Texas A&M is known for its deep-rooted traditions that make the Aggie spirit what it is, but there are so many of them that not all students know about each one. Even some of the more popular traditions, such as Muster and Elephant Walk, have some history that will come as a surprise to many Aggies.
Andy McNeel, a senior meteorology major and vice chair of Traditions Council, said most students have heard of most Aggie traditions, but "they might just not be aware of the origins," McNeel said.
McNeel said it's good to know the origin of a tradition, but that it's more important to know what a tradition means and why it exists. Most traditions at A&M center on family and togetherness and embody those ideals in one way or another, he said.
"People say if something happens twice at A&M, it's a tradition," he said.
For one week during football season, "fish," or freshmen, in the Corps of Cadets walk around campus with bottle cap spurs attached to their shoes. These are known as "fish spurs," said Chris Johnson, a junior political science and history major.
The spurs are made of bottle caps usually collected at Northgate on the short alley known as "bottle cap alley," Johnson said. These spurs are removed before going in and out of buildings, but otherwise must be worn by the (freshmen) cadets at all times that they are in their uniform, Johnson said.
Johnson said the bottle caps are flattened and then attached to the shoe by being strung on a coat hanger that is bent around to make a stirrup that fits over the heel. Since the "fish" class color changes each year, so does the spur color; this year, the spurs were spray painted red. Johnson said that each fish has 54 bottle caps per spur, because with both shoes combined, that is 108 total, for the Class of 2008.
Johnson said the tradition of fish spurs began when the Aggies used to play the Southern Methodist University Mustangs.
"We were 'spurring' the Mustangs," Johnson said.
Now fish wear the spurs the week before the football game against Texas Tech because the Aggies no longer play SMU, Johnson said. If A&M is outscored by Tech, the fish wear their spurs the week after the game as well," he added.
Toeing the line
During halftime of every home football game, A&M seniors line up at the south end of Kyle Field where the football team enters to greet the team back on the field, and this tradition is known as Boot Line, said Kelsey Walker, a senior political science major.
"The yell leaders come, too, and we have a mini-yell practice," Walker said.
The seniors have a chance to see the players up close and cheer them on for their "second wind" and half of the game, Walker said.
McNeel said this tradition evolved from "Old Army" days when the cadets would form a block "T" on Kyle Field at halftime.
"As the population at A&M grew, there were too many people on the field," McNeel said.
The overcrowding led to the seniors lining up to cheer on the team. Walker said that not many seniors have attended Boot Line this year.
Penny for your thoughts
Rumor has it that before an Aggie takes an exam, it is good luck to put a penny at the feet of the Sul Ross statue, located in front of the Academic Building.
"I've only done it once," Walker said. "I thought I was going to fail, but I didn't because I put my pennies on Sullie's feet."
Walker said a lot of pennies are dropped off, especially around midterms and finals.
"I've even seen quarters," Walker said.
Courtney Potter, a junior recreation, parks and tourism sciences major and the Tours and Traditions executive for MSC Hospitality said this tradition started when Sul Ross was president of A&M.
"He was big on academics and after helping students he told them that they didn't owe him anything but a penny for their thoughts," Potter said. Thus, the tradition of leaving pennies began.
McNeel said it is rumored that the money left for luck is collected and given to a charity or a scholarship.
Mustering a victory
Muster is held on April 21 each year, and it isn't just a coincidence - the reason for this date reaches back to the 1890s.
McNeel said that in the early 1890s, the Corps was invited to the San Jacinto battleground to play a part in the reenactment of the Battle of San Jacinto. The Aggies were asked to play the part of the Mexicans, and the state guard played the Texans, McNeel said.
"Because Aggies can't stand to lose, the Mexicans appeared victorious in the battle," McNeel said. "It was a classic example of the hard-headedness of Aggies."
The Aggies were not asked to do the reenactment again, but decided to hold an event every year on April 21. McNeel said this began in 1899 as San Jacinto field day, which was a fun day of activities.
"The day stuck to be significant day of camaraderie," McNeel said. "It evolved to what is now Aggie Muster."
The Muster we hold now began in the 1920s, McNeel said
It's all good (bull)
Since Aggie traditions originated with the university in 1876 it is difficult to know everything about them. For instance, until the mid 1920s, A&M's mascot was a farmer, McNeel said, which explains the yell "Farmers Fight." The team name changed to Aggies because the media began referring to the students as "Aggies," McNeel said.
Even the tradition of Aggie Moms Clubs has roots, Potter said. When Aggie rings had square tops, Potter said, the cadets would rip holes in their uniforms when they put their hands in their pockets. The moms would get together to sew up the holes, thus forming Aggie Moms Clubs, Potter said.
Referring to diehard Aggies as "red ass" is nothing new, either. Aggies used to be paddled on their behinds when they pulled out, rather than made to push, Potter said. Since pulling out is considered "good bull," or a positive thing, so is being "red ass."
McNeel said anyone who is interested in learning more about Aggie traditions can research in the Cushing Library.