The past few weeks have seen the Bell's moving from Florida, and setting up house in AR. A bit on the nippy side for the rest of the crew, but I personally don't mind the change from the heat.
On the weekend of January 30th, we moved up with truck, #2 son, Mrs. Bell, and Mrs. Lebaron, my mother in law. Marie Lebaron is a great gal, and I was very glad to have her help with the driving. Young Jon drove with the cat and myself in one of the worst trucks I've ever driven. Glad it was just one way.
After getting everything unloaded, with the able assistance of Ken Adler, we adjourned to Colton's to try some of the local fare. As usual, very good.
Monday saw us once again at the Searcy Young Scots, doing our best to bring along some local talent. A meeting with Gary Harris of the theatre department led to some great ideas for the Dinner/ Ceilidh at this year's festival. Further meetings throughout the week, as well as the Tuesday and Thursday practices and Arkansas Piobaireachd Society, rounded out the schedule for the first week of February.
On Monday and Tuesday of the second week, I took a drive to see the Memphis Scottish Society, and W+NW Arkansas Scottish Society respectively. All very nice people indeed. I attended the memorial of Tom Duck, of the 14th District Drug Task Force, on Friday, along with 300 of his police friends and family. A moving affair for a much loved man.
Magnolia was scheduled for Saturday with the band. All was going well till we hit just south of LR. I have not seen snow like that since a piping adventure in Washington DC some 30 years ago. Always carry some extra hemp in the box for when the wiper motor blows. Ken Adler and Wally Hightower had gone down earlier that day, and thank goodness they had. They performed admirably, and upheld the good name of the band. Well done lads. More from Kenton on his adventures there.
This here is the story of the St. Valentine's Day Blizzard and Massa-cree.
The band was scheduled to play at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia on Saturday evening for a Burn's Nicht supper hosted by Jim McCollum and the local Scottish society there. Things did not go quite according to plan.
By chance, I went down ahead of the rest of the band. I lived in Magnolia as a child and still have numerous relatives in the area that I don't get to visit very often. I also have a dear friend in Louisiana who was able to make the trip up to see the show, and so I was anxious to see them all and have an opportunity to visit with them prior to the arrival of the band. Wally Hightower also decided to drive down ahead of the band to do some flea market and thrift store shopping in a part of the state he doesn't get to frequent. Wally is a WWII re-enactor and is always looking for interesting items to add to his kit, so ever on the lookout for a rare item at a bargain price.
It rained on me most of the way to Magnolia on Friday night, and continued all morning Saturday, and it continued to get colder.
4:00PM rolled around and the rain was looking more like ice pellets as I arrived at the Bruce Center on the SAU campus. We got inside and found Wally all dressed out and ready for a show, but no sign of the rest of the band. We found Jim McCollum and got the low-down on how the evening would go. He said he'd tried to call Jimmy a couple of times but was unsuccessful in reaching him, but that he'd heard the weather was real bad up around Little Rock, and that snow was falling heavily in the band's path. As the 5:00PM start was approaching I was getting a little worried that they might've skipped the tracks and wound up in a ditch or something. Jimmy's an excellent driver (his dad lets him drive slow on the driveway), but the road between Prescott and Magnolia is winding and narrow and it wouldn't have been too much fun in that weather. Jim said he'd like to have a piper in the foyer playing from 5:00 until about 5:30 when the dinner would be served. I told him I would get tuned up and play in the absence of anyone else. So, when the appointed time rolled around I struck in and began playing. That's about the time the snow started falling in Magnolia. An unusual occurrence, and one that sent most of the staff outside at some point to check it out.
A knave in the nave
At 5:30 Jim asked if I could pipe in the Haggis, so we got lined up and paraded the "Great Chieftan o' the Puddin-race" around the room and heard the Ode recited, and then sat down to a magnificent dinner. Appropriate toasts were offered at appropriate times, and the Immortal Memory well observed.. The haggis was prepared by the food service folks at SAU and was one of the tastiest I've ever had. The supper also featured buttered scones, mashed tatties, succulent roast beast, a barley dish that was absolutely delicious, and cock-a-leekie soup, with shortbread for dessert. I sat with Wally, my cousin, and my dear, and we were joined later by Mary and Joe from the Scottish Society in Little Rock. Dinner was just fantastic, and I was sorry the band was missing it, but still hoping they would arrive.
By 6:30 it was looking like they flat wouldn't get there, and the snow was REALLY coming down. So, I told Jim not to fret, that the show would go on. I got the Fairylore tuned up, tuned up the guitar, spot-tuned the great pipe and Wally acted as my announcer and thoroughly charmed those in attendance, and kept things lively as I made instrument changes for the next hour plus.
It was a little tricky, as I still wasn't certain the rest of the gang wouldn't be there, so I was deliberately staying away from band material and playing everything else I could think of. I did a medley of light music, a competition MSR, slow airs on the smallpipe, Lord Franklin and Mairi's Wedding on guitar, The MacIntosh's Banner to demonstrate Piobaireachd, and then finished up by playing Amazing Grace and getting everyone to sing along (to fulfill the piper's contractual agreement for all performances), and the as the band OBVIOUSLY wasn't coming I finished up with our closing medley of Auld Lang Syne/We're No Awa To Bide Awa/Scotland the Brave, again with most everyone singing along. All in all, we had a splendid time and everyone enjoyed the impromptu performance. None more than Wally and myself I think.
Auld Lang Syne
Just the same, I'd prefer that the rest of the group make it down with us next year and share in the hospitality.
Magnolia wound up with about four or five inches of snow that night, and the roads were pretty messy headed back to the hotel. Most everyone who had planned to drive home that evening stayed over. Sunday was gorgeous and warm, and most of the snow was gone by the time I pulled out for home a little after noon.
For the band,
Photos by Wally Hightower
There was a bit of a delay in writing as no one else seems to be willing to tell the tale, and I had to go out of town for a few days after the band's return from New Orleans. Here's the scoop though. We started the weekend of the 20th with Sergei, Tristen, Billy Buckmaster, and myself playing a service here on campus for the Arkansas Presbytery as they installed their new Moderator.
Sunday morning we departed at 9:30AM in full uniform for Newport, where the entire band played for a service at the First Presbyterian Church. It's a real pretty little church, and they had good attendance that morning. Here's a Claudia Marsh photo of us in action.
Survey says: Jimmy was awa' ti New Jersey competing in the Metro Cup. After this service was over we had a delightful lunch prepared by the congregation members, then we hustled out to the parking lot and changed into our secret identities, loaded into the Lyonmobile and proceeded on down the road toward New Orleans. We met up with Jimmy about 12 miles inside Mississippi. His flight had arrived pretty close to the time we were hitting Memphis. After we met up with him we proceeded on down the highway.
Dinner stop at one of the finer dining establishments in Jackson MS, and then we rolled on into the New Orleans metropolitan area in anticipation of participating in that little party they throw called Mardi Gras. We got to the Day's Inn over on the west bank in harvey at right around midnight. Of course, they had screwed up our reservations and only had half the rooms we'd reserved (though all had been payed in advance). No problem, as the place was sort of a dump, and the woman at the desk was none too helpful. We drove down to the Holiday Inn, and they were most accommodating and friendly. Fixed us right up.
We woke to rain and thunderstorms on Monday morning. Some of the gang braved the weather and caught the shuttle over to the ferry and went into town. I opted to hang out at the hotel a while, but wound up driving into town with Jimmy and Watson later in the day to scope out the location we were scheduled to be at to hook up with the Proteus parade. Found it with no problem. We were back there right on time and in full piper drag when the rain started up in earnest. Proteus cancelled, so we crossed Napoleon Blvd. to a little cafe on the corner of Napoleon and Magazine called Mae's. We circled up and played out under the balcony, much to the delight of people who had come out for the festivities. I'd say we salvaged that portion of the evening for quite a few folks. We played all the band material, and various people presented solo stuff as well. The rain let up, so we decided to proceed on down to Bourbon Street and try our luck. We had a time getting there as the Orpheus parade went off on schedule and it was difficult finding a way to get across St. Charles and into downtown. Bourbon Street was packed, as one might imagine. We formed up and played here and there, and were rewarded with numerous beads, much applause, and I think we made a BUNCH of new friends. We also stayed about an hour and a half longer than I was real comfortable. I don't much like being that closed in with a bunch of people I don't know.
Tuesday morning we got up early and went back into town and formed up for the Rex parade. I was thinking it would be a little sparse at the beginning and end, and crowded in the middle. Wrong-o! Packed all the way from start to finish on the nearly seven mile route. It took close to four hours to navigate the entire route. Special kudos to Serge's wife, Holly, who kept us hydrated, and to Chris Slaymaker for watching our back, and to John Voorhees for completing the route, and to Grey Abernathy on his first parade with a pipe band. If he didn't know High Road to Gairloch when we started that parade he sure does now.
As soon as the parade ended, Tristen and I hopped a cab back over to the van. The most excellent cabbie told us how to get around the parade and back to where the band was waiting. We then miraculously found a way back over to the west bank where we changed, picked up the other two vehicles and beat it for Batesville. We stopped at our favorite dining establishment (Cracker Barrel) in some little now just north of New Orleans. SSSSSSLOW service at this one, but good food. Then back on the road. My vehicle arrived in Batesville just about 2:30AM Wednesday. Very pleasant as I had to get up early and drive to Dallas for a presentation I had to give at a professional conference. We're a full service pipe band.
I'll add anyone else's .02 if they provide it.
For the band,