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The Idle American
And the Band Played On...
Wednesday, November 16, 2011 • Posted November 16, 2011

A 13-word phrase that completes ample verbiage at the end of many employment contracts sometimes leads to undoing and may even cause signers to seek other professions. It seems innocuous, perhaps little more than filler, maybe enlarging contract-framers’ fees by a few coins if they are paid by the word.It’s intended to be “catch-all coverage” for responsibilities not otherwise mentioned: “And certain other duties that may be required by the board of trustees.”Further reading of this piece by heads of institutions—past and present—probably won’t result in damaged health, unless prolonged convulsive laughter occurs, and heaven only knows what this can lead to….*****At first glance, an unfortunate occurrence back in 2009 falls into the category of the unlikely. It invites the usual trite expressions about bats in belfries, or perhaps batty as bedbugs.In this case, though, it would be unfair to be critical of one of the USA’s premiere military musical organizations—The US Army Field Band. Despite distractions, the group, 65 musicians and 29 vocalists strong, completed the concert, and its tour went on as planned.Dr. Mike Dreith, president of Western Texas College in Snyder, didn’t fare so well. He expected to lean back and enjoy the concert following his introduction of the band that sunny afternoon. Dreith was “right on” for an hour, with just 30 minutes to go. That’s when many hundreds of bats descended from the attic of the Scurry County Coliseum. The bats’ surprise “attack” was later blamed for the good doctor’s 48 hours in ICU….*****“We didn’t even know bats were there,” Dr. Dreith said. “In the meantime, we’ve learned that their sonar systems are extremely sensitive to low sounds, and that tuba players capable of wiping out the lower end of musical scales probably disturbed the bats greatly.”The little mammals flitted around for several minutes, centering on the concert stage. The musical soldiers had their game faces on, however. They persevered, and several musicians in the crowd of some 2,000 say the band didn’t miss a note.Dreith, however, didn’t feel so well. With numb lips, slurring speech and consciousness fuzzier than ever, he was driven straight to the local hospital by his wife, Carol. His blood pressure shot past the machine’s measurement range, so an ambulance was summoned for a 90-mile ride to a Lubbock hospital, where his blood pressure was above 250, well into stroke range….*****Poked, prodded, stuck, medicated and studied for the next two days, Dreith was pronounced “hail” again, with “hearty” expected soon. Doctors could find nothing wrong, except understandable anxiety that can accompany bizarre incidents—such as an invasion of bats.“At least I know a bunch of things that are NOT wrong with me,” Dreith laughed, describing his experience in painful detail.The president and his staff are learning that it is unlawful to get tough with bats, what with environmental rules and all, so they’ve contracted with Bat Solutions of San Antonio to control the little critters whose average adult weight equals that of two nickels. (Pups weigh one-fourth of adult weight at birth, or maybe two cents and change?)…*****One WTC staff member had suggestions that might be helpful when future concerts are held in the coliseum. He said they might hold such events around midnight, when the bats are out looking for bugs, or maybe ask bands to leave tuba players behind.His “third thought” (and probably his last) was to provide rackets for all musicians. “When the bats attack, they could play ‘BAT-mitton,’” he joked.Dreith scribbled an “X” beside the joker’s name. I doubt that this meant he’ll be up for promotion….*****I phoned band headquarters in Washington, DC, the other day. The Army Field Band maintains a rigorous concert schedule, on tour more than 100 days annually. Standing ovations for this outstanding musical organization are common.My contact there examined a file about the Snyder engagement. “There’s a notation about a problem with bats,” he said.Dreith minimizes horrors of the event, now that he’s three years distant from it. Regaining confidence to appear before large groups, he may soon be admitted to “gluttons for punishment” status. He’s invited the U. S. Navy Band to appear there in a 2012 concert. Nothing is nailed down yet, though. His blood pressure changed none at all when the Navy spokesman asked, “Aren’t you at the place where bats attacked the Army band?” The prexy smiled, figuring his contract addendum now includes his responsibilities concerning bat encounters….*****

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to:; Phone, 817-447-3872; web site,

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