Posted On: 2021-8-20
Pop would be the first to tell you that he has an affinity for eagles. Even though his favorite game bird is the wild turkey, he has always been crazy about the majesty of our nation’s symbol.
I’ve mentioned before that we have a nesting pair of bald eagles here at Rocky Creek that Pop and the Missus call Captain America and Wonder Woman. They had at least two juveniles with them at the pond (sushi bar) a couple of months ago but their kids have probably moved on to stake out their own territory.
Of course, the eagle is prominently displayed as the centerpiece of the Marine Corps emblem and you probably already know that Pop was an Eagle Scout.
What you may not be aware of, though, is his relationship to one of Auburn’s iconic golden eagles, War Eagle IV. Her name was Tiger and she was at Auburn from 1964 to 1980. We’re called the Auburn Tigers because our mascot is a tiger. And our salutation and battle cry is “War Eagle!”
Pop’s service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, first began its relationship with Auburn’s eagles in 1960 when they took responsibility for building a large cage for War Eagle III and became its caretaker. Thus began the 40 year saga of Delta Chapter taking Tiger to Auburn athletic events.
War Eagle IV came to Auburn in 1964 following the death of her predecessor. She lived in a relatively small (by eagle standards) cage previously used to house research monkeys, composed of wire fencing material about 50 feet around and maybe 15 feet high with a small perch and an enclosure to escape inclement weather. In the early 70s, Pop’s pledge class project was to raise the funds necessary to design and build a much larger aviary which became, at the time, the second largest single bird enclosure in the country. It was built in a much more conspicuous location just east of the stadium where fans could see her up close and personal. Pop said he and his brothers were fortunate and privileged to be able to feed Tiger, keep her healthy and maintain her aviary. A couple of guys were designated as her trainers and they handed down their acquired expertise over the years to brothers who would eventually take their place. Their efforts were a labor of love and pretty much taken for granted since most folks didn’t really know or care who looked after her. The fraternity showcased Tiger at football games where she would sit regally on her sideline perch. She died of natural causes in 1980 at the age of 22.
War Eagles V and VI (also each called Tiger as per custom) were also overseen by the fraternity until 2000 when responsibility was practically relinquished to the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Southeastern Raptor Center. With the aviary no longer needed and the real estate desired for campus building expansion, it was eventually torn down in 2003.
To their credit, the Southeastern Raptor Center has done an admirable job of not only caring for subsequent War Eagles but also training some to fly freely around the stadium during pre-game festivities while nearly 90,000 adoring fans chant “Waaaaar Eagle” until it lands at mid-field. These flights have become one of college football’s iconic sports moments.
War Eagle VII was named Nova, breaking with the tradition of her predecessors being named Tiger. War Eagle VIII was named Aurea.
Although Auburn’s War Eagles continue to be exclusively golden eagles, the Southeastern Raptor Center has displayed a very talented bald eagle named Spirit at events around the country. At 25 years of age, Spirit will retire from flight demonstrations on November 13th of this year at Jordan-Hare stadium. Like Spirit, Auburn has another bald eagle in training, named Independence (called Indy) to serve alongside Aurea at football games.
Like I said, Pop loves flying and he loves eagles. Even though we get to see ‘em flying around here nearly every day, he said this War Eagle connection makes him even more proud to be an Auburn Tiger.