It was my senior year of high school, and I was determined to be a Red Raider that following fall. During a college fair, I approached a table for Texas Tech grabbing a packet filled with information about the school, the city of Lubbock, and anything that could persuade a potential student to attend the university. I was set on going to school in West Texas, but other than that, I didn't know much about the school. Thumbing through the packet, my eyes caught this picture of something wrapped in red crepe paper. Imagine the strangeness of seeing something like that and having no clue on what it was. The red crepe paper held the silhouette of a man riding a horse; Will Rogers and his favorite horse Soapsuds.
The man, Will Rogers was a movie star, comedian, columnist, radio personality. He was a close friend with Amon G. Carter who dedicated the memorial to Rogers on February 16, 1950. Carter felt the statue was perfect for the West Texas campus that signaled the end of day with vivid sunsets. The actual title of the statue, "Riding into the Sunset", was created by Electra Waggoner Biggs, and in fact there are three other statues like it located in Forth Worth, Dallas, and Oklahoma.
On any given day you can spot a Red Raider taking pictures of, or with him. There's a warm and friendly quality to the statue as it greets you at the mouth of Texas Tech university. The red crepe paper that covers him is rooted in Texas Tech history as well. According to a record in La Ventana, the Red Raiders defeated the Aggies in a football game in 1969. Following the loss, the statue was vandalized with maroon paint. The Saddle Tramps began wrapping it after the incident to prevent it from happening again. Originally the statue was intended to face due west, an illusion of the statue riding off into the sunset, but that would have left the posterior of soapsuds facing downtown Lubbock. To the concerns of the locals, the statue was re- positioned 23 degrees due east, supposedly leaving Soapsud's hinds facing Texas A&M. It only seems fair after they decided to cover it in maroon paint.
The red crepe paper serves more than protection for Will Rogers and his favorite horse. It dances with the West Texas winds, waving to Red Raider of all shapes and sizes. The scarlet stands stark against a sunny Lubbock Saturday as fans, students, and alumni march towards the Jones to cheer on the Red Raiders. Any Red Raider faithful has a photo with the statue, but Will Rogers and Soapsuds are more than sculpture to lean on for a great picture. That statue has the privilege of being a gatekeeper of anyone who has ever come across Texas Tech. Will Rogers and his favorite horse have witnessed hundreds of thousands of Red Raiders walk to their first and last college classes. The duo has stood against the test of time reminding every Red Raider that being a Red Raider is a lifetime commitment and privilege. So the next time you find yourself strolling down Broadway and into campus, make sure to stop and say hello to the most famous duo on campus. They'll be waiting there, waiting for the next sun to set.