Texas: God’s Country, November 18th, 1999

My girlfriend will enjoy this post, for in her veins flows strong the thick blood of Texas. My mother’s family will enjoy this as well, for not only does their blood flow thick with Texas, but several of them are alumni of Texas A&M as well. But I did not write it for them. I write this for heroes, those who give their all. Not all heroes are supermen and women, not all heroes wear uniforms (though heroes are found in the uniform of the US Military in greater concentration than anywhere else), but all heroes value life.

I have not appreciated the spirit of a college, having attended a working-class school and not really participated in any of the trite, feel-good ceremonies the liberal leadership proscribed as being inclusive and enlightening. Being around my aunts and uncles I have vivid memory of them displaying the college cheer of Texas A&M and the explaining the tradition of the 12th man. This was but a taste. Now I have cousins who attend at Texas A&M, Corpus, and I feel an affinity which perhaps brings me closer to that great state. God has brought into my life a beautiful woman who hails from that state and I feel closer still. So as I’m perusing the blog world today I follow from the 4simpsons (very funny) through a commentor named Timothy to his own blog, which is new to me. Reading the top post and playing the video (view below) I learn of the story of the bonfire tradition and the tragedy of November 18th, 1999, when the logs fell.

All types of people can be found in all places, but in some places a particular spirit flows stronger than others. In Texas it’s the spirit of community. Ironically, or perhaps not, Texas is a land of rugged individualism, the lean lonesome cowboy of yesteryear, quintessential icon of the southwest. The settler pushing the envelope of western civilization, braving the terrors of the trail, the homestead, the farm and the ranch miles from any neighbor. It is among those who are comfortable in their own individuality there is found the best sense of community. A paradox, but one I can vouch for in my own life. Codependent people make poor neighbors, for themselves, and for those around them.

It is in this paradox of community that Texas has bred its sons and daughters to be strong and brave, free of the fetters of dependent mush so common among the pantywaist liberal mush pervading so many communities these days. And so when a few energetic, promising youth fell with the logs and died painful deaths, the school never forgot. From our small perspective futures were cut short, but in the grand scheme, through the eyes of God their days were complete. But that leave us, the community, the friends and the family to remain behind, mourning the fact that it may be a long time before we see them again. Hopefully we are assured that we shall see them again in glory.

Such is the case of Timothy Doran Kerlee, Jr. Timothy is reportedly seen in the stack directing rescuers to others who are buried in the stack from his position above the ground. In the pictures one can see his legs are twisted in an unnatural position and when he finally allowed the rescuers to extract him after assisting them in finding at least 5 other injured, he was taken in to emergency surgery. He was opened and it was found that his internal organs were in such a mess as to be unrecognizable even to the skilled physicians operating on him. He was taped back together and put on life support where he remained only long enough to see his family one last time. He knew he was dying. He directed that life support be removed asking why he should fight for a few more days of life when he could go home and see Jesus right away.

“So teach us to number our days”~Psalm 90:12

Timothy is a hero. And he is not forgotten.

Another great tradition of Texas A&M is that of the 12th man. The 12th man embodies the concept of knowing who your family is and being willing always to stand, when called or when needed, beside them. Your family may be blood, relatives, or it may be community. Each and every Texas A&M student and alumni I have talked to has impressed me with their firm belief that where they called upon to suit up and stand on the field as the 12th man of the Texas Aggies football squad, they would not shirk their responsibility. Each and every Aggie fan I know takes this responsibility with a nearly holy sense of pride. It is not the ability, it is the willingness. It is doing what one must when one is called to do it that makes a hero. Especially when one is called beyond the normal call of duty.

I’m glad God made Texas.

4 thoughts on “Texas: God’s Country, November 18th, 1999”

  1. Nice post Matt. I do wish people here in California had more community spirit in that they’d easily say, “Hello,” and mean, “How are you doing?” Most people here just need the ice broken and once they realize there is always some commonality they pep up and start to talk.

  2. “I have not appreciated the spirit of a college, having attended a working-class school and not really participated in any of the trite, feel-good ceremonies the liberal leadership proscribed as being inclusive and enlightening”

    You aren’t missing much.

  3. Mathew,

    I appreciate this post very much, being a graduate of Texas A&M class of 1990. I come from a small town in the heart of Texas where community prevails strong to this day, were we work for all we have. My family expanded from a highschool class of 140 and a town of 5,000 to a freshman class of over 8,000 and a university of about 50,000 in 1986. And all family. To this day I see someone’s ring or they see mine and it’s an instant conversation or if there are needs they are met. Everything in the song is for real. It’s unique, and being on the inside it’s hard to explain to those outside. I am proud to be a part of something that is so so much bigger than the school.
    As the 12th student at Bonfire passed away, emails traveled of a 13th who’s life was failing. Doctors only gave him 24 hours. The prayers went out that evening as they had been but more in a concentrated effort. I don’t think it a small thing that he survived and due to the prayers of the 12th Man and the fact that only 12 died in the collapse of Stack. There is a Spirit that can ne’er be told and it lives in many of us and is as strong as ever.


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