It's one of the great traditions of college football.
At every home football game played in War Memorial Stadium since 1950, Cowboy Joe, the University of Wyoming's well-known pony mascot, trots around the turf after each and every Cowboy touchdown. And it all started when Don Joder, a retired airman and physician now living in Riverton, was named the famous Shetland Pony's first handler.
Joder went to college in Laramie initially to study agriculture because of his family background with horses.
"My folks had Arabian horses," Joder said, "good to take care of the pony at games. Nobody wanted to do it, but they knew that I knew horses, so I did it," Joder said.
In 1950 the Cowboys concluded their season with a perfect 10-0-0 record. Joder and Cowboy Joe made two road trips, the first to Denver and to the Press Club in the Brown Palace Hotel. "Cowboy Joe decided to relieve himself at the front door. It was the doorman's job to clean it up, I guess. We just kept going," Joder said.
The Cowboys accepted a New Year's Day invitation to play in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.
Joder and Cowboy Joe were on a special 10-car train to Florida. "When they decided to take him to Florida for the Gator Bowl, everybody wanted to be the handler," Joder said.
The three-day train ride included a stop in Kansas City, where Wyoming's mascot marched from Union Station to the United States courthouse and was treated to supper at the local Saddle and Sirloin club.
Joder, then 19, was the official wrangler of the pony. "We were in a mail car, and we had a Crosley station wagon. It was a little, tiny, car. We had a little trailer and two big boards that were about 15 feet long that put up against the train to roll us on and off. So there I was in Florida with a car and a pony," Joder said. "People would come up to his little corral and they would put their hands on him, and he would bite them. He wasn't very nice. That's why I wore chaps, because he would bite me in my thigh and I couldn't smack him in front of all those people," Joder said.
Cowboy Joe's handlers are students in UW's College of Agriculture," according to the Wyoming athletic website.
After practicing as a pediatric physician in Cheyenne and working for the Wyoming Department of Health, Joder joined the Air National Guard and then retired as a colonel with 18 years active duty experience from the United States Air Force, including three years in Germany where he flew backseat in F-4 fighters as a flight surgeon. "I was one of the older colonels in the Air Force," Joder said.
In retirement, Joder enjoys golf, fishing and woodworking.
From The (Riverton) Ranger