I am a Wallace. If you’ve seen the movie Braveheart you may have heard the name. Last weekend I went to the Scottish Festival & Highland Games in Ft. Lauderdale. I had heard about it for some years and always wanted to go so I dragged two of my writer friends with me. Appropriately, it was a cold and blustery day, which was a rarity in South Florida this year as it’s been a warm winter so far. There was a big crowd, which was surprising since I didn’t know there were that many Scottish folks running around South Florida. There were booths selling kilts and scary looking daggers, vendors with Haggis, meat pies and Scottish eggs.
I bought a scarf with the Wallace tartan. Scottish families organized into clans for protection…and well…fighting. Each clan has its own tartan colors and design, as well as its own crest and motto. The Wallace clan motto is “For Liberty” and the crest features a hand brandishing a sword. So again…lots of fighting going on. My scarf came with a brief family history. “The name Wallace is thought to be derived from “Walensis”, meaning a Briton from the Strathclyde region of Scotland. A Richard Walensis is recorded in Ayrshire in Southern Scotland in the 12th century. One of his ancestors was the famous William Wallace.” (Note: This information was according to my scarf so if I’m wrong blame the scarf, not me.)
Stretched out beside the field where the games were to be held were booths representing the various Scottish clans…Campbell’s, Stewarts, etc. And there in the middle was the Wallace booth, with actual Wallace people. These folks were from St. Augustine and they made the trip just for the festival. A couple of them were marching in the Opening Ceremony. And speaking of…there was an Opening Ceremony with bagpipe bands and all the various clans marching onto the field.
Then the highlight of the day began…the Caber Toss. You may have seen this before. The object is basically to pick up a tree and toss so it rotates end over end. I’m not sure why anyone would think to do this. I suppose the men thought it was manly to toss trees. These days men drive sports cars and whistle out the window. Back then they tossed trees…for fun!
There were about 6 guys competing and my friends and I quickly nicknamed each one. There was “Fabio”, representing romance cover models everywhere with his long, flowing blond hair. (Okay it was tied back in a ponytail, but it was long and blond); “Mr. Miami/305” he of the sunglasses and tattoos; “Beer Gut” so named for the…well you can probably guess; and “Tree Trunk” who was several inches taller than the rest of the guys. Being romance writers we, of course, cheered for “Fabio”. Come on, how could we not? He was actually good, too. After a failed first attempt (in which none of them flipped the tree), he managed to flip every other time. “Beer Gut” had the advantage of his belly to help hold the tree and he did well, too. “Mr. 305” also acquitted himself well. Sadly, “Tree Trunk” never did manage to do more than lift the tree off the ground. Apparently, height is not an advantage in Caber Tossing. The center of gravity must be too high to pick up the tree and then get back up again. Frankly, it’s amazing that anyone can flip a tree so hats off to those guys who did it.
The girls got in on the act, too. They used a slightly shorter Caber, but several of them did manage to toss it to hats off to them!!! As my friend said, between the three of us we “might” have managed to pick up said tree. Tossing it would have been beyond us.
It was a great experience and cool to learn a little bit more about my background. Now, if I can just get to the actual Scotland….