Animal mascots are
a large part of the culture of several universities, Texas A&M has Reveille,
the loveable collie that dates back to 1931, the University of Georgia has Uga,
the affable English bulldog that dates back to 1956, but Hardin-Simmons had its
own canine mascot that predates them both.
In 1916 Simmons
College was graced with the introduction of Fritz, a white bulldog or large terrier (his heritage is unknown) that was owned by President Sandefer’s youngest son,
Gib. Although his given name was Fritz,
he soon earned another, more widely known moniker. There are speculative reasons for how he got
the name Dam-it, from causing a cafeteria staff member to trip while carrying a
tray full of food to students, or that it referenced his thoughts at losing his
tail, either way the name stuck. Dam-it
quickly became the class of 1920’s mascot as he grew up with the class, and integrated
into the culture of the university.
He was taught the
ever-popular game of fetch with both rocks and sticks, and would carry the
rocks around in his mouth wherever he went.
Dam-it was allowed to roam all over campus, including classrooms, and
laughter would ensue when he would fall asleep in class, the rock would tumble
out of his mouth, startle him awake, and cause a commotion until he had secured
the rock once more in his jaws.
The story of
Dam-it is however, a tragedy, as he contracted pneumonia in January of 1920 and
died only a few hours later. How much of
an impact he had on the university was on display at his funeral, which
included a procession led by the Cowboy Band, four seniors as pallbearers, and
grave dug by freshmen. Senior class
chaplain Ira Harrison led the service speaking from the text “Every Dog has his
Day.” Almost the entire student body and
faculty were present for the funeral in the center of campus.
The story was
picked up by the Associated Press, and received national attention, with
condolences coming from every part of the country. A marble tombstone was raised over his grave
with the few words: Dam-it, He is Dead.
Around 1950, a metal plate was put in place of the chipped stone, and at a later time the memorial was moved beside the Reflection Pond, and a purple and gold
fire hydrant was established in his memory.
After the death of
Dam-it, the class of 1920 donated another canine mascot, this time a young
dalmatian, but Dam-it was irreplaceable.
Although Dam-it has been gone from the campus of Hardin-Simmons University
for over 90 years, his legacy lives on in the monument beside the pond, and in
the fire hydrant featured on every school ring.