Photo by Caity Gorbett
Whitehouse First Ladies posing in front of the bus

Drill Team Observation

September 10, 2018

  1. The dance hallway was filled with the quiet voices of only a few First Ladies and the smell of greasy burgers and salty French fries. They talked amongst themselves, mostly about how to put on their hat covers so they weren’t forced to bring their hat boxes.


It was nearly 11:00 A.M. when the girls moved into the new dance room. Senior Captain Elizabeth Eckles reminded the girls of where their ponytails need to sit on their heads and called for bag checks.


The girls moved into their squads of about five and sat in circles to check that they have every little thing they’d need. They pulled out tights, pantyhose, two pairs of jazz shoes, knee pads, ponchos, and everything in between. Their uniforms were sparkling in the bright lights of the dance room as they checked they had every piece.


After Drill Team Director Kayla Norman and Assistant Director Lacey VanBuskirk walked in, the girls ran through their routine twice, took a group photo, and then we were off.


The Bus


The aisle of the bus was crowded with girls putting their hat boxes and garment bags in the shelf above their seats. They hung up their water jugs on the bars of the shelf. Mrs. Norman had them count themselves off before we could leave.


The bus was loud with their excited voices, discussing music to listen to  and anticipating the day ahead.


The back of the bus was quiet, mostly filled with rookies listening to their music. Their heads nodded along to the beat.


A shriek came from the front of the bus, and all that could be heard throughout was laughter. Mrs. Norman turned around questioningly, and the girls filled her in on everything, and by the end, half the bus huddled around while Mrs. Norman laughed harder than the rest of them.


The bus quieted down after that, and soon the only sound from the back of the bus was the smack of Sophomore Priscila Rosa’s hand against her water jug to keep it from swinging.


We were nearing the end of the ride when Elizabeth Eckles came down the aisles saying “Everybody needs to spray their hair again!” She walked through the bus helping girls respray their hair, and making sure they all have their lipstick on.


Field Practice


I sat in the stands with Mrs. Norman, Mrs. VanBuskirk, and the drill team managers while the team lined up on yard lines for practice.


There wasn’t much activity waiting on the other teams to arrive. The First Ladies sat on the sidelines and stretched until everyone else got there.


The teams practiced their routine for about an hour and a half while all the directors discussed their teams and caught up with their friends.


Master Class


The teams in the class were led through stretches and warmups before learning a small routine.


Each direction was always followed by “yes ma’am,” even after their instructor told them not to. The First Ladies all smiled widely as they danced and migrated to Elizabeth, always putting her at their center. She’s always leading the team, even when she doesn’t realize it. They follow her endlessly.


Special Presentation


After the class was a special presentation in the auditorium. It was kind of a secret. Even Mrs. Norman didn’t know what was going to happen.


Past and present industry members of the dance department gave a beautiful improv performance. It was so indescribable, and it brought tears to the eyes of many girls in that room, including myself.


The K-Girl


The Rangerettes were founded by Gussie Nell Davis in 1939, and debuted in 1940 as the first drill team in the entire world. Yes, the world.


Jackie Johnson Ray, better known as The K-Girl, came to Kilgore College to tell us the story of how she became the K-Girl. More accurately, she told us a story of fate.


In 1966, Ray joined the 26th Rangerette line. That same year, Gussie Nell Davis decided the Rangerettes needed a logo. She had the girls pose for a photographer that summer, and the photographer just happened to take a photo of Ray striking an unusual pose.


On Labor Day, Davis called Ray in early in the morning. Ray was planning on going to the lake with her boyfriend, but as she told him, “Rangerettes come first.” She was in that pose all day being rearranged and adjusted until finally she was set in the infamous “K” pose. An artist drew her in that pose, and it was done.


She didn’t even find out about the K-Girl until the 70s when she went to visit the Rangerette museum and saw the 10-foot-tall logo on the outside wall of the Rangerette Museum.


Ray finished her story by telling us to always remember her story when we thought about being “sick” for something we don’t want to do. If she had been “sick” that day, she never would’ve become The K-Girl.


The Game       


After dinner, we headed to the stadium for the game. It was raining. Not hard. But enough. We sat in the bus for first quarter.


We made the most of our time in the back of the bus.


Someone asked what kind of animal everyone would be. Sophomore Baliegh Allen responded “I’m a zucchini!”


We got into arguments about our favorite tv show pairings. Stephen and Elena, or Damon and Elena. Michael and Jane, or Rafael and Jane.


Embarrassing pictures were edited and AirDropped. The ABCs and All I Want For Christmas Is You were most definitely sang.


Of course, our bus shenanigans were eventually put to an end when the second quarter started. Girls were scrambling to perfect their hair and lipstick a final time, only allowed to bring their pom poms for their halftime performance. We get off the bus just as senior Chelsea Allen says, “First Ladies never drink water!”

The First Ladies, along with over a dozen teams from other schools in Texas, entered the field strong and full of pride. Every face was plastered with a smile, their eyes shifting along the audience as they ran through the drill in their heads.


Their uniforms and pom poms sparkled in the stadium lights. Every step was flawlessly executed and every smile was genuine. Despite the majority of the spotlight being on the Rangerettes, every First Lady stole the rest.

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