Shoot first, ask questions later

From the hustle, bustle and beauty of Austin we headed down the road to College Station to do some coaching with the Texas A&M guys, pay tribute to Johnny Football and get a first hand lesson on the Second Amendment. 

Texas is all about God, Football and Guns. I am not sure if there is a particular order to that, however based on my experience they seem to be treated with equal importance. College Station has a population of 100 000 of which 60 000 can be attributed to Texas A&M University – in essence it is like Grahamstown and Rhodes on steroids.

The Aggie (Texas A&M nickname) rugby boys  were very good to us and set us up with a place to stay in a digs with Josue – a new recruit to the game. It took me back to the glory days of The Ship at 3 Cradock Road in Grahamstown, only these guys seemed more studious and lacked the luxury of having one Cath Joubert to clean up after us.

Now Josue was a really nice guy and he went out of his way to take care of us. His digsies were an interesting bunch. Most notably one of them, a skinny white battler, who by our calculation was at least two years off the legal drinking age in this country. Leaving his room was not a priority on his list and my guess is that he was more likely watching Netflix or play TV games than swatting for a Test.

One casual Wednesday evening before a coaching session, we are having a casual conversation regarding gun laws. Nek minnit, this bloke pulls out a fully loaded police issued glock and shoves it into my now very sweaty palms.

“Have you ever handled guns?”

“Yes, of course, I grew up around these things” I retort with a muffled voice of fear trying to express confidence based on the fact that my father is a Professional Hunter.

He takes it back to his room pretty quickly. Phew. We live to fight another day.

Actually not so much. He then marches out with some old Mauser looking rifle from WWII that has a bayonet attached to it. What the actual F#!k. What does a 19 year old with minimal pigment and toothpicks for arms need a rifle with a spear?

Purds may have taken on the likes of Pedrie Wannenburg and Jamie McIntosh during the season with vigor and fire, but I saw fear in this man’s eyes.

“Why do you even have those?”

Then came the reply of the century as old mate says “Cause you don’t mess with me bitch”.

This after he has told us that he is within his rights to shoot us when we on his property. I’m steering clear of any well populated public spaces in his area, I think we have all seen this movie before.

Other than that we had a pretty good time in College Station. We were there from Tuesday till Friday morning so things were pretty tame, meaning Rhodes still takes the title as the greatest varsity in the greatest town with the Greatest Field. However, I think we all knew that anyway.

Speaking of fields, Josue took us of a tour around campus which included a walk around Kyle Field aka the House that Johnny built. Kyle Field is the fourth biggest stadium in the USA and the fifth in the world. It has a capacity of 102 500, that means the stadium accommodates 2500 more people than the town itself.

Football is College Station and the Aggies team are worshiped by all and sundry. The stadium is often referred to as The House that Johnny Built as a result of the $485 million upgrade done in 2014-2015. This was thanks to Johnny Manziel aka Johnny Football. The first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, Johnny Football is widely regarded by many as the greatest College quarterback ever. He made Aggieland what it is and put their football program in national focus – thus playing a large hand in the stadium upgrade.

Both myself and Purds have seen plenty of footage of Manziel on YouTube so were quite keen to check it out. Also he has a wild partying reputation…so much so that he bombed out in the NFL and is now a functioning derelict. I think all those white lines on the field were very confusing for a man with such habits. Nonetheless his College legacy is stuff of legend and he will always be remembered as the crazily talented guy who never made it.

A&M also has a large intake of military students so there is lots of respect and tradition around. Picture it as being more like a massive high school from South Africa in that sense. Sadly, we left the day before the football game and missed out on the real action.

In terms of the rugby, James Lowrey, a kiwi expat is the head coach. He played with Purds in Santa Monica last year and since we were headed through we thought it a good opportunity for Charlie to give something back.

The Aggies rugby program surprised me somewhat. They had 60 odd lads in their setup, all of whom were more enthusiastic than a Jack Russell in a Dassie hole. Only problem is that the majority of them has never played the game before and with minimal TV exposure to rugby its tough to get the message across to 19 year olds. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Anyway, Lowrey and his team have been doing some good work which is reflected in the positive attitude of the players. They all keen and eager to learn, treating all those in authority with great respect. I am not sure if is the polite Southern manners, good ethos created by the coaches or simply the gentleman-ship that rugby promotes. Either way, its great to see.

Purds spent a lot of time with the half backs doing passing drills, which meant for the first time I got to live that dream of playing flyhalf. After the week of training I believed that I had better hands than Odell Beckham Jnr although Purds reminded me regularly that it was more his accurate pass than my impeccable hands. This was true, I am just glad I wasn’t called on to pass as anyone who has seen me attempt a left handed pass will know that somethings are better left unseen. Anyway, I scored 10 tries for Wanderers this year. Self?

I think it was very valuable outing for all involved. The boys definitely enjoyed having a professional athlete and semi-alcoholic on board for the week. They learned a lot about the game and I learned that my body has deteriorated tenfold in three weeks thanks to a diet of carbs and yeast. Gotta love a good holiday.

Thursday night turned out to be fairly festive after a quiet Tuesday and Wednesday. We grabbed a quick feed and ordered what was essentially a large piece of deep fried chicken between two door stoppers of bread. That’s why you don’t take advice from a rotund Uber driver who claims to be besties with the Aggies Quarterback cause they played football together at High School. Think I have a slight inkling as to what prevented him from kicking on.

Then we joined up with the coaches for a few pints before heading out with a few of the rugby lads including a white Trinidad and Tobago lad named Ross. He liked cricket, so naturally I liked him and kept calling him Tony Cozier.

I felt like a pensioner most of the night being a good seven to eight years older than most, with an immaculate jaw line and a well built chest with an even covering of brown sugar. The only girls that seemed interested in biting were those who were very clearly underage and just wanted some chump to get them a drink. As a law abiding citizen I declined their numerous advances and opted rather to enjoy the aesthetic beauty of the many sorority girls and the like strutting their stuff.

Staying for a weekend in College Station was as tempting as having a full blooded swoosh at a half volley outside off first up, but we had a bright orange carrot dangling in front of us – New Orleans. A swamp town with 24 hour bars.

Part 0 – California here we come
Part 1 – Cookhouse, Cathcart, California
Part 2 – Dust, Snakes and the Wild West
Part 3 – The Excess of Texas
Part 4 – An Austin in Austin

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