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Aggie sticks once basis for rivalry

Oct. 31, 2008

By Molly MacEwan

Baylor men, get ready to arm yourselves with an old tradition to protect your Baylor women. The tradition of carrying axe handle sticks is trying to make a comeback. Adam Renz, a Yorba Linda senior and Baylor Chamber of Commerce member and a group of friends were talking to alumni and heard of the old tradition and decided to bring it back.

"The stories of the tradition are all a bit fuzzy," Renz said. "From what we understand, the Baylor men would make a stick and carry it around while they guarded campus. If a girl walked though a barricade and was not with a Baylor man, she had to kiss one of the boys to show she wasn't with an Aggie."

Bob Barkley, a 1978 alumnus and former yell leader, remembers a similar story.

"As freshmen, we set up barricades at each of the main entrances and took turns standing watch," he said. "It was tradition back then for the Aggies to try and come on campus to pull pranks, usually to paint Judge Baylor."

Aggies weren't the only foe to freshmen.

"We had two enemies, though: the Aggies and the upperclassmen," he said.

Barkley had an upperclassman steal his stick and run off. Fortunately, he added, he had a fast friend who was able to overtake the thief and get it back.

David Crockett, class of 1978 alumnus and also a former yell leader, remembers in detail the work that went into making an Aggie stick.

"You had to devote a lot of time if you wanted it to be nice," he said. "I spent two days of concentrated effort making mine."

Crockett started at an old hardware store.

"It was a four-foot stick that you had to sand down. Then I stained it and put the really nice decals and stickers on it. We put some polyurethane on it after that. To finish the job, we bought 3.25-inch leather to put around the handle and make a strap."

Barkley added that he used green and gold electrical tape.

"You had your class year on it, too, but really, it was your own creative license," he said.

Once made, the stick was put in the dorm room to wait for homecoming. Here, the facts get blurrier. Some say the stick was just for the Aggie game. David Bass, a 1979 alumnus, however, remembers his stick being called a "Froggy stick."

"It was an Aggie stick when we played Texas A&M, a Froggy stick when we played TCU, and a Pony stick when we played SMU," he said.

Crockett said the Aggies were never very interested in coming on campus Friday night before the homecoming game.

"And it was for sure that the Horned Frogs weren't going to come up," he said. "I really think the major reason for the sticks and guarding campus was to kiss a girl."

The stick would be carried around while guarding campus, to the pep rally and sometimes even sneaked into the game.

"We used to wave the sticks wild around the bonfire," Bass said.

The origin of the tradition is hazy as well. One possible beginning for the Aggie sticks may have been a fight at a football game between Baylor and Texas A&M University students.

An article in the San Antonio Express-News, written by Mark Wangrin, told the story, giving the Baylor side and the Aggie side of the conflict. On the afternoon of Oct. 30, 1926, according to the Baylor account, six women riding in a Ford car on the field carried signs painted with the scores of big Baylor victories in the Southwest Conference in front of the Texas A&M University cheering section.

The article also cites the Aggie version. It states that the Corps of Cadets thought the women were men in drag mocking the Aggies. Also, they accused Baylor of violating a 1924 agreement between the schools' spirit groups. They said the car had nearly run over some Aggie players in the previous game. Frank Wood, a Baylor yell leader at the time, denied the agreement.

The article goes on to say, somewhere in between versions, one of the Baylor women was knocked off the carby an Aggie and the Baylor men then stormed the field, and a riot broke out. In the midst of the chaos, Charles Milo Sessums of the Corps, a senior at the time, was hit with blunt force and died the following morning at Providence Sanitarium in Waco.

One account from a statement issued by then-Aggie seniors said that the 1,500 Baylor fans were armed with clubs, sticks and iron rods. A different account assumed the event was premeditated because Baylor had two-by-fours stored in two trunks.

The Bears denied the charges and said the likely weapon was a piece of fence or a broken chair.

The article states that on Dec. 8, Baylor president S.P. Brooks and Texas A&M President T.O. Walton co-signed an agreement that voided all athletic contracts between the schools. They would not play again until 1931.

Wangrin ends with the acknowledgement that the tale has faded. One reason, he states, is that not soon after, on Jan. 22, 1927, 10 Baylor basketball players were killed, now known as the Immortal 10.

Whether this story had any impact on the beginning of the Aggie stick tradition is unknown. Also up in the air is the reason it was abandoned.

"My guess is that it died out when universities as a whole became more concerned with hazing," said Amarillo senior Cole Casper.

There is no doubt that the tradition is a symbol of pride with alumni though.

"After I left Baylor, I lost my Aggie stick," Crockett said. "That was one of the most emotional events of my life. But remembering it now brings back great memories of my time as a Baylor Bear."