Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What is a Tar Heel?

I have noticed since moving away from the old North state, I get this question a lot, especially since I am found routinely cheering for and calling myself a Tar Heel.  Plus there are a lot of ignorant Maryland fans in these parts (I kid!...I mostly kid!).

When you grow up hearing the term Tar Heel practically from the womb, you don't really question it too much, rather you respect and adore it, nay identify yourself with it.  However if I take a step back and try really hard to imagine what it must be like hearing the term for the first time with no context, I suppose I can understand how it may seem odd.

So here it is...the answer to the question "What is a Tar Heel", from the University of North Carolina website:
Our nickname, which also applies to North Carolina citizens, has at least two possible origins. One story hails back to the Revolutionary War and the troops of British General Cornwallis. After fording a river in eastern North Carolina, the British troops discovered their feet covered with tar, a product of North Carolina’s abundant pine trees and one of the state’s most important exports at the time. Some say the clever North Carolinians dumped it in the river to slow down the invading army. The British were said to have observed that if you waded in North Carolina rivers, you would get tar on your heels.

Another story comes from the Civil War. A group of North Carolina soldiers scolded their comrades for leaving the battlefield when things got tough. The soldiers threatened to stick tar on the heels of the retreating soldiers to help them stay in the battle. General Robert E. Lee is said to have commented “God bless the Tar Heel boys!” Whatever the reason for the moniker, our students and sports teams have long worn it with pride.
I could have sworn I had heard another story, something about the North Carolina troops being so brave, they stood their ground as if their feet were stuck in tar.  I imagine (and often tell the story with) the opposing general exclaiming: "There must be tar in them there heels!" 

There you go, clear as tar, ahem mud, right?

See also:
I.e., me

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