The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The L.V. Risinger Memorial Bonfire

School Spirit Ignited

Homecoming is a week of honoring tradition, alumni, and the students here at Tarleton State.  A tradition that is honored and very common to attend is the L.V. Risinger Memorial Bonfire. The Homecoming Bonfire is a time-honored tradition that usually occurs the night before the Homecoming Football game. It is the tradition in which the Tarleton State student spirit organization,  the Plowboys, build the bonfire with pallets and brush before the burning. It is meant to ignite school spirit and pride in the student body before the game. 

The bonfire is made in honor of the Tarleton State alum L.V. Risinger, who had become infamous throughout Tarleton State history for the famous 1939 incident. The Bonfire has been a tradition for almost 100 years, having started during the 1920s. 1939 was a hard year for Americans, as World War II had just begun in early September and there were questions of whether America would join in the fight, and they would. However, Tarleton State, formerly John Tarleton Agricultural College (JTAC) students were fighting their own battle on the home front, against their now sister, University of Texas at Arlington, formerly North Texas Agricultural College (NTAC). 

The brutal rivalry between NTAC and JTAC was one that was so aggressive that they had previously canceled games in fear of the fierce “spirit” both student bodies had for their colleges. Another tradition we still practice today, the Beating of the Drum, began because of this rivalry, as a way to protect the bonfire from being lit by NTAC before the eve of the game. 

On Nov. 27, 1939, JTAC students stormed NTAC, lighting their bonfire, and then burning the initial ‘JTAC’ into the NTAC field. NTAC students were angered by the actions of their sister school, and one NTAC student decided to take matters into his own hands and take two small Taylorcraft airplanes, using his pilot license, and took off to JTAC with phosphorus bombs to dispose of JTAC, alongside an army of students. 

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Unfortunately for these courageous NTAC students, their dean called JTAC to let them know of the impending act. With JTAC students now prepared for this fight, the NTAC student body did not stand a chance and were quickly brought down. The NTAC students who flew the planes would eventually have the same fate, as they dropped these bombs onto the bonfire, most of them missed, except maybe one, which was quickly put out. Several JTAC students had climbed the water tower to defend the bonfire, including L.V. Risinger. Risinger, in an attempt to protect the bonfire and get the offender away, threw a 2×4 block of wood toward the plane, damaging the propeller causing it to crash, nearly crashing into the Trogdon House. 

The memory of this incident still provokes a sense of pride within all Tarleton State hearts. The bonfire is now in memorial of the bravery of this valiant Tarleton State defender, and is a tradition which is filled with respect, honor, and love for this institution. Usually, the wood and brush are built extremely high, and Tarleton State organizations can have their own signs put on the pallets. Though a could-be dangerous event, there are many precautions taken to protect the student body from danger, as well as any who gets the privilege to light the bonfire. 

 Usually, people of high respect and strong leadership at Tarleton State get the privilege of lighting the fire. Since their inception in 1984, Plowboys have almost always been the builders of the Bonfire, and their job is to spread school spirit and keep Tarleton State tradition alive. So please spread some love to this group who continuously uplift the Tarleton Texan Spirit, as they have worked hard to create this bonfire filled with memories, spirit, and love. 

The Risinger Memorial Bonfire this year is one to remember and will be held Oct. 20 at the Tarleton Agriculture Center. Shuttle services to this event will begin at 6 p.m. and the actual lighting will occur at 8 p.m. A clear bag policy will be enforced for this event. At 11 p.m., the last shuttle will be taking its trip back to campus. Shuttle pick-up and drop off locations will be the Campus Rec and Stephenville City Park. 

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Jennifer Fernandez
Jennifer Fernandez, Staff Writer

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