Ten great Aggie things for Texas A&M’s 140th birthday

Texas A&M turned 140 years old on Oct. 4. Photo by Dave Thomas

Texas A&M turned 140 years old on Oct. 4. Photo by Dave Thomas

If it sounds like an Aggie joke that an Aggie is writing about Texas A&M’s birthday one day late, let me share my favorite Aggie joke:

You know what you call an Aggie after graduation?

“Boss.”

I’ll wait for the applause to die down.

But it is (the day after) Texas A&M’s 140th birthday. Classes began on Oct. 4, 1876 with only 40 students at the “Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas” — making it the first public institution of higher education in the state.

A&M began as an all-male, all-military school in a decidedly different era for the military … it had only been a few months since Gen. George Armstrong Custer and his forces had been wiped out at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

But within a generation of sending 20,000 Aggies to fight in World War II, the school was branching out. By the mid-1960s, women and African Americans were welcomed as students and joining the Corps of Cadets was no longer mandatory. Perhaps, not coincidentally, enrollment tripled from 8,000 in 1963 to 25,000 in 1976.

Today A&M boasts 66,000 students and former students (don’t call ’em former Aggies) in the hundreds of thousands. Just for them (and maybe you, too), let’s look at 10 great Aggie things …

10. Texas A&M was scarcely decades old when Texas officials made a serious effort to shut the school down and convert the campus into an insane asylum. Regents chairman Edward Cushing thwarted the bid. Fortunately for everyone, they couldn’t foresee the whole “Johnny Football” circus. (This might not seem like something great, but the ability to take a joke is not a lost art in Aggieland.)

9. Gen. James Earl Rudder was the Texas A&M president who, despite any personal conservatism learned growing up in Eden, Texas, led the school away from the all-white, all-male, all-military school it had been when he arrived. Many grumbled that “old army” was going to hell, but that didn’t scare Gen. Rudder, who personally led his Army Rangers up the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc during the D-Day invasion at Normandy. Yes, next time you’re in a 9-story building, run up the stairs and pretend you’re going up a cliff that tall. Now imagine that Nazis are shooting at you and dropping grenades on you from above.

8. While we’re on World War II, let’s pay our respects to the most famous Aggie Muster. You might recall that Muster is when Aggies gather together each year on April 21 to celebrate their camaraderie and honor those Aggies who have died in the previous year. Aggies weren’t going to let a world war get in the way …

7. It is traditional at Texas A&M football games, that when the Aggies score, the fans get to kiss their dates. This makes friend-zone outings awkward, home shutouts a very, very depressing thing and securing a date for games against lesser opponents very desirable — playing Compass-Point Louisiana or Minor-Midwest U. suddenly seems much more appealing. Of course, Aggies are adaptable. My father said the team was so bad when he attended that they would kiss their dates on first downs.

6/12/03 Sung Park/AMERICAN-STATESMAN Aggie ring for photoillustration.

6. Glimpsing an Aggie ring on someone else always provides an instant connection. My Longhorn buddy and I were at Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic at Southpark Meadows in 2000 (yes, try to imagine Austin’s mega-shopping center Southpark Meadows as an open field right now) and wanted to go talk to some friends closer to the stage. I spied a fellow wearing a ring and introduced myself — class of ’93 — and asked him to keep an eye on our lawn chairs. Our friends convinced us to join them, so my Longhorn buddy went back to retrieve the chairs. He came back a little flustered. “You better go get the chairs. That Aggie fellow was prepared to fight for them.”

5. A lot was made of Prairie View A&M’s band coming to Kyle Field this year, but it wasn’t their first visit. They performed there during a Rice game (when the Rice MOB wasn’t welcome) in the 1990s and earned a standing ovation — significant, since the opposing band’s performance is the only time the Aggie fans sit down during the game. As impressive as Prairie View’s band is, I still cast my vote for the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band …

4. I’m not saying the Texas A&M vet school is the best in the world. You know who does say that? Bevo. Yes, when UT’s mascot needs serious care, rivalry is no match for excellence.

3.  I’m going to tell you “Two of Texas A&M’s most famous and talented graduates are an English major and a Journalism/German major.” You’re going to say “who?” I’m going to say “And they sing. Sometimes together.” You’re going to say “ohhhh … right.”

2. When I think about “The Hit” these days, I think about it as a parent. I think about the TCU receiver. I think about how his parents felt when they saw it. Someone out there is saying I’ve gone soft. Probably. But I was a junior at A&M when “The Hit” happened and I had no such misgivings then. I ran up and down the dorm hall hooting like a howler monkey. The reaction from those watching in Aggieland had seismologists all over the state going “what the hell’s that?” If DVRs had been invented then, there would be a 45-year-old man somewhere on campus still rewinding and re-watching that moment. Ladies and gentlemen, Quentin Coryatt …

1. This. Just, this …

 

 


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