Molly McMule's Horse Tales - 1001 Stall Stories

The Mascot

"Sometime during the night, it seems like someone decided that tree in the neighbor's yard needed some decoration," laughed Molly. "'Tis the season for TP'ing the local football hero's house."

"Gosh, there's so much excitement right now with everyone being so hyped up about football," said Beau. He was watching all the cars go by with cheering fans going to the local high school and college games. "It looks like a lot of fun!"

"Yah," said Ole, "there sure is a lot of interest in sports. There are pep rallies and pranks, all in good fun. Good old-fashioned rivalry is alive and well and not only in football, but baseball too! Don't forget the World Series is always played in fall too!"

Molly was reminiscing about the fierce rivalry generated by the Army-Navy football game, probably one of the most colorful and anticipated football games of the year. She began to talk about the pranks associated with the games and of course couldn't resist bragging about the fact that the mascot for the West Point Military Academy is a mule.

"I wonder how the mule was chosen to be the Army mascot, and it seems to me, that I remember the Navy mascot is a goat," said Ole. "Seems like strange choices."

"Well, the Army needed a mascot when they played Navy way back in 1899. Since the Navy's goat was to be displayed at the game, an Army fan in Philadelphia came up with an old, sorry-looking white mule that had been used to pull an ice cart in the city for a long time, or so the story goes. Anyway, with a lot of preening and tender loving care, the old mule, called Big White, was cleaned up and outfitted with a costume for the big day. He wore a harness embellished with shining brass, a gray West Point blanket, leggings and he had streamers of black and gold on his ears and tail," related Molly. "He was the hit of the pre-game parade with the fans and especially the cadets. Besides being such a handsomely groomed animal, he had enough spunk to surprise the goat with a hefty boost toward the Navy stands. The crowd was delighted with this display of dominance."

"Tradition had its start … the mule was here to stay," remarked Beau. "There have been a succession of mules since then and the current mascots are named Traveller, Trooper and Raider."

"The mules are well cared for in the Academy's Mule Mascot Program. Veterinarian soldiers are in charge of the mules' daily care and Cadet Mule Riders are chosen for their horsemanship, leadership and spirit," Molly added.

"I seem to remember a story once about the Middies from the Naval Academy kidnapping the Army mules before a game," Beau told Ole. "The four mules were taken from their stalls by some Middies disguised as Army military policemen."

"Sure!" Molly agreed. "That was in 1991, and they were taken back to Annapolis for a rally. But the Cadets rescued the mules in time for the big game, and all's well that ends well. But the caper has not quite been forgotten. The Navy goat, Bill, is carefully protected just in case some cadets decide to abduct him and maybe take him for a ride in a humvee or some other vehicle."

"Mascots are important. And there are all kinds of mascots," said Ole. "Did you know that the Air Force mascot is a Falcon? It was chosen because of its speed and powerful and graceful flight. The falcon performs at many of the Air Force games and is named Mach I. Pretty appropriate name since it refers to the speed of sound."

"Does the Marine Corp have a mascot too?" asked Equinox, who had been quietly listening to the conversation.

"Indeed they do. Since 1995, Sergeant Chesty IX, an English Bulldog that 'enlisted' at the Marine Barracks, Washington, DC has had the honor. Sergeant Chesty IX is the official mascot right now, but the bulldog has been the Marine Corp symbol since World War I. Private Jiggs, one of the more famous of the mascots, supposedly traveled more than 100,000 miles making public appearances and even appeared in a movie with Lon Chaney in "Tell it to the Marines." He was eventually promoted to a sergeant major in 1924," Beau replied.

"Actually, mascots are all kinds and sorts of things, aren't they?" Equinox quizzed the others.

Again Ole agreed. "Yah. Through the centuries, all kinds of animals have been used as an inspiration. The Coast Guard has had many pets on board to help boost the crew's morale. They have had cats, a parrot, and dogs. Probably the most popular dog was Sinbad. He stood watches, and ate meals and slept with the crew who considered him their good luck charm. He took liberty too whenever they were in port and would be among the first on shore, following his shipmates into the local bars. He would sit on a bar stool and bark for his drink, lap it up and then move on leaving his shipmates to pick up the tab."

"He was truly an 'old salt'," said Beau laughing.

"The type of mascot is unending," said Molly. "Think about all the colleges who have costumed lions, bears and even chickens as mascots. The University of Delaware has a Kent County Blue Hen, chosen because it had a reputation for fighting success in the days when cock fighting was popular in the 1700's."

"Hmmmm, maybe being a mascot might not be too bad," thought Equinox who is constantly pretending to be 'something else' tomorrow…or maybe some other time.

Molly says, there are many Internet sites to explore for stories about mascots. Your library is also a good source of information about the mascots, schools and favorite teams.