Each year seeing the televised lighting of the Nation’s Christmas Tree on the National Mall located in Washington, DC, causes me to recall the events that lead to the story of the only US Capitol Police officer to have ever sustained injuries as a result of livestock was West Virginia born and raised.
Robert “Bob” Ellis, whether by accident or misadventure became a legend. In the area surrounding the Christmas Tree, there was created a rural setting that included a barn to house live animals one would find on a farm and the sheep that surrounded a manger scene, all intended as a family experience. For years, preparation was made by the Department of Interior and with the assistance of the wives of the members of the US Senate, who were in turn aided by volunteers from the US Capitol Police. One morning as the exhibit was being prepared, the Capitol Police bus arrived and the officers were unloaded next to the barn, next to the livestock truck that had arrived earlier and was being unloaded. At least, that was the plan. The driver of the truck had set up the ramp for the animals but was unable to begin as there was a cow blocking the ramp and refusing to move. Looking at the new arrivals, he ask if there was anyone who knew anything about animals able to give him a hand. Bob to the rescue, ready to put what he knew to good use, all to the cheers of his fellow troops as he climbed the side of the truck, taking hold of the reluctant cow’s harness. Suddenly, the exhibit’s public address came alive with the sounds of “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” and the cow, startled, bolted down the ramp with Bob holding on for dear life as the race continued across the Mall area. As Bob would later say, he didn’t really have time to think other that he had better hold on or risk being trampled, even as he was being tossed up and down and side to side. The mad dash was only a few seconds but finally ended as the cow decided not to get into the rush hour automobile traffic, a thought to which no doubt Bob agreed as he surveyed his torn shirt, trousers and missing hat, as well his injured raw hand.
Someday, there may be discovered in the park behind the White House, on this side of the fence, a US Capitol Police hat along with a few strands from a blue uniform and they’ll wonder how did they get so far from the Capitol. We will know that this is all due to our West Virginia hero who sprang into action, above and beyond, now known as Bob “Stampede” Ellis.
Jack D. Ballard