Texas schools love hand signals (Hook 'Em, Gig 'em, Peck 'em, Horned Frog, pony ears, cougar claw), and Texas Tech is no different. "Guns Up" is simple enough, formed by extending a thumb and index finger like a make-believe cowboy. And the best thing about team hand signals, aside from instant recognition among fellow alums no matter where in the world you are, is that they travel easily and en masse to road games.
Also making the trip to Norman, Okla., with the Red Raiders football team is popular mascot Raider Red, who was invented precisely because the horse rode by another mascot, the Masked Rider, was banned from away games by the now defunct Southwest Conference, along with all live, non-human, animal mascots. Horse or no, there are still plenty of "Guns Up" salutes involved. Raider Red and his bright red beard was based on a drawing by a Lubbock cartoonist and could easily be Yosemite Sam's more dignified brother.
The year 1936 was crucial in Texas Tech's traditions. The Saddle Tramps, an all-male spirit group that still exists today and the caretakers and ringers of the Bangin' Bertha bell that was a gift from the Santa Fe Railroad, was formed then, and the Class of 1936 donated two different-sized bells now called the Victory Bells.
The Victory Bells hang in the Administration Building's east tower and ring for 30 minutes after all victories because the previous tradition of ringing all night long proved difficult to sleep through once the celebrating subsided. As the fight song concludes: "Hit 'em! Wreck 'em, Texas Tech! And the Victory Bells will ring out!"
Meanwhile down below on campus, the statue of Will Rogers and his horse Soapsuds stands firm, Soapsuds's hindquarters intentionally pointed toward Texas A&M in College Station, Texas.
College football fans are familiar with the Sooner Schooner Conestoga racing across Owen Field behind white ponies, named Boomer and Sooner, and loud chants of "Boomer! Sooner!" cascading from the stands at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (aka "The Palace on the Prairie"). But fans outside of Oklahoma might not know how closely tied those traditions are to the state's founding roots – and in how much contrast those two words once were.
The Oklahoma Land Run was to begin at high noon on April 22, 1889, when settlers on wagons and horseback were to be allowed to enter the Oklahoma Territory in a somewhat orderly fashion at the sounds of a gunshot, cannon, or trumpet to pick out 160 acres of free land. But some folks got the jump and were already inside, laying claim to some of the prime plots. Henceforth, the early birds were somewhat derisively called Sooners; the rest, Boomers.
But as time passed, the term Sooner came to represent more of a go-getter in a land of opportunity, a person who saw the future and aimed for it. This was an image the whole state and university could get behind, and in 1908 the school's athletic teams went from being called Rough Riders to Sooners.
Now if anyone could just make sense of the good-luck chant that Oklahoma's century-old spirit group, the Ruf/Neks, call out before games:
FADADA FADADA FADADA
Deton doten doten
Feendit feendit feendit fa
Rah rah rah
- Mike Ogle