Freedom, intelligence, renewal, courage...a perfect fit

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Updated Thursday, August 28, 2014 2:31 am

Eileen Keithly/South Strand News Alan Rasheed, left, and his son Richard anxiously watch the placement of the totem pole during a three-hour installation Aug. 19, at the Waccamaw High School Football Field.

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A symbol of freedom, intelligence, renewal, and courage is flying high above Warrior Field atop a 30-foot totem pole at Waccamaw High School in Pawleys Island, thanks to senior Richard Rasheed and his Eagle Scout project.

Rasheed stood shoulder-to-shoulder, on Aug. 19, with his parents, Allen and Kathy, and his Scout leader, Bill Sheehan, as they watched his American Eagle Totem Pole take flight.

“Have you ever been so excited that you were nervous?” Rasheed asked. “Well, this is it. This is that ‘nervous, sick to your stomach, so excited you can hardly stand it’ moment for me.”

What a moment it was as well for Rasheed’s parents, who watched in amazement as their son’s project took its place of honor next to the Waccamaw High School football field.

“That’s my boy,” exclaimed Allen Rasheed. “He has been working toward this since he was a young Cub Scout. We weren’t sure what he was going to select for his project, but this far exceeded our expectations.”

Eagle Scout is the highest rank in Boy Scouting. To earn it, a Boy Scout first must progress through the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life.

Rasheed’s mom conveyed the importance that Eagle Scouts have on their Scout troops.

“Richard has been fortunate to work with phenomenal Eagle Scout candidates before him,” Kathy Rasheed said.

“I don’t think the older boys realize what an influence projects like this have on the younger Scouts.”

Kathy Rasheed’s appreciation of the Eagle Scout program is backed up by a Baylor University study, which found that grown-up Eagle Scouts are more likely than men who have never been in Scouting to have higher levels of planning and preparation skills; be goal-oriented; network better with others; be in a leadership position at their place of employment or local community; have closer relationships with family and friends; volunteer for religious and nonreligious organizations; donate money to charitable groups; and work with others to improve their neighborhoods.

Scout leader Sheehan believes Rasheed already has attained what the Baylor study describes.

“Richard has given something to his community that will bring value to it for years,” he said. “These Eagle Scout projects are meant to encourage these kids to work together with others, and use their leadership abilities.”

He believes Rasheed has delivered on all accounts.

A modest Sheehan, wanting the light to stay focused on Rasheed, modestly refused to take much credit for his part in the project. “This is Richard’s project. I just made a couple of phone calls, and carved some wood, but Richard has done this all pretty much on his own.” Rasheed, however, knew better than anyone the value and importance of Sheehan’s involvement.

“Mr. Bill is unbelievable. I asked him to help me carve a totem pole, and we ended up with an artistic masterpiece.”

The bond between Sheehan and Rasheed was evident. The two circled the work area, sometimes in silence, but the smiles and hugs spoke volumes.

With Sheehan keeping mum on his wood-carving prowess, Rasheed was eager to share tidbits about his mentor’s skills.

“This man is an American Indian, a master wood carver, and a great individual. Why wouldn’t I ask him to help me?” Rasheed said, and asked Sheehan to share a few interesting facts about the totem pole.

A ton of beauty

Sheehan explained that the pole was donated by Santee Cooper, which was eager to help.

“I worked for Santee Cooper for 24 years, so I pretty much knew where to help Richard find a pole as big as the one he needed.”

The eagle’s head sits atop a set of wings that span nine feet, six inches.

The 30-foot height of the pole might distract a bit from its weight.

The totem pole, top to bottom, and including the 6-foot anchor portion underground, weighs in at a svelte 2,000 pounds.

“This thing looked huge when it was on the ground over at the practice field, but it really looks big now that it is upright,” Rasheed said.

Sheehan and Rasheed walked round and round the pole, making sure that the placement was perfect for all the carvings on the pole to be seen.

“I want to make sure that we have it where everyone can see all the amazing carving work that Mr. Bill did on this thing,” Rasheed said.

“It really is something else.”

The carvings are Waccamaw chief-approved, and not by the concrete chief standing at the entrance to Warrior Field.

Sheehan personally contacted Chief Harold “Buster” Hatcher, who has been leading the Waccamaw Indian Tribe since 1991.

“Being part Cherokee, I wanted to make sure that everything we did was right,” Sheehan explained. “So we just called the chief and double-checked. He was good to go with everything we had decided on.”

Rasheed chose a Native American theme for his Eagle Scout project because it seemed natural to him.

“Our mascot at Waccamaw is the warrior, and my project needed to have a community connection, so a totem pole seemed to be the perfect fit.”

Rasheed said he hopes the community will take a deeper look at local Native American history and develop a better appreciation of how it shaped the Waccamaw Neck.

Dr. David Hammel, principal of Waccamaw High School, is excited about the new addition to Warrior Field. “This project is a great representation of the overall school spirit and school pride that our students display on a daily basis,” Hammel stated. “Our students will be excited to see and experience this new addition to our stadium that recognizes and honors the valuable contributions the Waccamaw Indian tribe made to our area.”

A totem pole is much more than a symbol to its tribe. It is part of a Native American belief that each individual is connected with nine different animals that will accompany each person through life, acting as guides.

Native American beliefs view a totem animal as one that is with you for life, both in the physical and spiritual world.

For his project, Rasheed chose a raccoon, an alligator, and a turtle to be carved on the pole by Sheehan.

Just under the raccoon, Sheehan carved an Indian warrior.

“I just wanted the warrior to be a part of the pole,” Rasheed said. “He is looking out over the field like he is protecting it.”

Rasheed explained that each animal has a specific meaning in the Native American culture.

Moreover, he said, each animal will have a special meaning to each person who studies the pole.

“The animals are very symbolic, especially to the Native Americans, but they will have a special meaning to everyone who looks at them. That’s what the pole is all about.”

The raccoon signifies curiosity and cleanliness. The alligator expresses basic survival instincts, aggression, and quickness. The turtle illustrates a nurturing instinct – shy and protective.

The eagle, sitting watch at the top of the pole, is continuing the Native American practice of placing the most important or most prestigious figure at the top.

“Look at that,” Rasheed said, pointing up to the eagle. “That is mindboggling, the importance.”

To Native Americans, the eagle represents a connection to the Creator, risk-taking, sacrifice, intelligence, renewal, courage and freedom.

Rasheed hopes that when people see the totem pole from the parking lot, they will feel welcomed, and want to come into the stadium to get a closer look.

“I hope the pole will provide a sense of protection for everyone.”

Rasheed also looks to the pole to be a visual representation of kinship, bringing all types of people together, with respect for one another. “I hope it brings everyone as much happiness as it has brought me.”

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