I remember when I first saw it. It was on a camper’s T-shirt at JH Ranch, a Christian camp where I served as a kitchen worker the summer of ’99, after my freshman year at Texas A&M.
It was the most stunning example of a superior collegiate mascot I could imagine. It still is.
It’s the Banana Slug.
From the moment I knew I was taking this trip, I knew I too would soon own a University of California Santa Cruz Banana Slugs shirt. As of yesterday, I do.
The University of California System has some unique mascots, to be sure. The UCLA Bruins are awful well-known, but UC schools also have Aardvarks (Zot!), Gauchos (it’s an Argentine Cowboy), and Tritons – all at campuses I’ve seen in the last month. But the Banana Slug takes the cake for uniqueness, in my opinion.
Banana slugs are large, yellow slugs native to the Santa Cruz campus. You can read about them at Wikipedia. You can also read the interesting history of the fight to keep this noble creature as the symbol of UCSC.
So yesterday I made it to UC Santa Cruz’s woodsy, very “northern California” campus, hunting for a T-shirt. But not just that – I wanted to see an actual banana slug.
The problem is, I’m pretty afraid of slugs. Really, they’re probably the animal I’m most freaked out by. I don’t like their bodies. I don’t like the trails they figure it’s okay to leave behind. I sure get freaked out by their susceptibility to salt, which is just a really creepy way to die. I don’t like the way you walk out the back door and there are like twenty of them all over the sidewalk. (Maybe that’s only happened to me. When I was young and impressionable.)
But I searched and even prayed that I might see one of the little guys, because I’m really curious about animals – even those I hate. I figured that would be a nice little adventure in my exploration of UC Santa Cruz.
And lo and behold, as I was walking the campus, I actually saw one. So I took 42 pictures and let him crawl on my Red X that I take a pic of at each campus and even got up the guts to touch him. Yikes! Banana slug!
Click on the pictures to see ’em big. Put your mouse over the pictures to see the captions.
Written from the Student Union at San Jose State University