WORDS & NUMBERS
los cuentas y cuentos
A Fowl Account Compiled & Digested from Various Sources
by David Arthur Walters
Kansas is the home of the Jayhawk, a mythical bird said to fly backwards because it doesn't give a damn where it's going - it only cares where it's been. The name became well known around 1850, after Illinois gold-rushers in Death Valley dubbed themselves "the Jayhawkers."
The Jayhawk combines the attributes of two birds: the blue jay, a noisy, quarrelsome creature known to rob other nests; and the "sparrow hawk', a stealthy hunter - the latter is not actually a sparrow hawk but is the American Kestrel. In any case, be careful: do not turn your back
During the 1850's, Kansas Territory was a battleground between those who wanted Kansas to become a Free State and those in favor of slavery. The factions attacked each other's settlements, rustling cattle, killing each other, looting and sacking homes. The ruffians on both sides of the Missouri-Kansas line were called "Jayhawkers" at the time, but the name eventually stuck to the Free Staters. The Jayhawk became a patriotic symbol during the Civil War. In 1861. Kansas Governor Charles Robinson commissioned Dr. Charles Jennison as colonel and charged him with raising a cavalry regiment. 'Doc' Robinson named it the Independent Mounted Kansas Jayhawks Regiment - its official name was the First Kansas Cavalry, which later on became the Seventh Kansas Regiment. Before the war ended, the term "Jayhawks" would once and for all refer to the people who struggled to make Kansas free.
Of course Lawrence, Kansas, the Jayhawker's stronghold, was brutally sacked by Quantrill's Raiders. Lawrence is home to Kansas University - the Jawhawk is the KU mascot. The mythical Jayhawk bird debuted when KU's famous Rock Chalk chant was first voiced in 1886: "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU!" (repeat five times). The cheer, inspired by the rhythmic sound of railroad wheels during a train ride, sounds like a Gregorian chant. Teddy Roosevelt said it was the best cheer he had ever heard. Kansas troops put the cheer to good use in several wars. Kansas University's first football team was called the Jayhawkers when it took the field in 1890. The Jayhawk bird is crimson and blue: Harvard crimson was selected to honor a Harvard man who donated money to KU; Yale blue was chosen at the best of KU faculty who were Yale grads. Thus the colors of Harvard and Yale, which no longer field varsity teams, survive at KU.