A few weeks ago, the Fort Mill School Board deadlocked 3-3 with one abstention on whether to choose Rattlers, as in rattlesnakes, as the new mascot for the planned Catawba Ridge High School. What once appeared to be a simple decision became anything but when school board members saw dozens of comments on Facebook and elsewhere. Many of the posts ran counter to the feedback from more than 1,300 people surveyed, including the school’s future students, that yielded Rattlers as the top recommendation.
The tie vote was fortuitous. It gives the board time to step back and consider alternatives rather than rush into a choice some members might regret. Trustee Tom Audette, who with members Scott Frattaroli and Wayne Bouldin, voted against going with Rattlers, said it’s a bigger decision than some may realize.
“It’s huge,” he said.
Not sure we’d assign it that level of importance, but it is significant. And consequential. The students, staff, future alumni, parents and boosters all have to live with the mascot — image, name and colors — for a long time. Stakeholders should be enthused about the school’s identity and enjoy wearing gear sporting the mascot logo.
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Apparently, feedback from students weighed heavily in the recommendation. Tommy Schmolze, assistant superintendent of administration and student services who presented the Rattlers mascot, advised board members to consider giving the feedback from students less emphasis. More than a few students may not have taken the opportunity as seriously as some of their classmates. Many students voted for a llama as a mascot, for example, and more than 50 were in favor of calling themselves the “Flaming Doughnut Holes,” when they attend the new high school.
Resistance to Rattlers ranged from the various pronunciations of that particular reptile, to the appropriateness of any type of snake as a mascot. Other animal-themed choices were Copperheads, a snake that, unlike rattlesnakes, is actually native to our area, and Catamounts. They all seem like good choices to us. It’s subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and outside of “Flaming Doughnut Holes,” a persuasive argument could be made for each of them.
There was one, however, that really caught our attention — The War Birds, a reference to the Sopwith Camels used for combat in World War I. Those who know their Fort Mill history know that Col. Elliott White Springs, before he took the family textile business to new heights, was one of the first American air combat aces when he fought in World War I. He also published the best-selling“War Birds: The Diary of an Unknown Aviator,” and was the subject of another book based on his letters home during the war.
A Sopwith Camel might not look as fearsome as a modern fighter jet, but it was leading technology in its era and helped revolutionize warfare. And think about the courage it took to fly an open cockpit aircraft at altitudes and speeds that made it much more vulnerable to ground fire than later models. And the right artistic touch could make a logo based on that vintage warplane a formidable sight to opposing teams.
It’s also something students, staff and supporters can wear with genuine pride. Why go with a generic, unoriginal symbol when our newest high school could make a claim to something that, if not actually unique, would be a lot closer than Rattlers. Or any of the non-snake choices other than Flaming Doughnut Holes.
A mascot with a connection to Fort Mill history would be a great opportunity for classroom work and help preserve Col. Springs’ military legacy. Opposing teams and guests at the school could learn something from the name. And for generations of Catawba Ridge students, it certainly would be a terrific conversation starter.