Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Clemson Rat Pact


I found it! 

When I discovered the box with my Rat Hat, I knew it had to be in there somewhere.  I finally found my Rat Pact. It was handed to me (it’s not like I had a choice) when I arrived on the Clemson campus in 1966 as a new student. 

Every male Clemson freshman in those days received these three things upon arrival: a buzz cut haircut (within 1/16th of an inch), a Rat Hat, and a copy of the Rat Pact.  The women wore a ribbon in lieu of the haircut, but otherwise had the same Rat (freshmen) rules. The Rat Hat was to be worn at all times during “Rat Season,” and the contents of the Rat Pact were to be memorized, including all 17 requirements of Rats. The Rat Pact also described all the school traditions, cheers, alma mater, campus landmarks, and Clemson’s “unwritten rules.”  You’d better know everything in it, I was told in no uncertain terms.

And I did. Still do. To this day, you can ask me anything about Clemson traditions, landmarks, etc.

But I have never forgotten my first experience with an upperclassman during Rat Season.  Needing to run an errand in the early evening of the first day of class, I ventured out of my dorm (against the advice of my roommate) and headed across campus.  I didn’t get very far before hearing those dreaded two words. 

“Hey Rat,” someone shouted from behind me.  “Do you know your Rat Pact?”

“Yes sir,” was my confident reply, expecting a question about the alma mater, the statue of Thomas Green Clemson, a campus building, or something along those lines.

The burly fellow came closer and sized me up before he asked his question.  I suspect he was given a hard time when he was a Rat and this was payback.  I still wasn’t too worried because there wasn’t a kid on campus who knew the Rat Pact better than me.

Then I heard the question:

“How many periods are there on page 3 of the Rat Pact?”

I don’t remember how many pushups I had to do or how many shoes I had to shine as a result of not knowing my Rat Pact.  But I do remember celebrating when the 1966 Rat Season ended at midnight on September 24.

I was sure glad when Rat Season was over. 

But I’m even more glad we had it! 

That’s why I saved my Rat Hat and Rat Pact all these years.

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