What a well-done and moving story on this tenth anniversary of the Bonfire collapse [“Ring of Fire,” November 2009]. Flying at 37,000 feet on my way to New York, I cried like a baby as I read the story. Flashbacks to ’72 and ’73, when I was a medic at Bonfire. Reliving waking up at two-thirty in the morning for no apparent reason, tuning in to CNN to see what was happening in the world. You guessed it, the story was already on national news. The next chapter is that we learn from experience and apply the learning. I am sorry, Governor Perry, but you seem to have forgotten the lessons learned while you were at A&M, and not just about Bonfire.
On my office wall I have a tattered photo of the 1954 Bonfire from my dad’s freshman year at A&M, but in my soul I have a flame that burns from my own four Bonfires and the traditions of A&M. In 1999 I grieved with all other Aggies for the twelve souls who perished that day. I know that not a day goes by that their families and friends don’t think of them, and my heart goes out to them. But I also think that ten years is long enough for a tradition such as Bonfire to be extinguished. Do we need to enact more-stringent safety standards or build a smaller stack? Absolutely we do. But student involvement in the rebirth and building of this tradition is also needed. The time has come for Texas A&M to heal and build up. Gig ’em, Aggies!
Patrice Owens Kihlken
I am a native Texan; I understand and respect culture and tradition, but when the A&M Bonfire left the wood-and-trash-burning phase, it became a total and complete waste of timber, time, resources, talent, and, ultimately, lives—precious lives lost over nothing more than a pep rally. The “blood, sweat, and tears” expended on such a wasteful endeavor could be put to better use elsewhere.
As a people known for self-determination and vigor, Texans—even more specifically, Aggies—would be wise to endeavor a redemptive Bonfire experience. Invariably their success would soothe a painful wound in a way that only the doing may provide. Surely most Texans have faith in the engineering expertise of a determined Aggie nation to construct a safe and illuminating Bonfire.
Further, I am of the mind that in the spirit of rediscovering a difficult and stressful construction, their success would offer a collective catharsis to a suffering community. Afterward, the community could again assess whether they should forever lay Bonfire to rest or begin their beloved tradition anew.
Sue E. Masson
What was most shocking to me was that Jim Daniel had the audacity to even ask the question “Is Bonfire worth the lives of A&M’s students?” After making a poor analogy comparing Bonfire to the decision to go to war, Mr. Daniel concludes that “it is certainly worth whatever it takes” to make Bonfire happen. I doubt the parents of the twelve Aggies who lost their lives that terrible night would agree with his assessment. I know this Aggie doesn’t.
Anne Ahern Brockmann
I continue to be amazed at the selfishness of our governor. I am appalled that he had the audacity to comment, “I think Bonfire will be back on campus.” I imagine that if Bonfire were returned, there would be more money spent and a large number of faculty and staff put into positions to oversee the project. Why spend the money and put so many in danger again? If Bonfire does return, I’d suggest that Perry be perched up on the top, sitting on the outhouse, while the Aggies and the rest of the nation watch. Instead of singing “beat the hell out of t.u.,” sing “beat the hell out of r.p.”
Shame on Exxon! There is no greater sin in Texas than to deny a landowner and the State of Texas the revenues from oil and gas and minerals [“Below the Surface,” November 2009]. I am certain a few Comanche descendants might recall punishments once practiced in this state that would be appropriate.
I thoroughly enjoyed the retrospective on Edwin “Bud” Shrake [“GTNY,” November 2009]. Bud’s letters describing his encounters with his literary heroes in New York brought back memories of my own. As a journalism student at UT during the seventies, it was a real thrill to meet my literary gods—Bud Shrake, Jap Cartwright, and Billy Brammer—who routinely held court at the Texas Chili Parlor on those long-ago summer evenings in Austin. Gee, ain’t it funny how time slips away.
St. Augustine, Florida
I must first slather you with some bona fides: When my son, my father, and I visit a certain cemetery north of Fort Worth, there are three generations above the ground and four generations resting in the ground. Now I will get to the meat of this correspondence. I am plumb confounded by all of these rules about how Texans are supposed to fix and dress their food [The Texanist, November 2009]. Who makes up these rules? I reckon if I want to eat my brisket dry on Tuesday and then smother it with sauce on Thursday, then I reckon I will think the overriding trait of a Texan is that he goes his own way. My Texan father made Texas chili with VanCamp’s New Orleans Red Kidney Beans my entire childhood. He wouldn’t give someone else’s idea of “proper” chili a second thought. I don’t reckon until lately I even knew that second thoughts had to be given on how a grown man fixes his chili.
I love this kind of fun. I look forward to your offering every month. I tell you what, though. When I die and go to hell, that red devil better not try to tell me how a Texan should eat or I’ll gnaw at him till he spits me back out.