A salute to the newest mule in school

UCM Welcomes Incoming Mascots, Riders

By Ruth Dickson

New Mule Riders

For the past 150 years, the rolling fields of Central Missouri and the classic stone buildings of the Warrensburg campus have welcomed thousands of students — each adding a unique footprint to the path of those who came before.

As impossible as it seems on the very first day — and as fleeting as it feels on the very last — the college experience at UCM is something that leaves a lasting mark in the memory of every student as they become alumni, and every faculty and staff member as they become emeriti.  

The juxtaposition of the impermanence but also permanence of the college experience is melded together by the common values that UCM graduates and rising students share: loyalty, strength, bravery and tenacity. These mutual qualities unite MuleNation forever — once you have set foot on campus you are forever a Mule, and there is no symbol that better evokes this sentiment than that of the mules lovingly cared for by agriculture science students at the UCM Prussing Research Farm.  

The presence of these incredible animals — often referred to as living mascots — is a manifestation of what UCM stands for: academic excellence, caregiving, tradition and pride. Throughout the university’s history, students and staff have raised many mules, with the first living mascot, a feisty miniature mule named Gismo, joining campus after World War II. In the following years, UCM has been home to Little Mo (pictured below), Roscoe and Abbedale — each one featured strongly in the recollections of alumni. 

Little Mo

The Prussing farm, a 260-acre property donated to UCM by Natalie Halpin in 2002, is currently the stomping ground of Molly and Tammy (who also goes by the name Mancow after Matthew Erich “Mancow” Muller, the well-known 1988 alumnus who donated funds to bring her to the university). For the students who care for them, learn from them and share the privilege of riding them, the opportunity to work so closely with the mules is both moving and purposeful. Gabby Beckham, an animal biology major who has experience training mules, is a Mule Rider for the 2019–20 academic year and says working with Tammy and Molly brings her closer to the community.

“I love educating people about the mules because not everyone gets the opportunity to come close to these types of animals and get to touch them and talk about them,” Beckham says. “They are extraordinary, and I love working with them. I love being able to explain exactly what a mule is, especially with little kids, seeing their excitement when they see this big, huge animal.”

Mule Rider Jane Haun RGB

The presence of the living mascots at UCM is one that connects students and alumni to the identity of campus. Many alumni can recall seeing UCM mules throughout the years, walking in the Homecoming parade or standing on the sidelines of the football games at Walton Stadium/Kennedy Field — a proud, reassuring symbol of their college years. Recently, alumni have met the mules, ridden by Mule Riders in full UCM regalia, at Get the Red Out, MuleNation alumni events and the Missouri State Fair.

This year UCM welcomes new faces — and snouts — with the debut of Molly, who will succeed Tammy as the official living mascot when Tammy takes up her well-earned retirement in the next few years. The university’s Mule Riders are also new, with Beckham and Samantha Yehle, a speech pathology major, taking the reins. Being selected as a Mule Rider comes with a $500 scholarship and the opportunity to become a recognized face in the university community.

“There are lots of reasons why I wanted to be a mule rider. I love being in the saddle; it’s basically home. Any time I can do that for something that I love — like UCM — it’s even more extraordinary.” 

— Samantha Yehle

As UCM welcomed a new freshman class in August, connecting them to all the resources and organizations they need to navigate their time here, Molly was also learning the ropes from a more senior member of the pack.

“Molly and Tammy love to be together; they’re buddies,” Beckham explains. “It’s really nice to be able to take Molly to new events and have Tammy next to her, who is calm and collected and knows what she’s doing, to keep her mind off all of the action. She can focus on her friend being with her.”

In true UCM form, just as Tammy stands reassuringly by the side of Molly, the community of alumni, faculty, staff and donors stands together to ensure that each new student is able to be successful in their journey and embrace the fullness of their college experience.

As Beckham and Yehle represent UCM as Mule Riders, they are moving forward secure in the lessons they have learned from their predecessors, May 2019 graduates Dalton Dull and Jane Haun.

“Dalton and Jane showed me it’s OK to get out of your shell and be talkative,” Yehle says of becoming a face of UCM. “They helped me learn to enjoy it.”

Dalton, whose grandfather used mules for farming long after tractors were available, offers words of reassurance to the rising Mule Riders and an important message for all incoming UCM students to hear. It is advice sure to ring true for all members of MuleNation as they reflect on the fleeting years but lifelong commitment that define their relationship with their alma mater: “Live in the moment; don’t get too carried away in trying to be a perfectionist; just have fun; meet new people; just enjoy your time ... because it’s a great experience, and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of something like this.”

Dalton Dull Mule Rider

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