Poultry in the South Carolina State House: One fowl's special day

Published: Mar. 5, 2014 at 9:45 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 15, 2014 at 8:24 PM EDT
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Sir Big Spur honored by SC House of Representatives
Sir Big Spur honored by SC House of Representatives

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's not often barnyard animals are allowed in the South Carolina State House.  The last time it was done, legally, was in 2004 when Governor Sanford brought piglets into the legislature to protest the budget.

Ten years later, the hallowed halls of South Carolina government received another visitor from the animal kingdom.  But since he is a symbol of the state's flagship university and metaphor for one of South Carolina's greatest patriots, this one gets a free pass. Even when he crows during the House's opening prayer.

Wednesday, the University of South Carolina mascot, Sir Big Spur, was honored with a proclamation by members of the South Carolina House of Representatives.

"Mary Snelling and Ron Albertelli have done so much for the University of South Carolina, all across this country, at their own expense going to games, so that deserves to be recognized," said Representative William Clyburn, who represents Aiken County, where Sir Big Spur and his keepers roost.

You can easily say Sir Big Spur is the most-traveled Gamecock.  He's accompanied University of South Carolina sports teams to games and events across the country.  He made the trip halfway across the Pacific for a basketball tournament in Hawaii.

Snelling and Albertelli don't do it for the recognition.  They do it for the love of the Gamecocks, and each other.

"I've enjoyed this," Albertelli said. "It's something that I've never done before.  I've been never been in the state house in Massachusetts where I was born and raised, so this was a very enjoyable experience."

Albertelli admitting he was a --gasp-- yankee?  Honored in the South Carolina State House?  Not far from the symbol of the state's defiance of the federal government and the Union?

"He's the worst kind of yankee," said Snelling, referring to the old native joke. "He moved here and stayed.  We've been together for a very long time and I've been converting him from being a yankee.  That's why he can say 'y'all.'"

As for Clyburn, he's all for it.

"You ask me that, I feel very good about yankees, if you know the history, and I know you do," he said, sparking laughter all around.

USC graduates turned lobbyists and future Gamecocks visiting the State House Wednesday got up close to the television sports celebrity. Adults and school kids flocked to pet the rooster and have their photos taken with him. 

For 15 years Snelling and Albertelli have been taking Sir Big Spur to games and special appearances.  Yet Albertelli insists he did not train the Old English black breasted red gamecock to crow on cue.

"I apologize for the fact that he wanted to participate in the prayer," said Albertelli. "But that's just what he does. He enjoys talking and sometimes at games during the Star Spangled Banner.  We just have to let him do his thing.  If I could teach a bird how to do things on cue, I'd be worth a lot of money."

As for Sir Big Spur's cock-a-doodle-doo in the State House?

"He does what he thinks is right," he said.

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