Posted 1 year ago
Near the end of the 1890s in the town of Eastland, Texas, a new county courthouse was built. As was the custom, a time capsule was assembled to be placed in the cornerstone of this new building. Someone thought it an amusing idea to toss a horned toad into the box. Horned toads (horny toads, we called them when I was young) were then a commonly encountered resident of the American Southwest; a slow, benign, fat-bodied lizard that became easy prey for American cats, dogs, and children (not to mention the pesticides).
Moving forward thirty-one years to 1928, the Eastland County Courthouse was replaced by a more modern structure. When the old building was razed, the time capsule was opened in a public ceremony. Reports say someone noticed "a twitch", plucked out the lizard, and with a little urging it came back to life. Newspapers of the area dubbed the horned toad "Old Rip" after the character Rip Van Winkle. It became a national celebrity and toured the country, even "visiting" President Calvin Coolidge. After two years of celebrity, Old Rip died. He was taxidermied, placed in a little bier, and put on display in the new courthouse. His shrine became a tourist attraction in Eastland.
Also located in Eastland was Horton Ceramics. Sometime in the 1930s, Horton began making Old Rip replicas for school children who toured the plant. Horton was also exclusive contractor for House of Webster (an Arkansas based vendor of jams, jellies, and honeys) and eventually (1954) changed their name to House of Webster Ceramics. They continued making these hollow castware replicas well into the 1970s and they are possibly as plentiful as the actual horny toads today.