Sunday, September 6, 2015

Scottish Highland Gathering and Games

I've never been to Scotland, but it's hard to imagine there are many places less like Scotland than Pleasanton, CA, a pretty and prosperous little town in the "Tri-Valley" near San Jose. Being over the ridge to the east of the Bay, the climate is hot and dry in the summer... the hills are crispy and dormant, not misty and verdant. Nevertheless, the Scottish Games have settled here on the Alameda County Fairgrounds. The organizers claim this is the sesquicentennial. Impressive... Scots can hardly have been her much longer than that...

Plaid and kilts much in evidence... and beer, and whisky. Of course, county-fair food, and the big bellies and butts that accompany it. Folks who claim Scots heritage or affinity come in droves and park their RVs among their "clans."

What were the highlights?

#3: Caber-tossing. I learned a lot about this sport. That's not saying much... I knew nothing about it except brawny guys try to hurl a big log. Most importantly, I learned that it has nothing to do with how far you toss the thing, but rather with how the caber lands. It's rather difficult. There are now women as well as men tossing the things.

#2: Albannach. A very spirited Scottish band featuring percussion and one bagpipe guy and a lot of tattoos, plus a dude on didgeridoo, which is a fine addition to any band with bagpipes. Drone on!

#1: Sheep dog trials. We arrived late and managed to catch only three dogs. I've seen this on TV, and, frankly, it's a lot more entertaining than you might suppose. Alas, these dogs were not the best, but the task is extremely challenging. The sheep really are not inclined to cooperate, and the dog must be unfailingly focused and strategic. I have thought of sport as a human activity at a very high level, but these dogs are fine athletes in every sense of the word.

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