When Alan Brown was in 7th grade, he was enamored by his Sunday School teacher’s stories of serving as the bear trainer at Baylor University. The idea of becoming the bear trainer himself became an unshakable goal for the youngster. Once enrolled at Baylor, he knew just what to do. He joined the Baylor Chamber of Commerce, a men’s service organization. It was from this group that a trainer was selected every two years. He first started in the trainer’s assistant program during his sophomore year. Once he was a Junior, the moment had arrived, a few interviews and a group vote later, and he was named Baylor Bear Trainer, holding the title from 1988 until 1990.
The first order of business was to go to South Dakota to select the next Baylor Bear from a collection of 85 young bear cubs. When Brown arrived, he found all of the cubs lined up in washing machine boxes with almost 15 bears in each box. “They were crawling all over each other. But I knew I wanted a black bear, so that narrowed it down,” recalled Brown. That day, Brown carried a little bear cub back to Waco who would later be called Judge Zachariah Bobo but would go by Judge Zach for short.
The first four weeks of their relationship was designed to build a bond between the pair. Brown would bottle feed the cub who lived with him in his apartment. “I never really knew what I’d come home to. One time I found him asleep in the sink with all of the dirty dishes,” laughed Brown.
After the time of bonding was complete, the pair would spend three weeks with a professional animal trainer to get comfortable performing. At the time, it was common for a performance to include drinking Dr. Pepper at sporting events, schools, or special events, among other tricks. Brown would frequent band practice with the bear to keep him accustomed to loud noises, similar to what he would experience at games. The duo had a custom truck and trailer that would carry them all over the country. When flying, Judge Zach would hitch a ride in the cargo hold. After his time as the Baylor Bear, Judge Zach went on to retire at a Christian Camp with a robust forest for him to explore. “It was the adventure of a lifetime,” expressed Brown.
Written by Jill Janes