Sunday afternoon began as a fun, four-hour road trip from Manhattan, Kan., to Garden City for six K-State students heading to work at a high school band camp.
They were members of K-State’s proud marching band – Trace Woods, Wesley Crow, Dakota Cavanaugh, Matt Hiteshew, Greg Bagley and Kodi Shouse.
They were traveling in two vehicles – Woods’ Chevy Silverado and Bagley’s Buick LeSabre – when the right front tire on the Buick blew out about 4 p.m.
There wasn’t much of a shoulder on two-lane U.S. 56, where it happened near Hanston, Kan. The guys couldn’t get the car angled safely onto the jack, and then the jack broke.
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They were stuck. On the side of the road. Waiting for AAA. With their music instruments.
What to do, what to do?
“Naturally, being the band kids that we are, a couple of us pulled out instruments and started practicing,” Woods, 22, a senior from Garden City, wrote on his Facebook page. “We got a little bored, so we decided to have some fun.”
That “fun” had a familiar sound.
“I present to you, the Wabash Cannonball, Side of the road edition,” Woods wrote.
With cars zooming past them at 65 miles an hour, four of the guys, sitting in the back of Woods’ pickup, launched into “Wabash Cannonball.”
Crow, 20, a junior from Valley Center, played the trombone.
Cavanaugh, a 20-year-old junior from McPherson, played trumpet.
Woods and Bagley, a 22-year-old senior from Topeka, were the rhythm section – Woods banging on the roof of the cab and Bagley drumming on the wheel well with its “much better timbre.”
They got a few weird looks from passers-by, a few honks.
Hiteshew, a clarinet player, filmed them. The video has been viewed more than 84,000 times as it makes the rounds through the K-State community and beyond.
“I think part of it ... it’s like the epitome of Kansas,” said Hiteshew, 22, a senior from Olathe. “A bunch of us sitting in a pickup truck in a corn field on the side of the highway. I mean, it doesn’t get much more Kansas than that. It’s just a goofy thing to do.”
Woods posted the video online because he thought their fellow band members would get a kick out of it. “But then my friends started commenting and liking and sharing it,” he said.
Then supporters and alumni of the university found it, too. “It just blew up because of social media,” Woods said.
What is it about that song, which of course the guys know by heart?
Last year, the band’s performance of the “Wabash Cannonball” was recognized by ESPN as the greatest pregame ritual in the Big 12.
“If you haven’t been in Bill Snyder Family Stadium when ‘The Pride of Wildcat’ band is playing ‘Wabash Cannonball’ in front of the Kansas State student section, you need to put that on your bucket list,” Brandon Chatmon wrote.
“It’s hard to not get in the football mood when watching the Wildcats band get the student section hyped for Big 12 football. Not only is ‘Wabash Cannonball’ a catchy tune, but it also combines with the coordination in the student section to become one of college football’s best pregame traditions.”
Yup, yup, yup.
But it also sounds pretty darn cool in the back of a pickup on the side of the road.