Off the Gridiron: Keeping the Beat - Junior college gets its rhythm with refurbished drums

Published on Friday, 25 October 2013 21:04 - Written by By Dayna Worchel

When Jerry Adams took on the task of rebuilding the historical drums that have been part of a homecoming tradition at Tyler Junior College since 1948, he knew it would be a challenge.

“When I unloaded the drums from the truck, the wooden whiskey barrels fell apart,” he said, referring to the barrel that makes up the body of the drum. It took Adams, who owns a taxidermy shop, Adams Taxidermy in Troup, about 200 hours to complete the work on the four drums.

He is the husband of TJC’s director of academic advising, Jan Adams, and refurbished the drums at his wife’s request after the school had asked numerous other businesses if they could do the work and had found none able to do so.

“I volunteered him for the job,” she said with a laugh.

And he was up for the challenge.

The last time any of the four drums had been refurbished was in the 1960s, Adams said, adding that he was unsure of the exact age.

“This is the third generation of drums — the wood was good,” Adams said, but added that the metal parts of the barrel and the animal skins on them needed to be replaced.

“The leather was worn and the sides of the drums had been beaten in,” Adams said.

He went to the Mineola Packing Co., a wholesale meat company and slaughterhouse, to purchase hides for the drums.

“It took three weeks to find three full-sized animals — a Charolais, a Holstein and a Hereford,” Adams said.

After cutting the skins to fit the barrels, they were soaked for four days in a lime solution to remove the hair. The skins were rinsed off and put in a stabilizing solution, then rinsed and stretched to fit over the whiskey barrels. Adams cut leather strips for the side of the drum and used ratchet straps tighten and hold the leather.

“Everything must be wet when it is placed on the barrel and stretched,” he said.

TJC students take turns during the week leading up to the Saturday homecoming game pounding on the drums 24 hours a day. There are five in existence, but only one of the drums is used each year for homecoming festivities, Mrs. Adams said.

The drum beats to the Apache Cadence 24 hours a day and started on Monday, homecoming week, at 8 a.m. It will continue until kickoff today at 3 p.m. this year at the Trinity Mother Frances Hospital Rose Stadium. The No. 7 Apaches will face the Kilgore Rangers.

“The tradition of the drumbeat is that if it does not stop we will win the game on Saturday, but if it stops we will lose the game,” Student Activities Director Lauren Tyler said. “With one exception, one time the drumbeat stopped and we tied the game. But it was the worst weather that you can imagine for a football game. It hailed, rained 1 inch per 30 minutes, and had cloud-to-ground lightning, with the game being delayed three times due to the lightning.”

Students, faculty and staff will sign up ahead of time to beat the drum throughout the week, and it goes nonstop for 24 hours per day, Ms. Tyler said. Someone even beats it while it is being taken to the football stadium — whether it rains, sleets, or snows or the sun shines, the drum doesn't stop. There can be any number of drummers at a time, but typically one person will sign up, and as students are walking by, they will join in on the fun, she said.

Another enduring TJC tradition is the Rim March, which began in 1948, and has been an unbroken tradition since that time.

“As best can be determined, the Rim March started as a way to give a psychological advantage to our football team, much as the Indians did in the old Westerns, silhouetting themselves on the canyon to intimidate the cowboys, and so the Apache Band and Belles march the rim of Rose Stadium to show the Black and Gold,” Ms. Tyler said.

The march takes place about 45 minutes before kickoff at every home football game, not just at homecoming, she said.

Other homecoming traditions on campus include a talent show, a parade and various spirit competitions.

“With our record being 7-0 right now, we are really excited about this game against Kilgore,” Ms. Tyler said.