Front page of The Battalion on November 14,1963, published after Bevo was safely en route to the University of Texas campus.
When I was in the Corps of Cadets in the 1960s, mischief and rebellion abounded. And during the 1963 football season, the greatest of all heists was stealing a rival school’s mascot.
Several cadet groups succeeded in (shall we say) “temporarily acquiring” most if not all of the Southwest Conference college mascots. If memory serves, among them were the Texas Christian University horned frog, the Southern Methodist University mustang, the University of Houston cougar, the Baylor University bear and the greatest prize of all—the University of Texas longhorn, Bevo.
The stealing of Bevo took place around midnight on Nov. 12, 1963, ahead of our Thanksgiving Day football rivalry. As an upperclassman in Squadron 11—the unit credited with achieving this remarkable feat—I can tell the story as I remember it.
Early one afternoon, as I returned from class, I was greeted by several active duty Air Force officers stationed at the Trigon who repeatedly asked me,
“Where is Bevo?” I had no idea what they referred to, but inferred from their facial expressions that they were serious.
I later consulted with others and our squadron commanding officer (CO) to see what was up, but nobody knew anything except that several members of our unit may have been AWOL the previous night. When the CO called a squadron meeting to get to the bottom of the situation, it was decided that things were best left unsaid.
But hours later, the students involved met with certain sympathetic upperclassmen and the CO, providing details regarding the Bevo cownapping. Turns out, they had driven a stock trailer to a farm outside of Austin where Bevo was kept and loaded him up under the cover of darkness before returning to College Station.
They anxiously awaited advice regarding their one burning question:
“What do we do with Bevo now?” Since one of the conspirators had a relative who owned property south of College Station, a plan was hatched to take Bevo there, tie him to a tree, and leave so he could be found safe and sound in the morning. They were to tell nobody (especially those in the meeting) the final Bevo location.
"The annual Turkey Day game was perhaps the most colorful in the long history of the series. The spirit of both student bodies was at a peak. The rivalry was even greater because of the recent visit of Bevo to the A&M campus. This visit, unsanctioned by TU officials, gave every indication that the game was going to be one of excitement.
As the stadium filled, the Teasips brought in their version of a cannon and set it in the south end of the stadium. A few minutes later, the Ags brought in their version of a cannon. The first time the Aggies fired, the crowd knew that there would be no match between the two."
—Excerpt from the 1964 Aggieland yearbook
The next morning, I was awakened before reveille by shouting in the hallway and pounding on my door. It was the CO followed by police officers from Texas A&M, Bryan and College Station. Many threats were tossed around, but still no answers were given.
Local radio stations picked up the drama, dedicating their broadcast day to the topic. It was the biggest thing to happen in College Station and probably in Texas since Spindletop! Immediately, rumors surfaced about Bevo’s horns being cut, the possibility of Bevo burgers and other such misinformation. All of this made me believe that true incarceration was just around the corner, but I kept quiet and hoped that the crisis hadn’t met the ears of my parents. For the remainder of the day, every Aggie listened to the minute-by-minute radio reports, cheering from dorms, bars and bedsides.
Around noon, under threat that our Air Force careers were jeopardized, our CO divulged that Squadron 11 had acquired Bevo. We were forced to tell the truth: that we had borrowed him, but in accordance with the plan, none of us knew where he was!
Eventually, officials—now joined by the Austin Police, Texas State Police and Texas Rangers—learned of the nearby plot of land and searched it, finding Bevo tied to a tree as planned. Those involved were arrested by local police but released within an hour, since Bevo was unhurt and the police had no clear evidence that they were the culprits.
Before Bevo could return to Austin, the law required a medical evaluation since he had crossed county lines. Original plans called for him to be taken to Texas A&M’s veterinary school, but students converged on the clinic in such mass that his physical examination moved instead to the facilities of Dr. B.J. Cargill, a Bryan veterinarian.
When he emerged with full clearance around 1 a.m. on Nov. 14, he was loaded into a trailer by his embarrassed Silver Spurs contingent (the Texas student organization responsible for his care) and began his journey back to Austin. Rumor had it that during Bevo’s exam, his trailer was miraculously painted maroon and white. You see, it just isn’t over till it’s over!
This became such a newsworthy event because, as it turned out, the University of Texas did not own Bevo. Apparently, there were several Bevos privately owned and rented for football games and other events. Therefore, “borrowing” Bevo was considered cattle rustling in Texas, punishable by incarceration. Not surprisingly, after this incident, there were much harsher penalties enacted for theft of a school mascot.
However, since there was no evidence that Bevo did not walk those 100-plus miles between our two campuses and was returned unharmed, the fervor died down. More than 50 years later, the plot simply goes down in history as Aggie “Good Bull.”