I Can Still Pop The Windmill: Sense Memory And Weird Competitions In West Texas

huck21 I was 19.

I long ago realized I would never be able to explain Sing Song to people, or anyway, explain it to the degree that they begin to understand just how intense the competition can be between groups of boys and girls who rearrange pop songs with new lyrics in a three-minute, choreographed number built around a costumed theme. At Abilene Christian University, the fraternities and sororities aren't part of a national system, existing solely on that campus as "social clubs." This adds to the sense of refined isolation sought by the school — to be in the world but not of it — but has the unintended side-effect of making every event feel as if it's happening in a rarefied bubble, and thus much more important or life-altering than it actually is.

The best example of this is the annual contest known as Sing Song. The clubs compete in this every year. There is no entrance fee or prize money, and (at least in my time) there was a cap on the amount that could be spent on costumes in an attempt to help level the field. The only thing you come away with is bragging rights for a year, and that's all most students need to get fired up. The young men and women who suit up in satin overalls or fairy wings speak fiercely of dynasties built or lost, of victory sweetly earned by destroying a rival club. I remember those feelings, as well as the lyrics and moves to the two Sing Song acts I was in as a member of my club.

One year, a guy in club proposed to the rest of us that we organize a Sing Song boycott. The event is a solid moneymaker for the school and draws hordes of alumni, but there's nothing in any club charter that requires participation in Sing Song. We wouldn't even have had to get all the clubs, just us and the other major men's club, and the two top women's clubs, and that would bring down the show. We would do it just for the hell of it. But in the end we decided not to go for it for a variety of reasons, not least of which was that we wanted to keep winning, to keep beating the other guys. Maybe it wouldn't have worked, and maybe we were dumb for thinking of it. But what a way to be remembered.

Anyway, like I said, the acts make total sense to someone who grew up in conservative religious circles in Texas but are going to be just jaw-droppingly weird for anyone else. That said, they're still a part of my college experience, and I have nothing but good memories associated with these performances and the weeks of rehearsal we put into them. My friends and I look young, and goofy, and impossibly happy. I was 19. Sophomore year: Senior year: