Editor’s Note: Caprock Chronicles are edited by Jack Becker, he can be reached at email@example.com. Today’s article is by Chuck Lanehart, a frequent contributor to this column and an award-winning writer and historian. The article is the seventh in a series celebrating the centennial of Texas Tech, it first appeared in print and online on Oct. 14, 2019.
The story of Texas Tech’s first mascot is familiar. Saddle Tramp Arch Lamb dreamed up the idea in 1936. That fall, George Tate — wearing a scarlet satin cape — led the Matadors onto the football field riding a horse borrowed from the Tech barn, and the Matadors became known as the Red Raiders. The tradition lapsed until the first masked rider — Joe Kirk Fulton — charged across the field riding the magnificent steed Blackie at the 1954 Gator Bowl.
But the familiar version of the first Tech mascot is inaccurate. The first mascot was not a masked rider on a horse. Tech’s first mascot was instead a bull with a braggadocious brand. He became barbeque.
The story begins with Marvin Warlick. Born in Florida in 1892, he was the son of an itinerant Methodist minister. After attending Byrnes Business College in Tyler, Warlick bumped about the country before arriving in Lubbock in about 1915 to work in the Lubbock County Clerk’s office.
He married Thelma Caraway and they began raising a family. In 1917, Warlick was drafted into the army to serve in Europe during WWI, leaving Thelma in Lubbock.
Upon his return, Warlick took up farming west of town, raising grain, cotton, swine and cattle. One of the couple’s children, Tom, was born in a farmhouse on land that would one day accommodate a great university.
He was elected Lubbock County Commissioner and supervised the building of a road to the site offered for a new school, Texas Technological College. When Lubbock landed the much-coveted institution in 1923, an editorial claimed Warlick’s road (now west Broadway) deserved much of the credit.
Tech’s first President, Dr. Paul Horn, recruited Warlick as Farm Superintendent in the School of Agriculture. He helped clear the 2000 acres, making way for a proper college campus. He participated in the ceremony of driving the first stake to locate the Administration Building.
When Tech opened in the fall of 1925, Warlick became Buildings and Grounds Superintendent. He levelled a spot on campus for a practice football field. As a reward, Coach Ewing Freeland gave him the privilege of inflating the first football used by the team, nicknamed the Matadors.
Warlick’s memoirs recount the appearance of Tech’s first mascot: “For a mascot I gave the team a nice thoroughbred Hereford bull yearling. The team lost the first game but won the second one by the score of 30 to zero. It was decided that this score should be branded on the side of our mascot at the next game. This was done during halftime at the game that was played on the [Panhandle South Plains] fairgrounds. Then it was decided that it would be fun for some of the students to try to ride the mad bull. I offered a ten-dollar bill to any successful rider. Several tried but were promptly dumped. This rodeo was more popular with the large crowd than the football game. It was repeated thereafter at every game. We took our mascot in the baggage car on all trips.”
The 30-0 game described by Warlick as Tech’s second was in fact its third, against Montezuma College. The first two games were ties — not losses — against McMurry and Austin College. The 1925 football record was 6-1-2, including a 120-0 home win against Wayland Baptist, Tech’s only 100-point win.
In a 0-30 loss at Howard Payne late in the season, Warlick noticed “a cowboy was collecting a group together and pointing to our mascot . . . they planned on seizing our bull. I hurriedly collected a group of Tech boys and we rushed the bull out a back gate and headed for the depot some ten blocks away. We were no sooner in the street than here came the thieves followed by both student bodies. The fact that the baggage door was open saved our mascot, for the baggage master quickly closed and locked the door. Fistfights with bloody noses followed.”
After the season ended, the animal was butchered and barbequed for a team banquet. The bull’s branded hide was to be displayed in the trophy room, but the hide was lost.
There is no evidence of an official Tech mascot for another 25 years.
Briefly in the early ‘50’s, a sleek Angus bull mascot, "The Black Invader," appeared at football games but proved to be a jinx, with Tech losing most games. After Fulton rode Blackie at the Gator Bowl in 1954, the Masked Rider became the official Texas Tech mascot.
Warlick died in 1984. Descendants of his extended family include many distinguished Lubbock citizens: former Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr, lawyer Warlick Carr, pediatrician Dr. Robert Carr, former Tech cheerleader Virginia Carr Carter, orthopedist Dr. Robert V. Carr, psychologist Dr. Brian Carr, dentist Dr. David Carr and RN Julie Carr Coffern — all Tech graduates.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Caprock Chronicles: The bull that became BBQ: The true story of Texas Tech’s first mascot