Only 26 years after the Wright Brothers made their first flight, Schulenburg, Texas, welcomed Carnation Badger the Flying Bull. The dairy yearling reached the Central Texas town after a 1,232-mile journey from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, on April 3, 1929. That audacious Texas-sized publicity stunt thrilled thousands.
Carnation Badger the Flying Bull, whose official pedigree name was Carnation Badger Aero Lone Star, was, indeed, a star. For several months, Carnation Milk Products Company had been promoting him as the focal point of a celebration to mark the groundbreaking of its first Texas milk condensary. The new plant was being constructed at a cost estimated between $300,000 and $500,000.
The national corporation had a message. It wanted the country to know it had chosen Schulenburg, Texas, as the site of its first southern U.S. plant from among several other strong contenders.
Ten special trains were added to transport crowds to Schulenburg and more visitors drove to town for the big day. Delegations from other Texas towns, including Sulphur Springs, the losing contender for the new Carnation plant, attended the extravaganza. Estimates of the crowd size ranged from 12,000 to 20,000.
The influx taxed the small town of 1,600, which gamely did its best to offer hospitality to the throng.
Schulenburg Rolls Out the Welcome Mat
Bands from Texas A&M, Arabia Temple in Houston and the 23rd Calvary from San Antonio provided entertainment during the parade. When Texas Governor Moody spoke to the assembly, he declared that Texas no longer opposed outside capital coming into the state for the legitimate development of industry.
Carnation Milk Products Company was welcome in Texas! Carnation Milk Products Company was welcome in Schulenburg!
Airplanes Were Still a Rarity
While Governor Moody was making his remarks 92 years ago, the future purebred herd sire was still traveling. Along with several senior members of Carnation’s management, he had boarded a Ford Trimotor Fokker monoplane called The Evening Star. With a wingspan of 63 feet, the long-range, 1920s aircraft weighed 6,800 pounds empty and measured 49 feet long.
“I’m not old enough to remember it, but our family talked about it for years. The plane set down on land that belonged to my great uncle Edward about half a mile north of the High Hill Catholic Church,” says Bernard Ripper of Schulenburg. “I think it was a hayfield or maybe a pasture.”
The crowd that gathered at Mr. Ripper’s field included Texas Governor Dan Moody, Lieutenant Governor Barry Miller and Texas Senator Gus Russek. Also on hand were local officials including Fayette County Judge T.W. Lueders.
The La Grange Journal covered the big event with gusto. An in-depth news story described the excitement. ‘After getting his landing bearings over the airport, the great mechanical bird twice circled the town of Schulenburg and returned to the landing field. At 4:10 o’clock, settled gracefully to earth, where a large crowd was in waiting for its arrival. Carnation Badger was immediately placed in a truck and rushed to the city for the livestock parade.’
The intrepid black and white bovine traveler was presented to Fayette County dairy farmers as a goodwill gesture by Carnation Milk Products Company. Valued at $1,000, Carnation Badger the Flying Bull was worth a small fortune at the time. The average U.S. annual income was $1,368 and the Great Depression was only a matter of months away.
“It must have been quite a spectacle,” says Fayette County historian Gary McKee, whose father served as Carnation plant’s manager years later.
“That Schulenburg was chosen as the plant site is a tribute to the reputation of the area’s German-Czech people. Carnation believed that these farmers could produce the quality and quantity of milk that this new plant needed every day,” Gary comments.
Carnation had embarked on an intensive educational campaign long before the groundbreaking. Farmers learned how to choose crop varieties best suited to feeding milk cows. They were taught about feed store supplements and what milk cow breeds would perform best. Instruction also covered milk barn sanitation standards and the grading of raw milk.
“Carnation made a good decision. The farmers in the counties of Fayette, Lavaca and Colorado did supply the milk. The manufacturing plant had a huge impact on the prosperity of the area during the Great Depression. There were jobs no matter what,” Gary adds.
The numbers reflect Carnation’s impact on the area. Figures in the 1940 Texas Almanac showed 75% of Fayette County’s 5,200 farms were dairy farms. In 1928, no dairy farms were listed in the county. Now there are two, but Fayette County has an abundance of beef cattle.
“Long Filters” Made in Schulenburg
Schulenburg entrepreneur F.H. Nuttlemann capitalized on the novelty of Carnation Badger the Flying Bull. He manufactured a long-filter nickel cigar named Flying Bull. The editor of The Schulenburg Sticker endorsed the product, saying he kept a box on the corner of his desk. Orders came in from as far away as Chicago.
What happened to the fancy blanket that Schulenburg’s famous bovine wore? It’s on display at the Schulenburg Historical Museum with an entertaining display of memorabilia, including a cigar box. (Many thanks to Wanda Carpenter, Gary McKee and Bernard Ripper for sharing their old photos.)
We can’t confirm that the cow in the famous nursery rhyme actually jumped over the moon. However, we do know that a bull, perhaps one of her progeny, pulled off a memorable aeronautical feat of his own.
Don’t you wish you could have been there?
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