Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Remember Ginger

Lobo Band Mascot, Ginger

By June Hogue

One of my fondest memories of my high school days was marching with Ginger.

Ginger was a large shaggy dog, seemingly, a mix of several breeds, who wandered up to the band hall early one fall day in 1949. Her coat was rough, shaggy, unkempt, and a rusty, ginger color that looked more like a faded shag throw rug than the coat of a dog. She was friendly and laid down at the door of the band hall as though to listen to a concert.

After band was over, Ginger hung around waiting to be petted by the students who took an immediate liking to her. Someone gave her a couple of ginger snap cookies which she gobbled with relish as though she had not eaten for a while. We immediately christened her “Ginger” even though we felt sure that she would not reappear and that she surely belonged to someone near by. The students left for the day as “Ginger” settled herself comfortably on the steps of the band hall.

The next morning we had an early rehearsal and students were surprised to find “Ginger” waiting on the band hall steps. She wagged her tail and made eye contact with each student as they entered the band hall…some stopped to pet her while others nodded wonderingly at this new addition to the student body! Surely her owner would come soon and claim her! One of the bass horn players, Richard Brian, took a special interest in her and took part of a sandwich from his lunch and gave it to her. The obviously hungry animal ate it with relish…other students began to give her bits and pieces from their lunches and Ginger said “thank you” in her doggie way by wagging her tail vigorously. Right after lunch time the band did marching practice. As the drum major blew his whistle for all to take their stations and come to attention, Ginger lined up beside Richard Brian who was at the end of a line. As soon as the forward march signal was given, Ginger walked beside Richard and did a marvelous job of keeping up with the line, halting when Richard halted, moving and turning with the line. We were greatly amused as it seemed as though Ginger had trained somewhere and knew the routine. Each morning that week, Ginger appeared on the steps of the band hall and students brought her things to eat…seemingly, she had probably spent the night there.

When marching practice time came, Ginger bolted to her position beside Richard. She made a nice addition to the band! It appeared that Ginger was a stray or abandoned dog looking for a home. No one came to search for her and she made no attempt to leave the band hall. Students voiced concern that if it rained or turned cold (as West Texas is prone to “Blue Northers”) Ginger would have no protection from the elements. At the end of the week, Richard coaxed Ginger to follow him home where she was welcomed by his family and given a sheltered place to sleep. Early the next morning she accompanied Richard to school where she took her usual place on the steps of the band hall.

By this time the band students had “adopted” Ginger as their mascot. The first football game that was played on our home field, Ginger was there and lined up with the band to march at half time. The crowd clapped wildly as Ginger marched in time with the band. It was decided by all that she should become the Lobo Band Mascot.

The first out of town game we all insisted that Ginger go on the band bus with us and that was the beginning of a long and enduring relationship with our mascot. Ginger loved riding on the band bus and went up and down the aisle making friends with everyone, eating snacks that were offered and in general, quickly capturing the hearts of all.

My mother happened to be a band sponsor and rode on the bus with us. She was an excellent seamstress and decided to make a special coat for Ginger that said MHS LOBO BAND on it. The coat (a cape type) was green with fringe around the edges and in large white letters on either side of it, MHS LOBO BAND. When it was finished, Mother brought it to the Band Hall where the students had assembled in their band uniforms and the drum major, Gilbert Baker, placed the cape over Ginger and said “I now christen you the official mascot of the Lobo Band”. You would have thought that he just given her a big juicy steak! Ginger pranced around a bit and when Gilbert took his baton and blew his whistle for the band to get in formation, Ginger did something she had never done before—she lined up directly behind the drum major! I was a majorette and we gave her plenty of room between us and the drum major. When the band marched on the field at half-time, the crowd went wild! Ginger marched in perfect formation, following all of Gilbert’s signals precisely—she had memorized them! She wheeled and turned, even reversing direction on command and kept up with the drum major. It was obvious that we had adopted a very intelligent mascot.

For the next three years Ginger accompanied the band to all functions. She even went to San Antonio with us and marched in the Battle of Flowers Parade. One year we were featured on national television and the cameras focused more on Ginger than the rest of the band. We had learned some special dance movements to do on parade to The Blue Danube Waltz and to The Syncopated Clock. Ginger had also learned the movements and did them in her own special doggie way. She was definitely the hit of the show and an item in the San Antonio paper the next day. However, the intense San Antonio heat that year and Ginger’s heavy coat were not compatible. Ginger became ill with pneumonia and never fully recovered. She died that summer and the school district allowed us to bury Ginger near the flagpole at the end of our new football field.

That fall was my first year in college and we were alerted to the fact that a special program honoring Ginger would be done during half time of the Home Coming game. When time for the Home Coming Game arrived around Thanksgiving, I came home from Lubbock just to attend that special activity. It was a nighttime game and by half-time it was completely dark. The band marched solemnly onto the field and stood at attention as the announcer said “This ceremony is dedicated to the memory of Ginger, the Lobo Band Mascot who served our school district faithfully for the last three years. Recently Ginger died and we have chosen a very special place of honor to bury her. It is at the end of the football field near the flagpole. Ginger loved the football field and marching on the field with the band. The band will now play some of the songs and do some of the routines that Ginger was so involved in. “

The band began to perform as memories of Ginger seem to emanate from every corner of the football field. Then, as they ended their routine, the announcer said “In Ginger’s honor, will you please rise and face the flagpole as we sing our school song in a final salute to Ginger. Ginger knew our school song well and always stood at attention when it was played.” As the band played the school song I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and soft memories began to flood my entire being. Old loyalties do not die nor do they fade away! As the sounds of the school song slowly faded into the night the Announcer said “And now--- a final farewell to our beloved Ginger.” Then, the lights on the football field were turned out and the band played TAPS. . . slowly, one by one, the lights came back on; you could hear soft sobs among the audience. The announcer, in a husky voice said “Remember, folks, it’s not ‘Goodbye, Ginger’ but simply ‘So long, Ginger—we will never forget you.’ “

As the band was playing the school song, my heart felt torn in two…the tears would not stop…for the passing of a dear friend and the well deserved memorial would forever be an indelible imprint on my heart. For me, it was also the passing of an era…my school days at MHS had ended and while the flood of memories had given way to tears, those same tears soon gave way to new hope for the future, for time does not turn backward and tomorrow will bring the sunshine of a new day! Somewhere in the great Hall of Memories we have added a new heroine and we know that as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, Heaven has a special place and a higher calling for Ginger! Across those vast Savannahs of Time we will forever see Ginger steadily marching on toward her new and higher calling.

So long, Ginger…and thanks for all the wonderful memories!
Your MHS LOBO Band Friends

Click on June Hogue for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
The LOBO BAND 1952

Ginger is on the front on far right

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