Tom Shevlot (‘84) was digging through an old file when he noticed an old photograph back from his time at Taylor University in the 1980s.
He’s in it, and so are his buddies. His eyes go straight to the object that one of his other friends is holding: a children’s ride-on horse.
Taylor, like many universities across the country, has its fair share of traditions. Some are iconic (Silent Night), some are crazy (Melon and Gourd), all of them are pretty fun. The Trojan Horse falls into those latter two categories.
And yet, while traditions like Airband and Melon and Gourd continue to take place each school year, the tradition involving that black ride-on horse has appeared to fizzle out. The antics involving the horse peaked back in the 1980s and 1990s.
“This was nostalgia,” Shevlot said. “This was a big part of Taylor from (1979) to (1985).”
Shevlot and some friends purchased the ride-on horse at a Friday night auction sale back in 1981. The idea was that because Taylor’s athletic teams were the Trojans, the ride-on horse could serve as a mascot, especially for big athletic events like the football games.
The horse was a hit.
Shevlot and his friends, who were known as Slugs, a name given to them by former Dean of Students Walt Campbell, stashed the ride-on horse inside Samuel Morris Hall. Eventually, the men of Wengatz Hall decided to steal it, and so began another Taylor tradition, another chapter in the storied rivalry between Samuel Morris and Wengatz Halls.
According to Shevlot, up until, and even after he graduated, the two dorms went back and forth stealing the Trojan Horse from one another. Whoever was in current possession of the horse was responsible for showing it off at two big university events. That gave the opposing dorm a chance to steal the horse back. According to Shevlot, the women’s dorms were involved too, as he said a lot of the women had boyfriends in either Sammy or Wengatz.
Shevlot said that Sammy once stole the horse back from Wengatz during Airband. After Wengatz ran across the stage with the horse during the show, a group from Samuel Morris was waiting on the other side of the stage where they ambushed the guys from Wengatz. A wild chase ensued, which ended with Sammy narrowly escaping with the horse in a Jeep.
Anything to protect that ride-on horse.
“It was sacred,” Shevlot said. “It was like the golden calf. We protected it at all costs.” Obviously the Trojan Horse wasn’t an idol, but Shevlot and his friends took the tradition — and the horse — seriously.
And yet by the time Chris Balkema (‘93) arrived on campus in 1989, that heated rivalry involving the Trojan Horse and the two dorms had started to sputter out.
“It wasn’t really a battle anymore,” Balkema said.
Balkema served as the Inter-Class Council (ICC) president his senior year. At that point, the horse was being given to the winner of Taylathon, yet another famous TU tradition. The horse was no longer the main story, just the trophy handed out to the winner of the bike race. Theft was still involved: According to the May 7, 1993, edition of The Echo, the sophomores stole the Trojan Horse away from the seniors after they cruised to a victory at the 1993 Taylathon.
According to Balkema, the battle for the horse was now more between the classes than the dorms.
And by 1993, the horse being given to the winners of Taylathon was not the one that Shevlot and his buddies had purchased back in the early 1980s. According to an April 30, 1993, edition of The Echo, Balkema told the paper that they had to get a new horse figure after it was suspected that the class of ‘92 buried the previous one. The whereabouts of the original appear to be a mystery that could remain, at least at this point, unsolved.
While the Trojan Horse might be less significant today, it still serves as a talking point for Shevlot and the Slugs, who keep in touch with one another.
According to Shevlot, the Slugs still text each other, pray for each other, and even meet up occasionally at a gathering they have dubbed “Slugfest.”
“After all these years we’re still very grounded,” Shevlot said.
The tradition may have faded, but that community formed by Shevlot and his pals remains the same.
“It made a lot of fun,” Shevlot said. “It really did.”