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  • ONE OF THE things that has brought me more crazy, passionate, irrational love in this life than just about anything else but my marriage to Eve has been my ongoing affair with the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipe.

    When I was 11 years old, my Boy Scout troop marched in a Memorial Day parade just behind the local pipe band, led by our town grocer who came from Aberdeen as a lad. When I told my folks how much I wanted to go learn pipes from said grocer, they promptly signed me up for piano lessons, hoping that this would drive that piping nonsense from my pre-adolescent mind.

    Some years later (and many miles away from my parents), in my junior year at Dartmouth College, one of my classmates who had played in a high school pipe band came forward and posted a notice in the student union, advertising the formation of a college pipe band. Out of the woodwork came the associate Dean, a math professor, a little old lady who worked in the library, another undergraduate, and your humble correspondent. We hired an instructor from Woodstock, Vermont, and off we went. By the time my folks got wind of this heresy, there wasn't much they could do about it. I still think, deep down in their hearts, they approved.

    Since then, on a more or less consistent basis, I’ve been a piper. After graduation, I went on active duty in the Navy, and the pipes came with me. When our ship refueled at sea, I serenaded the refueling ship through our ship’s PA system. They never let me pipe an Admiral aboard, but then again, no Admiral ever visited our ship.

    What followed were many years of delightful, on-and-off pipe band memberships, parades, gatherings, band competitions, concerts, road trips to Scottish Highland games wherever they took place within driving distance, competition in solo amateur piping events, and cheering my teenage daughter as she garnered trophy after trophy in Highland dancing competitions.

    In the summers of 1986 through 1994, I attended one- and two-week piping schools at Edinboro University in western Pennsylvania, and at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The schools provided opportunities to learn the fine points of the piper’s art from skilled teachers, some of whom came from Scotland and Canada and were, if you will, the rock stars of the piping world. It gave one a sense of the worldwide fraternity of people who practice this arcane instrument, and an opportunity to come to appreciate the beauty of its music — rugged as that may seem to some.

    Here are a couple of photos from those days. The first was taken at the Round Hill Scottish Games in Norwalk, Connecticut, with my dear friend, the late Jim Stevens, a law school classmate who passed away in 1997.

    The other was taken in 1998 at the Point-to-Point horse races at Winterthur, Delaware, with my friend Jon Fiant, who now lives in Marietta, Georgia, and was the first student to study piping as an academic subject under the tutelage of the renowned Jimmy McIntosh at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

    Not unlike Hemingway’s Paris, I have found the world of piping a moveable feast. I don’t play quite as much as I used to, owing to some health problems which took the wind out of my sails for a while back a few years.

    But, with spring coming on, I’m getting the old pipes out of the box and giving them a blow now and then just for the glory of it all.
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