Published: Friday, November 30, 2007
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07
Gus Harris should have been studying for his physics test. Conrad Burks should have been studying, too. Bill Duncan, Don Mika, Lester Hatcher - they all had other activities they should have been attending to. However, on this particular November evening, the five men had one common goal: stealing Bevo, the mascot of the University of Texas in Austin.
The plan hatched by the Class of 1966 sophomores was not elaborate or well-designed. The five members of the Corps of Cadets Buzzard B-2 unit had tossed around the steer-napping idea, which was suggested by Duncan, an Austin native.
"[Duncan] knew people that were going to the University of Texas, and he was able to get the information about where the steer was kept at this hog farm north of town," Burks said. "He had all the basics about it. We thought it would be a fun thing to do since Bill knew where everything was."
Along with Burks, Harris was recruited to be a part of the prank. Harris said he had two characteristics that made him an important member.
"I had a truck and I was the only one that knew one end of a cow from another," Harris laughed.
The five left College Station, travelling to Austin in the afternoon on Nov. 12, 1963, in Harris' truck and another sedan that was designated as a chase car. The group met at Duncan's home, where along with Duncan's father, they developed the details of their plan. The plan would involve sneaking into the hog farm in the dark of night and loading Bevo VII onto a stock trailer. It was not too long before a problem arose.
"It was hard to find a stock trailer," Harris said. "We scrambled to find a trailer and finally ended up renting one."
Armed with bolt cutters, plywood, 30 feet of rope and a crudely drawn map, the five men drove down a dirt road running alongside the back pastures of the hog farm. Harris said the sophomores removed a gate that was wired closed to get into the farm and then continued on their way to Bevo's shelter.
"We went through a few gates on the way to the steer's pen," Burks said. "We had the plywood in case there were cattle
guards, but all of the gates were unlocked. We just opened them and went through and never messed with the cattle guards."
When the group arrived at Bevo's wooden pen and adjacent shed, they were surprised to find the area empty of Silver Spurs members, the UT student organization responsible for the care and transport of the mascot.
"All was quiet," Harris said. "We were expecting guards, but they weren't there. We just had pure, dumb luck. It was our understanding that they'd be there."
Without the presence of guards, Harris, Hatcher and Burks quickly climbed into the steer's pen, ready to rope Bevo.
"The steer came out from the corner and he was kind of spooked," Burks said. "I thought, 'Well this isn't any place for me, I'm a city boy and I don't know what I'm doing.' Gus and Lester were country boys, and with just a little bit of talking, they walked over to him and roped his horns."
Harris remembered walking toward the steer while it was still under its shelter and realizing just how large Bevo was.
"The steer was in his shelter, and it was dark," Harris said. "He came up beside me, and his horn brushed against my chest. That was kind of scary."
Once Harris and Hatcher secured Bevo's horns with rope, the group began leading the steer back toward their waiting trailer. Aside from a scare when a dog began barking at a nearby farmhouse, the heist went undetected, Burks said. However, getting Bevo back to College Station would prove to be difficult because of the size of his horns.
"The next problem we encountered was that his horns wouldn't fit in the trailer," Harris said. "It was plenty big for him, but not for his horns."
Burks said the group solved this dilemma by tilting the steer's head to one side in order to wedge his horns through the stock trailer's door. With Bevo secured in the rented trailer, the group headed back to College Station. Each vehicle used a different, roundabout route to return to the University.
Excitement in the ranks
"It was probably five in the morning when we got back, before the morning bugle went off," Burks said. "There was a lot of hoopla, and we drove circles up and down the Quadrangle."
Harris said he was amazed at the amount of people appearing on the Quad to see Bevo.
"[The residence halls] just emptied out," Harris said. "Word spread quickly."
When the excitement had dimmed, Burks said the group was faced with a problem they hadn't quite thought about.
"The idea was to steal it," Burks said. "Once we stole it and brought it back [to College Station], we had no idea what to do with it."
Harris said upperclassmen from Squadron 1 approached the sophomores and told them of a farmhouse where Bevo could be stored for the night.
"We bedded him and went back to the dorm for some uneasy sleep," Harris said.
The next morning, Harris and Burks said nothing out of the ordinary happened. After eating lunch, Harris traveled out to the farmhouse where Bevo had spent the night, only to find Bevo wasn't there.
Harris discovered that the members of Squadron 1 had moved the steer further away from the road because they felt he could easily be seen from the farmhouse. Harris also realized that the stock trailer he had rented was no longer parked beside the farmhouse, as the members of Squadron 1 had moved the trailer - to a campus parking lot.
Back in Austin, Bevo's disappearance was reported and Harris said the Longhorns were clambering for excuses as to how their mascot was so easily stolen.
The Austin American Statesman and The Daily Texan, UT's student newspaper, reported many versions of Bevo's kidnapping. Articles published by the papers alleged that more than 80 Aggies were involved in the caper. They also claimed that the individuals responsible dressed in Levis and cowboy shirts so they could look like members of the Silver Spurs. Harris said these rumors were spurred because UT students were surprised and embarrassed.