Milligan receives stuffed buffalo

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com

   In addition to recruiting athletes, the Milligan athletic department has now taken to recruiting large animals. Greeting Milligan sports fans, opponents, and curious passersby that enter Steve Lacy Fieldhouse is a seven-feet tall, nine-feet long, and five-feet wide stuffed buffalo.
   Ray Smith, head of Milligan athletics, recently received a call from Tom Gentry, a former Elizabethton resident. "He said, how would you like to have a stuffed buffalo? If my memory is correct, you are the Buffaloes," Smith recalled.
   A bit bewildered at the question, Smith inquired further. "He said, all you have to do is come and pick it up, and you can have it," Smith said of Gentry's reply.
   "It's pretty neat, seeing how we're the Buffaloes, and we don't have one," Smith said.
   Killed on an Indian reservation in South Dakota at the time the classic movie "Dances with Wolves" was being filmed there, the buffalo fell into the hands of a taxidermist, after he left the meat on the reservation in accordance with their law. The stuffing process took 400 hours of labor.
   After keeping the buffalo for several years, the taxidermist stumbled into a peculiar deal. He traded his stuffed buffalo as a down payment on a Chevrolet truck.
   The reason for the allowance of this odd trade was because Gentry's daughter, Missy Rotenberry, worked in the administration department of the Chevrolet Corporation, and is also involved in the Memory Lane Antique Mall in Christiansburg, Virginia.
   The buffalo, currently named Jerry, resided at the antique store until now. Smith isn't sure if the college will keep the name. "Maybe the student body can have a hand in (naming the buffalo)," Smith added.
   The buffalo's most recent duty was to welcome antique shoppers at the Memory Lane entrance while disguised as a Christmas reindeer.
   "It was part of a Christmas display," Smith said. "We couldn't pick it up until after Christmas." Smith said during its stay at the antique mall, the buffalo had a $15,000 price tag hanging from its horns.
   The store, which is in the process of moving, did not want to attempt to move the monstrous animal. Rotenberry decided to donate it to a college that could use it as a mascot. After the thundering herd of Marshall University turned down the offer because they already had a buffalo, Gentry called Smith at Milligan.
   Smith checked with the Milligan president, called Gentry, and began the complicated process of figuring out how to transport the new mascot. After measuring everywhere the buffalo would have to move through, Smith worked out the details and set out for Christiansburg to pick up his new recruit.
   "We had a tough time finding a truck that was big enough," Smith said. He brought it to the college, unloaded it in front of the fieldhouse, and had to rent a lift to heave the buffalo to its current resting place above the revolving doors in the fieldhouse.
   "The thing that is so striking about it is its size - the majesty of it," Smith said. "It really turned out well."
   Angled toward the basketball court, the buffalo encompasses the spirit of Milligan College and looks menacingly down on teams that travel Lacy Fieldhouse to face the Buffs.
   "We may put some offset lighting on it," Smith said. "It'll be a conversation piece, to say in the least."