1897, Eastland, TX
. A cornerstone was being laid in the foundation of the new county courthouse
(to replace the old county courthouse
, not to be confused with the original county courthouse
). People put various items in the hollow space in the marble, time capsule style. Just before they sealed the box court clerk Ernest Wood (E.E. to his friends), acting on a whim, grabbed a horny toad
that his son, Will Wood, had picked up on the way in to town and placed it in the box. Entombed forever
. But...31 years later, 1928. Eastland, having decided it needed a NEW new courthouse, was about to demolish the old one. Someone recalled the time capsule, and the unfortunate horny toad, and 3,000 people showed up to see the poor dead lizard. "As a county official held up the dusty reptile, his leg twitched, and then his whole body came alive.""I know it happened because I saw it," one observer said. "I know it didn't happen because it just doesn't make sense." Is this even possible
They named the miracle toad Ol' Rip - like Rip Van Winkle. He became an instant celebrity, toured the country and even gained an audience with President Calvin Coolidge. Life was good for Ol' Rip. Tragically, however, on Jan. 19, 1929, his cage was left out on a sunporch overnight during a cold snap and Ol' Rip proved once and for all that horny toads, at least when not entombed in courthouses, are mortal. Ol' Rip succumbed to pneumonia and died. R.I.P, Rip.
Eastland's most famous resident was placed in yet another box in the courthouse, this one of velvet and glass
. Entombed forever. But...
In 1962 Gubernatorial candidate John Connally (yes, that
John Connally) was baby kissing in Eastland, and went for a photo-op with the venerable and mummified Ol' Rip, and accidentally tore off his leg
. Back in the box, Rip.
Two years later Ol' Rip was toadnapped, for charity and all in good fun, by the local Jaycees
In 1971 Ol' Rip was taken again, this time held ransom by a nefarious person claiming to be a part of the "original conspiracy" to defraud the US of A into believing the tale of Ol' Rip. The nerve! This person demanded his co-conspirators come forward, but none did. Ol' Rip was eventually recovered. He'd been left at the county fairgrounds. Or had he?
Judge Scott Bailey, who served for 36 years (A Texas record
) was quoted as saying: "This toad is fairly well-preserved. The other was more ...mummified."
Now, the most interesting thing about Ol' Rip is that you probably already know him. Only, you know the fictionalized version of Ol' Rip, you know him as Michigan J. Frog
, erstwhile mascot of the WB television network, and star of what Steven Spielberg once called "The Citizen Kane of animated film
", the 1955 Chuck Jones
Loony Toon classic, One Froggy Evening