Living in Texas, you can’t avoid “marooned out” folks. There’s always been something a little creepy about them too. After flipping through Jady Regard’sBorn to Be an Aggie
, it’s finally clear why. The Aggies are a cult! And the kid’s book tells the tale of one boy entering the fold. Consider these attributes that many cults share, and see if the book doesn’t demonstrate each in spades.
1. A strong leader. Okay, in this instance it’s a dog: “Just behind the band, Reveille, the first lady of Aggieland, makes her grand appearance. Surrounding her are the cadets of Company E-2, they care for her day and night and make sure she never misses a big event like a home football game.” Or, you could say the leader is the “12th Man,” who’s about as confusing as the Holy Ghost. He appears to be both one person and every Aggie: “Kyle Field is home to the 12th Man and nobody leads the 12th Man like the Yell Leaders. The Yell Leaders are also called the Keepers of the Spirit.”
2. Shared dressing habits. You need only look at the book’s illustrations. Or listen to our young protagonist: “…everyone was marooned out! I don’t think I have ever seen so much maroon in one place before.”
3. Group jargon. There’s more to it than just the Aggie War Hymn. “A long walk to our seats provided us with the chance to practice our favorite yells. Dad and I went to Yell Practice the night before, so we knew every word. ‘Farmers fight! Farmers fight! Fight! Fight! Farmers, farmers fight!’”
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4. Putting down outsiders. This is a kid’s book, so there’s not a lot of mean-spiritedness. But consider what the Aggies do after winning the game: “After watching the big victory during my first visit to Kyle Field, it is now time to saw Varsity’s horns off!”
5. Symbols of power. Uh, do we need to demonstrate this one? Indulge us with one example: “Out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band as they make their way to the stadium. Senior boots and silver spurs sparkle in the sun as each member of the band moves in perfect formation. There isn’t a cadet out of place.”
At the end of the book, our hero is nicely indoctrinated, sure he was “born to be an Aggie.”
By the way, if you “bleed orange,” don’t worry: Jady Regard has also put out Born to Be a Longhorn, complete with its own set of cult-like rituals. Interestingly, the characters in the different books are drawn to look almost exactly the same – a reminder that (with all respect to you Houstoned Ballz guys) all college football freaks are really on the same team. – Cathy Matusow