of Veterinary Medicine Mule Team
Gets Boost From Long-Time Supporter
Etheridge was no stranger to helping the University of Missouri
College of Veterinary Medicine Mule Team.
In the early 1980s, the just-retired veterinary
college dean Dr. Roberts Kahrs and his wife Evelyn, were ready
to leave Columbia, Mo. and return to Maryland. One problem:
Mrs. Kahrs had made it a tradition to feed treats to the college’s
Before the departure, Mrs. Kahrs asked
Mrs. Etheridge to carry on the practice. She did, and continued
to bring the mules fresh carrots and apples most Sunday afternoons
for more than two decades after the original request.
Even after her death in 2005, Mrs. Etheridge
is helping the mules. Recently, the college received a $420,862
gift from her estate to supplement an existing Kahrs Family
endowment for the mule team and their public relations efforts.
The money will be handled as an endowment with interest used
for the team’s travel expenses, care and feeding, passenger
wagon maintenance, and support for a truck and trailer. Funds
will also support veterinary students who care for the mules
and take them to events across Missouri to provide rides and
a glimpse back in time when these animals were the backbone
of Missouri’s economy.
"Mrs. Etheridge's gift insures the
legacy of Bob and Evelyn Kahrs and their passion for the mule
team and our students as ambassadors of the college,”
said Dr. Cecil Moore, College of Veterinary Medicine interim
The mascot mules have represented the college,
MU, and Missouri to thousands of people since 1982. Pulling
a dozen-passenger wagon, they’ve paraded in MU homecomings,
governor inaugurations, Missouri State Fair opening ceremonies,
and the St. Louis Charity Horse Show and Kansas City American
Royal Parade. They’ve also provided yeoman duty at small
town parades, picnics, weddings, and other events. They were
spotlighted by television personality Willard Scott on NBC’s
Today Show. Tens of thousands of Missouri kids have either
ridden in the mules’ wagon or petted a fuzzy mule nose.
Often, the MU mules were the first farm animals that many
city kids have ever seen in person.
The mules couldn’t have come at a
better time. Soon after they arrived, the college saw a dramatic
reduction of important funding streams that threatened the
organization’s existence. A devastating review by the
American Veterinary Medical Association said that if the college
didn’t enhance its teaching facilities, the college
would be demoted to limited accreditation or worse.
Dr. Kahrs made the team a centerpiece of
a statewide public relations campaign for new financial support.
The arrival of the mules guaranteed a crowd and Dr. Kahrs
made the most of the opportunity to speak about the college’s
plight. Missourians responded and enough money was garnered
to build the new teaching hospital, Clydesdale Hall. Appropriately,
the mule team pulled a plow for the official groundbreaking.
The original pair of mules, Hillda and
Louise, a matched pair of sorrel draft mules, hung up their
horseshoes in 1995 and retired. They were replaced by Jill
and Shirley in the hitch. Mrs. Etheridge and Hill’s
Pet Nutrition helped purchase the original team. Mrs. Etheridge
and Bayer Pharmaceutical bought the second, along with their
fancy black leather and chrome bridles, and a new passenger
Mrs. Etheridge was no stranger to the college.
She worked for the Department of Veterinary Medicine in 1939-45
and lived next door to Dr. John Connaway, considered the college’s
founding faculty member in the early Twentieth Century. She
moved to Columbia as a two-year-old with her parents in 1920.
She graduated from Hickman High School, class of 1936, and
later finished studies at the Rosenthal School of Commerce
in Columbia. She married Edward Bruce Etheridge in 1953. She
served as secretary to two presidents of Shelter Insurance.
The mascot mules are tended by the college’s
Mule Club, about 20 or so veterinary medical students who
care for and exhibit the mules. Veterinary medical students
are no strangers to hard work, but care, maintenance, cleaning,
and grooming of mules, wagon, and related tack are hard and
sometimes dirty, thankless tasks. For many events in the outlying
parts of the state, students arrive at the college’s
mule barn before dawn to feed and prepare the mules, load
them into a trailer, drive hours to an event, dress in cowboy
hats and smiles, and meet the public with enthusiasm and patience.
When Jill and Shirley retired, the college
searched for the third generation of MU mule ambassadors to
carry on the tradition. Not any mule qualified. The ideal
candidates needed to be a strong and matched set to better
pull the wagon as a team. Above all, they had to be gentle
and patient among the public, and ignore the distractions
of zooming cars while they clomp down the street.
It was a Missouri Ozarks pair, named Tim
and Terry, owned Max Eagleberger in Elkland, Mo. that looked
most promising to the college mule search committee. MU purchased
them courtesy of a donation by Sydenstricker Implement Co.,
a farm-vehicle dealership with stores across the state.
In 2007, the team is scheduled to
make about 50 appearances across the state, occasionally enjoying
apple and carrot treats that Mrs. Etheridge once made it a
point to give them.
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