Angelo State University’s “gum tree” stands as one of the stickiest traditions among all collegiate rituals anywhere and likely one of the few to have received a presidential reprieve.
Actually a mesquite, the gum tree is speckled with thousands of pieces of used chewing gum plastered to its split trunk and limbs. You might say its bark is worse than its bite!
Located at the southwest corner of the Porter Henderson Library, the tree elicits reactions that range from “yuck” to “cool.” No one is certain who stuck the first piece of chewing gum to the gnarly bark, but many others followed that innovator’s lead around 1967 when the library was built.
Legend has it that a gum-chewing suitor placed his chaw there prior to asking his girlfriend to marry him. When she said yes, the happy young man attributed his good luck to his gum deposit. Since then, hundreds of students have left their chewing gum on the mesquite to bring them good luck on tests and in life.
In 2002 the tree began to split and it was destined to be chopped down until the Admissions Office appealed for clemency. The director of admissions argued that the gum tree was one of the favorite stops on the campus tours offered to prospective students, many of whom would leave their mark on the tree by adding their own wad of gum. The president intervened and issued a reprieve.
To ensure that it did not become a safety hazard, grounds maintenance crews used cables and turnbuckles to keep it from falling apart as it was apparent gum would no longer hold it together.
The gum tree remains a popular stop on the campus tour and one where you can leave your mark. It’s a tradition to chew on.