A Tradition since 1907

Unity Through Tradition

What I always thought was the best thing about Bonfire, the camaraderie, the team-building aspect of it, that’s still the same, that’s still what you’re doing.

Jimmy “Lil Jim” Henderson, Walton Chief ‘88
Photo courtesy Cushing Memorial Library

No matter how hard we fight it, time has a way of changing most traditions, which makes finding one that has stayed constant over the decades even more exciting.

Load requires strict discipline and knowledge of the job by all members on the Site.

Jack “Steve-o” Smith, Walton Chief ’16

Load is an arduous task. It always has been. The task of Load itself has remained nearly the same, even to today. Trucks and trailers — or flatbeds — are still obtained (usually through generous donations). Truck Sticks are still cut from trees and wedged into the truck bed to contain logs. And each log is still shouldered by motivated Ags charged with getting the Woods’ hard work to Stack Site to Build the Hell Outta Bonfire. It looks perilous, but has an outstanding safety record.

Generations contend that because of the challenge of Load, the level of discipline and focus that is required is what keeps Load safe. A long-held tradition of “Pots off at Load Site” requires that all participants remove their Pots when working in or walking through Load Site. The only exception to this rule is the Chiefs and Buttpot running Load. This makes these leaders instantly identifiable in a space where precise direction is essential. There are many other theories behind why Pots are forbidden at Load. What is certain is that the simple act of removing one’s Pot at Load Site makes a participant more cognizant that Load is a very different place than the Woods.

Loading logs is not easy work. But knowing that every log that will go on that Stack has touched the shoulders of a Challenger or a member of Walton is pretty freaking motivating.

Daniel Drake, Challenger Buttpot ’18

This motivation has been shared by many other Crews over the years. In Old Army, four Corps outfits interchanged who loaded and wore specifically-colored hats with white polkadots to indicate their affiliation. Squadron 13 wore green, C-1 wore purple, B-1 wore blue, and Squadron 6 wore red. To this day, Squadron 6 stills wears their red and white polka dot hats, a nod to their history.

Photo courtesy Cushing Memorial Library

Non-regs loaded, too. For many years, Northside’s Davis-Gary represented non-regs at Load Site. A shift in loading came in the mid-80s. In 1986, Davis-Gary was gutted and became an all-freshman dorm. Despite this hurdle, the old residents rallied and brought enough fish the following season to load independently. However, in 1988 numbers had dwindled enough that the Junior Redpots would send Woods dorms and outfits to assist at Load Site (much to the meat’s discontent). Jimmy Henderson was among the Walton Chiefs, representing a Woods Crew, who knew something needed to change and rallied their Crew to replace Davis-Gary as the new official Load Crew. Fall 1989 was the first Walton Load, and they have stayed the Load Dorm since.

Photo courtesy Dion C. McInnis ’03

They were not alone at Load however. In one of the great displays of the spirit of unity and team that Bonfire represents, the non-reg Walton Hall and Corps Squadron 17 worked shoulder to shoulder at Load Site for many years. When Squadron 17 was awarded the last on-campus Centerpole in 1999, they placed a “W” on their flag representing Walton Hall. This would not be the last show of Bonfire’s unique ability to unite.

After a strong start in the early years of Bonfire off campus, Squadron 17 drifted away as can happen over time. But then…

Photo courtesy Cushing Memorial Library

In the spring of 2017, we were contacted by Jerry Don [Self]’s father, who had visited the Stack recently. After talking to him, we decided the outfit would begin to participate once more. And, just as we made sure Walton had a seat at the table back in 1999, they had kept a seat open for us.

Pierce Beyer, Challenger Buttpot ‘17

And with that we see that whether it’s Load or any other job at Bonfire, the most important traditions and the ones that have never changed are the willingness to do the hard things, and to do them together to Build the Hell Outta Bonfire!

Bonfire is the undying flame of love that every loyal Aggie carries in their heart for the school.

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