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Bud the Bird

When workers unearthed a 33-inch tall, 200-or-so-pound cast iron eagle in 1994 near what was the original girl's dormitory, most alumni weren't too shocked. Hiding Bud the Bird had long been a tradition on the campus. The real surprise was that, this time, it took some 40 years to find him.

By most accounts, the long-running game of hide-and-seek with Bud began back around 1933. Some alumni swear the first Bud was stolen from a White Eagle gas station. Others are equally convinced he was appropriated from a store that sold Case tractors. At any rate, no one admits to being in on the actual burglary.

According to reports from alumni, the original Bud was made of solid iron and was very heavy. It took two or three males or four or five females to lift him. As the prize in an on-going game of "Capture the Flag," he was hardly a logical choice. But soon after his appearance on campus, students in what was then called the boys and girls dormitories began competing for control of Bud.

Stealing Bud was not without risks. Harry Jensen ’40 and vice president of finance from 1947 to 1987, said one of the steps on the east stairwell of Old Main still bears a dent where Bud was dropped.

"One time when we were students, four of us were carrying it down the stairs," Jensen said. “We dropped it on the toe of one guy and broke his toe."

As the competition intensified, a set of rules began to emerge. They were roughly as follows:

    1. Bud must be hidden on campus.
    2. Bud must be hidden in a place accessible to both male and female students.
    3. Clues to Bud's location must be posted on the bulletin board.
    4. Bud must be displayed at every major Grand View event.

The first three rules were, for the most part, either liberally interpreted or ignored. Hiding places reportedly included Luther Memorial Church and, on at least one occasion, the president's bathroom closet.

The best hiding place, Jensen said, may have been the time a group of students hurried Bud into the coal room in the basement of Old Main, intending to retrieve him in a few days. When they returned, they found the entire room filled with several tons of coal.

"We didn't see Bud all through the winter," he said.

It was the fourth rule to Bud-hiding that really kept the Bud rivalry alive, however. Sometime during the course of every major Grand View gathering, you could count on Bud making a sudden, dramatic — and very brief — appearance.

"He'd be stuck in the middle of the floor and there would be a mad scramble and dash to see who could grab him and disappear with him again," said Norman Petersen of Oshkosh, Wis., a Grand View student from 1948 to 1960.

"Obviously, as you can tell, we were young and dumb," Frost said wryly.

Alumnus Mark Nussle of Palos Park, IL, recalls attending a party in the gymnasium only to look up and see Bud perched on a board above the basketball hoop.

"All of a sudden, the lights went out," he said. When they came back on, Bud was gone.

Actually Bud the Bird could more accurately be called Bud the Birds. Most experts on Bud the Bird agree that the first Bud came to an unhappy, if patriotic, end sometime around 1940 when then president Alfred C. Nielsen, the same guy who reportedly had his closet invaded, donated Bud to the war effort to be used as scrap iron.

Jensen estimates as many as 10 sculpted eagles were eventually recruited by students to bear the Bud the Bird name, including versions made of glass, wood and concrete. As Bud slimmed down, guarding him became even more difficult.

As time went on, the Bud the Bird tradition expanded to include an annual funeral for Bud. At the first dance of each school year students would dress in black, light corncob torches and carry Bud in a casket along Grandview Avenue and down E. Ninth Street, sobbing all the way. When the procession reached the Birdland lagoon, the "pallbearers" carrying the casket would pretend to toss Bud over the bridge into a watery grave. By the time students made their way back to the school, a "Baby" Bud was there and the new school year could officially begin.

By the early 1960s, the rivalry over Bud had spread into a three-way battle among nursing students, residential students and students who lived off-campus. On one night in 1961 or so, the game to control Bud exploded into an all-out brawl.

A few years later, Bud disappeared completely from the campus — with the exception of a brief reappearance in 1977. The Bud uncovered in 1994 was probably Bud II or Bud Jr. as the students called him. That Bud, who was at Grand View in the late 1940s, was cast-iron like the original Bud but had a hollow core. No one knows where the second Bud came from, although Eagle Iron Works, which, at 129 E. Holcomb Ave., is just minutes from the campus, is considered a likely source.

The mystery, then, becomes, who buried Bud? If they wanted him to be found, why didn't they leave clues? Did some students just forget him? Or were administrators trying to do away with him?

And where is Bud now?

Excerpted from an article by Mary Challendar, a 1984 Grand View graduate, which first appeared in the Des Moines Register in August, 1994.