Homecoming 2006 kicked off Friday afternoon with Payson High School freshmen and newcomers wondering, "What is the Ugly Longhorn?"
The homely doggie has its origins in 2002 when student government came up with a creative fund-raising idea.
It revolved around chaining an unsightly Longhorn to various businesses around town along with ransom notes telling the owner how to have the animal removed.
The Ugly Longhorn was created by automotive shop coach Doug Eckhardt and his students out of a wheel, rusted muffler, purple paint and a set of Horns.
"Ugly was born and boy was he ugly," a homecoming sponsor said at the time.
Business owners were to pay student government to have the animal removed from their property and chained to another business in town. They were also asked to pay a "ransom" to make sure Ugly didn't return.
The idea turned sour when some malcontents decided to steal Ugly.
"A bunch of pranksters almost spoiled it for everyone," the sponsor said. "Rumor has it that he was used for target practice and resides now at the bottom of Green Valley Lake."
That was almost the end of Ugly until Eckhardt decided his class would design and build "Ugly II."
With a new Ugly on campus, the rules were also changed with the help of technology.
This year, student government members will now hide Ugly somewhere in town visible from the road. Then, they'll take pictures of Ugly and post them on EDline -- a school Web site.
The tradition now is for students to find where Ugly is hidden, retrieve him, and then return him the next morning to the auto shop.
Student government members will then again go out and hide Ugly so the contest can be replayed throughout homecoming week.
The class, or organization, that finds Ugly the most often is declared the winner.
It's a class competition that draws students looking to become involved in the festivities, sponsors learned. It was also something to cross all the cliques, as students from all different groups join the hunt for the Ugly Longhorn.
There have been several memorable incidents involving Ugly, including the story that homecoming senior Mike Barr found Ugly and is said to have taken him and stored the mascot in his home.
His girlfriend, a junior, is said to have lured Mike out of his own house, sneaked in while he was away and stole him from under his nose. She hid him in her own yard where the seniors found him and once again swiped the mascot.
There was also the homecoming, during which some pranksters decided to build several counterfeit Uglys, creating a stir over which was the original.
For the 2006 homecoming week, the Ugly Longhorn made his first appearance at the pep assembly held Friday. Throughout this week, students will be scouring the town searching for him.
Sponsors agree the activity wastes gas, but say, "It's better than a bunch of kids sitting around doing something questionable."
By the way, there will be no Ugly III. If Ugly II is found in Green Valley Park Lake, the tradition ends.
Eckhardt has said he has no intention of making another one. This would mean, if anyone tries to pilfer Ugly again, it will mean his demise.
That would be a shame. What would homecoming be without an Ugly Longhorn?