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A Piperguy48 Production
He saw me looking at a rough woodcarving on the table. It was a work-in-progress, meant to show a piece at an intermediate stage. In time it would be a folk-art carving of a piper, rough in outline but close enough to hint that the artist once held a set under his arm with the drones close on his shoulder.
I was wandering among the vendors and artisans at our local Art-Fest and was wearing my Fergus Highland Games 2002 t-shirt. The gentleman seated in the shade behind the table made a few connections, said something about Fergus, and asked if I played? I replied “Sort of” wanting to make clear that my status was strictly amateur, very amateur. There was something in his eye that brightened and making a few connections of my own, I tossed the question back to him. Briefly, he drifted back to some time when his strength was greater and his obvious physical infirmities were less profound. I thought he might enjoy a few reminiscences. I’ve found that there are few things that the elderly, or the infirm, or just plain lonely souls would rather do than simply talk. It doesn’t cost me anything to listen.
Many years ago he had played with the 48th Highlanders Cadet Band out of the old University Armouries. His face lit up with the memories of those days. He took up the pipes for some reason and after trading stories about where & when & how he let on that there was an old family connection to Caledonia, but that’s not reason enough. Something must have brought him to the pipes. For me, it was family roots and my dad’s long association with his old regiment. For him, I never did find out.Piping is a fraternity – you can never leave. If you’ve passed the painful hours around the table with your practice chanter, if you’ve nursed your reeds into some sense of harmony in summer’s heat or winter’s bitter cold, if in your fatigue, your grip has tightened until there are seven perfect circles pressed into aching fingers, then you’ve earned the right to the title “piper”. You can lay them aside for a while and perhaps time catches up with you so they remain there, once upon a time. But when you meet another piper, there are stories to share and good times to re-live. It gets into your blood and bones, even after blood and bones are worn and tired. I let him talk and tried to prompt more stories from a time that seemed to give him so much pleasure. His eyes were far away. I returned later with my pipes and thrust them into his reluctant hands and you could see in an instant that they were familiar. That’s the first clue that gives away a piper. They know how to hold them. And once you hold them, you can’t let go. His smile did us both a world of good.