Watch the Skies

The Great Bronze Jayhawk, or 'The Pterodactyl' 

I am writing today to warn everyone in every U.S. city, and perhaps every city on Earth, of impending danger and doom from above.

But first, some lengthy historical background:

In Lawrence, Kansas, in front of Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus, there sits a 600-pound bronze sculpture that has been displayed on campus since 1958 and has been in its current location since 1975. This bronze, created by sculptor Elden Tefft, is ostensibly of that mythical flying creature (and KU mascot), the Jayhawk.

But everyone at KU refers to the Strong Hall Jayhawk as “the Pterodactyl” – perhaps because of its strong resemblance to the non-mythical (yet extinct) flying creature of that name, or perhaps simply to distinguish it from the various other Jayhawks to be found all over campus.

The night after the Pterodactyl first appeared at KU, the Mystical Oracle of Mount Oread (MOMO) convened at midnight at the Rock Chalk Cairn on the hill above Memorial Stadium in order to determine what unearthly powers the Great Bronze Jayhawk might possess, and how MOMO might shape them. For if MOMO did not do so, then the sculpture might shape its own powers – ensuring that havoc would ensue.

And since this was Kansas, havoc was not to be tolerated.

After due consideration, the casting of many runes, and the drinking of much Coors, MOMO decreed:

If ever a virgin shall graduate from the University of Kansas, the Great Bronze Jayhawk shall acquire the power of flight, and within a week shall leave its perch to wreak havoc on all states other than Kansas (where havoc is not to be tolerated).

This was in accordance with the mystical rules governing other large inanimate birds of prey, such as the Eagle of Stamford.

And so the Pterodactyl sat stoic and silent on its granite throne for many a year, through the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s.

Then, in 1988, the Mystical Oracle of Mount Oread reconvened at the Rock Chalk Cairn to address an impending crisis. In its far-seeing wisdom, MOMO had divined that within five years, the slumbrous but growing Internet would begin to incorporate a system of hypertext-linked pages known as the World Wide Web. In the wake of the Web would come increased bandwidth. And in the wake of both the Web and the increased bandwidth would come Google, YouTube, EverQuest, Ultima Online, City of Heroes, and World of Warcraft.

Not to mention blog after blog after blog after blog after m***********g blog.

The learned magicians of MOMO agreed that the drastic impact these developments would have on the social lives of college students was inevitable – as was the logical and horrific result:

Sooner or later, a virgin WOULD graduate from the University of Kansas.

Short of destroying the World Wide Web in its womb, MOMO could foresee no way of preventing that disaster. The only option, then, was for MOMO to call upon its ancient Mount Oread Mojo (MOMOJO) to alter the conditions under which the Great Bronze Jayhawk might gain the power of flight.

But what new conditions would be acceptable to MOMOJO? What might satisfy the ancient Rock Chalk thirst for potential chaos, yet still keep the Pterodactyl seated firmly on its perch?

Fortunately (or so it seemed at the time), a wild and seemingly impossible stroke of Fate provided the answer.

The University of Kansas Men’s Basketball team, led by senior Danny Manning, had just won the NCAA Tournament. And what were the odds of that ever happening again?

So MOMO decreed:

If ever a virgin shall graduate from the University of Kansas, the Great Bronze Jayhawk shall shake its head thrice in sorrow. But if ever a University of Kansas Jayhawks Men’s Basketball team shall repeat the NCAA Tournament triumph of Danny and the Miracles, then the Great Bronze Jayhawk shall acquire the power of flight, and within a week shall leave its perch to wreak havoc on all states other than Kansas (where havoc is not to be tolerated).

The Pterodactyl was found lying on the ground beside its pedestal in the fall of 1996 (when, not surprisingly, the World Wide Web was taking off big time), so we can speculate that it fell there as a result of shaking its head thrice in sorrow.

But Prof. Tefft and his son repaired the fallen Great Bronze Jayhawk and replaced it on its pedestal – and since 1997, it has not budged.

Until now.

It seems that despite MOMO’s best efforts, no mystic mojo lasts forever.

I happen to be a KU alumnus (B.A. 1980, ahem), so I turned on my television and watched the final game of the 2008 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament this past Monday (April 7) with slightly more than moderate interest.

And by “slightly more than moderate interest,” I mean “leaping, screaming, and furniture-flinging.”

It was such a great game, and such an amazing finish for the Jayhawks, that it wasn’t until Tuesday that I realized what the KU victory would mean for the world outside Kansas.

That’s right. Y’all are in BIG trouble.

The Jayhawks Win!

For that matter, so am I, since I now live in Texas. (And just to illustrate the seriousness of the situation . . . here is what can happen when a Pterodactyl gets loose.)

A friend in Lawrence tells me that as of today, the Pterodactyl is still on its perch outside Strong Hall. But he says there are obvious, growing cracks in the pedestal, as if a tremendous force is building the strength to shatter it.

After all, MOMO’s magical decree did give the Great Bronze Jayhawk a whole week to make its move.

So if you’re like me (and I know I am), you might want to use the few days that remain to prepare for the coming calamity:

1. Paint the following mystical talisman on your front door, as I have. The Jayhawk may see it and fly on past, leaving you unharmed:

Mystical Talisman

2. Learn this supernatural song and magical chant, and when the Jayhawk approaches, repeat them with as many neighbors as possible.

3. Hire a band to play this fierce Jayhawk Worship music on your front lawn.

4. Train a giant gorilla to counterattack the Jayhawk:

One possible solution

5. And if all else fails . . .

Well, jeez.

You might want to consider practicing your free throws.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

6 thoughts on “Watch the Skies

  1. I sure didn’t graduate with the prior condition of the Jayhawk flying (thank you Dr. P!) but the rest of that dissertation is scary.

    Be afwad, be vewy afwaid!

  2. Brad, I have to say that MOMO really set themselves up for this one. Kansas is, after all, The Basketball School. Danny and the Miracles was but the SECOND national title brought home to Jayhawk land, so the odds of them winning a third–even with Roy Williams’ near misses–was correspondingly high. Far better to come up with a scenario that would NEVER happen in a million years, such as, say, Texas A&M beating the Jayhawks in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.


    Congratulations anyway, despite the impending havoc. I was pulling for your guys the whole game, and I saw many happy Kansas fans Monday on my commute to work up I-35.

  3. Beautiful, just beautiful. And somewhere around here I have a copy of the first issue of the ‘zine that I helped produce in the spring of 1976, called, oddly enough, “The Pterodactyl’s Egg.” In it was a story called “When Flies the Pterodactyl,” which touched on some of the very same issues you raise. Embarrassment, rather than modesty, keeps me from mentioning the author of that story.

    Margene and I watched the game at the Lipps’ house, which made it that much better. By the way, Jesi will be graduating the Wednesday before ConQuesT. Yeah, we’re all that old.

  4. Since KU is Not A Football School, perhaps the MOJO should have tied flight to something as unlikely as KU winning an Orange Bowl game…oh wait. Nevermind.

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