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CGSC Lobotomy
Texas A&M Fan
Lewis-McChord, Washington
Member since Sep 2011
12527 posts

re: Aggie bonfire documentary.... just watched it..


quote:

Bonfire was always before Texas


Pre-1996:

Night before the game (Kyle)
2 nights before the game (Austin)

1996-1998:

Thanksgiving night (Kyle)
3 nights before the game (Austin)






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daboman of Aggieland
Texas A&M Fan
Columbia, MO
Member since Aug 2011
1280 posts

re: Aggie bonfire documentary.... just watched it..


quote:

Duncan Field 1909-1992
Polo Field 1993-1999


It was moved to Duncan Field at some point in the 50s, I think. I know that it wasn't always there. I remember being told that it was on Simpson Drill Field at some point.

I worked on bonfire my first two years at A&M. Looking back, it was a disaster waiting to happen. I remember being out at cut one morning waiting to be told where to go and the Moses Hall yellow pot was passed out cold in his car. This was the guy who was supposed to make sure that everyone was safe with the axes, and he was still shitfaced from the night before.

I never went to cut drunk, but I rarely went to stack sober. Once push started, on Friday night we would go to parties, load up on everclear punch, go to midnight yell, and then head out to stack.

I think that the off-campus bonfire is fine. I've known some students who worked on it over the years, and it's much more serious (and sober). Bonfire will never be what it was when it was on campus, but watching it burn wasn't really what it was all about if you had worked on it.

When stack fell, I was working in the Administration Building and had a perfect view of the Polo Fields. Here are a few pictures that I took on Thanksgiving Day in 1999.

1999 Bonfire Tragedy






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Golfer
LSU Fan
Coral Bay, St. John, USVI
Member since Nov 2005
53445 posts

re: Aggie bonfire documentary.... just watched it..


quote:

Also the long history of kids getting hurt in serious ways and at least one person getting killed.


Based on the memorial website, 3 people died before 1999. How in the hell did they let it continue in that manner?






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CGSC Lobotomy
Texas A&M Fan
Lewis-McChord, Washington
Member since Sep 2011
12527 posts

re: Aggie bonfire documentary.... just watched it..


quote:

3 people died before 1999. How in the hell did they let it continue in that manner?


They were all killed in car accidents on the way back from cut. None of the deaths was directly attributable to any actions directly impacting the building of Bonfire.






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Cooter Davenport
Texas A&M Fan
Austin, TX
Member since Apr 2012
1355 posts

re: Aggie bonfire documentary.... just watched it..


quote:

I'm also wondering what would have happened to the tradition after aTm entered the SEC. Which team's flag would have replaced UT's on the top of that stack? Did you guys have one this year and for which game?


I'm not sure we'd be in the SEC if we still had bonfire. That's not to say I'm not happy we are in the SEC or that I regret moving. It's just to say that post-bonfire, A&M changed rapidly as an institution. It's very, very different now. Understanding of the full impact is hard to impart to an outsider - it's difficult (understandably!) for those on the ouside to comprehend how what seems like a single event (the night bonfire) could actually be an entire semester of student life and how it could come to BE the school, but it was. Bonfire is all a lot of people did that semester, bonfire crews were many student's peer-groups, period. A&M doesn't lag in Greek culture just because of the Corps history - it's also because, in the bonfire days, your crew was your fraternity, hell, they had their own houses and everything.



This post was edited on 11/7 at 12:27 pm


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aggressor
Texas A&M Fan
Austin, TX
Member since Sep 2011
3191 posts

re: Aggie bonfire documentary.... just watched it..


How Bonfire got to the point it did is a long and sad tale with a lot of emotions and blame. One of the most unfortunate things is they actually used to have more outside supervision of the project but the legal liability was too great for any engineer to officially consult on it. The heavy drinking also was really something that got out of hand later but it likely had little to do with the accident itself. The problem was fundamentally they kept making the 2nd stack almost as wide as the first stack thinking it would make it stronger when in fact it made it weaker. That is how it resulted in such a catastrophic failure. Bonfire fell many times before, including while I was in school. It just happened very slowly and you could see the problems coming so they pulled everyone off, took down all the logs, and started over. Really every time we had a lot of rain this was a risk. No one imagined it would fall the way it did though with so little warning though certainly it is easy enough to see looking back.

They actually limited Bonfire to 53 feet after the 109 foot record and went to the "Wedding Cake" style. 6 stacks plus the outhouse.

For me I worked on Bonfire all 4 years. My highlight moment was my outfit in the Corps ran the game ball from Bonfire right after it was lit (we got it from RC) and did 3 circles around the base (the heat coming off from up close was unreal) and then after we continued in block formation off campus ran in relays the 93 miles to Austin. We then ran around the Texas campus singing jodies and finished up at DKR to deliver the ball.

I'll also never forget the morning I heard it on the radio after I woke that Bonfire fell. Hit me like a ton of bricks. The next few days were a blur of emotions and pain seeing the tragedy unfold. I went to donate blood here in Austin and was blown away by the hundreds of people lined up to do the same, many wearing Texas shirts. Then I went for the Memorial service and met up with several of my buddies to walk over with our old outfit wearing our shirts as one of the members of our outfit had died, Jerry Self. I never knew Jerry but I certainly felt a deep connection to him knowing how many nights I had spent on that Stack and the emotion was very thick. Then actually seeing all those thousands of people at the rubble of stack and the enormity of the catastrophe is difficult to describe. Then we all walked over to Kyle for a Yell Practice that was very surreal.

The game was just a rush of emotions with a lot of tears. The performances of both bands had me crying like a baby. Then of course the storybook ending with the sack and fumble with Brian Gamble standing up holding the ball you felt this outpouring of emotion that was hard to describe.

Part of A&M died with Bonfire and it will never come back. It honestly took me a few years to come to grips with it. It's like a part of the collective Aggie soul was ripped away and will never fully heal but rather has a giant scar. The saddest thing to me is all the Aggies that have come since will never get to have experienced it.

It is also absolutely true that A&M would likely still be in the Big 12 if Bonfire still existed.






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Kingwood Tiger
LSU Fan
Katy, TX
Member since Jul 2005
11824 posts

re: Aggie bonfire documentary.... just watched it..


I went to high school in Huntsville right down the road. We used to always come up with some reason and go as kids...it was a blast.





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gwilging
LSU Fan
Richmond, VA
Member since Mar 2011
1257 posts

re: Aggie bonfire documentary.... just watched it..


quote:

maybe LSU will be the new team we recognize.
I had never heard of Aggie Bonfire until this thread and it sounds like a great colloquial tradition steeped in teamwork and leadership. I have no affiliation with A&M, but just reading this thread makes me wish I was an Aggie before 1999. As far as your comment, I would be honored if Bonfire came back and would be floored if Bonfire came back in favor of LSU.
quote:

I'm not sure we'd be in the SEC if we still had bonfire.
Why? I read the rest of your post but don't understand what the SEC has to do with Bonfire. Also, how did A&M change as an institution? Has it become more individualistic and not as teamwork/leadership based as it might have been before 1999?






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daboman of Aggieland
Texas A&M Fan
Columbia, MO
Member since Aug 2011
1280 posts

re: Aggie bonfire documentary.... just watched it..


quote:

Why? I read the rest of your post but don't understand what the SEC has to do with Bonfire. Also, how did A&M change as an institution? Has it become more individualistic and not as teamwork/leadership based as it might have been before 1999?

1. Bonfire represented "our burning desire to beat the hell outta t.u." It was always topped with a "t.u. frathouse" (outhouse). We couldn't realistically just move that hatred to LSU. It's been brewing since 1894, when we first played them, or at least since the first bonfire in 1909.

2. I started at A&M in the Fall of 1990. I was never in the corps, but I spent my first two years living in an unairconditioned dorm for $384 per semester. Without AC, we had to have our doors open all of the time for airflow. You knew everyone. I had an awesome time living in the dorms. My dorm, Law Hall, had been around since 1927. We had our own yell, our own song about our arch-rival dorm Puryear, and so on.

3. There were just a million little things associated with bonfire/football season that have disappeared. When I was in the school, all of the dorms had their own table at Sbisa (biggest dining hall). We ate dinner at 4:45 every Friday and had a yell practice. During the football season, we regularly had Viking Night, when we ate with no plates or utensils. That kind of stuff just disappeared when Bonfire did.

4. There was the actual Saturday and Sunday mornings with people beating the shite out of your door with axe handles at 5:30 AM to get your arse out of bed for cut.

As a non-reg (part of the 95+% of Aggies not in the corps), bonfire was probably our last, strongest connection to our history as a military school.

Part of it is also a general homogenization of the campus population. Although A&M is the traditional "farmers college," we now have the same spoiled upper-middle class Houston/Dallas/San Antonio kids driving daddy's SUV that every other school in Texas has. Part of living in a non-air dorm was living with the poor kids from rural Texas. Non-air dorms are a thing of the past as is cheap housing in general. Luxury apartments and private dorms are really the norm these days.



This post was edited on 11/7 at 8:59 pm


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aggressor
Texas A&M Fan
Austin, TX
Member since Sep 2011
3191 posts

re: Aggie bonfire documentary.... just watched it..


daboman covered a lot of it but let me add a few things.

A&M is a crazy tradition oriented school (as if you haven't figured that out). Bonfire was THE tradition above them all because it involved EVERYONE and involved them heavily. I was in the Corps and we were very involved with Bonfire. Certain outfits had different responsibilities as well. It was a HUGE honor for the outfits that "put out" the most for Bonfire to earn special duties such as creating the perimeter around Bonfire. It was a HUGE honor to be a "Redpot" (the Jrs and Srs that were in charge of Bonfire that wore a helmet painted red). Every outfit had a "yellow pot" that was in charge of their outfits activities. Each branch (Army, Navy/Marine, Air Force, Band) had a "Brown Pot" that directed activities at that level.

What was special though was the Non Regs (people not in the Corps) had the same system. Each dorm had it's own pots and so on. Certain dorms were famous such as Walton Hall for loading the logs at cut site onto the trucks to deliver them. Their saying was "Walton Loads". Dorms would shave heads of Freshman every year to form the letters of their dorm. They took great pride in doing as much if not more than many Corps outfits.

What made all of this so special was outside of the organized times when groups came out to cut or to stack when you came out on your own (which was often) you would go and cut wood or move logs or actually wire them to the Stack with other Ags from different organizations. You were all Aggies with a common purpose to build this giant Bonfire over a period of weeks and weeks. A real bond forms when you are out at 1AM on a Tuesday night standing next to 6 other Aggies moving one of 10k logs to get put on the Stack. It's really hard to describe and part of what made A&M unique. For Bonfire we were just all Aggies with a common purpose and goal doing something truly special. For me I always thought of how my Dad had done the same thing I was doing decades before and how there were legions of Aggies before him. It was also just amazing to watch the logs come in and the huge day came when Centerpole was raised (the giant 50 foot tree upon which all the logs were built outward from). Then you could watch over the days and weeks as Bonfire got closer to see the Stack build. When Bonfire fell it was during "Push" when the Stack was going 24 hours a day in the last few days before Bonfire and it happened in the middle of the night with hundreds of people there working on Stack. Whether you were a dirt poor farm kid or a rich pretty boy from North Dallas we were all equals and we were all doing something special as Aggies.

Then of course there was the actual lighting which was just such a great celebration of this incredible thing we all built together just as Aggies had done for decades and decades past. To see it light up and feel that pride of accomplishment was what being an Aggie was all about in one moment.

That's why it would have been hard to go to the SEC. That tradition defined Aggies. Yes, we built it out of a "burning desire to Beat the Hell Outta tu!" but that was really just to make them the villain. It was more about the cultural differences between the 2 schools. Maybe we could have just changed it to LSU but that would have been an awfully hard sell to the traditionalists.






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Jobu93
Texas A&M Fan
Cypress TX
Member since Sep 2011
5276 posts

re: Aggie bonfire documentary.... just watched it..


I was there from 89-94 and was a CrewChief at Moore in 90-91. My brothers and I still get together, and we have Bonfire reunions that can pull upwards of 100 guys from the dorm. All these years later.

Bonfire was something special. It was our lab in leadership.

My wife knows to just leave me be on the 18th; you see I andacouple of my crew were to go wire that weekend with the youngsters.

I fully expect to be well into a bottle of Blantons on the night of the 18th.






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daboman of Aggieland
Texas A&M Fan
Columbia, MO
Member since Aug 2011
1280 posts

re: Aggie bonfire documentary.... just watched it..


quote:

Their saying was "Walton Loads".

And our reply was "Yeah, you load your roommate!"

quote:

Dorms would shave heads of Freshman every year to form the letters of their dorm.

Law Hall had a free kegger every Fall for the Freshmen called the Fish Pickle. They would try to get as many Freshmen as possible drunk enough to be a letterhead (have a letter shaved into their head).

I was smart enough to turn down the invite to that party.

They wanted to spell "Law Hall, Red arse Ags". I think that "Law Hall" was all they got though.






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