Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Highland Rogue

I like this picture from the "A Roguish Highlander" website.
In my imagination, this "braw lad" can look like anyone I want him to!

There was one incident at the Renaissance Festival in February that caused a great deal of merriment among my family, and a lot of teasing for me afterward. I still smile when I remember it.

While there are a lot of things to love about the Renaissance Festival, my personal favorite thing is wandering from shop to shop, admiring all the creative wares on display. On this last trip we came upon the shop for a business called A Roguish Highlander, "a Scottish gentlemen's clothing store," as it states on their website ( It had racks and shelves filled with tartan plaids and other essential items for the well-dressed highlander.

Having a particular interest in all things Scotland, of course I had to go inside and explore. I checked out the kilts and boots and various plaids (I particularly love the blues-and-greens, like the one above, or the blues-and-violets).

Of course, when we were there this booth was packed full of Scottish clothing.

At the very back of the shop, I found a rack hung with the medieval men's shirts I love most. These are the snowy white ones with the laced neck and the full sleeves and the wide collar (again, like the one in the top photo). Maybe I've seen too many historical romances, but to me these are the most attractive shirts a man could ever wear.

And so I sighed and said out loud, "Now these are the shirts that make men look hot. They are so romantic."

Standing about two feet from me was a salesman (perhaps even the store's owner). He was tall and attractive, probably in his late-forties or early-fifties, clad in a kilt and full highland regalia. He gave me a grin and started talking to me, but I can't for the life of me remember a thing he said because I was so distracted by what he was doing.

He began by slipping one side of his vest seductively down over his shoulder, then sliding it back up, and then slipping off the shoulder on the other side. He was really working it, showing off the fact that beneath the vest he was wearing one of those sexy white highlander shirts. Although we all burst out laughing, I found his impromptu little fully-dressed "striptease" to be rather attractive and entrancing. All the while he was talking to me, probably about the shirts I'd been admiring, and I'm sure I made some kind of appropriate responses, but I really can't remember.

By the time he was finished, he had the whole vest off and dropped down to the middle of his back, with his head tilted back alluringly. We all laughed until we cried. I do remember that after his "show" I did ask him to show me the tartans he had for women, which he did (but none in the colors I liked), before we bid him farewell.

This is the type of Scottish outfit I'd like to own someday.
I would wear it to the Renaissance Festival every year!

When we finally walked out of his establishment, I was breathlessly fanning my flushed face. The kids were laughing and teasing me about how I was blushing and all the flirty attention I'd gotten inside that shop. I admit, I definitely enjoyed the attention and the lightness of the moment. And my children didn't let me forget about it for the rest of the day. As I said before, the memory still makes me smile.

Now, I never thought this man was coming on to me. He was a good-humored salesman who was going for the sale, and I'm sure his lovely wife was in the back room keeping track of inventory, but it was a fun moment nonetheless. I think the greatest attractiveness of any man, no matter what shirt he's wearing, is his sense of humor and fun. This guy had those qualities in spades!

McLane High School's Pipers and Dancers

One might wonder why a girl who grew up in central California would be so fascinated with the highlands, the people, the dress, the language, and the traditions of Scotland. Like most kids, I wasn't too interested in or aware of anything outside the little world of my childhood, but that started to change when I was twelve. That's when I fell madly in love with a little Englishman by the name of Davy Jones, who happened to be in a new rock band called The Monkees. I loved his romantic British accent so much that my then-bestie Trudi and I adopted our own faux accents. I think we got pretty good at it!

Around that same time, my mother began reading a bunch of historical novels, many of which featured England and English characters. As she passed those books along to me, I became aware that there was this whole other world across the ocean, so similar to mine and yet so different.

Pipers and Dancers

The country of Scotland began to move front and center when I reached high school. I attended C.L. McLane High School in Fresno, California. It was named for Dr. Charles Lourie McLane (1862-1949), Fresno's superintendent of schools from 1899 to 1913. Dr. McLane also founded California's first community college, Fresno City College, in 1910.

Although Charles McLane was actually born in Missouri, I trust that his heritage is Scottish, because as soon as C.L. McLane High School was named for him and opened its doors in 1959, we became the Highlanders. I attended from 1969 to 1972, since the Fresno school district had three-year high schools. Freshman year was still part of junior high.

Pipers and Dancers on parade in Fresno, California.

I didn't know any of this history at the time, of course. I didn't even know who our school was named for until after I graduated. What I did know was that we were the Highlanders, our colors were red and white, an adorable little Scotty-dog was our mascot, and--most importantly--we had the pipers and dancers.

I'm sure we also had regular cheerleaders, but I don't really remember them. I'll never forget the pipers and dancers, though. Again, I think it was the romance of it all. The dancers came out single file, in their little plaid skirts, black vests, snowy-white ruffled shirts, and black slippers. Often they were bearing a pair of swords, which they cast on the ground in a crossed formation, and then they danced around the swords, light on their feet, toes daintily pointed, and their fingers held high above their heads.

We were the McLane Highlanders. Our mascot was a little black Scottish terrier.

That was also when I learned to love the humming sound of bagpipes. McLane had its own corps of pipers, who wore full Scottish regalia, including kilts, when they performed. These young people had to learn the art of the bagpipes quickly, during their short three years of high school, yet I can't remember a single performance in which they weren't amazing, while the dancers pranced lightly to the sound of their bagpipes.

The pipers' most memorable performance came at the end of our very long graduation ceremony on June 13, 1972 (our graduating class had about 1,000 seniors). From somewhere beyond the stage at the end of the football field came the skirling of bagpipes, floating across the field on the night air. It was haunting, and I felt the hair on my arms ripple. I've been in love with that sound ever since.

Even our yearbook had a Scottish name, Greacan (pronounced GRYE-kuhn).
I used to know what it meant, but almost 45 years after graduation, I can't remember!

To top it all off, in 1978 I discovered two novels that became my lifelong favorites: Bride of the MacHugh (first published the year I was born, 1954) and My Lord Monleigh (first published in 1956), both written by Jan Cox Speas. Both are historical romances that take place--you guessed it--in the highlands of Scotland during Britain's politically turbulent 17th century. Sadly, I learned that their author passed away in late October 1971, just days before her 46th birthday, and six years before I discovered her wonderful books. What a great loss to those of us who love her work.

And so, may I just say that I send my thanks to that highland rogue who helped make a fun day even more memorable by bringing my Scottish fantasies to life. I'd never had a kilted stranger flirt with me before. And I am smiling about it right now.

My favorite novels, by Jan Cox Speas.

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