Fall in Texas. Sometimes it’s cool, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes there’s color in the leaves, and other times no so much. This year it’s been a lot like the scorching, dry summer that has preceded it. But despite what nature may serve up in any given year, fall in Texas is legendary for two things . . . football and the tailgate parties that come before the action on the field.
From the Pros to college, and high school to youth leagues, tailgating is a statement. It’s an art. It’s the opportunity to experience a shared interest with a few friends or a few hundred. It’s a serious part of fall football and no one does it better than Texas.
An Aggie by marriage, I was invited to make the trip to College Station recently to watch the SMU Mustangs go head-to-head with Texas A&M. I had never been to a game at Kyle Field so I was really looking forward to the contest.
Dressed in my recently purchased maroon and white, I was ready for the game, but not for all the pre-game parties that I found clustered throughout the campus. It was the sort of thing that I had heard about from die-hard fans for years, but not even my fertile imagination would have done justice to the real thing.
Row after row of Aggie logoed pop-up tents cozied up to motor homes, folding chairs, ice chests, smokers and barbecue pits fired by Kingsford charcoal or 12-inch splits of hardwood. I’m sure that there were some Hank Hill propane aficionados somewhere, but they were well hidden from the purists among the shrubs and pick-ups.
I joined a group of Aggie tailgaters, not be confused with LSU “tailgators”, in a parking lot several long blocks from Kyle Field for a bit of pre-game revelry prior to kick-off. The “Saw-em-Off Rangers” were a blend of alums, current students, family and friends brought together for an evening of football frenzy. Some had game tickets, while others would cheer their team on gather around the large flat-screen TV attached to the rear of the massive maroon and white tailgater trailer.
With the smell of smoke and barbecue from surrounding parties in the air, pans of well-seasoned beef and chicken fajitas were set out on our tables along with warm tortillas, guacamole, pico and more. Homemade desserts like chocolate iced Rice Krispy Treats and Jamie’s Whoop Pies – maroon-colored red velvet delights with sweet sour cream icing between the muffin top layers – provided a balance.
Large chests filled with iced cans of the official beverage of Texas were bottomless, as was the camaraderie. Washers were tossed at holes in plywood game squares much like horseshoes at posts. Footballs were flung overhead and maroon porta-potties soon filled to capacity. It was a great day to be on the campus of Texas A&M University.
Football season in Texas is short lived, but its long standing traditions live on. The rivalries are fierce and time spent together at the tailgate party deepens old friendships and creates new ones.
If nothing more, grab a bucket of spicy wings, a six-pack of Shiner 102 and a buddy, drop the tailgate on your pick up or set a card table in the driveway, then crank up a game on the radio . . . It’s how we celebrate here. It’s football season in Texas.
Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin’ Man
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