Bringing Nature to the Bears

March 24, 1999

A new addition to Baylor's bear pit might help mascots Billy and Ginny feel like they are back in their native homes. On Saturday, March 20, a group of seventh- and eighth-grade students from H.P. Miles Middle School in the La Vega school district painted a mural of a woodland scene complete with a stream and jumping trout on one wall of the mascots' Baylor home.

"The professional bear trainer that we use suggested that if we painted the bear pit a dark green, the bears would sleep better," said Josh Pittman, a senior from Waco and Baylor's bear trainer. "I mentioned that suggestion to my mom (who happens to teach at H.P. Miles), and she said that her students could probably do something a little more creative."

Pittman's mother, Linda Stockton, gave the assignment to the students in her gifted and talented class. Each student painted a picture that could be reproduced at the bear pit, and one drawing would be selected. The winning painting was drawn by Matt Hassell.

Pittman had Hassell's painting enlarged and traced on the wall of the bears' sleeping quarters. He also contacted Sherwin Williams, which donated all of the paint that was used for the mural. Then on Saturday morning, 10 of Stockton's students tackled the project. Working until 4 p.m., the young artists completed most of the mural. The members of Baylor's Chamber of Commerce, who oversee the mascots, will complete the mural.

"I have been drawing and painting since I was about six, and I was excited that my painting was chosen," said Hassell. "I think it is neat that I can come out here (to Baylor) and show people that the mural was from my painting. I also liked getting to meet the bear."

Billy and Ginny were both present as the students redecorated their home. Pittman said that Billy was especially interested in the activity. "Ginny was moving kind of slow, because this is the time that bears would be waking up from hibernation," he said. "But Billy showed a lot of interest. All the kids got their pictures taken with him, and he liked all the attention."

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