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Big Ten Countdown: 32 - Nebraska Legends

Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock

For every story that is told an event has to take place for it to be true or an idea has to pop into someones head in order to make it a creative tale. Well, sometimes both are used and the resulting story can turn into a legend over time.  Well, since Nebraska is now a member of the Big Ten west Legends Division, I thought it might be fun to share some legends that have originated from the state of Nebraska.

A good list of legends can be found at

There are stories of Crazy Horse,

Young Crazy Horse pushed his brother up into the nearest tree and himself sprang upon the back of one of the horses, which was frightened and ran some distance before he could control him. As soon as he could, however, he turned him about and came back, yelling and swinging his lariat over his head. The bear at first showed fight but finally turned and ran. The old man who told me this story added that young as he was, he had some power, so that even a grizzly did not care to tackle him. I believe it is a fact that a silver-tip will dare anything except a bell or a lasso line, so that accidentally the boy had hit upon the very thing which would drive him off.

ghost towns and ghost stories,

Crookston, Nebraska is just one of the many farming settlements that arose in the 19th century that have been "replaced" by nearby, larger towns. As transportation got easier in the 20th century, bigger towns close to the community offered more goods and services and before long, Crookston was a semi-ghost town.

the Oregon Trail,

The Oregon Trail became one of the key migration routes that pioneers crossed on their way to the vast west. Spanning over half the continent the trail proceeded over 2,170 miles west through territories that would later become Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. The long journey through endless plains, rolling hills, and mountain passes, began in Independence, Missouri and ended at the Columbia River in Oregon.

and and early 1800's version of "Escape from the Death Star".


A little below was an island, at the upper end of which was a great raft of driftwood in the water. Colter dived under this raft and after some trouble got his head above the water between large logs which screened him from view. He had hardly done this when the Indians came down the river bank yelling like fiends. They hunted the shores, walked out on the raft of driftwood over Colter's head, pulling the logs and peering among them for hours. Once Colter thought they were about to set the raft on fire. Not until after dark, when the Indians were no longer heard, did Colter dare to venture from his hiding place. He swam down the river a long distance, and then came out on the bank. He was alone in the wilderness, naked, without a weapon and with his feet torn to pieces by the sharp cactus thorns. He was hundreds of miles from the nearest trading post on the Yellowstone, in a country of hostile savages. But he was alive and fearless and strong.

There are also stories of ghosts.

But, this is a Nebraska football fan sight, so what story about Legends of Nebraska would be complete without the Legend of where the Cornhusker mascot came from.

Charles "Cy" Sherman is known as the "father of the Cornhuskers" after giving the Nebraska Cornhuskers Football team the name Cornhuskers in 1899. During the 1890 through 1899 seasons, the Huskers had been called multiple names including Treeplanters, Rattlesnake Boys, Antelopes, Old Gold Knights and Bugeaters. The school was changing its school colors to scarlet and cream in 1892 and the Old Gold Knights no longer made sense. By 1892, the team's most commonly used nickname was the Bugeaters, named after the insect-devouring bull bats. Charles "Cy" Sherman was writing for the Nebraska State Journal in 1899 and was the first to use the name Cornhuskers to refer to Nebraska, which would become the only used name for the team in 1900. The reason for the change was that Sherman thought the name Bugeaters was unglamorous and was tired of referring to the Nebraska teams with that name. Sherman then became the sports editor of The Lincoln Star, later on and was made an honorary member of the Nebraska letterman's club for his contribution. He would help originate the Associated Press Poll for ranking football teams several years later.

I found it interesting that Herbie Husker is as young as he is. He has only been around since 1974.

Prior to 1900, the University of Nebraska's athletic teams were known by several nicknames, including the Bugeaters, Antelopes and the Old Gold Knights. Local sportswriter Charles S. Sherman grew tired of filing stories that referred to Nebraska's teams by these names. He knew that the University of Iowa had occasionally used the Cornhusker nickname. When Iowa opted to use the Hawkeye as its mascot, Sherman began calling the Nebraska teams Cornhuskers.

Nebraska's official state nickname was "Tree Planter's State" state from 1895 to 1945. Prior to 1895, the state carried several unofficial nicknames, including "The Beef State," "The Antelope State," "The Bug-Eating State" and "The Blackwater State." From the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, state license plates bore the "The Beef State" moniker. From 1969 to 1975 the plates read "Cornhusker State."

In 1974, the Nebraska football team traveled to Texas to play in the Cotton Bowl. Dirk West, an artist from Lubbock, Texas, conjured up a rugged-looking cartoon character to represent Nebraska in the promotional material. Don Bryant, Nebraska's sports information director, asked West for permission to use the caricature. West refined the character some more, and it eventually took the name "Herbie Husker." The image became a registered logo of the University of Nebraska athletics department.