In 1966, John Lowery, the father of a CU freshman from Lubbock, Texas, donated to the school a six-month old buffalo calf from Sedgewick, Colo. For a while, she was billed as “Rraalph,” the name given by the student body after sounds she allegedly made while running and snorting (original handlers will tell you something else). An astute fan soon discovered that the buffalo was in fact a female, thus the name alteration to Ralphie.
The initial tradition was for CU’s five sophomore class officers to run the buffalo around the stadium in a full loop. They would pick her up from caretaker C.D. “Buddy” Hays at the Green Meadows Riding Stable, and would run her for two hours in the morning to tire her a bit to keep her under control by the time the game started. At the conclusion of the run, the fans would break into the “Buffalo Stomp,” which would literally shake the stadium in deafening fashion as the team took the field. But CU officials soon had the tradition stopped because of the actual physical damage it was causing.
Around that same time, head coach Eddie Crowder was approached with the idea the charging buffalo running out on the field before the game with the team behind right her. Crowder thought it was a great idea, and the debut of this great tradition took place on Oct. 28, 1967, CU’s homecoming game against Oklahoma State. Though OSU won the game, 10-7, the tradition was here to stay, though those who had some training in such an endeavor as working with a wild animal eventually replaced the sophomores. The five sophomores appointed themselves as the board of directors of a fundraising effort to bring Ralphie to the ’67 Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston, raising the necessary money through selling stock.
Ralphie attended every CU home football game for 13 years (including all bowls), and retired at the end of the 1978 season. CU’s first Ralphie achieved nationally celebrity status, and was even kidnapped in 1970 by some Air Force Academy students as well as being named the school’s 1971 Homecoming Queen at the height of the anti-establishment era.
In 1976, The Bank of Boulder and its president Steve Bosley, proposed to Crowder they would do a fundraiser to send Ralphie I to the Orange Bowl Game with Ohio State.
When a reporter asked Bosley how Ralphie would travel to Miami, he explained that the information was top secret since CU was concerned that Ohio State students would try to kidnap (or “buffalo-nap”) Ralphie. The story of the potential “buffalo-napping” made newspapers nationwide, featuring a picture of Ralphie in full charge with her handlers. The story stimulated over $25,000 in donations. Ralphie’s trip to the Orange Bowl cost $2,500, and the balance was put into a fund for Ralphie’s future care.
In 1978, when Ralphie became ill, Bosley organized a search headed by Buddy Hays, who discovered a calf named Moon, short for Moonshine, which was owned by Boulder native Lyn Russell Holt. Holt grew up raising mainly domestic animals, but was an accomplished bull rider in area rodeos who loved buffalo. Bosley, The Bank of Boulder, and bank director Robert Confer bought Moonshine from Holt and donated her to CU. But the name Ralphie had become so popular that former athletic director Eddie Crowder made it permanent.