Rusty, the Star-Telegram’s longhorn steer, is headed to one of Fort Worth’s most popular attractions.
Sometime in the next several weeks, Rusty will be donated to the Fort Worth Herd. He’s moving on because his pasture at the Star-Telegram’s printing facility is going away soon.
“With our plans to sell the South Plant facility, we’re thrilled to find a great new home for Rusty,” said Star-Telegram Publisher Gary Wortel. “By donating him to the Fort Worth Herd, we know that he’ll be very popular with tourists and business travelers alike, just as he has been with our readers for many years.”
Rusty will be used to educate folks about the history of longhorns and as a greeter for conventions and other events. His first appearance is scheduled to be in September for the Texas Society of Association Executives convention where he’ll appear in Sundance Square.
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“Rusty will become part of our special events crew,” said Kristin Jaworski, the herd’s trail boss. “He will be involved in education programs and will greet thousands of tourists every day.”
He will not be part of the daily herd, where 16 steers are driven through the Stockyards but will be housed in a pen with two other halter steers, Rojo and Norman, who were recently part of a Ford commercial.
When he will actually be transferred to the herd remains to be decided. Jaworski is currently working on the herd’s annual fundraiser, the American Cowboy Gala, that takes place Thursday.
‘We’re still working out the logistics,” Jaworski said.
The original Rusty was purchased by former Star-Telegram publisher Rich Connor in the 1980s, but no one was sure what to do with him.
Enter Scott Fagerstrom, who was writing a business column about Texas stocks for the Star-Telegram business pages in the mid-90s.
Fagerstrom, who now has his own Minneapolis public relations firm, was talking to colleagues about longhorn lottos, where cattle would drop their load and people would win prizes based on where the cow chips fell.
“I was kidding but (Star-Telegram Executive Editor) Jim Witt happened to be walking by and said, ‘That is the greatest idea in the history of journalism,’ ” Fagerstrom said, commenting “There was that Watergate thing — but oh well.”
Fagerstrom didn’t realize it at the time, but his name would forever be linked with Rusty.
“The thing is, if you Google my name, one of the first things that comes up is Rusty,” he said. “It’s kind of weird. I guess it’s my legacy. So be it.”
In a Jan. 5, 1997, article, Fagerstrom described the way Rusty would make his picks in a checkerboard-style-pen in Sundance Square.
“To make his selections — pardon us, there’s no delicate way to say this — he let the chips fall where they may,” Fagerstrom wrote.
The original Rusty was diagnosed with numerous tumors and euthanized in 2005, bringing an end to his annual contest against the investment pros after nine years.
“From 1997 to 2005, he averaged a yearly return of 12 percent, enough to top the Dow Jones industrial average’s 8.3 percent annual gain for the same period and barely behind the experts’ performance of 14.3 percent,” a Jan. 1, 2006, Star-Telegram article said.
That article started: “Let his tombstone read: ‘He beat the market.’ ”
The second Rusty, now 14 years old and weighing roughly 1,700 pounds, has made appearances at the Stock Show and other events.
In 2010, he took the grand champion ribbon for senior steers born in or before 2004, but his highest-profile appearance may have been in Sundance Square during the week leading up the Super Bowl in 2011, where he was asked to predict the winner of Super Bowl XLV.
It may have been the Arctic blast that week but Rusty’s prognostication skills were off. He chose the Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost to the Green Bay Packers, 31-25.
Since then, Rusty has been biding his time at the Star-Telegram’s South Plant, which is scheduled to be sold.
“He’s just trying to mow the grass,” said Donnie LeGrand, his handler. “He just eats.”
But LeGrand says Rusty will do just fine as a member of the Fort Worth Herd.
“It’s bittersweet, but at least he’s going to be doing what he’s good at.”