Several months ago, Donna Leal e-mailed me to mention that she was going to be on tour with the Madison Scouts for 10 days, working on the cook truck from Sevierville, Tenn., to Denver. She agreed to keep a log of her thoughts for a future Fanfare column, which I am ecstatic to present here. Her notes were so comprehensive that we've been reading them over three installments. This is the last of the three parts. Read part one. Read part two. If you've shared a unique experience with a corps, please share it with us by contacting me at
Day seven: Aug. 4, 2004 The day starts off uneventfully enough. Breakfast and lunch were prepared with a minimum of difficulty. Deb (manager of the food truck) and I work well together and can anticipate each other's movements. The problems started when the cook truck was taken for fueling. The gas run took much longer than expected. It's now 1:50 p.m. and we have no cook truck. Dinner is scheduled at 3 p.m. as quarterfinals are tonight. We are so in the weeds. These boys have got to be fed. At 2 p.m., when the cook truck finally returns, we spring into action, getting dinner ready in record time. At the time it was incredibly stressful. As I sit at my computer on Christmas Eve, occasionally staring out my windows at snowy ski slopes, and remembering that hot August day, I find that one particular meal has taken on epic comic proportions. Chicken and broccoli were flying! This is the first time I've seen the Scouts in their uniforms -- and how handsome they all look! They truly are the "The Men of Madison." I ran into Mike Brenche (assistant conductor) as the guys were getting ready to depart. "Look at you!" I said. "All this time I thought you were just some kid helping me in the kitchen. You're a young man!" I was so proud. INVESCO Field at Mile High is absolutely gorgeous. It's definitely a great place to see a drum corps show. Alan (support vehicle driver) and I make our way into the stands to enjoy a few other corps before the Scouts quarterfinals performance. During the Glassmen show, Alan leaned over and asked if I remember when The Cadets did "Appalachian Spring." "Alan," I laughed, "I remember when Santa Clara did "Appalachian Spring!" It was 1976 for all the young folks out there. It is interesting to me to see how drum corps has evolved over the years. Corps incorporate so many different elements into their shows these days. Not that I'm opposed to that, be ever mindful. I just remember the fabulous Bridgemen and how naysayer fans denounced them for their dancing guard and costumed characters. My high school band director was the worst. "That's not drum corps," he'd snort and say with scorn. Now audiences don't think twice about it. Bobby Hoffman was so far ahead of his time. I wish he was still around. The guys are not pleased with the score from quarterfinals. I overhear a comment that almost makes me weep. I wonder if I should tell them my story. I wonder if it would make them feel better to know that the 2004 Scouts -- no matter where they place on finals night -- will always be my favorite, for they are the ones who were in the corps the year my long-held dream finally came true. Years from now I'll look back and remember how gracious and kind they were to me. If I'm still fortunate enough to still tour with this corps 27 years from now, these Scouts will always have a special place in my heart. I told one of the members how much I enjoyed the performance, and he thanked me for my comments. "No," I thought. "I should be the one thanking you for being part of an organization that has brought me so much joy." I'll always regret I didn't tell him that on quarterfinals night. When we arrived back at the school, Debbie made her famous hot chocolate. It made me feel better, but I wish I could do something to help my boys feel better about tonight's scores.
Day eight: Aug. 7, 2004 Some of the guard members asked this morning whose mother I was. "Andy the guard instructor." I reply. They believed me. However, they were so sweet about it, I immediately was ridden by guilt over my prank and told the truth. I'm a 43-year-old woman who left the comforts of my home to live out a dream. Sadly, not one of them told me I looked too young to be Andy's mother. On the other hand, Andy is very handsome. If someone had said, "He must look like his dad," I would have really been upset! It's always a bit disconcerting for someone to ask me whose mom I am. "How old do they think I am?" I wonder, aghast. Then I remind myself I am old enough to be a mom. Even more sobering remains the fact that going on tour with this corps is something I've wanted to do since before any of these guys were even born. I don't know how I'm going to get back home. My flight leaves Denver on Sunday at 2 p.m., by which time the Scouts will have long since departed. I'm a bit concerned, as I will have no place to go after finals. What to do? What to do? Maybe I should have asked that truck driver I met on Monday for a ride. I call and try to get an earlier flight, but seem to have very limited options. I could leave tomorrow morning, but with layovers and changing planes, I'm looking at a 24-hour flight (not a misprint). Twenty four hours! I could fly to Australia! Adding to my anxiety is the discovery that all Denver hotels are completely booked. Now not only am I stuck in Denver, I'm also homeless. I tell Debbie about my dilemma. Telling Deb about any sort of problem or concern is the Madison equivalent of calling in the National Guard. She assures me that she'll take care of it, and I know she will. Shortly after we arrive for semis I notice not one, but two rainbows. It's the second time I've seen a rainbow this week. Taking it is a sign, I announce to everyone within listening distance my prediction for finals night. It's going to The Cavaliers this year. Deb and I stood on the steps of the cook truck and cheered as part of the corps marched by on the way to the stadium. "Good luck!," we called. "We love you!" It doesn't matter, 1st place or 12th, these are our boys and we love them.
Day nine: Aug. 8, 2004 The guard was stretching and warming up this morning to throbbing dance music as I was clearing away the remains of breakfast. I slyly begin dancing, much to Andy's enjoyment. Realizing there's an appreciative audience, I increase my dancing. Soon the guard members, wondering, no doubt, what Andy is chuckling about, begin watching as well. "Don't look at me!," I said. "Watch Andy." I love these guys. Miss Carolyn Stoner is with us this morning. The Scouts are a family affair for the Stoners. Her mother, Martha, is on the cook truck and assists in sewing. Leroy, her dad, is one of our bus drivers, while Matthew, her brother, is a member. Carolyn will be going on to California. I wish she had been here for the length of my stint. She is such a joy to be around. The logistics for leaving Denver have been solved thanks to the incredible kindness of Mark and Julie Gronnenberg, whose son, David, is a member. They have been thoughtful enough to procure a room for me at the Doubletree, which is where they are staying for the night. The reservation has been secured and everything has been taken care of. What a relief! Now I truly know what it means to say, "May You Never Walk Alone," because after meeting such wonderful people as those associated with the Scouts, I know I never will. My prediction for finals came true. It's the Cavaliers. Personally, I'm happy if for no other reason than I get to hear "Over the Rainbow." Two moments in drum corps when I know I'll always need a tissue is when the Scouts sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" and hearing the Cavies play "Over the Rainbow." The Cavaliers had a great show and I could not be happier for them. They deserved their win. I don't have a lot of time for proper good-byes before being whisked away to a hotel for the evening. Besides, no matter how much time I had, I could never express to anyone just want this experience has meant to me. As I'm checking into the Doubletree, a man sporting a corps shirt is giving the front desk unmitigated grief because there's not a fine dining establishment open at midnight in Denver. "Hey buddy," I want to say, "It's not their fault. Why didn't you get a corn dog before you left the stadium?" I refrain from inquiring, as he seems right surly. In the interest of all corps, the corps whose shirt he was wearing will not be identified. I will say it wasn't a Scouts shirt. I will be sleeping tonight in a real bed, a king-sized bed. I get a shower tomorrow, a clean shower with lots and lots of hot water. I'll be home in less than 24 hours. Life is beautiful. I briefly mull over heading down to the lounge for a nightcap, but quickly realize I'd probably collapse on the bar from sheer exhaustion, clutching a cocktail glass.
Day 10: Aug. 9, 2004 I've not said two words to anyone all morning. It is so foreign for me to not talk. I'm not opposed to initiating a conversation with anyone. I even asked a UPS driver at the truck stop in Tennessee if he knew our UPS man, Charlie Merritt. I've said nothing except when I've had to. After arriving in the Denver airport and getting my bags checked, I notice a Burger King and realize I'm ravenous. Never has food tasted as wonderful as that Burger King double cheeseburger did. Also enjoying a Burger King lunch are some members of the Boston Crusaders. I know I should tell them I enjoyed their performance, but can't seem to rouse myself to speak. So, if a member of the Boston Crusaders happens to be reading this, I enjoyed your show. I buy a David Sedaris book so I'll have something to read as I fly across the country. I'm still not saying anything to anyone. I think I'm too tired to talk. Luckily, David keeps me entertained and I'm landing in Charlotte as scheduled. I have a layover in Charlotte, N.C., and am heartbroken to discover the duty-free shop has closed for the evening. Having some time, I decide to give Deb a call. She, as usual, is busily preparing dinner. "I miss my boys!" I say and am shocked to discover tears streaming down my face. After a short flight, I land safely in Knoxville, Tenn. My husband is there to meet me. I'm home. So that's it. I can tell you about the people I met, what I saw and the places I went, but I can never tell you what it's like to actually tour with a drum corps. I can't tell you the feeling I got when the buses rolled out of Sevierville and I knew my dream was coming true -- what it was like to pass one of Santa Clara's buses on a dark Indiana interstate and knowing it was filled with members very much like our own: Young people filled with dedication and passion for this thing we call drum corps -- what it was like to see the Scouts work so hard and so tirelessly to give every audience, if it's 500 people in Emporia, Kan., or the crowd at finals night -- the best performance of their lives. I recall the graciousness of some of the corps members in Murfreesboro, Tenn., the Phantom guard girls as they warmed up in the parking lot and the young woman from the Bluecoats horn line who sat in front of us at that show. I met these corps members if only for a brief moment and knew drum corps kids were the best kids in the country. I can't tell you what it was like to sit in the audience at finals and marvel over how drum corps has evolved since I saw my first show in 1976. I thought of people like Gail Royer, the great Jim Ott, Jim Jones, Bobby Hoffman, Jerry Seawright and Madison's own Clarence Beebe, and hoped they somehow knew the activity they loved so very, very much still thrives and gets better every year. I can't tell you how it felt to hear the roll call for the DCI Hall of Fame at semis and know that every individual on that list was important. What they accomplished still matters. I always hear corps members on the PBS broadcast speak about how drum corps changed their lives and I know how accurate that statement is. For me, personally, it's been very empowering to have a dream come true. People always seem to want to know if I got paid for my ten days on the road. "Not in money" I reply. "Some things you just can't put a price on."
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.