I know what you’re probably thinking: “Ellen, why is your favorite place in Athens a dirty river?” And if you are, in fact, thinking that, you do have a point. The Hocking River is not exactly what the kids call “clean” or “safe” or “guaranteed not to have used hypodermic needles at the bottom.” But it means a lot to me.
The Hocking is basically an outline of one side of campus. I can see this line whenever I make the trip from my hometown back to Athens and I can see it from the bike path where I run. But the reason I love it is because of marching band.
Ever since I came to OU two years ago, the 110 has been a huge part of my life. It’s given me opportunities that I never would have dreamed possible had I not decided to buy a trombone off of Craigslist the summer after I graduated, and it’s given me my best friends (it’s also given me irreversible joint and hearing damage, but you can’t win ’em all). And throughout all the time I’ve spent with this band, the Hocking has been there.
The 110 practices on Pruitt, which is right across from the river. The rest of the trombone players and I have music sectionals a few times a week under a group of trees next to the bike path. We also do this thing before we perform pregame at football games where the 28 of us all line up at the edge of the bike path and do a bunch of really stupid dance moves. The Hocking is visible during all of this, which adds up to about 11 hours every week.
Now, based on that alone, it might make more sense for the bike path to be my favorite place in Athens. But while it has its merits, it’s not. And I’ll tell you why.
The 110 has been around since 1967. In the past 49 years, very little has changed. We still wear the same uniforms and march the same way, and we also keep the same traditions.
Two of the most important traditions involve the Hocking. I’m not going to go into a ton of detail on these — they really won’t make any sense unless you’re actually in the band — but in summary, that disgusting river is really symbolic for us. We’ve marched through it and our band jackets, which we’ll wear at homecoming for the rest of our lives, smell like it. The Hocking is basically a border for everything the 110 does, even if no one really thinks about it that way. So, while there are countless other places in Athens that I love dearly and which smell significantly better, the Hocking River is, ultimately my favorite.