Drill Bits – Memories of Being A Sentinel Orchette


A few years ago I was at the local beauty parlor and struck up a conversation with some girl from Sentinel High School.  Having graduated from there, I was eager to grill her about what was going on in my old stomping grounds.

“Did you try out for drill team?” I asked.

She looked at me quizzically.  “Try out for what?”

“Drill team.  You know.  Drill team.”

“We don’t have a drill team,” she replied disdainfully.

Well, that news ‘bout blew my dress off.  How could there be no drill team at Sentinel, especially when there were two of them when I went there?

Yeah, there two drill teams; the first was the most supreme drill team of awesomeness called Orchesis.  That was the one I belonged to.  The second was the throwaway team, the Sparkettes, the flag twirlers.  Yawn.

The girls who, wait… yawwwwwwn.  The girls who tried out for Sparkettes were those unfortunate clods who wanted desperately to be a part of something beyond Book Binding Club, but knew they didn’t have what it took to be an Orchette.

To be fair, the Sparkettes felt the same way about us, but of course they were wrong because they were also stupid.

I can honestly say that drill team changed my life.  I’m so thankful that I wasn’t a cheerleader.  Don’t’ get me wrong, cheerleaders rock.  I tried out for cheerleading once but was shut out because they didn’t make cheerleading uniforms that big.

But drill team uniforms stretch.

Not only that, they’re covered in glistening sequins so the bigger you are, the more you sparkle.  Needless to say I quite stood out from the others because when I made the Orchesis, I was the second fattest girl on the team.   People remembered #1 and me because we looked like two blazing galaxies orbiting around the field atop little white go-go boots.  Maybe you laughed at us … but more likely you were DAZZLED.

But I didn’t remain the second fattest for very long, because they worked us so hard, marching and running around that, by the end of the year, I was the third fattest girl on the team, so there was that accomplishment.

Yes, I was proud to be an Orchette.  I felt we were the best drill team in the state.  For sure we were the best in Missoula.  One of my friends was on Hellgate’s drill team –  I can’t remember what they were called – the Losers I think.  It’s irrelevant because they were never any competition to us anyway.  No, when the wheat got separated from the chaff, there were really only three teams that mattered; Sentinel Orchettesis; the Butte Bees; and the Billings West Majorettes.  Each of them had their specialty.

The Bees weren’t very polished, but they looked like tramps and did the flying splits.  Guys freakin’ LOVED them.

The Majorettes twirled batons and were known for their super straight lines.  I have to admit they were pretty impressive to watch, but it was all smoke and mirrors.  Here’s how they did it.  Drumroll…

They turned their heads.  That was their secret.  It wasn’t rocket science.  They turned their heads to the side so they could see all the way down the line and that’s how they kept everything so straight.  And stupid people were like, “Ooh, look at that,” all awed by their precision, but any bunch of drunken third graders could have done the same thing.

The Orchettes refused to stoop to that level.  Our heads faced forward.  We had to rely on our peripheral vision to keep our lines straight.  By our third performance, we could practically see out of our ears, which made us this close to being super heroes.

But that’s not what we were known for, no sirree.  Orchesis were kickers.  High kickers.  None of that waist high nonsense your grandma could do, that was for the flag twirlers.  If you couldn’t hike your leg at least four inches above your head, there was no point in even showing up, because we meant business.

When the Orchettes marched into that gym, heels thundering on the wooden floor, pom-poms clamped tightly to our sides, uniforms glinting under the sharp lights, you knew something was about to happen.  It started up in the balcony.  The band would break into a masterful marching band rendition of some classic tune like the theme from Hawaii Five-O, and we were off.

We marched; we made shapes; we punched our pom-poms out, up, back, sideways; we did waves – and we kicked.  We kicked ‘til our legs were numb and then we kicked a few more times just to show off.  And the crowd loved us.  But more importantly I loved us because I felt like I was a part of something special.

Drill team taught me team work, discipline and how to dance in heels.  It instilled me with a sense of pride that I carry to this day and left me forever grateful to those vision impaired ladies who picked a little butterball like me to be on a team with all those other wonderful, coordinated girls who are still my friends and who I will remember forever… or until I am famous.

So imagine how disappointed I was to hear that drill teams have landed in the same garbage heap as 8 track tapes and lead filled toys.  It leaves gals like me with nothing to turn to except male type sports.  I’m not dissin’ the athletic chicks, it’s just that I don’t recall the last time I saw a girls basketball player wearing go-go boots on the court, or a high jumper in a glittering sequined skirt.

And that’s your loss.


Missing Missoula,

CC the Trained Monkey


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BIO:  Carol Chrest is a bitter old spinster living in Los Angeles. When she’s not working ridiculous hours at her cruddy day job, she writes screenplays.  She drinks.