There’s nothing like the sound of a good drum line to get you in the spirit of homecoming.
Even the most jaded of seniors and alumni find themselves drawn to the sound of the referee’s echoing shouts in the stadium, to the smell of funnel cake and corn dogs, to the sound of an unknown cover band singing in the night and to the giant pile of wood reeking of gasoline in the middle of Fountain Mall.
We were there. We all saw it. The colossal pillar of fire that is the long-lived symbol of Baylor homecoming.
Stark against the night sky, the fire climbed higher than it has in the past three years, blinding the bystanders and causing a heat wave that spanned most of the field. What was meant to be a controlled, entertaining spectacle turned into a somewhat disconcerting and eventually downright scary show for all involved.
Despite more strict attempts at crowd control and a more organized bonfire, the event still managed to wreak havoc with our oh, so green grass. Maybe it is time the bonfire was just made a little bit smaller or moved into a more open and less flammable setting such as the Ferrel Center parking lot (like it was in 2005).
Since 1909, Baylor freshmen have been building this iconic bonfire for various reasons.
It started as an effort to prevent our first rivals, Texas Christian University, then the Aggies from painting the campus or kidnapping our mascot before the big game. Freshmen would build several bonfires around campus and stop every car that passed through, demanding identification and using other security measures to defend their ground.
It gets a little fishy here, as apparently there was some required kissing between the driver and his or her homecoming date to prove their status as a loyal Baylor Bear.
A little weird, yes, and not the best way to defend against pranksters, but those are the origins of the bonfire. Since the olden times, the bonfires have been consolidated into one and has been moved around campus several years at a time.
This year Baylor decided to do things a little bit differently.
First, the space between the crowd and the fire was increased quite a bit this year. Considering the amazing heat of the fire, this turned out to be a perfectly necessary restriction.
However, this year the freshmen class didn’t just build a bonfire. They built an inferno.
Praise must be given to the members of Baylor Chamber who corrected the zealous efforts of the freshmen, reforming the structure from an unstable, giant pile of wood into an organized and sturdy square. Even so, the fire was way too big for the comfort of those standing by and, let’s face it, those standing far away.
In spite of improved precautions, the heat from the flames reached down and scorched the grass outside of the boundaries set up specifically for that occasion. Luckily, firemen quickly gained control of the situation as the fire caught the wind and raged more and more in front of hundreds.
This time the fire was uncomfortable and worrying, but an incident similar to the fatal Aggie bonfire of 1999, which killed 12 people when it collapsed, remains a real, if unlikely, possibility in a closed environment like Fountain Mall.
There’s no reason to abolish this tradition, but in the future more care is needed to make sure the fire is fun, not frightening.