Mr. Rodgers passed away earlier in 2014, and will always be remembered as a cherished educator and vital component of my 4 years at Northwestern High. Ernie Rodgers was the kind of guy you could tell anything because you knew he truly cared. He kept us “off the streets” and steered us into the warm, loving arms of music.
Mr. Rodgers gave me instructions to rehearse the band, but first I had to maintain order. We had a show coming up and it simply wouldn’t do to be sloppy. The Northwestern High School Marching Band had an excellent reputation to be upheld. Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” was one of our main jams along with Cliff
Nobles “The Horse.”
During a break in rehearsal, one of the saxophone players continued playing his horn. I remembered how much this perturbed the heads of all the music departments. In their shoes, I could see how annoying this was to them. Rehearsals go so much smoother and quicker without the extra playing. I asked him to stop playing when I stopped the band, as it was impeding the progress we needed to make. This sax player was also a JV football player and I never liked him on GP. He complied and I restarted the band. The trumpets missed their entrance on Shaft and I had to stop them again. Sax player plays on.
OK, now is the time to do the Barney Fife and nip it in the bud. If I don’t handle this here and now, the rest of the band will be impossible to lead. I supposed I realized that then, because I came up with words I had heard, but never used before. “If you keep playing after I stop the band one more time…IT’S ME AND YOU AFTER SCHOOL AT 3!”
The crowd that gathered outside the B building that afternoon was bigger than I’d liked, but at least the whole school didn’t know about it. On either side of the B building’s main entrance was stretches of grass, about 2 feet higher than the sidewalk. I figured the sax player and I could work this out up on the grass and suggested we head up there to talk. With my left arm draped friendly like… over his shoulders, we were just two guys walkin and talkin, workin it out. With my right hand, I attempt to punch him in the face mid-sentence.
Keep in mind, I’m left handed so this “punch,” had it connected, would be truly weak. Sax player saw it coming the week before, blocked it, and now I was down there on the ground. I recall thinking to myself how the hell I got down there just before the first foot to the face came. Oh, My Gawd!! Now I’m getting stomped in the face, how did…this…happen..??
The shrieks of some girls got Mr. Rodgers out there and he dragged me to his office. I don’t remember what he said to me then…I had refused to entertain any thought that wasn’t leading me to the cause of me getting stomped in the face. I couldn’t even begin to register the total embarrassment of what happened. When I got home, my dad laughed at me the way dads do when their only son has taken another step into manhood.
I supposed my willingness to put myself in a situation where I could get my ass kicked meant something. Without the hint of an impending lecture, I was allowed to put a rib eye steak on my swollen eye.