By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
The Photographic Treasures of Madison County, on downtown Range Street next to the RATT PACT Theater, houses more than just photographs. For the next few weeks, this series will look briefly at some of the more unusual bits and pieces of history that have found a safe haven in the little museum, funded by donations (no admittance charge) and staffed entirely by volunteers from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon.
Madison’s high school mascot has seen several incarnations in its colorful history. Before the MCHS Cowboys were the MCHS Cowboys, roping and riding their way to victory for the maroon and silver as they have been doing for the last three decades, they were the lean, mean Cougars, fighting for the blue and white.
Madison County’s high school students had been the Cougars for three decades as well, when the new high school was built in its current location on west Highway 90 and opened its doors in 1980. A lot of changes were made, and it seemed as good a time as any for a new mascot. The Cougars then morphed into the Cowboys, possibly to distinguish themselves from the Godby High Cougars of Leon County, a team they sometimes played against. Godby High had opened in 1966, so for 14 years, both teams were known as the Cougars.
Going back further in time – up until 1949, the Madison High School teams fought not for the blue and white, but for the red and white – as the Madison High School Red Devils.
This the era most prominently represented by the historic school items on display at Photographic Treasures Museum.
In the front window, a big bass drum, with the name Madison High School stenciled around the edge and the Red Devil mascot logo in the middle, calls up images of high school marching bands in the big, tall band hats marching onto the field at halftime to the boom-boom-booming rhythm of the bass drum that echoed in the pit of the stomach, accompanied by the staccato rat-a-tat-tat of the snare drums.
Maybe it was a crisp fall evening by then, with a hint of frost in the air; maybe it was early in the season, one of those warm, muggy nights for which North Florida is famous. Maybe the score was tied, or maybe it wasn’t even close. Maybe you could smell the popcorn and the hotdogs from the concession stand, where you rushed to get your halftime snack so as not to miss any of the game.
Next to the bass drum is a Red Devils sweatshirt and a Red Devils rain poncho for those evenings when the weather didn’t cooperate with the game schedule. On an old 1960s school desk, there is a photo of two players in mid-tackle, a pair of framed ribbons from a game played against the Jefferson County Tigers, and a football program from a game played against Bristol High School, now known as Liberty County High School.
With such a distinctive mascot, it’s hard to imagine that it could have been anything else before then, yet before they were the Red Devils, they were the Yellow Jackets.
But that’s going waaaay back.