What happens at Burns night in Texas
| "It was the most Texas thing I've ever seen. She yelled 'GIT!' at the caber and made a perfect turn," said one man.
"Someone should have got it on camera!" laughed another.
"You know what should have been caught on camera? Mickey Campbell doing the scorpion over the trig throwing weight for distance!" laughed a third. And then, they all laughed raucously. Meandering through the room, I passed a woman singing (and just a bit too loud) and a few more men telling tales of the Highland Games. In the air, I smelled food, and it was what we called Haggis in America (which isn't quite what they make in Scotland). And Barbecue, because we were in Texas.
Many people do not know how popular Scotland is here in Texas, and many had never heard of Burns Night. Aside from the Games, it was the best day of the year for me. We'd had a "back yard" games earlier that afternoon, so everyone was tired and sore, but very ready for the food and festivities. It was, indeed, a good day to be Scottish.
Not far away was an old friend from Oklahoma who had decided he was bored and came down to throw with us. He approached, a bit worse for wear and limping, carrying a bottle of Scotch. As he hobbled closer, I smiled and offered a calloused hand.
"Billy, I never can get over how well you throw that hammer," he said. I chuckled, embarrassed because I never felt I was good enough at the Scottish hammer.
"If I was half as good as I wanted to be..." I started, but JL wouldn't let me insult myself.
"Now, I'm tellin' you, Billy, you throw that hammer circles around these new kids. Always did have that good chest and leg combo goin' on!"
Just then, the bagpipes started, and half the room jumped. JL turned slowly and grinned, planning shenanigans as he turned back to smile at me.
"Ready for a quaich?" he grinned. I realized at that moment that he was already a few quaiches in.
"Always, old friend."
The bagpipes continued to play as JL, his wife, and I wandered to a long table and sat. She set her rather large purse on the table and pulled out a small pewter bowl with handles, decorated with Scottish thistles and knot work. JL opened the bottle of Scotch and poured some in the quaich, and handed it to me. I accepted it, held it up with a smile, and said, "to old friends, to new friends, and to Scotland and Texas!"
"And Oklahoma!" said JL, grinning from ear to ear.
"Like I said, Texas."
It was a long running joke and though he glared at first, he finally laughed and I took a drink, handing the little pewter dish to JL for a drink. Then, he handed it to his wife. She didn't talk much, but she smiled, lifted it up, and said, "Slainte!". I liked JL's wife. She was sturdy, a heck of a Highland Gamer, and an even better cook.
Someone began speaking, but those of us in the back didn't really hear him. Most of the throwers were just waiting on food. Finally, he began to recite Selkirk Grace, and we all knew... food was on the way. A woman walked in with the haggis, a man behind her, chest jutted out and kilt swishing side to side. She set the platter with the stuffed sheep's stomach, and he raised his sword above it, cutting into the thing dramatically.
"That ain't gonna be enough for everyone!" shouted a thrower I only knew as Todd. He was a big man, known to toss cabers like twigs. Oddly enough, he once threw a caber in his early days that bounced and nearly took out the family jewels. He recovered, and went on to make three more wee caber tossers afterward.
"That's what the barbeque's for!" laughed another thrower I couldn't see. And sure enough, they did. Barbeque, haggis (enough for everyone to have a small taste), Scotch Eggs, and Scotch. It was a rather gassy affair in the end, but genuine fun all the same. We sang songs we didn't know the words to, we sang George Straight while in our kilts. We told stories about the times we went to games around the world, and we drank Shiner and Scotch. We gave our address to the lassies, and they got us in return. No matter the miles or the years, a Scotsman is still a Scotsman, even when he's a Texan, and for us, the pride is double. God blessed us with the roots from the rampant lion, and settled them in the land of the Alamo, and that is more than enough.