By Ralph Hood
I was a less-than-perfect college student at Clemson, but we did have fun.
I grew up in a small town where Daddy was the school superintendent. Everybody in town knew me and was prone to ask, “Should I tell your Daddy what you’re doing?” I couldn’t get away with anything.
When I got to Clemson, I discovered an amazing fact. I was anonymous! Nobody knew me! We freshmen were labeled as “Rats.” Our heads were shaved (I expected to look like Yul Bryner, but didn’t.) We wore Rat caps and, hallelujah, we all looked the same.
It was wonderful. I took part in all of the “Rat Riots.” Nobody threatened to call my Daddy! It was like being “born again,” but not at all like being “free from sin.” I reveled in it.
Across the street from my dorm was a laundry with a gigantic steam pipe sticking up through the roof, on top of which sat a huge steam whistle. At specific times, the whistle was blown — long and loud —with a furious h-o-o-t that could be heard into the next county.
I pondered that whistle, and finally took a metal trashcan from the dorm, climbed to the top of the laundry building, climbed to the whistle itself, turned over the trashcan and placed it atop the whistle, then returned to the dorm.
The next day, at the appointed hour, you could see Rats looking out of dorm windows toward the laundry. At the predetermined second, steam hit the whistle, steam filled the trashcan, the whistle spewed out a sad f-w-o-o-t, and trashcan shot into sky. NASA didn’t come up with a better rocket until well into the space race.
It was wonderful!
I moved on to better things. A bunch of us moved into a rental house. I shared the basement with a New England Yankee who was nervous and leery of the entire South. When worried, he pulled on his own hair, so we called him “Hair Hurts.”
One night our group was watching TV upstairs. During a commercial, Hair Hurts ran down to the basement for some reason. A few minutes later he came back upstairs rather quickly, pulling his hair like mad.
He blurted that someone had opened the door that separated the basement from a grubby, spidery place under the house. Hair Hurts, much upset, wondered who did it. Mark, another of our inmates, said, “Aw, Hair Hurts, it’s just one of those Blue Lip Swamp Monsters, huntin’ food and a warm place to sleep.”
Hair Hurts was sore afraid, and I, seeing a golden opportunity, slipped outside, ran down the steps to the basement, put a dummy in the bed, covered it up, and sprinkled bread pieces on the floor. Then I heard Hair Hurts coming back to the basement. I hid in the bathroom. Hair Hurts gasped as he spied the bed; he choked, groaned, and panted like a reborn ghost.
Hair Hurts jumped into the dark bathroom to hide. As he shut the bathroom door, I grabbed him in a bear hug and roared a huge roar right into his ear.
Y’all, I thought for sure that I had killed him dead! He finally recovered, but never got over it.