Tuesday, May 23, 2006

School Spirit and Finger Puppets: Texas Style, Part I

Here it is, as promised, Part I of a native-Nebraskan's view of the various hand signs used by Texas universities.

So, I’m going to start with perhaps the most well known of the hand signs - Hook’em Horns. The story goes that a UT cheerleader named Harley Clark first “invented” the sign and introduced it to the student body in 1955. I for one would have loved to have been privy to that conversation. I imagine it went something like this:

Harley Clark: Yeah, so last night I was alone in my room and I got an idea to put my hand like this (demonstrates confidently) and see, what do you know, it looks like a longhorn.
Reticent Hornfans: Um…yeah…so…?
Harley Clark: Well, I figure we can hold it up like this (again demonstrates confidently) while we root for our team.
Reticent Hornfans: But won’t that look, you know...ridiculous?
Harley Clark: No, not at all, because while we hold it up we will yell “Hook’Em Horns” or “Yee Haw” or maybe even sing a song to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” And there ain't nothing ridiculous about that.
Not So Reticent Hornfans: Word.

And so it was. Now, not a day goes by that I don't see the Hook’em sign. It is used as a greeting, a symbol of endearment, a taunt and often as an exclamation point to a drunken rant. It is also a symbol associated with the New World Order…but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

Although they hate to admit it, it turns out that UT was not the first school to throw its hat in the elevated appendage and digit arena. That honor actually goes to their hated rival Texas A&M. In 1930 A&M regent Pinky Downs (you can’t make this stuff up folks) first yelled the famed “Gig’em Aggies” while making a fist with his thumb extended. Now I would have thought that Pinky would have extended his pinky, but what do I know. I honestly don’t see this one as much, as A&M grads are far more likely to stick their Aggie Ring in your face than to greet you with a hardy “Gig’em”. However, I have been assured that despite surface appearances, the Gig’em symbol actually looks nothing like something the Fonz would have busted out back at Arnold’s Drive-In.

Next, is the TCU Horned Frog. Admittedly, I know very little about this one and pictures were much harder to come by. I do know that it involves bent index and middle fingers and the protruding knuckles are then said to resemble the horns on a frog. Apparently TCU cheerleaders began experimenting with hand signs in 1980 on the way to a cheerleading camp in Tennessee. So, let’s get this straight. On a bus full of cheerleaders they experimented with... hand signs? Now either Cinemax has thoroughly misled me about cheerleaders, road trips, summer camps, and the 80s, or this particular bunch really put the “Christian” in Texas Christian University. Either way, the end result was the curled finger salute, which has come to embody Frog spirit...ribbit.

Now we have the most politically incorrect, yet truly Texas symbol – Texas Tech’s “Guns up”. The birth of this one can be traced to the members of a spirit organization called the “Saddle Tramps” (again you just can’t make this stuff up). The Saddle Tramps decided in 1971 to emulate the Red Raider mascot who discharges a pistol after each Tech score, by brandishing thumb-and-forefinger pistols of their own. I actually have a hard time making too much fun of this one. After two bitterly painful losses (70-10?) these pistol wielding hooligans own us right now and I’m out of ammo. Get it? They have finger guns and I’m out of ammo. Oh, nevermind.

To be continued...


Anonymous tennisbum said...

Please don't write about Herbie Husker......

5/24/2006 7:37 AM  

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