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Thursday, October 9, 2014

I Caught Two!

The date was the 9th of October, 1965. And, I had just caught two! Now what was the plan?

A couple of weeks earlier, I had returned home from Wyoming just in time to receive the call to meet out behind Guion Hall with the rest of my Fish buddies. I still wasn’t sure this was the path I was to take. I was making good money working as a roughneck on a core drilling rigmore money than I ever had before. But still, all I had was a high school education and the barrel of Vietnam was staring right down at me.


“Ignorance is the curse of God;
Knowledge the wing where with we fly to Heaven”
(From William Shakespeare's King Henry VI, Act 4, Scene vii)

I had spent the next week out behind Guion learning to dress-right-dress, left-face-right-face-about-face, numerous column and flanking movements; along with the campus-oloy of every building plaque on the campus and maybe a quad-drillion pushups

I had been taught the extreme importance of my Fish buddies and just how they would eventually become the longest and most lasting friendships one would ever experience. No uniforms yet, but I spit shinned the best pair of shoes I owned every evening before returning to the training the next morning.

Classes had started and I was into the swing of school life, but still adjusting to the constant and unrelenting stress of being a Fish in the largest Corps of Cadets in the United States. Every day was a new challenge, a test we had to passfailure was no longer an option. If we were to make it through the year to come, we would make it only if we held together and suffered as a groupalone, one could not survive.

The football team had a new coach this year. Gene Stallings had returned to campus from Alabama and hopes were high that the program would be turned around. Three games into the season, it wasn’t looking much better than last year. The Ags were 1 & 2, having lost to LSU and Texas Tech, but had beat Georgia Tech on the road. Houston was next up, but this time the game was at Kyle Field.

Having endured the harassment for weeks nowat the time, it had seemed like months—I was looking forward to the Houston game. A long standing tradition gave freshmen cadets with dates sophomore privileges. This was the break I really needed. Other than my Fish buddies, I had not been in contact with any of my previous friends since I had left home to head out for rig work at the start of the summer. I had to come up with a date.

Finding the time somewhere, I made my way to the bus station in Bryan and took the chance to ask Joan if she would like to go to Midnight Yell Practice and the Game with me that coming weekend. I had dated Joan a couple of times during the last part of my senior year in high school. She agreed to go with me and the remainder of the week started to get better.

About Wednesday, I got the bad news that Joan had been scheduled to work Saturday night, so there went my date for the football game. However, she was still up for going to Midnight Yell Practice. Harassment wise, this was better than I had previously had hoped for.

Then the first stroke of luck I had had in weeks came right out of the blue. Bill Johnson, one of my closest friends and a Fish in our next door unit ask me if he could get his girlfriend, Melba, to set me up with a blind date. OK, things began to look up after all. Not only was I taking a girl to Yell Practice, I also had another date for the football game the next night.

Midnight Yell Practice worked out pretty well. By this time, us Fish had been to seven or eight Yell Practices and we knew all the yells and what we should do and expect at every turnit wasn’t easy, but as a group the stress was much easier to fathom. Friday night, I picked up Joan after she got off work and we made our way to the campus to join up with my other Fish buddies to take in Midnight Yell Practice. The feeling of having sophomore privileges was fantasticthe privileges weren’t completesome of our buddies didn’t have a date, so sometimes we suffered right along with thembut this was the best time some of had had for weeks. At the appropriate time, the lights were turned off and the practice kissing took placekissing is a tradition that is enjoyed at A&M every time the Ags score points, regardless the method. Therefore you have to practice; it’s gotta be done right and practice is how one gets better!

After yell Practice, we all gathered up for a Coke at a local watering hole. As it was now going on two in the morning, I took Joan home promising to call her next week.

Bill and I managed to get together the next morning and he, Melba and I made our way over to my next date’s house so we could figure out the evening. I knew my date but had never talked with her, both of us having mutual friendswith her being a year behind me and still in high school. We agreed that Bill and I would go to the game in my car because we both had to be at the campus some two hours before game time due to the march-in. Melba with my still somewhat blind date would arrive later in Bill’s car and we would all join up under the stands next to the ramp heading up into the freshman standing section.

Of course, this meant that until I was date connected, I was once again a Fish and subject to everything that comes with the privileges of a Fish. I could hardly wait to once again become a privileged sophomore.

Finally the march-in was over and I made my way to meet my date. Bill and I arrived approximately the same time and we eventually found a place to stand in Kyle Field for our first home football game.

Even more fortunately for me, the Aggies scored a touchdown, an extra point and a field goal that evening. I got the chance to use my practiced kissing talent three times before the game was over.

That’s when the other shoe dropped. With the game close to ending and the Ags with the ball and Houston not expected to get it again, us Fish were ordered down to the sidelines to rush the team and carry it off the field in victory. This is where the sophomore privileges departed me once again. Standing on the sidelines, the ODs gave us our next set of ordersthose not getting to the players were to capture a Yell Leader and carry him to the Fish Pond at North Gate; all the way across campus.

Most of my Fish buddies eventually found each other and we positioned ourselves together on the cinder track, ready to make our way onto the field and fulfill our destinycarry off one of those football players. Houston was doing their best to prolong the game and get another chance to score and take away what we figured belonged to us and us alone. The final minute creaked by. Looking back up the student sectionthen only the bottom level on the east side existedit seemed to me that every face in the crowd belonged to an upperclassman from my own outfit; each with their eyes watching every move I made. There was no way I was gonna get back to my date without chasing somebody on the field and doing a good job of chasing at that.

The crack of the gun finally sounded and the Ags had won 10 to 7. The bang was still echoing around the horseshoe as I sprinted straight across the field for a football player. I had no chance, those guys were standing right next to their tunnel and were gone like lighteningin those days they left the field immediately. I turned toward the Yell Leaders scampering around trying to not get caught and one was headed straight for where I was standing. Instinct took over and I tackled him around the left leg just as he zigged where I had zagged. I was quickly joined by a couple of other Fishnone of who I recognizedbut, long story short, we had him.

My next thought was turned to my date in the stands. I had to get back to her somehow, but at the moment didn’t have a clue as how I was gonna accomplish this task. That’s when fate interceded. The Yell Leader in our possession had managed somehow to get his bill fold and keys out of his pocket and looking me straight in my eyes, he handed them to me for safekeeping.

I was trapped.

What could I do? I had to continue on to North Gate and the Fish Pond. There was no way out of itI was trapped. I searched the stands where my date and I had been standing hoping to catch her eye and plead my case. I had no luck.

Through the north tunnel, making our way, behind the Memorial Student Center, crossing the Drill Field, up Houston Street and straight to the Fish Pond; we plodded our course. Tiring about half way, I knew I had to stay with the group. Arriving first, the six of us tossed our Yell Leader into the Fish Pondhe was quickly followed by four more. Standing right on the front line so I was sure to maintain contact with my Yell Leader, I joined the entire assemblage in the post-game Yell Practice and then we sang the Aggie Warm Hymn. As everybody was dispersing, my Yell Leader located me, retrieved his possessions and thanked me. I started back across campus to try to find my date, that is, if she was still on campus.

I walked as quickly back down Houston Street as I could always searching for my date and keeping an eye out for anyone from my outfit. I skirted the Drill Field and headed into the MSC to see if she was there. I encountered several of my Fish buddies in the bowling alley and ask about her. No one had seen her. With a heart full of doom, I started out the back door of the MSC on my way to my car parked behind G. Rollie White Coliseum.


G. Rollie White Coliseum


Memorial Student Center, Texas A&M University

Just on a whim, I decided to check out the stadium before going to my car. As I headed into the east side under-stadium, they were turning out the lights and the bottom again fell out of my hopes. I thought that there was no way that my blind date would still be there.

I made my way to the one fire light that remained lit on the entire east side of Kyle Field and there stood Patsy. My wife of 46+ years and I have celebrated that evening, her birthday and our first date for some 49 years nowmost of them together except for a few that my Great Uncle Sam saw fit to provide a couple of road blocks.

Yep, that night I caught two!