First Centerpole

I can’t tell sometimes if it was ages ago, or just yesterday. But the calendar says it was 14 years ago today, November 8 in 2003 when we set the first Centerpole off campus.

The differences are clear. Today’s poles are lean, professional materials. These were fresh-harvested pine. Today an array of collars and pipes of steel are welded beautifully into and radiating out from Centerpole to the Windle Sticks. We used pine lumber (2×12 if memory serves) and clumsy lag screws. But out from this structure and from every set of Centerpole-and-Windles since has Bonfire been built. And ultimately what is proved is that what is at the heart of Bonfire today is of the exact same stuff as it was then. At the center of every Bonfire is the pride and motivation of its Aggies, and in turn is Bonfire found everafter in them.

We weren’t thinking such grand thoughts this day, though. We barely remembered to stop for a photo. My father, the original “Dion McInnis, photographer” was there, as always with camera. We assembled in front of our work. He directed patiently “tuck in here… slide over there… move back there…” and no progress was made. So I said “Dad, you’re not speaking our language.” And he said “****! ****!! ************!” and the photo was done. And I’m grateful for it.

Years later I’d learn from Jim McTasney ’92, Bonfire Head Stack ’91, that when Bonfire was to be moved from Duncan Drill Field, Bonfire was given four alternate locations, and that only one – the Polo Fields – was on campus. The next best option, perfect in nearly every way, was in Carlos – farther away than Bonfire is built today. Bonfire moved to the Polo Fields because “we thought Bonfire couldn’t be built off campus,” said Jim. As he said this, Bonfire 2015 stood ready to burn behind him. “But I was wrong,” he continued with a large measure of pride, his son a Brownpot that year “and happy to be”.

But this wasn’t – and still isn’t – about proving anybody wrong. This was and remains fundamentally about what’s right. And that is Bonfire and the things that Bonfire tests and proves. Chief among them: that the will to persist is ultimately the only certain determinant of success, and that the Fightin’ Texas Aggies had then and preserve today an uncommon reservoir of such will.

I would be remiss to not mention that even then in these first moments were the four poles around Centerpole called “Windle Sticks”. Ask me about them and Levi Garrett Windle any time. It’s a hell of a story.

And here’s to another one. Here’s to Bonfire. Build the Hell, Aggies.

(Photo credit Dion McInnis. Thanks and Gig ’em, Dad.)

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