While watching this year’s Rose Parade I could have sworn I saw a small forward-facing video camera mounted atop a big bass drum. I thought perhaps it was attached to a small viewing screen and, like a rear-view camera, it may well have served as an aide for the drummer to better see beyond his big drum. Wouldn’t that be nice?
But alas, it would also spell the end of an era, and take away some of the fun of watching a big marching band on parade.
The original cry was:
“Hold your horses! Here come the elephants!”
The idea being that the local horses would shy or bolt in panic when confronted with so large and exotic an animal as an elephant in a circus parade.
But the funny thing about The Great Circus Parade (once held in Milwaukee), or any parade that featured a mix of live animals and marching bands for that matter, was the off-chance collision of marcher and dung.
Pity the poor bass drummer! He couldn’t see directly before him! While the other band members may have been instructed beforehand to just “carry on” and slog on through or gingerly sidestep the droppings they could see, nobody warned the bass drummer.
I recall seeing several bass drummers slipping and sliding in fresh horse manure and one poor soul even stumbling over a great boulder of elephant dung only to flip and roll over the top of his drum!
I have it in mind that the colloquial expression of going
“ass over teakettle”
is an etymologically bastardized expression of such an event.
First was the copper kettle (for cooking and, upended and closed, forming a tea ‘kettle’ or boiler); then came the kettle drum; then the marching band member carrying the great kettle drum; and, finally, the great kettle drum was turned on its side, a second skin added to form the standard bass drum such as we know and recognize it today.
The Elephant Pool
It was during one of the Great Circus Parades held in Milwaukee many years ago that a nearby group of wiseguys got creative and brought along some chalk and laid out a large grid in the middle of the parade route just before the start of the parade. Squares were then purchased and whoever held the square where an elephant took a dump won the pool – works well with horses, too.