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Bevo: The Real Story

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Cleaving through myth and false history like Kim Kardishian's plastic surgeon through Armenian fatty tissues, UT History Central offers the definitive history of Bevo.

I'd long believed that our beloved ungulate got his name from a pack of mischievious Aggies who branded the poor beast with the score 13-0, took turns sexually molesting him with the help of distracting sugar cubes and a step ladder, and elected him as Corps Sweetheart, 1917. I may have embellished parts of that. Anyway, the Longhorns then made lemonade out of lemons by shaping the 13 into a B and filling in a EV to go with the O - spelling BEVO, the name of a popular near-beer. And thus a legendary mascot - who radiates a distinct variety of placid menace - was born.

Not exactly.

The real story is much more interesting. It began on Thanksgiving Day, 1916 at the inauguration of the new UT president, before the annual grudge match against the Aggies.

A boxed meal for twenty-five cents was available for those who wanted to picnic on the campus. Folks who preferred a more traditional Thanksgiving Day feast headed for the "Caf," an unpainted, leaky wooden shack that somehow managed to function as the University Cafeteria. The full turkey dinner cost fifty cents.

To offer further context: Charlie Chaplin was the world's greatest star, a postage stamp cost 2 cents, these UT students had parents that could recall fearing Comanche raids as children, Pancho Villa was running amok on the border with Pershing in hopeless pursuit, millions were being slaughtered at Verdun and the Somme, Montana had just elected the first Congresswoman in US History, Einstein completed his theory of relativity, and the United States (population 100 million) spent 710 million dollars for the entire fiscal year.

The afternoon was reserved for the annual football bout with the A & M College of Texas. A record 15,000 fans packed the wooden bleachers at Clark Field, the University's first athletic field, where Taylor Hall and the ACES Building are now.

While UT crowds now swell to 100,000+, A&M, always a creature of tradition, continues to prefer smaller crowds. Students wore fur coats, waved pennants, yelled "Rah Rah Sis Boom Bah" and did lots of other things we've all seen in Foghorn Leghorn cartoons.

Then something magical happened. And by magical, I mean in the animal cruelty sense:

During halftime, two West Texas cowboys dragged a half-starved and frightened longhorn steer onto the field, where it was formally presented to the UT student body by a group of Texas Exes.

The ornery beast had been acquired from a foiled cattle rustler raid and sent to Austin for his pleasing orange hue. And why was the poor beast afrighted and half mad?

Loaded onto a boxcar without food or water, the steer arrived at the Austin train station just in time for the football game.

Our bad, Bevo. But at least your gentle nature was evident through that trauma, right?

After presenting the longhorn to the students, the animal was removed to a South Austin stockyard for a formal photograph and a long overdue meal. The steer, though, wasn't very cooperative. It stood still just long enough for a flash photograph, and then charged the camera. The photographer scurried out of the corral just in time, and both the camera and photograph survived the ordeal.

Then, something crucial happened. Something that conclusively disproves the legend we've all been taught:

To spread the news, the December 1916 issue of the Texas Exes Alcalde magazine was rushed into press. Editor Ben Dyer (BA 1910) gave a full account of the game and halftime proceedings. About the longhorn, Dyer stated simply, "His name is Bevo. Long may he reign!"

That's it. Bevo was coined. And probably not after the branded beer, as many believe today, but after the slang word for steer - "beeve" - with an affectionate -o added to the end. See Groucho, Harpo, Chico - a vaudevillian convention of the time. A&M students later broke into Bevo's stockyard February 12th, 1917 - months later - and branded him 13-0, the score of A&M's 1915 victory in College Station. The 13-0 branding happened, but it did not result in Bevo's name.

Thus the Aggies can only be credited for molesting livestock. A school tradition.

Still, what we proposed to do with the beast is revealing of the times:

The Texan newspaper favored branding the longhorn with a large "T" on one side and "21 - 7" on the other as a permanent reminder of the Texas victory. Others were opposed, citing animal cruelty, and wondered if the steer might be tamed so that it could roam and graze on the Forty Acres.

The sensible choices were: mutilating our mascot with the score of a football game and a giant T or allowing it to roam campus so that it could gore slow-moving students. That's it. No other alternatives. I really like 1916 and it's notions. A lot. Imagine if LSU had Mike The Tiger roaming Baton Rouge, eating Cajuns and disemboweling skateboarders.

Still, we learned to love Bevo and treat him with great reverence:

Since food and care for the animal was costing the University fifty cents a day, and because the steer wasn't believed to be tame enough to roam the campus or remain in the football stadium, it was fattened up and became the barbecued main course for the January 1920 football banquet. The Aggies were invited to attend, served the side they had branded, and were presented with the hide, which still read "13 - 0."

We butchered our beloved mascot, served him at the football banquet and served him to Aggies. What Filipino will join me in reciprocating with Reveille?

There you have it Carnivalers, the true story of Bevo.