texasmonthly.com: What got you interested in writing about the Rangerettes?
Katy Vine: I love writing about subcultures, and any institution that has a lengthy history and its own set of rules is a cultural jackpot.
texasmonthly.com: What exactly is a drill team? Who do the Rangerettes perform for?
KV: A drill team is a group that performs to music, usually as halftime entertainment at football games. The Rangerettes perform at Kilgore Rangers football games, but they aren’t as dependent upon the team as cheerleaders are. They perform in festivals and parades and have even traveled overseas to such places as Venezuela, Hong Kong, Macao, Korea, and Romania.
texasmonthly.com: What are the major tenets of Rangerette femininity?
KV: Rangerettes frequently use the term “all-American girl” to describe the team’s ideal. Many of the codes stress good manners—for example, they are taught to smile and to say “please” and “thank you”—but the girls also learn to become conscious of the way they present themselves in public. They walk, sit, and dress a certain way that is considered polished.
texasmonthly.com: You said the girls have a saying: “You can’t understand it from the outside, and you can’t explain it from the inside.” As an outsider, how were you able to get inside Rangerette culture?
KV: I hoped that by hanging around the dancers daily for almost two weeks I would be able to show how much the Rangerettes meant to them, even if the girls could never explain as much in words.
texasmonthly.com: What do you think attracts young women year after year to join the Rangerettes?
KV: Organizations that are rooted in tradition tap into strong feelings that are tough to explain to outsiders. But most of the girls I spoke to had a very simple reason for trying out for Rangerettes: They are the best at what they do. Many of these women were good at drill team or dance team or cheerleading in high school and had an itch to pursue drill team at Kilgore College for the same reason a basketball player might want to pursue basketball at a Big Ten or Big 12 university.
texasmonthly.com: Do you think an organization like the Rangerettes could exist today outside of a small town?
KV: Sure. Many current Rangerettes are from Dallas, Austin, and Houston. They’d be perfectly comfortable in a big city, but from what the girls tell me, the isolation of Kilgore helps them focus on the team.
texasmonthly.com: You mentioned that the girls were weighed-in at tryouts. Is there pressure to maintain a certain look or body type?
KV: There’s no height requirement, as some people have thought. They’re not allowed to weigh more than five pounds over or five pounds under their weight at the time of tryouts.
texasmonthly.com: Why do you think the Rangerette traditions have endured for so long?
KV: Well, the Rangerettes appeal to people who like tradition. I can’t imagine that someone would try out if she didn’t want to follow long-standing rules.
texasmonthly.com: What was the most difficult aspect of researching and writing this story?
KV: I had about a day to write this story after I got back from tryouts, but that time pressure was probably better for me because the events were still fresh in my mind.
texasmonthly.com: Did you have a favorite Rangerette moment?
KV: The sign-drop on Saturday of tryout week was amazing. Morgan Duplant warned me that the ceremony would be emotional, but I wasn’t fully prepared for the chaos.