Friday, August 5, 2011

Howdy is Dead

In the new book, The Church and the New Media, I start my chapter with the following:
“Howdy!” This was the greeting my father and I received by hundreds of students on the campus of Texas A&M University as we toured campus for the first time. A&M is a tradition-rich school, and one of my favorite traditions is the official Aggie greeting of “howdy”. While I visited the school I was overwhelmed at the hospitality of complete strangers who would look you in the eye and greet you as you walked past. I was quickly sold on A&M and since graduating in 1995 with my undergraduate degree, I still have a deep love for the traditions at my alma mater. But, I am sad to say, that howdy has died a quick death the last 10 years.
It really does pain me to see Howdy die. It was one of my favorite traditions at A&M. There are two main reasons:

  1. Bonfire collapsing and killing 12 students and injuring others. This led the University to pull a very popular tradition that built community on-campus.
  2. Technology. Cell phones, iPods, etc. which have quickly dissolved the community which Aggies have had through the years.

The technology factor is the center of my reflection in the book. It also caused another contributor to the book, Jen Fulwiler (another Aggie) to reflect on how sad she is that Howdy died, but not for the reason you might expect. A snip from Jen's post:
Despite the fact that I was very much a misfit, I always felt a part of the A&M family. I knew that by virtue of being an Aggie I would be welcomed and accepted, even if I held beliefs that were the complete opposite of most of the other students and alumni. Some days I would walk to class feeling lonely that I didn’t know any like-minded people, loathing the bizarre religion that was so important to everyone else at this school…and then a fellow student would look me in the eyes, smile, and say “Howdy!” I’d do my best to drop my eyes to the ground and continue wallowing in my misery, but a few Howdys later my spirits would be lifted despite myself.

To greet someone is to acknowledge him as a friend; a stranger is no longer a stranger once you’ve looked one another in the eye and said hello (or, howdy, as the case may be). And that simple greeting made me feel part of the Aggie family every day, even when I was trying to pull away. It made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself, something good.
Continue reading.
If you are a current student at A&M, maybe you can work on resurrecting Howdy. What say you?


Pinky McLobster said...

I did not attend A&M, but my fiance did as a member of the Corps of Cadets. We visited a few months ago and before we visited, he spoke about how everyone says howdy to everyone else, and what a great tradition it is. Once there, my fiance greeted everyone with howdy, and there were a few replies, but not as much as I expected there would be based on what he said. It makes me sad to hear that this tradition is dying out. Even though I am not an A&M alum, I appreciate this tradition for its universal friendly gesture.

Br. Gabriel Thomas, OP said...

This breaks my heart.

Sarah G. said...

Even in elementary school, I remember visiting College Station and getting a Howdy! from everyone on campus.

I make a point during the summer to greet new freshmen and their families with a Howdy! and to help them find their way around. I have lost faith in the current student body to respond when I say it, but I can try and keep the illusion up for the parents.

Along with bonfire and technology, I believe one of the reasons Howdy has fallen out of favor is the new way it is used. At Fish Camp and in student organizations, leaders use "Howdy!" as a cue for everyone to shut up. It is a conversation-ender and used to chastise freshmen into submission. If one howdy does not work, several more will be used until the desired effect is achieved (silence). It pretty much ruined the tradition for me, and I think it has had similar results on the rest of the school.