Upstairs, the barn's foot-smoothed floorboards support forty folding chairs and a forest of music stands. We slip in-between the dusty, worn paths and sit down.
We are surrounded by the watching photographs of over 100 years of band members, their smiling faces looking in from where they rest on the walls, silently listening to the sound that bounces around the band hall. Many of them hold instruments.
A few of the old-timers' photographs show them in the band as high school students. A few members play under the watchful eye of their great great grandparents.
How many times have I set a can of soda next to my mutes? It's dry up there, and I down two cans in two hours to keep my lips smoothly moist.
Someone yells out a title, like "The Supersonic" or "The Dead Dog March" and we all rifle through a stack of tiny yellowing sheets the size of note-cards.
The band leans in and chatters for a few seconds, trying to organize.
"Did he say, the Dead Dog March?"
"Hey, what did he say?"
"The Dead Dog March."
"The Debutante's Quick-Step?"
"No. The Dead Dog March."
At this point, I'm frantically squinting at the tiny notes, trying to catch key changes, repeates, and other musical hang-ups.
The director calls the title out again and raises his baton. We raise our instruments.
"When I signal, everyone bark," he says.
"Woof Woof Woof" a cacophony of voices rises.
"Good. Then when you hear the snare, shut up."
Ahh, now I know the punchline. We chuckle. I stop barking.
"Ready everyone? All right, the Dead Dog's March." I memorize the first few measures, look up, and the baton comes down. The trumpets raise an initial fanfare phrase, and the music begins.
Playing with an informal community band is awesome. Yesterday's post was so sad because I've had so much fun in the past. If I'm staying away, it's because I see the end coming, because I don't want to remember the band as a bunch of old guys fading away, but as it was when I played, a bunch of very good long-time friends making beautiful music every Monday.