“Fire in the hole!” “Fire in the hole!” “Fire in the hole!” With the third warning, a thunderous noise boomed through the stadium and white smoke hung in the air. Yells of enthusiasm filled the green and white’s territory as the start of a Mean Green football game had been announced by Boomer the cannon.
He may not be the only Mean Green fan who has been attending University of North Texas games since the 1970s, but he’s definitely the loudest. He sounds off every time the Mean Green score, at kick-off, half-time, and at the conclusion of each game.
The cannon crew, a committee within the student organization Talons, is comprised of 11 handlers, who work together to care for Boomer. The head of the cannon crew, CJ Hart, prides himself in his position and is honored to maintain a UNT tradition of Boomer’s magnitude.
The Talons oversee Boomer and the crowd during the Sept. 23 game against UAB. (Photo by Taryn Land, edited by Savannah Hubbard, Denton Live)
“It’s one of the most memorable traditions we have here on campus,” Hart said. “Anyone who goes to a football game will hear the cannon. Even if you’re not in the stands, if you’re around, you’re going to hear Boomer.”
Safety is a huge concern for the cannon crew. Each member of the cannon crew goes through safety training and has extensive knowledge of how to handle any situation that could arise from firing the cannon. Each member wears fire-resistant jumpsuits to protect them in the event of a fire, but they decorate their suits to transform them into their own unique spirit uniforms.
There are a lot of college campuses in Texas that have cannons or artillery, but UNT’s cannon is the only one operated by a non-military group.
The Talons had already been operating a cannon prior to the creation of this mandate, so the organization was grandfathered in and allowed to keep the tradition alive, Hart said.
This is a source of pride and anxiety for Talons because if anything were to go wrong, they could lose their privilege of caring for Boomer and the tradition that they have always been responsible for.
“We value the cannon so much,” Bobby Powell, co-head of the cannon crew said.
Boomer in his barn before the Sept. 23 game against UAB. (Photo by Taryn Land, edited by Savannah Hubbard, Denton Live)
Boomer is a handsome “scale replica of a model used in the Mexican-American War” that every Talons member will tell you with a smile on their face. Boomer has been well-maintained by his current handlers, and received upgrades and careful restoration by alumni.
Rick McKinney, a Talons alumnus who was on the cannon crew in the late 80s, handcrafted the frame for Boomer as well as the limber that carries all of the necessities for firing a cannon. McKinney’s name can be found engraved on a plaque right below the barrel of the cannon, and embroidered on the bottom of the Talons flag that is waved at every football game.
Boomer even has a connection to former UNT football great “Mean” Joe Greene. Greene returned to UNT for an awards ceremony and was startled by the cannon, so he dubbed the cannon “Boomer.”
Boomer has a made an impression on every person who has been in his presence and remains one of UNT’s most cherished traditions. See below for a slideshow of Boomer’s day during the Sept. 23 game against UAB: