By Carter Bibb
Winning the Crook hunt for the third year in a row, junior speech-language pathology major Rachel Johnson, senior social science major Lucy Frost-Helms and junior mathematics major Cole Swain sat down to talk about the history of the tradition, their experience with the Crook, the strategies they used to find it and why you should care about some wooden stick in the first place.
The annual hunt for the Crook takes place during the week leading up to Founders’ Day. The Crook hunt is a Montevallo tradition with a history stretching back more than a century, when Montevallo was still called Alabama College and an all-girls school. But, since the 1920s, the tradition has changed significantly.
The modern Crook hunt involves the crook being hidden somewhere on campus. Students are given until Founders’ Day to find it as they are given hints, usually in the form of riddles, each day until the Crook is found. The Crook can be hidden anywhere on campus. The student who finds the crook gets to carve their name on the surface.
Originally, the senior class hid the Crook. Juniors were then tasked with finding the stick. Over the years, several things have changed regarding the tradition. Now, all students participate instead of only the juniors and seniors. In the 90s, the hiding of the crook was transferred over to the purview of university administration. There are also two crooks: the one we use now, and the original one from the 1920s.
The finding of the crook has been a mainstay in UM’s culture for over a century and the student body has poured love right back into the tradition. Johnson, Frost-Helms and Swain are excellent examples of this love. This marks the third year in a row that the trio have found the Crook.
The trio’s win streak began in Johnson and Swain’s freshman year, when they and Frost-Helms found the Crook outside of Reynolds Hall.
“We found it […] directly outside of Tiffany Bunt’s office, and she’s the director of Alumni Affairs and right inside that window is the old crook […] and the clue hinted towards the crook being near the original,” Johnson explained.
The next year, they used the clue to find the crook hidden outside the Center for the Arts. The clue that was given by administration was: “What do these people all have in common: David Morgan, Shirley and Jesse Jackson, O.J Carson, Ruben Triplett, Blake Hudson, and the best administrative assistant anywhere?”
The average person would likely find this clue to be largely incomprehensible, but the trio put together the location before lunchtime was over. They deduced that the crook was hidden near the Center of the Arts, which was formerly the site of Jeter Hall—the location the clue was alluding to.
This year, knowledge of Montevallo’s history was needed to decipher the clue. It read, “In the old one, you could hang up your wings, but in the new one, Falcons soared,” a reference to the fact that Old Gym used to be an airplane hangar.
Frost-Helms said that, after solving the clue, the group discovered the Crook in steps on a staircase in Myrick.
Evidenced by their prodigious winning streak, these three students are nearly experts at this tradition.
“We pay attention, we know what day the clue is going to be released on; it’s going to be released the Monday before Founders Day,” said Johnson.
Another important part of their strategy: running, splitting up and, if necessary, maybe skipping a few classes.
What really gives them such a leg up on the competition is their ability to quickly interpret the clues.
“Read a lot. Be invested in Montevallo history. Ask questions to professors you look up to that might have knowledge about the campus, a lot of professors are alumni and they know things that you don’t,” said Johnson. “I think the thing that drew us to the crook was Montevallo history, we had that first.”
This, in their opinion, is what makes this tradition truly special. The competition, the running, the fact that Johnson, Frost-Helms and Swain walked and ran over seven miles in this year’s hunt can all be attributed to the joy of being connected to the history of the university. What better way to show your love for this place than turning it upside-down trying to look for a century old stick?