Better know a ... Mountaineer?

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May 18, 2013 at 9:17p

I beg you permit me, my fellow Buckeyes, during this long offseason to spin a yarn about our neighbors to the east. Work takes me all over the country and on Friday morning I found myself in Morgantown, WV. While I will always bleed scarlet and grey, as a fan of college football I love it when I get to work in other college towns and see how the other half lives. If time permits I try to hit up famous/favorites places to eat or at least drive by famous sites or campus landmarks. I had worked in Morgantown quite a few times over the past few years and was fairly familiar with the campus, and as I had a second stop in Pittsburgh before I was able to return to our beloved Columbus, there was no time for wandering around. I work in real estate and my destination was a recently developed apartment complex.

I met with the owner/developer who, not surprisingly was a huge football fan. I asked about how he expected a Geno Smith-less West Virginia would perform this year and he replied back, "About the same as a Braxton Miller-less Ohio State." Touché dear sir, touché. We talked about their defense, or lack thereof last year and he said that Keith Patterson, the current DC for WV lived in one of his apartments or houses (I can't remember, but I hope they are paying him enough to live in a house). He said that while there are many question marks post Geno, Patterson feels confident that we will see a much improved defense this year from the 'Eers.

In an interesting coincidence, his grandfather was the original Mountaineer mascot for West Virginia University in the 1920s. A cursory search of the internet names Clay Crouse, the original Mountaineer mascot in 1927. I assume the picture below is a statue of the Mountaineer and not my host's actual grandfather. He made a distinction that he was the first "unofficial" mascot because the first "official" mascot was not named until years later. I asked why they made it official and he said that the university needed to be able to control the image. Apparently in years past there had been some iterations of the Mountaineer who found that West Virginia moonshine a little too agreeable and would get drunk at games which caused some embarrassment for the university. One Mountaineer in particular would go get drunk during halftime with the head cheerleader (a man) and they would often come out loaded for the second half. When your mascot is also carrying around a real musket which could turn a Redcoat into swiss cheese at 20 paces, you can see where a university of higher learning may become concerned. So they began holding elections for the mascot. Believe it or not, they have had two women Mountaineers over the years, Natalie Tennant in 1990 and Rebecca Durst from 2009 to 2010.

So we are walking through this apartment complex and we knock on the door of the next unit we need to enter and who answers the door but a steely eyed man with a big friendly smile and the most magnificent beard I have seen in person in a long time. It was none other than Jonathan Kimble, the current Mountaineer. Now, sometimes when you meet someone that you have seen on television, I wonder if that is what they are like in real life. Well, having met Mr. Kimble and walked through where he lives I can tell you, he was born to play the Mountaineer and is the real deal. And honestly, that makes me like him and our eastern neighbors a little bit more. This is not a theater major playing the role of a mountain man, this is a guy who when not decked out in buckskin is in his camo pajamas (as seen below) preparing to hunt what I can only assume to be a liger. You may remember, a while back when Mr. Kimble got in trouble and made the news for killing a black bear with his trusty WVU issued musket. I am sure many school officials never thought that they would see the day when they would have to tell their team mascot to not murder a bear with a prop that they gave to him to wave around at football games. I love Brutus, but damn, that is pretty cool. When it was disclosed that I was an OSU alum and fan, he shoot me a gaze and said, "Oklahoma State?" to which I responded, "No, the real one." I followed up with, "We're rivals geographically, but not in conference." He smiled and said, "You want to see the musket?" "You're damn right I want to see the musket!!!!" was my thought, but I said, "Yes please." and he went out to his truck to fetch it, as seen at right. He also let me see the powder horn, coon skin cap and the rest of the outfit. I asked, "How old is the musket?" He said," They make a new one about every 8 years." Having just been told about the drunken exploits of past Mountaineers I asked if he had any restrictions to wearing the outfit in public placed on him by the university. That also reminded me of when a Brutus got in trouble for going out on Halloween one year to get his drink on and probably try to bed a slutty-looking Alice in Wonderland, Rainbow Brite, or the hotter of the two Doublemint Twins. He said, "I have around 400 engagements that I must attend every year, so I am usually in the buckskins every day so there really isn't much novelty to putting it on when not at an official function." That is a crazy amount of appearances for a student (sports management) who does this on the side. I asked how comfortable the outfit was and he said that each costume is handmade and tailored to each Mountaineer. He then excused himself as duty called as he was heading to Parkerburg, WV for an event where he had to make an appearance. We continued our walkthrough and a few minutes later he comes out in all his Davy Crockett-looking glory and smiles and waves. I shot one final question at him, "What came first, the beard or the job?" He ran a hand through his impressive array of auburn whiskers and said,"I just got re-elected to my second year in this job. I've had the beard for three." He then hopped in his truck and drove off. While I love the Buckeyes, I admit, it was a pretty cool experience for a random Friday afternoon.

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