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by Eric Miller

No one was a more beleaguered, unhappy member of the high school band than Rusty Horne. In fact, he just down right hated being a part of it. He was there only because he wasn‘t a jock, but then again, he wasn’t a musician either. In fact, he had no musical talent, whatsoever. Rhythm and beat were two concepts he couldn’t grasp. His girlfriend could tell you what dead weight he was on the dance floor. But he needed to be able to list some extracurricular activities on his college applications, and band was one of them.

Rusty went through the motions of playing the trumpet, although if you heard the sound that came out of the instrument he played, you’d be hard pressed to call it by its proper name. To his credit, he knew how bad he was. In fact, he considered himself to be the spit valve of the organization.

Now Rusty was one of those guys who couldn’t chew gum and walk at the same time. So, you can imagine the challenge he faced trying to play the trumpet and march on the playing field at half-time. This was a guy who had to concentrate intently on not turning the wrong way, or he would crash into the sousaphone player. So, he faked playing his horn. For lack of a better term, I guess you could say that he horn-synched.

So, it was quite a surprise when he, the consensus worst player in the band, was unanimously nominated for, and elected as, president of it. His theory was that no one else wanted the job, so they mobilized to stick the title on him in a tsunami wave of support. One of the many troublesome realities of being the band president was that when they gave concerts, he had to be the student conductor of it. Remember now, this is the guy who had no sense of rhythm or beat. So, in politically charged, smoke filled, back rooms with the band members, Rusty used his newly gained political clout to make sure that they ignored his waving baton, and just followed each other. The emotional scars of standing before his colleagues, with an audience behind him, as he waved his baton meaninglessly, still remains to this very day.

But here’s the thing. By being elected president of the band, he was perceived to have a political persona, and he was nominated to run for Student Council Treasurer, and then Student Council President. All of a sudden, Rusty was immersed in politics. As Student Council President, he was meeting regularly with the principal, a very intimidating guy, who dismissed his input with such cavalier disdain that Rusty got his music stand up. Bingo, his political petals blossomed on a thorny stem. It didn’t take long to figure out how, when, where, and on whom to use the petals or the thorns.

And that’s how Rusty became the smooth talking, side-stepping, politician whose words are never off-key on any issue.