by Evan Stair

In more ways than one it was homecoming in Stillwater. Last weekend my wife and I were visited by some cousins from Texas. My cousin’s husband attended Texas A & M. My wife’s cousin, who attends Texas A & M, and Uncle drove up from Texas. I was born in Bryan. My sister-in-law, my wife, my wife’s uncle and I attended Oklahoma State University. Not to mention that last Saturday was homecoming at Oklahoma State. However this is not the real point of the story.

Family Joins Family
As the cousins arrived at my wife’s grandmother’s home to park their car it began to rain. We had about an eight block walk to the stadium. The game was scheduled to begin at 6:00pm and the lights of what is usually a sleepy neighborhood were aglow with the crispness of a fall evening in Oklahoma. It was somewhat disappointing to see the rain. We began our walk to the stadium and reveled in the family atmosphere. We walked about a block further and ran into my wife’s family. Our party now constituted a crowd.

The Encounter
First off I am not a military fanatic but I do have a great love for this country. I experienced something unique in this nation last weekend. As we approached the stadium known as Lewis Field in Stillwater, Oklahoma I heard the unmistakable sound of military drums. If you have ever been to Oklahoma State University you will know that there is a power plant about a block from the stadium. A large cloud of steam always floats out of the small power plant but it increases in size with the humidity.

This is where I first encountered a world famous band. I looked to my right and there, a block away, was the Fightin’ Texas Aggie band. The increasing darkness, stadium and street lights, power plant fog and mist created a surreal scene. Light glinted off of the tubas. Every instrument shone like a freshly polished mirror. The marching boots shone almost as much as they clicked on the pavement.

Incredible Precision
Due to the rain they were wearing sand colored overcoats. Somehow the overcoats gave a monochromatic look to the band as it marched as a unit. The band’s precision was incredible. Apparently the band marches around the stadium before entering.

Of course they play almost exclusively marches. Make way because they don’t stop and you might get run over.

Transcending Football
I have seen the band on television and several years ago I saw them in person at an Oklahoma State halftime but never have I seen them on asphalt at ground level. That is before last Saturday. A few of us stopped to watch and I was taken aback. Being at eye level is much different than watching the Aggie band 61 rows up in a crowded football stadium. You don’t get the click of the boots on the pavement. You don’t come face to face with military invasion or the spit, polish, and the accouterments of a military band. This was not a football scene. It transcended the game.

I thought back to what it must have been like in these United States during World War II when the individual soldier was revered as much if not more than any elder statesman. This was a time when the public was asked to sacrifice to help their brothers in Europe and the Pacific. Was this an invasion or a finely polished homecoming? What a scene. The Aggies love their band and rightly so. There is something about a marching band. Then there is the Fighting Texas Aggie Band. The Aggies make all other college bands look cheap.

Aggies “Flatten” Other Bands
The band doesn’t play its own interpretations of modern “classics.” Instead it plays marches and military songs such as the Patton theme or the Aggie War Hymn. In an age when other ordinary college bands play Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye and the theme from ad nauseum television shows or popular music it is refreshing to see a military band and its artistry. I don’t know how many times I watched college football games after the release of Star Wars and listened to University after University play their own interpretation of the theme from that move. The Aggies make all other college bands sound flat.

Show of Shows
Then there is the halftime show. Can band members actually march that closely without hitting each other? They play their instruments and march in the closest of quarters all at the same time. They create tight patterns weaving in and out; folding, turning, and doubling back; and slicing across the field. You actually think that the band members are occupying the same physical space at the same time. Then after the show they break up and run off the field. What a show.

Conclusion
Whenever Texas A & M visits your local college check and see if they are bringing the band. It is worth the price of admission. Don’t wait to see them at halftime. Show up a little early; watch and listen as they tromp on the pavement. Listen to the precision. Even if you aren’t rooting for the Aggies enjoy the invasion. This is the difference between pro and college football.

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