Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Aggie Muster


One of Texas A&M University’s finest traditions is Aggie Muster, held each year on April 21st. This year we, along with J.D. Cage ‘61 and his t-sip (Texas) wife Julie, class of ‘65,  attended Muster in Plainview with the Plainview A&M Club. For those of you unfamiliar with Texas A&M, it might help you to know that A&M, founded in 1876, is a land grant, state-supported college that was all male and military until 1965. In fact, more A&M graduates served as officers in the U.S. military forces in WWII than any other school, including West Point and Annapolis. So the school has a strong military background.  The best way for me to explain Aggie Muster is to share with you the Muster Tradition, which is always read at the beginning of the evening. It goes like this:

Muster was first held in 1883, when Aggies met on June 26 to “…live over again our college days, the victories and defeats won and lost upon drill ground and classroom. Let every alumnus answer roll call,” wrote the former students, then known as ex-cadets.

During the late 1890s, April 21st was celebrated with an annual trip to the San Jacinto Battle Field. On occasion, the Aggies were called to help in recreating the historic battle of San Jacinto. A parade down Houston’s Main Street always followed.

In the early 1900s, it was agreed that in addition to honoring the freedom of Texas, April 21st would be a good time to pay homage to all students and former students who have passed on, and that some living comrade would answer “Here” when the roll call for the absent was read.

During the first World War, groups of Aggies observed April 21st in Europe and on army posts, but no formal campus observance was held. In 1923, the March Texas Aggie {magazine} urged “If there is an A&M man in one hundred miles of you, you are expected to get together, eat a little and live over the days you spent at the A&M College of Texas.“

By 1929, meetings had become international. In 1942, former Corps of Cadets Commandant, General George F. Moore ‘’08, served as the commander of Fort Mills on Corregidor Island in the Philippines. During World War II, Corregidor Island was used as a military fortress at the entrance of Manila Bay. Many Aggies served on the island under the command of General Moore  to resist a Japanese invasion of the Philippines. On April 21st, 1942, some twenty-five Aggies on Corregidor mustered to celebrate San Jacinto Day. On May 6, 1942, the island fell to the Japanese forces and all Aggies on the island were captured or killed.

Corregidor was retaken from the Japanese in 1945. After the war in 1946, Aggies that were present on “The Rock,” as Corregidor was called, held their own Muster at the mouth of the Malinta Tunnel.

And so it has been over the years, becoming one of Texas A&M’s greatest traditions. Muster is more than a ceremony. It is a way for Aggies to renew each year the loyalty and unity which constitute the foundation of their friendship for each other and love and devotion for our school.

IMG_7348The meal was followed by a video provided by A&M showing highlights of some of the programs at the main campus in College Station. 

After the video, I was invited to read the Muster Tradition, which I was glad to do. But I had not made it to the second paragraph before the knot stuck in my throat and my voice faltered with emotion. Reading the Muster always takes me back to attending Silver Taps on the A&M campus, which always made me cry.

Silver Taps is a ceremony honoring those Aggie students who have died for whatever reason during the school year. The name of the deceased is posted on the flag pole by the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross in front of the Academic Building, and students know that Silver Taps will be held that night.  That night at the designated time, students and all who wish to attend gather at the Academic Building in silence in the dark,  Taps is played, followed by a 21-gun salute. And then just as quietly as they have  come, everyone silently slips away in the darkness. 

At Muster, we have a form of Silver Taps. A list of all Aggies, students and former students, who have died in the past year is supplied by the university, and everyone checks the list to see if anyone is on the list for whom they wish to answer roll call.  Then those names are called, someone answers “Here” and lights a candle in their honor. This, too, is a very emotional time.

IMG_7349David Hooper ‘85 checks the list of fallen Aggies.

IMG_7354Bill Liles ‘68, answers roll and lights a candle for an old friend.

After Silver Taps, we sing the school song, “Spirit of Aggieland” and have a short business meeting, which usually concerns club scholarship winners.

IMG_7359Kenneth Hooper ‘81, conducted the business meeting and introduced the Plainview club’s scholarship winners:

IMG_7363Lauren Johnson, senior at Plainview Christian School, and Kaitlin Hukill, senior from Plainview High School, who  will be attending A&M this fall.

And then  Muster closes with this Muster Prayer:

Our Father, as Aggies come together in all parts of the world, we pause to praise thee for the many material and spiritual blessings of this past year.

We are humbly grateful for our Aggie heritage and the comradeship we enjoy.

Strengthen this sense of our God-given love and friendship. May it spread to men and women of all schools, nations, and races and bring people of the world into a new bond of friendship and peace.

Fill with thy presence the circle of our friendship that is broken by an absence in our roll call. May we have a reverent appreciation for the great examples and sacrifices given by those of us we honor with Silver Taps. Bless the inspiration of this occasion that we may be strong in body, keen in mind, friendly in society and religious at heart.

Through thy grace, we pray, Amen.         


IMG_7364Fred Robertson, class of ’50 with David and Priscilla Hooper, who organized the Muster.         

Non-Aggies are always welcome at Muster. Next April 21st find an Aggie and tag along. You’ll go away with a good feeling.

Softly call the Muster,

Let comrade answer, “Here!”

Their spirits hover ‘round us

As if to bring us cheer!

   - from “Roll Call for the Absent,” by Dr. John Ashton ‘06 (1906)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Let’s Put Some Miles on the Car!


We decided to try a lease rather than purchase this time around and signed up for 60,000 miles for the three years of the lease. That comes out to about 20,000 year, right? Well, we came home with the car last July, and nine months later the odometer registers 11, 449 miles. In the last five days I put 949 miles on it.


It all started Friday when Hellen, Sheila, and I went to a cactus show and sale in Albuquerque. We spent Friday night chasing down Pappadeaux’s and then spent considerable time figuring out how to get into their parking lot. Turns out we spent lots of time looking for openings in parking lots that would let us in and then out onto the highway and streets. City planners seem to like one opening into large parking lots. We would head in a logical direction thinking surely there would be an opening in the curb, only to find a landscaped strip, so we would drive around again only to find another dead end. And this was all over town.

But I digress. After overdosing on shrimp, we checked out a mall, which was no big deal, until we happened upon the Brookstone store which had  this really cool state of the art vibrating/massage chair, and I took its 15 minute test run. Wow. If I had had an extra $3400, I would have hauled it home in a New York minute.

We were up bright and early Saturday for the first day of the cactus show and sale at the Albuquerque Garden Center, but not before first eating at the Owl Café, an Albuquerque landmark. We had to kill time until the cactus show and sale opened, so we shopped Wal-Mart. That’s what everyone travels to Albuquerque to do, right? But I needed a big bag of cat food, and we checked out their plants, and found that not all Wal-Mart garden centers are created equal. They have plants we don’t get.  At the cactus show Hellen and I bought some cactus and Sheila enjoyed looking. People who think cactus is nothing more than prickly pear need to check out one of these shows. Colten always says there is no point in shopping cactus any more, that I surely have them all. Not even close. So I course I found some to add to my collection.


IMG_7223Hellen, cactus grower extraordinaire Woody Minnich, and Sheila at the cactus show.

After we were through there, we skipped lunch, having filled up at the Owl Café on breakfast and were saving room for a big dinner that night, and checked out some local nurseries and other shops. When we had hit all the shops we wanted and racked up more miles wandering in the parking lots, we went to the show and saw “MIrror, MIrror” with Julia Roberts. It was a bit slow-paced but worth the price of the ticket. The seven dwarfs were fun. We saw it at a 24-screen theater, which meant the building needed a large snack bar for all those patrons. Well, it was set up much like the parking lots. We nearly didn’t find our way through it to make it to the restroom signs that we could see but couldn’t get to.

IMG_7236We ate breakfast at the Owl Café, but its landmark neon details show up better at night.


Then it was on to Vintage, a new upscale restaurant where Sheila’s niece, Christy, who also helped designed the place,  is  manager. After that we had time to kill and drove out to Sandia Casino, where we admired the architecture and  dabbled in gambling', using a promotional gimmick which allows you to play with $25 credit for your one dollar. which was harmless enough fun since after our credit was gone, on which we didn’t win anything, we left.


Sunday we hit the cactus sale again, and yes, I found a few more specimens I didn’t have. After that we drove to visit with Christy and see her newly remodeled house, and then drove to Old Town, many miles on the other side of Albuquerque, to eat at La Placita, to which we also had a family tie, this time to Hellen’s uncle. We shopped there before heading home.


Normally the route taken to Albuquerque, or even Santa Fe, is to Santa Rosa and to I-40. This time we drove from Ft. Sumner to Vaughn, Encino, Willard, Estancia, and Moriarty before having to drive on I-40, which is always heavily trafficked and gives me claustrophobia when I get sandwiched between the trucks. The way we went may be a bit longer, but, oh so worth it. We had the road to ourselves and the view was nice.

So that was the trip to New Mexico. Then Tuesday we made the drive to Odessa to watch the Mules play regional golf at Ratliff Ranch Links. They had a good day Monday, but Tuesday didn’t go quite so well. They had a good time, learned some lessons about golf, and built lots of character, so it was worth the trip.




IMG_7271The Muleshoe golf team is Matt Dickerson, Eli Leal, Beau Avila, and Colten. Mateo Castillo is also on the team but had already left by the time I gathered them all up for a picture.

My behind is always numb after these road trips, and it does add the miles to our mileage limit, but we didn’t bring that car home for it to sit in the garage. It needs to be tooling about doing what it was built to do, and I am certainly not one to want an unhappy car…

So time will tell. I haven’t decided where to go next.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Muleshoe Golf Team Goes to Regional

IMG_7196A Georgia native son may have won the Masters, but here in West Texas we are more excited about five local heroes placing second in district and traveling  next week to tee off in the regional tournament.

IMG_7190The district meet was held this year at the Muleshoe Country Club Monday, April 9th, with teams from Idalou, Friona, Dimmitt, Littlefield, Tulia, and Abernathy participating along with Muleshoe.  The Idalou team won first,  Muleshoe placed second, Friona third, and we were very proud that Colten placed third individually, so he was the third place medalist.

IMG_7203Colten, Mateo Castillo, Beau Avila, Eli Leal, Matthew Dickerson.


IMG_7205Mari likes golf, too, so she and Bill did their part and made up the gallery following Colten’s group as they played the last nine holes.  I showed up just in time to see him finish the ninth hole because I was told not to take any pictures during play for fear of distracting him. What fun is that?

IMG_7184And then I discover that Bill took pictures anyway!


Coach Carey Sudduth, who has been the golf coach for the past seven years, says this is probably the fifteenth year the Mules have made it to the regional level, and the tournament rotates between Midland and Odessa. This year it will be at Odessa’s Ratliff Ranch, which is basically a links-style course. You were expecting azaleas? This is West Texas, for crying out loud! So we are hoping for blue skies, sunny weather, and just a hint of wind.

Go Mules!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cactus Flowers

Other than those I imported from Wyoming, my cold hardy cactus aren’t blooming yet. Making buds, but no blooms. That happens in May.



But look at all the color going on inside the greenhouse:








IMG_6792IMG_6793I snuck in a shot of Black&White Kitty just to see if you were paying attention.








IMG_7091IMG_7092IMG_7094IMG_7097II snuck myself in here so you would have a point of reference to see how big this Trichocereus bloom is.  The close-up below is the same flower.


IMG_7064This is a white Trichocereus, which makes a big bloom, like the red one.



The yellow blooms are astrophytums, two of my best bloomers. They just bloom and bloom all spring and summer.

See why cactus are so cool? It’s like finding  hidden treasure every time I go in the greenhouse. They really are fun.