Thomas Green Clemson said it best when he said, “there’s something in these hills.” “These hills” being at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Northwestern South Carolina, where lakes meet rivers and hills meet mountains. It’s an absolutely gorgeous place to be anytime of the year, but it doesn’t get much better than being in Clemson, SC for Homecoming weekend.
Friday I took the boys back to my old stomping grounds, my second home, and one of my most favorite places on this earth. My blood runneth orange. Always has and always will. I have a huge sense of pride in my alma mater, the place that not only allowed me to attain an education, but also a place dug deep with memories. I had some of the best years of my life at Clemson University and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to spend a day in Clemson with my boys.
A lot of the pomp and circumstance is lost in the eyes of my boys. They don’t understand how when I hear the bells of Tillman Hall ring the hour, my heart skips a beat and my mind takes me back to my days of sitting on Bowman Field in the sun, increasing my tan while increasing my knowledge. They don’t know what it means to see Daniel Hall, Brackett Hall, Hardin Hall, and Strode Tower. The only thing these boys appreciate is the abundance of floats, the beautiful gardens, the reflecting pond and the tiger statue at Death Valley.
As we walked the campus, stopping periodically to allow Henry to vacate the stroller and stretch his legs, I told stories of my life on God’s Country. I spoke of the nights of staying up late in Cooper Library, studying hard, while tucked away on the first floor, in a far back corner that gave me privacy, but also had the wonderful aroma of old books, books from decades past, brimming with stories. I explained that I had to get a few Frisbees out of the reflecting pond on nights of playing Frisbee golf. Davey looked into the pond, with it’s splashing fountains, and tossed a few acorns in while also looking for my Frisbee from nearly 15 years ago.
I talked about the walks to class, the rushing to class in my pajamas, and the excitement of Friday night before home games and the luster of the Saturday games. I didn’t miss a game, not one, even if I had to work, I still made it to a game. As we looked through the gates of Frank Howard field, I thought about the one and only snowfall I experienced while at Clemson and how we had come to the stadium to slide down the “hill”.
I watched as the new crop of coeds shuffled back and forth to class, many of them smiling at me and my boys, some even taking the time to talk to Davey as he introduced himself to the “old people”, a phrase for anyone over the age of 10. My boys spent a good portion of their day running along the same Bowman Field that I walked across to get to class. They studied the floats, touched all the tigers, and Davey even broke into the Clemson Cadence, shouting at the top of his lungs, “1,2,3,4. 1,2,3,4. C-L-E-M-S-O-N T-I-G-E-R-S. Fight tigers, fight tigers, fight fight fight.” And before we left he even told me that one day he’s going to run down that hill in Death Valley as a football player. I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.
Yes, indeed, there is something in these hills.