A rustic affair

MU’s Aggie tradition
of Barnwarming turns 100
Monday, October 4, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:07 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

In 1969, Larry Forkner, a freshman at MU, and a group of men walked into Schurz Hall with a goat in tow. The group greeted a young lady, and Forkner asked her to Barnwarming. She had two choices: kiss Forkner or kiss the goat.

The reminiscence was one of many Saturday evening as more than 225 Aggie alumni from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources celebrated a centennial Barnwarming in the Trowbridge Livestock Arena at MU. Forkner, a 1973 animal husbandry graduate, described Barnwarming as an event that happens every fall to provide an opportunity for students to celebrate all things agricultural.

For the centennial Barnwarming, the arena was decorated with straw bales, corn and grain sorghum stalks, chrysanthemums and plows. A hay tunnel was built on top of the sand floor. Two lowboy trailers provided a stage for a band to play.

Forkner recalls helping decorate for Barnwarming his freshman year. He said later in his college career he was initiated into the Ruf Nex, a group of junior and senior leaders.

Each Ruf Nex member had a paddle and Don Steen, a 1971 animal science graduate, said they were like the campus police for the White Campus at MU. The group was known for its paddling lines.

“The week of Barnwarming everyone had to wear overalls to class,” said Allan Purdy, a 1938 horticulture graduate. “If anyone was caught with anything on except overalls, he went through the paddling line.”

The paddling line was formed with a hog call from one of the Ruf Nex, according to Purdy. Junior and senior Aggies would then go to a closet in Mumford Hall, get a paddle and form two lines facing each other. Paddles were whittled by the freshman.

Purdy said it was the responsibility of the freshmen and sophomores to decorate for Barnwarming.

“Over the ceiling, we cut brush with colored leaves on it and covered the ceiling and down the side with brush; it was a rustic affair,” Purdy said.

It was 70 years ago that Purdy attended his first Barnwarming during his freshman year.

“I was the champion brush cutter on the brush cutting committee,” he said.

He pulled a black leather wallet from his back pocket and said he won a similar one as the prize for his skill.

Getting into Barnwarming was an experience because you could not enter through a door, Purdy said. You had to crawl through a tunnel made of several hundred bales of straw.

“We used to get lost in the hay tunnel,” Forkner said. “You could wander around for 15 to 20 minutes in sort of a maze fashion because there were dead ends. Finally, you found your way down through the tunnel and entered onto the floor of the livestock center.”

“Obviously, you kiss your girl while you’re in the dark tunnel,” Purdy said.

Tom Love graduated in 1962 with an agriculture degree. He said his fondest memory of Barnwarming was when he went on his first date Oct. 21, 1960. The girl he took to Barnwarming that evening, Carmen, is his wife of 42 years.

“The first Barnwarmin’ was held at the Ag School’s new horse and mule barn,” The Barnyard Post II reported.

The Barnyard Post was a publication issued for each Barnwarming. It later reported the event was held in Squire Brewer’s Barn and Rothwell Gymnasium. Steen and Forkner remember moving Barnwarming to Trowbridge Livestock Arena.

“Today, the dance is held in ‘secret’ location, and students can only enter if they ride on appointed shuttles that leave and return to campus throughout the night,” the Barnyard Post reported.

The Barnwarming celebration included a dance and the crowning of a queen. Throughout the week leading up to Barnwarming, Forkner said they had interviews and cut the group of queen candidates down to four.

When the crowning of the Barnwarming Queen was about to begin, the Ruf Nex would perform the lineup of paddles.

“It was just as in a military situation,” Forkner said. “We would form two lines and slap paddles and form a tunnel for the queen candidates to be ushered down through.”

A king candidate was added to the slate in the 1980s, according to Barnyard Post.

Saturday’s evening encompassed many of the traditions of the past, reunions of past acquaintances and stories from each individual’s time in college.

Currently, Barnwarming concludes a week of activities known as Ag Week. The theme for this year’s Ag Week was “Looking to the Past — Building for the Future.”

“Today, the traditions of kissing the goat and paddling have been left behind,” the Barnyard Post said.

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