A Tradition since 1907

“We went and took it”

The ’02 represents what A&M is all about: hard work, upholding tradition, an explosive spirit, and that Aggie pride.

Ty Spinks  ‘19
Half-Section Artillery Officer

The Spirit of ‘02, the cannon that Aggies today know and love as the official sound of a Fightin’ Texas Aggie touchdown, was discovered during the 1974 Bonfire season where Easterwood Airport stands today. Late one Saturday evening after a full day of Cut, juniors from C-1 were reviewing the woods to prepare for Sunday’s Cut and stumbled upon a cannon buried deep in the ground. Sergeant Alfred Petty, a drill instructor, told the Battalion in the article published on November 6, 1974 that he believes that the weapon was used for field training up until 1968 when it was retired. Instead of being properly discarded, it had been thrown into a ravine and forgotten.

After a quick phone call to their buddies on the Quad, the motivated cadets from C-1 and B-1 spent the next three hours digging it out of the ground. The next morning the newly excavated cannon was Loaded on Cross Logs and hauled out of the woods on one of the first semis that arrived to move logs that day. From there, the redass cadets took it for a spin around the Quad two or three times before dumping the 3-inch M1902 field gun on campus in front of Dorm 4. There it sat for about two years, during which someone attached wagon wheels to the cannon. “It was a real eye sore,” remembers Dr. Guy Sheppard, class of ‘76 from C-1. Dr. Sheppard helped dig out the cannon, and was Commanding Officer of C-1 during the time that the ‘02 sat on campus. He was also the recipient of many angry letters from the university landscapers about the unauthorized yard ornament. It is named the Spirit of ‘02 based on the 1902 design, despite its 1908 construction.

Captain Arnold Laidig of the Military Science Department decided the cannon was in restorable condition. During the 70’s and into the 80’s the breech of the cannon was welded shut and the ‘02 still sat on rickety wagon wheels, so members of Parsons Mounted Cavalry would load up the cannon into the bed of a truck and take it to Fort Sill in Oklahoma for restoration. The majority of the funding came not from the university but from PMC members who wanted to see it fixed. The extra money collected from the cannon went to pouring the concrete to build McFerin, the PMC barn, a project lead by the class of 1983. The Spirit of ‘02, while it remained dormant on campus from 1974-1984, finally found its home on Kyle Field in 1988 after restoration. Dale Gibson, class of ‘83 and the C.O. of the Cavalry, was the first C.O to fire the cannon at its first official march-in in 1982. “We were kind of just going on our own back then without a lot of university support or supervision,” Gibson said. The first time it was fired, neither he nor his military advisor knew the correct firing command protocol and Gibson ended up incorrectly standing in front of the cannon instead of behind. “My left ear still has trouble with loud noises to this day.”

In September 2002, TexAgs forums exploded with the rumor that the ‘02 was going to be retired due to lack of insurance. Insurance is necessary, especially since accidents happen such as the 1995 Yell Practice where bits of (possibly flaming) wadding were shot into the crowd. New safety measures were put in place after this incident and successfully prevented any other accidents. The cannon was allowed to be fired after a new standard operating procedure was written and followed by Parsons Mounted Cavalry and insurance was found. PMC claims responsibility for maintaining the cannon, spending nearly 12 hours a week oiling and lubing it for proper safety precautions and care. In September 2014, The Eagle published an article stating that the ‘02 will be taking a break from inside Kyle Field due to safety reasons. During the first home game, concerns over a cannon firing within the newly renovated and enclosed Kyle Field led to the firing to be done on the practice field, not inside the stadium itself. As heavy rains tore up the new grass, moving the cannon through the field became a hazard as well. Halfway through the season, however, the ground was redone and the cannon returned, this time to the southeast tower, according to KBTX.

At the 2018 game against Clemson, the ‘02 blew a perfect smoke ring, a good omen for the season.

Ultimately, Texas A&M University would have never stumbled upon this motivating piece of Good Bull if it had not been for the redass cadets working 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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