Thanks to AL.com reporter Michelle Matthews for this story!
Before the end of the year, two beloved animals associated with Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville will be featured in a new piece of public art displayed in a prominent area so that, decades into the future, everyone will know their story.
The college’s mascot has always been the mustang, but it became more specifically Trouper, a live mustang, after Amber Mathewson, who works at Northeast, adopted him at an auction from the Sierra Madre mountains in Nevada. At the urging of Dr. David Campbell, the college’s president, the mustang started visiting the campus from time to time for parades and other events.
“That was quite a hit, to have a live mustang as a mascot,” says Campbell. “The students love to pet him and feed him an apple. He was quite an addition.”
Not to be outdone, a friendly black lab mix named Roscoe also captured hearts at the college. He’s often seen riding in a golf cart with employees from the maintenance department, occasionally strolls into faculty meetings and prefers to nap in the president’s office. Like Trouper, he even has his own social media accounts.
“When you walk across campus with him, you hear, ‘Hey, Roscoe!’ nonstop,” says Campbell, himself a fixture at Northeast after working there for 42 years, the last 20 as president of the college.
Roscoe, a free-spirited neighborhood dog, made the campus his home after his owners moved and he kept returning to Northeast again and again. “He loved the students, and they loved him,” Campbell says. “He’s like a therapy dog for a lot of them. It makes people happy when they see him.”
It’s no wonder he likes the college so much. “Roscoe has it made,” says Campbell. “He has a good home here, and he’s such a sweet dog.”
More than a decade ago, when a new health education building was dedicated, Campbell wanted to place a bronze statue of a mustang in front of it. He even went to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to investigate the possibility, but he found that such a large statue was cost-prohibitive at the time.
Then, last year, he was talking to art instructor and sculptor Barbara Kilgore, who mentioned that it would be nice to have a statue of Trouper and Roscoe together. As it turns out, Campbell had been saving the proceeds from vending machine sales for years and “we had enough to pay for it,” he says.
“He had it in his heart for this to happen,” Kilgore says of Campbell. Kilgore, whose passion has always been three-dimensional work, excitedly took the reins on the project.
She contacted Craig Wedderspoon, a professor in the sculpture department at the University of Alabama, where Kilgore did her graduate work, to see if their foundry could handle such a large project. The department was contracted to do a mockup and final casting of Kilgore’s life-size design.
“There’s a big crew working on it,” she says.
The statue will depict Trouper and Roscoe “nose-to-nose, in an embracing way,” says Kilgore. She sees it as an expression of the college’s purpose. “Our idea was that we meet our students where they are and take them to the next level.”
Northeast has a reputation for being a close-knit, caring community with a friendly atmosphere. “In a lot of ways, it’s like a small town,” says Campbell. “We all know each other and care for each other. Trouper and Roscoe were also taken in, given a home and treated well.”
The statue will stand on a concrete slab in the grassy Central Quad, the hub of activity on campus.
With an inscription written by Daniel Wallace, the Alabama author best known for writing “Big Fish” and a friend of the college, the statue will tell future generations about Trouper and Roscoe.
“The statue will be around way past our lifetime,” says Kilgore, who looks forward to watching the piece add patina and change over time. “Fifty or sixty years from now, the story will be told to the next generation.”
Though it took years for the statue to become a reality, now it will be even more meaningful as it memorializes Trouper and Roscoe and what they’ve meant to the campus. “It looks like it’s going to have a happy ending,” Campbell says.