A man walks into a bar — the Platypus Pub, on Third Street in Bend.
Attracted by the establishment's name, Warren Spady, a 76-year-old Redmond resident, offers the owners of the bar a tale. He explains to the pub's co-owners — one a University of Oregon Ducks fan, the other an Oregon State Beavers booster — that its namesake, an odd Australian mammal that appears to be part duck and part beaver, has plenty of significance in the rivalry between the two schools.
It was Spady who, as a young UO art student, created the Platypus Trophy in 1959, he explains. And since then, that trophy has been on one wild ride.
“Before he had come, I had heard about the trophy,” says Jeff Hawes, co-owner of the Platypus Pub and an Oregon graduate. He had agreed with his business partners to give the pub a name that would signify the owners' shared UO-OSU roots. “Somebody had brought it up, but it was just kind of a passing conversation we had.
“Then all of a sudden Warren pops up, and he lives here in town, and tells his story. And it was like, 'Whoa!'”
The Platypus Trophy is among the most obscure rivalry trophies in college football, and even true fans of the two Oregon schools might not know this: The trophy is awarded to the winner of the annual Civil War football game between UO and OSU.
Considering it has been awarded to the winner only a few times, including every year since 2007, the trophy's low profile is understandable.
But for Spady, who taught art and African studies at Churchill High School in Eugene from 1970 until he retired to Redmond in 1995, the history goes much deeper.
And the Platypus Trophy was strange from the beginning.
In the months leading up to the 1959 Civil War game, in an agreement between administrators of both schools, Spady was tapped by UO's director of public affairs, Willard Thompson, to sculpt a trophy in the form of a platypus, Spady says.
“What do you do for Beavers and Ducks?” recalls Spady as he retells the story in his Eagle Crest Resort home. “An ax? Nah.”
Spady, who still sculpts in his spare time, carved the trophy out of two pieces of maple.
But in the rush to get the Platypus Trophy into play, the animal's feet went unfinished. Spady did not even bother to sign the work.
The Ducks were heavy favorites that year on their way to the Rose Bowl, he believed. As such, Spady felt sure Oregon would beat Oregon State and the trophy would be in Eugene, where he could complete his project.
“I thought they would turn around and give it to me (to finish) the next day or in two days,” he says.
But instead, the Beavers won the '59 Civil War, 15-7. In 1960, the game ended in a tie, and the Beavers won again in 1961 to keep the trophy in Corvallis.
Spady, who graduated from UO with a bachelor's degree in 1960 and a master's in fine arts in 1964, never possessed the trophy again.
The trophy first disappeared in 1961 but resurfaced before it was stolen from OSU's Gill Coliseum again in 1962, according to reports by both Spady and both schools' administrations.
“To this day, I don't know who stole the trophy ... twice,” Spady says. “I have no idea.”
Apparently, according to a 2007 story about the Platypus Trophy by the Register-Guard newspaper of Eugene, Spady's work was used by UO's water polo team in the 1960s.
Spady claims to have seen it in 1986 at Leighton Pool at UO. But otherwise, few thought much about the relic.
“It was gone, and basically people just forgot about it,” Spady says.
Forgot, that is, until 2004, when John Canzano, a columnist with The Oregonian newspaper, wrote that the Civil War was in need of a dedicated trophy.
Spady and Dan Williams, former UO vice president who had been student body president at the university in the early 1960s, informed Canzano that the rivalry did indeed have a trophy.
“I gave a call (to Canzano), and had a little fun with that,” says Spady, who helped prompt another Oregonian column. “That just started the whole ball rolling again.”
The second column sparked a search for the trophy around the UO campus until, in 2006, it was discovered in a storage closet at the Moshofsky Center adjacent to UO's Autzen Stadium.
And in 2007, at the urging of the alumni associations for Oregon and Oregon State, the Platypus Trophy was once again awarded to OSU after its 38-31 win. The Ducks have won the Civil War game each year since, though, and the trophy currently resides at the University of Oregon's Alumni Association building.
The trophy will once again be up for grabs on Saturday when the Ducks and Beavers meet for the 116th Civil War, though the platypus lacks the fanfare of the Stanford Axe for which Bay Area rivals California and Stanford play, or the Apple Cup, which each year goes to the winner of the Washington-Washington State football game.
The Platypus Trophy is not Spady's best work, he says. Still, he is glad to see that the trophy is back.
“Whether they like it or not, this is part of their history,” he says, adding a chuckle. “You have to bring out the black sheep in the family. This is a little idiotic trophy that continues to survive ... even when it is put in a closet.”
Pictures of Spady and his trophy are now on display at the Platypus Pub's shrine commemorating both universities.
Who knew that the bar's name had been inspired by a trophy lost for more than 40 years? Owners Glen Samuel, a rabid Beaver, Tom Gilles, an OSU fan, and Hawes, a UO alumnus, just thought the name encapsulated the mix of Ducks and Beavers.
Hawes says he is not sure if anyone in the ownership group knew about the existence of the Platypus Trophy before the owners settled on a name for their establishment.
“It was just because we couldn't think of a cooler name for a brewery,” he says.
“It wasn't really intentional. Everything just kind of fell into place.”