Unfolding the Map
We pull into College Station, Texas for the night with William Least Heat-Moon (LHM). If you've lived in Texas, you know that College Station is Aggieland, and just how big their rivalry with the University of Texas is. To see where College Station is located, click on the map, and gig 'em, hook 'em, or whatever you feel like doing!
"...on the way to College Station."
Blue Highways: Part 4, Chapter 1
College Station, Texas
This was the first Aggie joke I ever heard:
A pickup truck with two University of Texas students in the cab and two Texas A&M students in the bed of the truck skidded off the road and went into a lake. The two University of Texas students let the water fill inside the cab, equalizing the pressure, and then opened the doors and swam to safety. As they reached the surface, people pulled them out and onto shore. Somebody asked, "what happened to those two Aggies in the back?" One UT student said responded: "They're still down there. When we swam by, they were still trying to get the tailgate open."
Okay, so the you get the picture. Texas A&M is located in College Station, Texas and Aggies are Texas A&M sports teams and students. It is a pastime in Texas to tell these jokes which highlight just how unintelligent Aggies are purported to be. Here's another I learned:
Texas A&M had to close the library because a student went to the library and checked out the book.
Wait for it...wait for it...okay, there, you got it! But there's more...
The library had another tragedy this week. The student returned the book, and had colored in the pictures.
In Texas, almost every ethnic or stereotype joke can be made into an Aggie joke, which makes such jokes acceptable in public locations. The funny thing is, most of the jokes I heard about Aggies were told to me by an Aggie. Sam, who lived downstairs from me while I lived in San Antonio, attended Texas A&M and took perverse pleasure in Aggie jokes - he knew practically all of them. He was also a Mexican-American from El Paso, and knew practically every Mexican joke ever uttered. Perhaps it was a way of reducing the power of these jokes by taking ownership of them. That's my politically correct liberal interpretation. In reality, I think he just liked them and found them funny. He certainly didn't match any of these stereotypes - he is one of the quickest and most intelligent people I ever met. He's an engineer, and a good one, and probably makes more in one year than I do in five. So, Aggie stereotypes, as usually all stereotypes, don't quite add up.
Here's another I found on the web:
There was a group of Aggie science students that wanted to send a probe to the sun, but some UT students said that was impossible and that the probe would burn up long before reaching the sun. The Aggies replied that they planned to send the probe at night.
Of course the University of Texas Longhorns got ribbed by Aggies. Because it is the flagship school of the state of Texas, the students there could be regarded as from the Texas elite. The stereotype was effete snobbery, leading the UT students to be called "tea sippers" or simply "tea sips." When an Aggie referred to a University of Texas student or grad, he or she might call the Longhorn a tea sipper with a hand gesture that resembled someone holding a cup of tea.
Other hand signals used, especially around the annual Texas-Texas A&M football game involved making a fist, holding it up with palm sign out and then poking out the pinkie and the forefinger while shouting "hook em' Horns!" Aggies, on the other hand, stick out their thumb like they are hitchhiking and shout "gig em' Aggies!"
Here's another one:
There was an Aggie that was down on his luck. In order to raise some money he decided to kidnap a kid and hold him for ransom. He went to the playground, grabbed a kid, took him behind a tree and told him, "I've kidnapped you." The Aggie wrote a note saying "I've kidnapped your kid. Tomorrow morning, put $10,000 in a paper bag and put it beneath the pecan tree next to the slide on the north side of the city playground. Signed, An Aggie." The Aggie then pinned the note to the kid's shirt and sent him home to show it to his parents. The next morning the Aggie checked, and sure enough a paper bag was sitting beneath that pecan tree. The Aggie opened up the bag and found the $10,000 with a note. The note said, "How could one Aggie do this to another Aggie?"
Beyond the fun and games, Texas A&M is a very good school. The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library is located there. I'm a political scientist, and a position in the political science department at A&M is considered to be a plum position. Texas A&M has its own military corps, called the Corps of Cadets, of which 42 percent go into a commission in the U.S. Armed Services, according to Wikipedia.
On the eve of the big football game with the University of Texas, Texas A&M had a tradition called Bonfire. A huge structure of logs was built and set alight, symbolizing A&M's burning desire to beat Texas. Tragically, in 1999 the structure collapsed while being built and killed and injured a number of student volunteers working on the building of the structure. Since then, there has been no official Bonfire, and a Bonfire memorial was created to honor the victims.
I appreciate Texas A&M because some great musicians have gone through College Station and the university. I will end this post with one that I really like - Robert Earl Keen. He is so beloved in Texas by Aggies that they follow him around to his concerts. The story is that he and Lyle Lovett, another Aggie, lived together and played around College Station together before going on to their own musical careers. The YouTube embedded below does not give any video, but is his song, The Front Porch Song, from a live album he did some years ago. The story he tells in the middle of the song references College Station and Aggies, and is a good companion to this post. Enjoy!
If you want to know more about College Station
Next up: Dime Box, Texas