A Good Time Goes Bad

At Texas A&M, a giant woodpile collapses, killing at least 12 and perhaps a tradition. Who's to blame?

Shaun Fernando, a junior at Texas A&M University, embarked this fall on a rite of passage that began in 1909. Alongside 5,000 of his classmates, he helped construct a massive tower of wood that would be torched before the Thanksgiving-week football game against rival University of Texas. In October, Fernando pitched in for "the Cut," early-morning trips to nearby fields to fell some 5,000 oaks. Afterward students broke ground on the edifice, pounding two thick pine trunks end on end 10 ft. into the earth to serve as a central support. Last week came "the Push." With thousands of other students...

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