Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
PORTALES—After lying low for 40 years, Eastern New Mexico University's original Greyhound mascot, "Ralf," has surfaced. George Ross (BS '69, MS '76) has emerged from semi-retirement in San Antonio, Texas, to tell a "ruff" tale.
Retired from teaching and coaching after 35 years in public schools, and now a teacher and volunteer women's track coach at the University of Texas-San Antonio, Ross says Ralf's legacy began in 1966.
"I checked with Dallan Sanders, who at that time was the head resident of the dorms, who told me that a few years prior a mascot head had been made – but only used a year.
"Dallan said he thought it was in the basement of one of the dorms; I don't remember which one. So my roommate, Pat Trembley, and I went looking," says Ross about their bloodhound instincts. "We found the head in a smashed box under a bunch of other stuff," he says of the dog-eared discovery.
The head was wearing a green "beanie" cap (then required of freshmen). Ross took it to his room for cleaning. He thought the mascot needed a name, so he turned the bill of the beanie up and painted "RALF" in white.
"My thinking was if a dog could bark in people talk he would sound like 'Ralf, Ralf, Ralf' – kind of like Shaggy of Scooby-Doo cartoons sounds today," says Ross.
Continuing his dogged pursuit of a proper wardrobe, Ross added a green sweater, green P.E. major pants (required in P.E. classes) and red tennis shoes. He also carried a long red horn to blow and use as a prop.
Ralf's anonymity got loose at a Parents' Day football game when he attempted a risky trick on the trail to mascot immortality. Never one to dog it, Ross had worked like a dog with the gymnastics team on a halftime routine.
The last performer, he was to stand on a table at mid-field, jump on a mini-trampoline, do a front flip, and land on his hind paws. "It would be a great finish – something not many mascots did back then," notes the former optimist.
However, the execution did not match the vision. Failing to negotiate the full turn, he landed head-first, dislodged Ralf's head, and watched the fur fly as it rolled away. At the time, Ralf's identity was unknown, so he quickly grabbed the beheaded prop and put it back on – backwards.
"The people in the stands died laughing," says Ross. "There I sat, body and feet pointing one way, and head and nose facing backwards. From that time on, Ralf became a clown act at halftimes of football and basketball games."
Still wanting to maintain some dog days dignity, Ross later attached straps to the head that tied under his shoulders so that he would not lose his head again in the dog-eat-dog world of entertaining frothing fans in ENMU's Greyhound pound.
Reminiscing from his San Antonio home about those dog-tired days he spent working on such heady routines, Ross says wistfully, "Since Ralf may be my only claim to fame, I wish Eastern would go back to spelling it 'Ralf' instead of 'Ralph.'"
On an endnote, Ralf's original head is once again missing. Expect to see "missing dog" reward flyers posted throughout Portales.