Sam Houston Legend

"The Three-Legged Don Juan of College Hill"

"Because there was no room for him in their trailer or automobile, Tripod was left behind by a veteran and his family when the young G.I. graduated in 1948. . . .Tripod crossed the street and became a fixture of the campus. Here he dominated the canine life of the campus for fourteen years." This is how Dr. Harmon Lowman began his eulogy for Tripod at his funeral on Friday, January 12, 1962. Classes were called off, and the student body turned out in great numbers to say goodbye to this cherished "unofficial" mascot of Sam Houston.

Dan Rather, in 1952, devoted an editorial to Tripod entitled "Tripod Legend Growing Fast." Rather began by saying that "looking at things objectively, Tripod should be placed in the 1953 Alcalde as Sam Houston's `All-College Favorite.'" Tripod's popularity was initially caused by his hobbling around on three legs; his left front leg was broken severely and could not be repaired. One time the student body raised fifty dollars to have his leg fixed, but when he was taken to the veterinarian at Texas A&M, the doctors could do nothing so he was returned to campus, "unmolested and none the less contented." To prove his popularity, another time several students thought Tripod was extremely sick so a veterinarian was called. Just to get to Tripod, "the doctor had to elbow his way through fifty or more worried students." The illness was nothing more than indigestion.

Dan Rather nicknamed him "The Three-Legged Don Juan of College Hill": "More than one campus Romeo has been stymied on the hill at night when Tripod came wandering onto the scene seeking affection from the girl friend."

Tripod was welcomed everywhere. He could easily pick up a morsel or two from any of the cafeterias, and more times than not he became a welcome guest. He could be seen just about anywhere on campus. He went to any special event and the football games. And if he got in the way, it was all right. You'd just have to wait until he felt like moving to continue the activity. One instance is famous at a football game. Tripod wandered too far onto Prichett Field during the game. The referee attempted to get him to return to the sidelines, which went unheeded by Tripod. Since Tripod had done this at other times, the football fans just laughed and waited for him to decide to return. But the impatient referee kicked at Tripod and the fans went wild, booing and yelling at the referee, who quickly learned not to "mess" with Tripod. Tripod was also an honorary member of the college and the high school bands; he would frequently march along side the bass drummer, perhaps out of step, but who cared! And in September, 1957, the T-Club gave Tripod his own, official "T"-Club jacket, with a pocket on one side, a big "T" on the other, and came equipped with a collar.

Sam Houston's world was Tripod's world and he reigned! The whole campus was his---and the students'. No other dog stayed long on campus with Tripod around. He challenged vagabond mongrels, sometimes to his injury. But he was always looked after by his loyal fans which also included the faculty and the townspeople. When Tripod was found dead in Sam Houston Park by Jerry Roe and carried to the Sigma Chi House on that unhappy January day, the school had lost its most famous resident.

Dr. Lowman's eulogy said it all.

Many times I've seen him quietly lying in the grass in front of the administration building watching the movements of students, when he would suddenly spring to his three legs, sniff the air and hold himself motionless and tense. "Look," I would say to some of my companions, "Tripod's picked up the scent of a strange dog on the campus." Then he would give a few resentful barks to notify the intruder that his presence would not be tolerated on the quadrangle. If that notice went unheeded he would take off, moving surprisingly fast on his three feet. Faculty dogs arose and bounded after him to see the fun. With strong hind legs and an unusually heavy body, he could spring on the average dog and knock him down. As a rule the invader soon retreated. Once or twice Tripod underestimated his foe and was tenderly carried to an animal hospital by some of the college boys. In a few days he was back and had everything under control.

It was Tripod's fierce determination to succeed as King of the campus in spite of a serious physical handicap, that first won for him a place in the hearts of the students.

I asked a little boy one day about his dog. The little shaver proudly explained that his pet was one-half bull, one-half collie and one-half "plain."

Tripod was all plain dog. His ancestors were probably mongrels, too, but they were no scrubs. It was simply good dog blood that flowed through his veins.

Some dogs are noticed because they are affectionate or beautiful or intelligent or faithful. Some dogs are appreciated because they are good watch gods or good hunting dogs. Not a single one of these attributes did Tripod possess to the very slightest degree.

He learned to make the most of his lot in life. I never knew of his snarling or barking at a student. He quietly complied with their wishes. He rode in many homecoming parades. They had to physically carry him to his assigned place on a float, but he stayed there for them until they carried him off. One year a prize-winning float had a huge papier-mâché Tripod standing on it. Another year a float featured Tripod and one of his common-law wives, with six of Tripod's offspring.

Tripod kept his nose out of things that didn't concern him. I never saw a student kick Tripod, for Tripod never got under anybody's feet. A football referee kicked at Tripod one night during the game when he started across the playing field. Tripod merely forget himself. He saw a lady friend dog of his in front of the opposite grandstand. He merely wanted to run over and check on things with her. The poor referee soon learned from the student body that there was one hound you couldn't kick around.

Then Tripod was appreciated because he was dependable. You could always count on Tripod's presence at every outdoor student assembly. He was never in the group; always well to one side, watching. He would lie there on his stomach, his nose pointing toward the students. If a student called out, "Hi there, Tripod!" he would quietly bat his large sorrowful eyes and wag his friendly tail, but I never saw any other expression of affection.

Tripod was democratic. I was very fond of Tripod. As he grew old I often thought of a doghouse for him on the patio of the Student Union Building. He wouldn't have stayed in that doghouse unless you chained him. You simply could not think of chaining Tripod. I tried to make a home for him in my garage. I left food for him there and made him a good bed. Other dogs ate his food and he ignored the bed. Tripod was not going to give any more consideration to the wishes of the college president than he was to any other person who put foot on the campus.

I think more than anything else Tripod's popularity was due to the fact that he played no favorites. Everybody was ambitious to be Tripod's special friend but nobody ever succeeded. He belonged equally to all of us and all of us loved him for his consistent attitude in that respect.

Yesterday a student asked me if the college would adopt another dog to take Tripod's place. I replied that there would never be another Tripod.

Tripod is buried on Old Main Hill. The ceremony included the band, a three-gun salute, and Dr. Lowman's speech. Tripod's tombstone reads:


Beloved Mascot
Loyal Supporter
Friend of Students

Dan Rather ended his editorial by saying: "To students he's sort of a Rin Tin Tin, a Fella or Pluto---a dog whose name may become. . .a Sam Houston legend."

The Caballero Years