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Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2007 12:00 am

RANKIN Even when the economic tides pulled families and companies out of town, football stuck here almost as a merit badge of resilience — but the music program went mute once.

Under coal black skies on cool Friday nights, football always returned, almost as if defiantly announcing every fall Rankin is still here. All 800 residents. All 230 or so families. Still grinding. Leathery and hard worn but making it, thank you very much.

Yet, as the district enrollment shrunk, some fall pageantry briefly disappeared in 2004. Like Halliburton fleeing town and Western Gas shutting up shop and the cousins and sisters hiking out over the surrounding mesas, the bass drums and trumpets went into the closet, too.

Bye, bye to some Rankin Red Devil pride, in this tumbleweed oil town the music really did die.

The home-side bleachers lost some of family atmosphere where it felt like everyone was invited to the backyard reunion football game accompanied by the nieces and nephews playing their instruments while grandpa sung along.

Realizing the football team was inevitably dropping from 11-man to six-man football was hard enough from some here, but lump in the band program’s disappearance and melancholy set in for Bobbi Templeton.

“Just so sad,” she said. “Seemed gloomy.”

But then the family came together.

Templeton, a 37-year-old cosmetologist who owns the Hair Shack, picked up her old trumpet.

Tammy Epley, whose husband coaches Rankin football and whose son plays, picked up her French horn and tried to hit the high note.

The Methodist minister, her husband and their oldest son blew on another trumpet and two trombones. The city secretary slammed the cymbals together with festive eyes and a smile like she’s having the time of her life.

A former football player who couldn’t imagine Friday without football started banging on the bass drum, even if he wasn’t classically trained — or trained at all really.

The adults, their kids, the brothers and mothers — they all play here for the football team. They re-invented the band program not as a school program but as a community program.

A mix-and-match crew that wears sombreros blared out its raucous cords during Rankin’s game Friday against Garden City. United in song, together as family, they play as Red Devils, though Jennifer Kelley joked she wasn’t quite sure she should be supporting any kind of devil.

She’s the Methodist preacher in town after all.

Kelley met her husband, Barrett, in the Kerrville Tivy band. He sat behind her in the stands on Friday nights playing the trombone. When they moved here four years ago for the ministry, it coincided with the band program ending.

Jennifer Kelley said she couldn’t imagine a town without a band and her sons not playing in it. So she helped start the adult band, which has morphed into the family band.

“The first year we started, I kept waiting for people to tell us to stop,” Barrett Kelley said.

But they kept playing and the fans often come up to thank them for the music.

They played the fight song eight times after Rankin scored against Garden City. They played school song when the Red Devils were victorious. They played the “Hawaii Five-O” theme song and Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll” aka “The Hey Song.”

“If you wait around long enough, somebody is going to ask us to play ‘San Antonio Rose,’ ” Barrett Kelley said early in the game. They played it, too, twice, pleasing the old guard fans of both Rankin football and Bob Wills.

One trombone and two trumpets down from Barrett Kelley, Epley put on her reading glasses to see the sheet music positioned at the end of her horn. She’s 46 and after high school, she played about once a year before the community band formed.

“I was very rusty,” she said. “Still am rusty actually.”

At least, she’d played before. Jimmy Armendarez, 32, is a water hauler for the oilfields. In high school he was an offensive and defensive lineman when Rankin played 11-man football. If Rankin ever quit football, he’d put a 50-inch screen in a town hall and watch old highlights on Friday night, he said.

So when the town needed a bass drum player, Armendarez signed up to support the team. With a black do-rag on his head and a name badge on his gray work shirt that identified him as “Boo Boo,” he wailed on the drum throughout the game.

Bang, bang on his drum.

“Whose house?” Armendarez called out.

Bang, bang on his drum.

“Our house,” the student’s responded.

Bang, bang on his drum.

And if Armendarez or any band member was a little off, Adrian Gallardo helped by snapping out the time with his right hand. Gallardo is a 29-year-old Rankin graduate who teaches English and theater at his alma mater. He’s working on his music teaching certificate so he can bring back the music program in full force.

Friday, his family helped keep the music around. He was on trombone. His wife, Elivia, played the flute. His stepson, Joseph Alcocer, a sophomore at Midland Lee, played a clarinet. Joseph’s sister Julia probably would have played if cello fit this ensemble.

“Music helps us stay together as a family,” Elivia Gallardo said.

It’s kept this community together, too.

Two rows up, Anita Sparks stood next to a young boy who banged on a turned over plastic container. Five days a week and for the past eight years, Sparks has been the city secretary. She’s worked for the city for 13 years overall.

But the 47-year-old mother crunches cymbals, too.

She loves it. Likes to make noise, she said.

“We do what we’ve got to do to make Rankin work,” she said.

THE BAND

Rankin’s old timers love to hear the community band play ‘San Antonio Rose,’ and they often request the Bob Wills’ classic that’s been covered by other famous country artists.

‘San Antonio Rose’

By Bob Wills

A song of old San Antone.

Where in dreams I live with a memory,

Beneath the stars all alone.

It was there I found beside the Alamo

Enchantment strange as the blue up above.

A moonlit pass only she would know,

Still hears my broken song of love.

Moon in all your splendor, know only my heart

Call back my Rose, Rose of San Antone.

Lips so sweet and tender, like petals falling apart.

Speak once a - gain of my love, my own.

Broken song, empty words I know still live in my heart all a – lone

For that moonlit pass by the Alamo, and Rose, my Rose of San Antone.

Odessa, TX

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