The Loveable Loser

ASU Alternative Spring Break 139

 

Zippy Chippy, a bay gelding, boasts a pedigree that includes Northern Dancer, Buckpasser, Bold Ruler, Man o’ War, War Admiral and Round Table—some of the fastest horses of all time but none of all that special blood coursing through his veins could help him win a race. In one hundred starts, he won zero. That’s right, he never won a race. But, there is a moral to Zippy’s story as there usually is when it comes to horses.
Wait, he did beat a minor league baseball player in a forty yard dash in 2001 and he also beat a harness racer named Paddy’s Laddy. He beat out Paddy Laddy and his rig to win by a neck after he spotted the trotter a twenty-length lead.
After his win, Zippy’s owner said, “It feels good to win but it doesn’t count until we do it against thoroughbreds.
He’s mean, he kicks, he bites, but he has a home forever with me and my daughter.”
The last time Zippy Chippy raced against other thoroughbred horses it ended up as his 100th loss. It occurred on September 10, 2004, in the Northampton Fair at the Three County Fairgrounds. He went off at odds of 7-2, making him the second betting choice.

A host of fans were there that day to cheer him at the start and to take his picture, prompting his jockey to say, “It would be nice if people took photos at the end of the race too.” However, Zippy Chippy finished last.
Eventually, in 1995, his owners gave up on him and Felix Monserrate, who had boarded Zippy Chippy, purchased him in a trade for a 1988 Ford truck.
Zippy was finally banned from competing at many tracks. Why was he banned? Not because he was a perennial loser, but because sometimes he would refuse to leave the gate, or he would bite the other horses, or he would just pull up in mid-race.
But Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Home where he currently resides tells us that winners don’t always finish first. He has more visitors than any other horse at the retirement home.
Watching Zippy lose all his races became a very popular pastime. In fact, his profile got more reads on the Blood-Horse website than stories about Kentucky Derby winners did. He also made more money off the track than he ever did on it through merchandise sales and other endorsements.
And how many horses are voted one of the year’s “Most Intriguing Characters” by People Magazine? Only Zippy Chippy and he received that honor in the year 2000.
There is even a book written about him, which I have to admit, I haven’t read. It’s available on amazon.com. It’s called The Legend Of Zippy Chippy.
Zippy Chippy is the spokeshorse for racing horses. He went on tour in Kentucky in the summer of 2012 to bring attention to the safe retirement of racehorses.

Two hundred and fifty years before Zippy there was Stewball, or Squball, or Sku-ball. It is believed his name is bastardized from Skewbald, which is a horse with patches of white on a coat of any color, except black. A Piebald is a horse with patches of white on a coat of black.
The difference between Stewball and Zippy is that Stewball was a very successful racehorse on the track in England and Ireland as well as off the track.
His name instilled the words to an old song, a song sang by many people over the years but made popular in the 1960’s by the folk group, Peter, Paul, and Mary.
For your singing pleasure, here are the words.

Oh, Stewball was a racehorse, and I wish he were mine.
He never drank water, he always drank wine.

His bridle was silver, his mane it was gold.
And the worth of his saddle has never been told.

Oh the fairgrounds were crowded, and Stewball was there
But the betting was heavy on the bay and the mare.

And a-way up yonder, ahead of them all,
Came a-prancin’ and a-dancin’ my noble Stewball.

I bet on the gray mare, I bet on the bay
If I’d have bet on ol’ Stewball, I’d be a free man today.

Oh, the hoot owl, she hollers, and the turtle dove moans.
I’m a poor boy in trouble, I’m a long way from home.

Oh, Stewball was a racehorse, and I wish he were mine.
He never drank water, he always drank wine.

Auburn War Eagle? I don’t think so. University of Georgia War Eagle? Hardly.

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For over 100 years now a battle has raged between these two schools as to which school originated the war eagle cry. But they are both out in left field because it was in Wisconsin where the true War Eagle originated. One that actually saw combat, albeit, he showed some of his chicken heritage as he feared artillery fire and took off whenever the big guns began to fire. But then, who doesn’t? In fact, he was actually wounded in battle, well, maybe not in battle, but he did injure his leg during a hurricane.

My Auburn University friends say they are the originators of the “war eagle” yell, but I know this isn’t true. I have read that there are three or four different theories on how the Auburn Tigers seized the War Eagle sobriquet and a couple of them have ties to football games against the University of Georgia. My favorite one is when the bird takes off in flight and screams, igniting the fans to scream, ‘war eagle,’ and the Auburn offense to score the winning touchdown. Immediately after the score, the eagle performs a kamikaze act, taking a nose dive onto the football field where it dies. Can you believe that? I can’t. In fact, some of the stories claim Auburn actually stole the war eagle cry from Georgia. Another one claims a Carlisle player was named War Eagle and they would call out his name during a game. But, listen, I’m here to put this silly argument to rest. Whatever side you support on the War Eagle debate, you are wrong. The cry “War Eagle” originated in Wisconsin. In fact, many cries originate in Wisconsin it’s so damn cold up there, plus Lutefisk and bratwurst both produce a case of indigestion that can cause any man to whimper in pain.

The true story of War Eagle began many years ago, a Wisconsin Ojibwe, Chief Sky, one of five sons of Thunder of Bees, Chief of the Flambeau band of Chippewa Indians, part of the Anishinaabe tribe, called the first people, during sugar making time about 125 miles outside the city of Eau Claire, chopped down a pine tree containing an eagle’s nest with two eaglet’s nestled inside. One died. Chief Sky, gathered up the other one and, evidently, not learning from the 1626 bead transaction his brothers conducted with the Dutch for selling Manhattan, sold the eaglet to a Dan McCann from Eagle Point, Wisconsin, for a bushel of corn. Actually, the bead transaction story is also a farce. The Canarsie Indians sold Manhattan to Dutch settlers, but not for some worthless glass beads, but for iron kettles, axes, knives, and cloth. The kicker to the story is that the land that they took payment for didn’t even belong to them. But, I don’t think all the kettles and other gadgets involved in that transaction come close to the $2100.00 per square foot that vacant land is currently selling for in Manhattan.

Now back to Wisconsin’s War Eagle. Dan McCann eventually sold the little eaglet to the commanding officer of the Eau Claire Badgers militia company. Typical of Wisconsin, a tavern was involved in this purchase when tavern owner, S.M. Jeffers, pitched in to help defray the exorbitant selling price of $2.50.

When the eagle was sworn into service, he was adorned with a breast rosette (rose shaped ornament) and a red, white and blue ribbon around his neck. They named him Old Abe.

While in Madison, a dog joined the regiment. Abe and the dog, Frank, tolerated one another because Frank provided rabbits and other small mammals for Abe to eat. Unfortunately for Frank, one day he ventured a bit too close to Abe’s meal, bringing an end of their relationship.

During “Old Abe’s” service, the 8th Wisconsin militia participated in many battles, expeditions, and pursuits of Confederate forces during his namesake’s Mr. Abe Lincoln’s war. Among these were the battles of  Corinth; Island Number 10; Big Black; Champion’s Hill; the Red River and Meridian expeditions; and the Battle of Nashville. “Old Abe” was there every step of the way. In many battles, he would circle the smoky battlefield as the enemy would be closing in and the bullets flew. He would rise high in the sky, all the while screaming at his assailants. After the battle, upon seeing his bearer, he would descend like a shot and fly into his arms. “Go War Eagle!”

Old Abe so infuriated Confederate General Sterling Price he was said to declare that he would rather “capture that bird than a whole brigade.”

Old Abe entered his last battle in the Great Rebellion, also referred to as the Civil War, as well as with many other names, at Hurricane Creek, MS. The war eagle’s shrieks could be heard clearly and distinctly above the victorious shouts of the Eau Claire Badgers militia. Abe seemed to have protected his bearers and dodged the bullets of rebel sharpshooters who had failed to kill them.

Old Abe died on March 26, 1881, of smoke inhalation in the loving arms of his handler when, it has been said, he was reminiscing with his old militia pals while smoking a fine cigar and sipping a brandy. I might be distorting the truth here a bit but it was reported that one time he did get drunk on some peach brandy that was left unattended in his presence. “Go War Eagle!”

Today, a likeness of Old Abe, the original War Eagle, can be found at the main entrance to University of Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium.

And that my friend, is the true story of the one and only War Eagle!

Go Badgers!