We're here because today our son gets his Aggie Ring. Neither my wife nor I are Aggies, so this is all new to us. Aggies have a lot of traditions that non-Aggies don't always understand. This is one of them.
The Aggie Ring is the most visible symbol of the Aggie Network that connects Aggies around the world. Dating back over a hundred years, it is a tradition that is deep in symbolism. Every symbol represents values every Aggie should hold: Excellence, Integrity, Leadership, Loyalty, Respect and Selfless Service.There will be over 5000 students getting their rings this weekend, with approximately 25,000 guests in attendance. The rings are presented in 15 minute blocks, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Friday and continuing into Saturday. It's a logistically daunting challenge, getting all those rings and people organized and processed.
Those who have earned the right to wear the Aggie Ring have cleared some of the toughest requirements in the country for a class ring, thus making it one of the most treasured items an Aggie possesses.
It's also a very meaningful event.
One of the greatest moments in the life of any Aggie is the day that they receive their Aggie Ring...Pretty impressive stuff. However, keep in mind that this is a college, after all, filled with young people. And they have another Ring tradition that is not sanctioned by the university, but is one that you might expect from a bunch of college kids.
The Aggie Ring is one of the most symbolic of our traditions. Everything seen on the ring represents a value that an Aggie should hold. On the top is a large shield, which symbolizes the desire to protect the reputation of the university. The 13 stripes on the shield represent the 13 original states of America. The five stars on the shield refer to the phases of development of any Aggie: mind or intellect; body; spiritual attainment; emotional poise; and integrity of character. The eagle symbolizes agility and power, and the ability to reach great heights.
The large star on the side of the ring symbolizes the Seal of Texas. The five-pointed star is encircled with a wreath of olive and laurel leaves symbolizing achievement and a desire for peace. The live oak leaves symbolize the strength to fight for our country and our state. The leaves are joined at the bottom by an encircling ribbon to show the necessity of joining these two traits to accomplish one's ambition to serve.
An ancient cannon, a saber, and a rifle are on the other side of the ring and symbolize how citizens of Texas fought for their land and are determined to defend it. The saber stands for valor and confidence, while the rifle and cannon stand for a preparedness and defense. The crossed flags of the United States and Texas recognize an Aggie's dual allegiance to both nation and state.
Hours before the big moment, Meagan Petter mentally prepped herself for what thousands had done before her: Christen a new Aggie ring in a pitcher of beer and chug the 60 ounces.Okay, stop right there. I'm a seasoned beer drinker, but I have never even considered chugging an entire pitcher. I guess I'm a wimp by Aggie standards.
This underbelly of the Aggie ring tradition -- which isn't supported by the university -- was spawned apparently in the late 1970s inside the Dixie Chicken bar when a Corps of Cadets member accidentally dropped his new ring in a pitcher and decided drinking it all was the easiest way to get to it.The Dixie Chicken is a local dive that's been around for decades. Great place for cold beer and a burger.
"It's sort of a rite of passage," (a Dixie Chicken spokesman) said. "Most people get their rings right about the time they are turning 21. I think it probably just goes hand in hand."12 vodka shots?!? Holy crap - they'd have to carry me out the door.
There are alternatives to gulping a pitcher. One of the students...downed 12 shots of a mix of Vodka and Kool-Aid.
"I don't chug," she said. Another alternative Jackson and others have heard of is eating about a pitcher's worth of ice cream.Well, the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream is just down the road from College Station. I can see how that one got started.
On Friday, at 8:12 p.m. -- in military time, that's 20:12, as in Class of 2012...Aggies are nothing if not symbolic.
... Petter and four friends stood behind a table in her College Station backyard, the moment for which she had been awaiting.You've got to admire a gal that plans ahead to such an extent.
The previous night, she poured Natural Light into her pitcher and whisked it for a few minutes every time she passed by the kitchen. The purpose was to eliminate carbonation and get it to room temperature, the theory being that makes it go down easier.
One accepted ring dunk law of nature is that what goes down usually comes up. That's why Petter stayed away from her favorite, Lone Star Beer, so she wouldn't associate it with vomit.
The crowd of about 40 family and friends began a countdown from 10 as the Aggie War Hymn blared and sparklers and icicle lights lit the darkness. The chugging and cheering began. One person called a "party foul" on Petter for spilling much of her pitcher on her shirt, but there was no referee, not at this event.And there you have it, boys and girls. A&M in a nutshell.
All finished. All the beer drinkers -- except Petter -- hurled, some forcefully.
"It was Exorcist-style," said Danny Degollado as a glassy-eyed Alex Martinez, a technology management major, emerged from a dark, grassy corner of the yard that dunkers used to throw up in privacy from the gaggle of cell-phone-weilding amateur videographers.
Petter admits that she spilled at least a beer's worth on purpose. "The beer got in my nose, and I was like, I need to spill a little while I catch my breath and regroup."
She said she's glad she'll never have to do that again. Her time was 1:48.
"I never felt drunk. I just felt extremely bloated and was like, 'Why did I do that?'" she said. She answered her question: "I did it because it's the tradition."
A&M System Chancellor John Sharp, a Class of 1972 die-hard Aggie, was a student before rings were dunked in beer. But he had an explanation for why the tradition endures.
"I like any tradition that involves drinkin' beer," the former student body president said in a text message. "We drank it for no reason at all. It's nice to have an excuse."