. Anxious for more scores after the show, we decide to call Mike Boo. Mr. Boo, who was shopping for gardening supplies at the time I called, seemed a bit taken aback that he would finally hear from the woman with whom he has long corresponded but never spoken with. It must have been a bit disconcerting to answer one's phone and hear "Hi! It's D.M. Leal! Do you know what score Cavaliers got tonight?" Scout mom Jackie Watson has joined the cook truck, bringing us to a total of six workers. This abundance of experienced cook truck workers (we'd all been on tour before) allowed us the luxury of rotating meals. No one had to work all three meals and the snack. As we are traveling along, someone mentions a bored fan at this evening's show that instead of watching the action on the field was pelting friends and fellow audience members with ice. "Why didn't you say, "Stop it, _______!" I asked including a particularly colorful and offensive adjective which given the family nature of this Web site will not be mentioned here. After a brief moment (I think there might have been some shock over my choice of words), the bus erupts into shouts of laughter. Due to my brazen and unladylike comment, Ed decrees that I am now "Sassy Peach." July 20, 2005 Lafayette, La. We are still enjoying pleasant weather when taking into consideration our location in the United States. It was cloudy this morning and while the temperature can in no way be described as cool, it is bearable. However, our weather luck is running out as the sun makes an appearance this afternoon and the mercury in the thermometer begins to rise. Ed and I walk across the street to where afternoon rehearsal is being held. There we find the perfect location for watching a drum corps rehearsal on a hot and sunny southern afternoon -- a baseball dugout. We are more than comfortable as we sit in the dugout sipping iced tea. The other food truck workers are shocked when we saunter back almost an hour later looking fresh and rested. I think we had found the coolest place in Lafayette, Louisiana! Everyone was sure the heat would force us to make a hasty retreat back to food truck. Every rehearsal spot should have a baseball dugout! Tonight was a free/laundry night. Some of the staff enjoyed dinner at a restaurant, while others attended to laundry detail. Debbie, Will (cook truck driver) and I decided to see a movie and enjoyed Johnny Depp in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Later that evening everyone rendezvoused at a truck stop and we made our way west to Houston. I managed to stay awake to see the Scouts cross the state line from Louisiana into Texas. We traveled through Beaumont, Texas, where the strange orange lights of oil refineries provided an eerie, outer space glow to the dark Texas night. July 21, 2005 Alvin, Texas I awoke to find myself in Alvin, Texas, a suburb outside of Houston. The balmy temperatures we enjoyed in Louisiana and Mississippi have given way to searing Texas heat. I don't envy them, yet am in total awe, as the Scouts do a breathing block early in the afternoon -- after lunch no less! We'll be losing Ed tomorrow, as Houston is his native habitat and he will be leaving. I shall miss him a great deal. However when he issued an invitation for anyone who wanted to spend the night at his home, I jumped at the chance. Miss an opportunity to sleep in a real bed? Ed and his brother Fred, a Scout alumnus, whisk me across Houston, giving me the opportunity to admire its spectacular nighttime skyline. I really take to Houston and decide I need to live there. Ed's home is quite lovely. Maybe Ed will let me live with him when I move to Houston. As tasteful as his home is, more importantly it's cool. Cool enough for me to sleep in my Cavaliers sweatshirt. I have a wonderful night's rest, and have difficulty waking from my slumbers when the alarm buzzes. July 22, 2005 Alvin, Texas We have quite a few visitors this afternoon. Texas is home to many of the Scouts and family members are in abundance. There's a thunderstorm this afternoon and we ponder the fate of this evening's show. I catch a ride to Rice University (where this evening's show is being held) with Ed and am in total admiration as he navigates Houston traffic and driving rain with aplomb. This is better than I ever dreamed. Not only can I live with Ed when I move to Houston, he can also drive me about! It's still raining at the show tonight. Deciding on which was the worst of two evils, wearing a rain-soaked shirt or looking like a buffoon in one of those ghastly rain ponchos, I opt for the rain poncho. I spend a dollar and buy one from the Scouts souvenir booth. Upon donning the flimsy garment, I immediately notice how hot and uncomfortable it is. It's like being wrapped in a torture suit made from plastic wrap. Now I'm hot, my clothes are still damp, and I'm wearing a foolish looking plastic garment. Vanguard is here this evening as well, and I'm looking forward to seeing my beloved Santa Clara. SCV's drum line has quite an audience as they begin warming up in the parking lot. Dottie Gavin, the mother of Scouts' color guard captain, Jon Gavin, has joined the Scouts to serve in a volunteer capacity, and together we search for former Madison/current Santa Clara guard instructor Andy Mroczek. Alas, Andy is visiting family members and is unavailable for a reunion. I missed not seeing you this year, Andy! Santa Clara's new uniforms look very smart. The guard uniforms on the other hand are absolutely brilliant. Thank heavens someone finally designed a tasteful uniform that is not only gorgeous, but flattering to all guard members. I did notice -- and miss -- SCV's lack of plumes. I wonder if the damp skies forced the plumes into temporary exile for the evening. Ostrich feather plumes tend to wilt in rain and just don't seem to recover very well. We are preparing snacks when suddenly the lights in the food truck go out. With a mighty groan the generator stops. We have run out of gas, meaning we have no power. Nevertheless, Scouts are still hungry and looking for food. The highly anticipated and much loved humble corn dogs are saved for another evening and cold cuts are served up, instead. Packages of sliced turkey and loaves of bread were flying though the air! We leave Houston, a town I have fallen in love with, and head to San Antonio for what promises to be a showdown at the Alamodome. July 23, 2005 Seguin, Texas Scouts brass instructor Steve McKeithen is the band director at Seguin High School and we are the happy recipients of wonderful Texas hospitality. We were treated this morning to a grand variety of breakfast tacos. I adore spicy, hot food and was as happy as I could be. Not having to make breakfast and getting tasty hot sauce? I like Texas! Other than that, I'm a bit sad today. I will be staying in San Antonio when the Scouts head to Dallas, so this is my very last breakfast with the 2005 Scouts. I am delighted for the opportunity to use laundry facilities, and happily share the laundry room with a large insect of undetermined origins. The heat and humidity of Texas has certainly done a number on my wardrobe. It's almost pointless to shower, as 15 minutes later you need another one. And oh my goodness! Our kitchen towels smell so bad I'm almost tempted to throw them away as opposed to washing them. The only thing preventing me from doing just that is I have nowhere to go to buy replacements. I meet the mom of Adam and Stephen Chitta, two of our members. Not only is Mrs. Chitta delightful, she's also a woman after my heart as she invites me to her home. "Sit down in the air conditioning, prop your feet up, and have a beer," she advises. Now, that's an idea with potential! Unfortunately, I'm on duty and cannot accept her enticing offer of an alcoholic beverage. I look at these wonderful young men and one very special young woman -- as they are polishing off a turkey and dressing dinner before this evening's show -- and want to weep. They have brought me such joy in the six days I have spent with them. My heart swells with love and gratitude as I think of how blessed I am for the marvelous opportunity to meet and befriend such fine people. There's our horn sergeant Cajun (Brandt Murphy) wearing the vintage (and I do mean vintage -- it's older than he is) University of Alabama Athletic Department shirt I gave him. (Huge joke. Cajun's a big LSU fan.) 2005 is Cajun's ageout year. I wonder when and if I'll ever see him again. I see two of our guard members, Lee Eachus and Danny Kirk. Lee always entertains with his e-mail and Danny's wonderful mom was so kind to us last year in Emporia, Kan. I spot my sweet Lionell Moore, one of the Scouts' color guard caption heads. I speak a bit with Rebecca (our Carmen) who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. I have loved this corps since I was 16 years old, and it's going to break my heart to leave them in just a few hours. How can I leave my Scouts? The bus ride to the show from Seguin to San Antonio is entertaining, thanks to the lively combination of Sal Salas and color guard caption head Toby Leikness. Sal is an inherently funny man. He could read a grocery list and normally I'd be screaming with laughter. Tonight is different. Lost in my own thoughts, I stare moodily out the window at the endless Texas sky as the landscape rushes by. Debbie, Will, Jackie (Scouts' driver) and I choose to explore the Riverwalk for a bit, instead of attending tonight's show. It's crowded with tourists. "This," I announced with dismay, "is what I have to put up with every summer." It reminds me of Gatlinburg (where I live) and why I never venture downtown during the summer months. Jackie and I walk back to catch the Scouts' show, leaving Deb and Will to enjoy Riverwalk. The Alamodome is a wonderful venue for a drum corps contest. While our seats are less than desirable, I enjoy watching Pete Weber's drill on the wide screens. However, nearby audience members remain stonelike throughout the performance. Heaven knows I enjoy some corps more than others, but I have enough respect for all the members in every corps and the work they do to applaud their efforts. If an audience member is too lazy or too bored to acknowledge a corps whose members have just performed their hearts out, please have the courtesy not to wear a DCI corps staff pass. It reflects poorly on your corps and our activity. All too soon, we head back to the food truck for one last snack. I am incredibly sad as I say goodbye to my Scouts family. I have a ticket for World Championships, but at this point it's doubtful I'll be going east. I spot Sal, who, after all these years is still "cute", and throw my arms around him. "I don't want to go Sal!" I sob, and he gently reminds me I can always come back home. Go though I must, for I have made a promise to another corps that I will assist them on their food truck for a few days. I bid a tearful farewell to my Scouts and begin a new chapter with some gentlemen from Rosemont, Ill. I'm leaving the Scouts and going with the Cavaliers. Coming next week: Are the Cavaliers ready for Donna Leal?
 
Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition.
   
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.