My grandfather has always been an interesting part of my life. There is never a boring moment when Thomas Mood Marchant III, also known as The First Red Raider Mascot of Greenville Senior High School, also known as Shag to his closer companions and everyone under the age of 25, is around. He got his nickname, Shag, because he loves the South Carolina State Dance “The Shag”, and he has many interesting stories and is almost infamous within our family. Crazy as he is, we love him.
My grandfather was the oldest child his family, and spent his childhood in Greenville, South Carolina and summers in Caesar’s Head, while his parents operated the family hotel. He married my grandmother, Kathlee, and had my aunt, Jessica, and my dad before their divorce. For my dad, who spent the majority of his summers with his father, in Greenville and Columbia, life was an adventure with my grandfather, and the fruits of his time with my grandfather were shown in his stories. He would tell us about the time my grandfather bribed his friend into hiding in his apartment for an hour or so just so that he could scare my dad and aunt when he finished reading them a ghost story, or about the time my grandfather decided he could catch a wild duck with his barehands and ended up getting covered in duck poop. There was also the time when my grandfather installed a siren in his car and rode around, turning on the siren at random times to see how many people would go running, or the time when my grandfather couldn’t pick up my dad and aunt from Greenville to take them to Columbia (he was a politician, if you haven’t figured that out yet), so he got the highway patrolman to chauffeur them.
Shag, as I was taught to call him, has always been a fascination point in my life. His stories amazed me and made me laugh and I always secretly wanted to be like him. In fact, when I was questioning whether or not to transfer out of Greenville High School, the school he loved so much that he had been the first mascot of, I was worried that he would be upset with me. I was, after all the oldest grandchild and the “next generation of Marchants at Greenville High School.” Luckily, he was understanding about it. Growing up, I watched as my grandfather dressed up in ridiculous costumes, told dramatic, often humorous stories, and did crazy things. Thinking back on it all, my parents must have been in serious prayer whenever he was in charge of me, considering my grandfather was the type of person who was completely fine with putting a 13-year-old girl and her 11-year-old brother on the Greyhound bus from Greenville to Pawleys Island for a visit (which never actually came to fruition). He was also the parent who let his son drive to and from Columbia (about two hours from Greenville) on the highway at age 13 or so.
Whenever you’re with my grandfather, there is a strict code of conduct in place. You have to get up early, take a shower, brush your teeth, and make your bed, and he will make a point of asking every single morning. If you didn’t make your bed, he will go into your room and rip all of the blankets and sheets off the bed so that it’s even harder to make your bed when you get around to it. He also makes a point of announcing when it’s happy hour (5 o’clock) every day, and even has a reminder on his phone that goes off at 5 o’clock. That’s just who he is and that’s what you do when you’re with him.
Of course, I have million stories about Shag, and I believe my experience with my grandfather sums up his personality very well. In many ways, I’m another adult to him. In fact, my first year of camp, when I was eight, he sent me a shortened version of his autobiography that was signed and came with ten business cards and a note that said “Hey Darlin’! Down here at Pawley’s! Hope you’re having fun at camp! Give these business cards out to your friends! -Shag and Debby Doo (his wife, Deborah)” You see, to my grandfather, every experience is another marketing opportunity. There was also a $2 bill, because my grandfather always had $2 bills that he would stamp with a Clemson Tiger Paw. Every once in a while, I get a $2 bill from the store that has a Clemson Paw on it and I know how proud my grandfather would be to see that it is making the circulation. Although he treated me like an adult, there were other times when he tried to relive his youth through me. He tried to do this when he took my cousin, Brooks, who is a couple months younger than me, and me to swing on vines while we were in the mountains, like he used to do. Unfortunately, many of the trees up in the mountains were a lot healthier in his time, and when Brooks jumped off the small overlook we were standing on, the branch snapped and he crashed. He was also determined to make me a Greenville High School fan from day one, by taking me to many Greenville High events, and was so excited when I entered my freshman year there, that he changed his calling card to a picture of him as the first mascot and went to the 125th Anniversary game to give out autographed pictures. There were other times in my adventures with Shag that I thought for sure someone was going to die. For example, when he took me to a NASCAR race in Myrtle Beach. Now, if you’ve never been to Myrtle Beach, well, don’t. It’s also known as the armpit of South Carolina. The CEO of Hooters lives there and they had to pass a law banning umbrellas on the beach last year as a way of population control because the beaches were so completely overcrowded, and I think that’s pretty much all you need to know about it. He knew someone in the pit of the track, so we crossed the track and went into it, without realizing my dad and brother were stuck in the stands on the other side. When my grandfather finally realized it, they were already starting the cars on their starting laps. Despite the fact that there were cars going increasingly fast around the track, my grandfather walked right out across the track, opened the gate so my brother and dad could come across into the center pit, and jogged back over.
Sometimes, people don’t quite understand my grandfather’s ways, but I like to think it like he is more interesting than life’s mundane daily cycle. I know that, with an open heart and an open mind, loving my grandfather like I do comes very easily. The times I’ve spent with him will always be a huge part of me, even though many people don’t always believe the stories I tell them. He makes our lives all the better, and I often catch myself thinking, “what if I had boring grandparents?” So thank you, Shag, for an always-interesting childhood, full of craziness and laughter.