Surgical precision: Appendectomy cuts tryout short but freshman makes team

Rangerette Caroline Bentley
Freshman Rangrette Caroline Bentley of Austin made it through the Rangerettes’ rigorous tryouts despite having an emergency appendectomy two days into the process. Photo by KRISTOPHER DOBBINS/The Flare

TORY VAN BLARCUM
Staff Writer

Imagine being in the middle of making your dream come true — and then being forced to undergo emergency surgery.

Caroline Bentley, Austin freshman, has dreamed of being a Rangerette since she was a freshman in high school.

“I heard about the Rangerettes from my high school director, Holly Lyons. She took our team to Revels that year,” Bentley said. “Right when I saw the opening dance I knew I wanted to be on this team.”

Her dream was nearly cut short after trying out two out of five days when her appendix almost ruptured.

Auditions are a week-long process that start in mid-July with a tea on Sunday to meet the sophomores and directors. Later that evening the hopefuls begin to learn dances. They are graded Monday morning by the directors on plain high kicks and a jazz routine that was taught the night before. After that they learn the 2013 Rangerette high kick and perform solos. Tuesday mornings are filled with more markings and the teaching of various dance combinations.

On the first day of tryouts Bentley became ill after pre-training. Her uncle, Dr. Andrew Bentley, is a physician in Tyler, and she asked him to come by and check on her.

“I had all the symptoms of food poisoning, so he hooked me up to an IV in the middle of the parking lot for fluids and meds,” Bentley said.

She was on the IV for one hour and was given some over-the-counter nausea medicine.

She returned to tryouts on the second day but did not feel any better than the day before.

“I was light-headed and definitely not on my A-game,” Bentley said. Her uncle returned that evening, because

her stomach was beginning to swell.

Once he arrived at Stark Hall, he felt around on her stomach and noticed that her stomach was very firm and that the pain was in the lower right side where the appendix is located.

He immediately told her she needed to go to the emergency room, because he was sure her appendix was infected and needed to come out before it ruptured.

“It was the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life. I knew something was not right at all,” Bentley said. “It was like a stabbing pain in my lower right side at all times, especially when I moved.”

They arrived at the ER and had the doctors do a CT scan, which uses X-rays to create detailed pictures of structures inside of the body, to see if her appendix was infected.

The doctors told Bentley that her appendix would have ruptured that Tuesday night or Wednesday morning at the latest.

“The doctors were very surprised that it hadn’t ruptured yet, because of dancing all day,” Bentley said.

That evening Bentley underwent an emergency appendectomy, which took her out of tryouts for the rest of the week.

“I was devastated. Like everyone, I worked so hard and trained for such a long time and wanted my number to be on that sign more than anything,” Bentley said. “It was heart-breaking to know that I didn’t get to fully finish everything that I had worked so hard for.”

After her surgery, the quiet hospital room allowed her to think about the days ahead that held her future.

She was worried and unsure if her audition was canceled because of missing three days of the tryout. Bentley said the women were not informed of the procedure that would take place if someone had to leave, got sick or in her case, had surgery.

“I didn’t know if the directors, sophomores and judges would take into account what happened,” Bentley said. “I really didn’t think I had a chance.”

She was released from the hospital Thursday afternoon and was cleared later to dance.

With the traditional sign drop on Friday announcing the new members of the team. Bentley was running scenarios through her head.

“Everyone kept telling me that I had shown them what I needed to in the first markings, and they knew I was sick,” Bentley said.

Bentley also had the support from her hometown best friend and fellow hopeful, Haley Martin, also an Austin freshman.

“It was hard seeing her frustrated at the situation, because she couldn’t do anything,” Martin said. “I know how much she wanted this.”

When the sign dropped, Bentley was in disbelief. She couldn’t believe she made it and to make it better, Martin made it as well.

“I kept telling myself ‘Caroline you did it, even after everything, you did it, you’re about to live your dream,’” Bentley said.

She pushed through the pain for two days of tryouts, had to have emergency surgery and the fear of her dream not coming true.

“I am so beyond grateful and blessed to start living this dream and be a part of such an amazing organization known for such class, elegance, respect, talent and tradition,” Bentley said. “I can’t wait to represent the red, white, and blue as a Rangerette.”

Rangerettes in D.C.: Day 5

Inauguration preparation
Inauguration preparation
Workers prepare the Capitol grounds Jan. 20 for the Inauguration of President Barack Obama on Jan. 21.
Photo by JON VASHEY / SPECIAL TO THE FLARE

Editor’s Note: Rangerette and Flare staff writer Dezirae Burnett, Huntington freshman, is in Washington D.C. to perform Jan. 19 in The Black Tie & Boots Presidential Inaugural Ball. The Rangerettes arrived Jan. 16, and are able to tour the capital. THE FLARE will share Burnett’s personal reflections on the trip. Keep up with us on Facebook or Twitter for updates on new entries.

Historic journey fitting end for D.C. experience

 

By DEZIRAE BURNET
Staff Writer 

The day got off to a late start. After a busy evening at the ball, I decided to treat myself to a couple hours of sleep.

Once I finally dragged myself out of bed, I dressed and made my way to the Metro station. For my last day in Washington D.C., I was headed to the Smithsonian.

The first stop was the American History Museum. I was surprised to see so many people there despite it being the off season.

My eyes widen with joy as I spotted Judy Garland’s ruby red slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.” I spent five minutes in front that display alone. Next, we saw Archie Bunker’s chair and Kermit the Frog.

As I milled about the museum, it was interesting to see the mix of artifacts arranged in the same exhibit, like the first iPod sitting next to a wedding dress made from a used parachute.

I had a blast looking at all of the inaugural dresses of the first ladies and the on-set kitchen of Julia Child. After three hours exploring our country’s contributions to history, my small group of friends meandered to the Museum of Natural History, where we spent the rest of the afternoon viewing mummies, precious gems and dinosaur fossils.

While it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see all of those artifacts, I was thankful when it was finally time to return to the hotel. Souvenirs in hand, we left the Smithsonian with the light breeze at our backs.

All in all, it was a wonderful way to bring this amazing trip to a close.

Read Day 1 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 2 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 3 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 4 of Burnett’s journal here.

Rangerettes in D.C.: Day 4

Rangerettes in D.C.
Rangerettes in D.C.
The Kilgore College Rangerettes gather in front of the Capitol on Jan. 19 in Washington, D.C. Photo by JON VASHEY / SPECIAL TO THE FLARE

Editor’s Note: Rangerette and Flare staff writer Dezirae Burnett, Huntington freshman, is in Washington D.C. to perform Jan. 19 in The Black Tie & Boots Presidential Inaugural Ball. The Rangerettes arrived Jan. 16, and are able to tour the capital. THE FLARE will share Burnett’s personal reflections on the trip. Keep up with us on Facebook or Twitter for updates on new entries.

Rangerettes have a ball, get star treatment

 

By DEZIRAE BURNET
Staff Writer

As our bus weaved through the busy streets of D.C., I could practically feel my excitement threatening to brim over. The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center (where the Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball is held) was just minutes away and then suddenly we were there.

I stared, with my mouth agape, at the vaulted ceilings of the main lobby. I felt like a princess entering the finest of palaces. The ballrooms were filled with Texas decor: giant cowboy boots, greenery and guitars dominated the floor space of the spacious main ball entrance.

In uniform, the Rangerettes lined the staircases and greeted guests. Cameras flashed in every direction as elegantly dressed women and regal-looking gentlemen each fought for a picture with the young women in the red, white and blue.

Upon our entrance there was a collective gasp from guests all around us and whispers of “it’s the Rangerettes” spread around the room. The first beats of our music rocked through my body and caused a rush of adrenaline to pulse rapidly through my veins.

Taking the floor was a feeling like none other. From the crowd’s reaction, one would have thought that we were Justin Beiber. The applause was thunderous as we exited, a smile more than a mile wide plastered on my face. My next two hours were spent on cloud nine as I glided from ballroom to ballroom taking pictures, meeting people and talking about my life as a ’Rette. I felt like a celebrity straight off a red carpet. If only they had asked for an autograph …

The magical evening was drawing quickly to a close but we had yet another surprise in store for us. Just as we were lining up to leave for our final performance, the one and only Josh Abbott Band rounded the corner and headed straight toward us! Naturally picture taking ensued. It was surely a memorable moment as all 70 women crowded around the few band members, smiling like we had won a million dollars.

Finally, we approached the doors to the Maryland Room, where we were welcomed with an uproarious cheer. Spectators surrounded the dance floor and our music once again began. The performance was made even better as we fed off the crowd’s intense energy. I left the ballroom to the sounds of hundreds of Texans clapping to “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”

Tears of joy pricked my eyes as I gathered my belongings for the bus ride back to our hotel. I had never been so proud to wear the Rangerette uniform. Back in my room as I get ready to welcome another end to another day, I’m happy to know this has been one I’ll never forget.

Read Day 1 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 2 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 3 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 5 of Burnett’s journal here.

Rangerettes in D.C.: Day 3

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
The Kilgore College Rangerettes and others traveling from KC toured Arlington National Cemetery on Jan. 18, in Virginia. Photo by JON VASHEY / SPECIAL TO THE FLARE

Editor’s Note: Rangerette and Flare staff writer Dezirae Burnett, Huntington freshman, is in Washington D.C. to perform Jan. 19 in The Black Tie & Boots Presidential Inaugural Ball. The Rangerettes arrived Jan. 16, and are able to tour the capital. THE FLARE will share Burnett’s personal reflections on the trip. Keep up with us on Facebook or Twitter for updates on new entries.

Clouds part for changing of guard, Capitol tour

 

By DEZIRAE BURNET
Staff Writer

I welcomed the trip’s first rays of sunshine in the morning as I embarked on the day’s journey to Arlington National Cemetery.

Within the walls of the massive cemetery, the endless sea of white headstones held me transfixed by the sheer magnitude of just how many souls had been laid to rest there.

I walked somberly down the pedestrian paths, taking note of the dates on each grave marker and the battles in which each person bravely fought.

At 11 a.m., I witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was completely silent on the hill on which the tomb sits, overlooking the city, except for the occasional clicking of a camera shutter.

It was as if time had joined the tourists in pausing out of respect for tradition, as the second Marine took the place of the one before him. The sun continued to smile down upon the Marine guard as he assumed his position in front of the tomb, before taking exactly 21 steps to the opposite side. His face was completely void of any emotion despite the sadness surrounding him and the bitter wind. And that was how we left him … pacing monotonously in front of the sacred tomb.

The Capitol was more grand than I could have ever imagined. The marble steps leading to its entry beckoned for me to come inside and experience another chapter from the history books.

Our tour, led by Congressman Louie Gohmert, took us throughout the halls of the Capitol. I felt honored to sit in the very room where just weeks from now, the President of the United States would address our country with the State of the Union. The dimly lit room hardly seemed fit to house such important events in history.

The next room showcased the two statues representing each of the 50 states. Had I not known any better, I would have guessed we were touring an art gallery as opposed to a government building, because of the perfection and beauty.

The domed ceilings were ornately decorated with intricate carvings of angels, farming scenes and scenes from the battlefield. In the room directly following that, a mural was painted on the dome’s concave underside. It was one of the most gorgeous pieces of artwork I have ever laid eyes on. One would have to experience the scene in person to fully understand how breathtaking the angelic scene depicted there truly is. Along the walls of this room hung colonial paintings of the signing of the Declaration, President Washington’s resignation and the wedding of Pocahontas.

In the Senate, we were told that the sleek varnished desks were the very same desks used by President John F. Kennedy himself.

The soft, padded carpet was comfortably worn from being trod upon by the feet of hundreds of men and women who have helped to maintain our country’s standard of democracy.

As we exited the Capitiol, by way of the same path to be taken by the President on the day he delivers his State of the Union address, I was proud to have just explored the place where so many groundbreaking decisions were made that constructed my way of life as it is today.

Read Day 1 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 2 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 4 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 5 of Burnett’s journal here.

Rangerettes in D.C.: Day 2

Lincoln Memorial by Jon Vashey
Lincoln Memorial by Jon Vashey
Members of the Kilgore College Rangerettes and others traveling from Kilgore College visited the Lincoln Memorial as part of a four-hour tour of the National Mall and Memorial Parks on Jan. 17 in Washington, D.C. Photo by JON VASHEY / SPECIAL TO THE FLARE

Editor’s Note: Rangerette and Flare staff writer Dezirae Burnett, Huntington freshman, is in Washington D.C. to perform Jan. 19 in The Black Tie & Boots Presidential Inaugural Ball. The Rangerettes arrived Jan. 16, and are able to tour the capital. THE FLARE will share Burnett’s personal reflections on the trip. Keep up with us on Facebook or Twitter for updates on new entries.

Tours make history come alive

 

DEZIRAE BURNETT
Staff Writer

The air isn’t so cold on my second day here in D.C. We are riding the Metro to Mount Vernon, the last stop on the route. We have switched trains twice. It is funny how I can be amused by such little things as emerging from the train tunnel and seeing the Potomac flowing beneath me, or all the tall, skinny houses all smushed together on a street like a larger-than-life accordion.

Virginia is a new world. Bus stops are much less clean than D.C. It seems that everywhere I look is uphill. I love how it looks like winter here; fallen leaves litter the lawns of every home.

It’s no surprise why President Washington was so fond of his Mount Vernon plantation. The landscape is absolutely beautiful. The Potomac is as smooth as a pane of glass as seen from the back porch of the main house. The house is a treasure in and of itself. The tour is like stepping back in time, with all the rooms furnished with authentic period pieces.

On the second floor of the house, my small tour group looks into the private bedchamber of George and Martha Washington. The room still serves as home to Martha’s original writing desk, as the room served as her office, as well as the bed that she had made for herself and the President – the bed where he later died. It was eerie to be in such close proximity to where he took his last breath.

The knobby, red brick pathway leading away from the main estate was deserted and peaceful; I find it difficult to fathom life at Mount Vernon being anything but peaceful.

The Washington family tomb is located in a lower portion of the plantation. The iron-gated tomb enclosure houses the remains of Martha and George, as well as most of the Washington family. The tomb and memorial grounds are very simple.

My experience at Mount Vernon concludes with a stroll through the various gardens and rolling, pale green pastures. Before finally making my way back to the bus stop, I pause and stare out over the vast plantation, committing yet another piece of our rich history to memory.

This evening we took a night tour of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. We stopped at each memorial. The air had a frigid bite to it as we made our four-hour trek through history.

The magnitude of just how many brave souls have lost their lives to protect the very way of life I too often take for granted is still unbelievable even with seeing each of the thousands upon thousands of individual names etched forever into the granite wall before me.

I stood captivated at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, in awe of its majesty. Inside the memorial itself, I couldn’t help but wonder what the permanently placed look on the 16th President’s face was. Was it pride? Concern? Concentration? Perhaps it was a mix of all three.

The FDR Memorial was by far the most magnificent, with its waterfalls and reflection pools. Laid out not in a circle or straight line, Roosevelt’s memorial is arranged into outdoor rooms, each representative of the terms he served as the leader of the free world. Each room features  quotes by the President, and different statues of himself and his life.

I was intrigued by the many contributions and by the significance of each man or group memorialized in the mall. It was humbling to stand before representations of such seemingly ordinary people whose extraordinary acts built this grand country.

Read Day 1 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 3 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 4 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 5 of Burnett’s journal here.

Rangerettes in D.C.: Day 1

 

Members of the Kilgore College Rangettes arrive Jan. 16 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The Rangerettes will perform Jan. 19 at The Black Tie & Boots Presidential Inaugural Ball presented by the Texas State Society.
Members of the Kilgore College Rangettes arrive Jan. 16 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The Rangerettes will perform Jan. 19 at The Black Tie & Boots Presidential Inaugural Ball presented by the Texas State Society. Photo by JON VASHEY / SPECIAL TO THE FLARE

Editor’s Note: Rangerette and Flare staff writer Dezirae Burnett, Huntington freshman, is in Washington D.C. to perform Jan. 19 in The Black Tie & Boots Presidential Inaugural Ball. The Rangerettes arrived Jan. 16, and are able to tour the capital. THE FLARE will share Burnett’s personal reflections on the trip. Keep up with us on Facebook or Twitter for updates on new entries.

Surrounded by history, a moment of silence

 

DEZIRAE BURNETT
Staff Writer

As our plane made its descent into the Washington D.C. area, clouds enveloped the entire aircraft. It looked as if we were drifting through snow.

When at last the clouds broke, the arial view was breathtaking. I immediately took notice of the Washington Monument and the Captiol building shortly thereafter, looking all powerful sitting atop its hill over looking the town. The scenery passed by me all too quickly as we finally landed.

After navigating through the various terminals and inner networkings of the airport, I claimed my lone suitcase and took my first steps out into our Nation’s Capital, where I was immediately met by a gust of crisp D.C. winter air.

The town is cloaked in gray from overcast skies as we drive to our hotel. It is misting. Everywhere I look, I’m faced by some historic building or monument. I’m completely amazed. It’s interesting to be surrounded by such old buildings nestled right alongside modern architecture.

The streets and sidewalks are narrow and bustling. Everyone seems to be in the biggest hurry.

I love the Metro even through buying the pass for this week was frustrating. Surprisingly, the Metro itself and the station are fairly clean.

Metro riders are very self-absorbed, paying no mind at all to the other riders.

The metro took me to the Holocaust museum. The museum was both dark in lighting and in mood. Before the self-guided tour began, I chose an identification card that represented an actual Holocaust victim. The moment I read her name I got chills, chills that remained throughout the entire exhibit. My tour and my card took me on her journey through the persecution of her people and her time in encampment.

The images, the stories, the artifacts and the possessions of the victims were absolutely haunting. I was overwhelmed by the cruelty of man and how real it all was.

Near the end of the tour, there was a breezeway lined with thousands of shoes of concentration camp victims.

To paraphrase a quote from the wall there, because they were made of fabric and leather and not of blood and flesh, they escaped the flames of the crematorium.

My Holocaust victim was killed in a concentration camp at age 65. I concluded my tour by taking a moment of silence in her memory in the candle-lit, domed-ceiling remembrance room.

Read Day 2 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 3 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 4 of Burnett’s journal here.
Read Day 5 of Burnett’s journal here.