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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - Jun/Jul 2002
Survival Techniques


by Chester Buchanan

Though Sue and I are not seasoned festival-goers, we have discovered a few survival techniques during the last two years that may save your wallet, body, and marriage from the ordeals of a Scottish festival.

Where is the car?

When you arrive at the festival's parking lot, the first thing you must do is remember where you parked the car (or for us Nevadans, your pickup or SUV).

Since parking spaces are usually unmarked in large, grassy fields, you'll need to rely on the trail brazing skills of your forefathers to find your car at the end of the day.

The most effective way of mastering this memory task is to first note conspicuous landmarks that triangulate your car's location, then reaffirm these landmarks several times while walking to the entrance gate.

The key to this technique is that once you enter the festival grounds, you use your newly discovered landmarks to return immediately to your car. Actually, the more frequent your return trips, the better your memory.

Subterfuges are necessary!

At the recent Woodland games I practiced this technique three times within 30 minutes after the gates opened!

Now its best to have a subterfuge when using this technique, otherwise you'll divulge your secret to others, thereby causing more people to be triangulating in the parking lot than watching the games.

Subterfuges that Sue cleverly pick for me are: she forgets her sunglasses, she decides to change her shoes or coat, and she forgets the entrance tickets. Anything along these lines will disguise your true intension. Just think how you'll impress your family and fellow clansmen at the end of the day when you guide them through the maze of cars without the sightless hesitation. No scratching your head or aimlessly turning with a blank stare in your eyes, but walking with the confidence of someone who has been there before.

How big is the tent?

Probably the most important tip when volunteering to raise your society's tent is to know its size, that is, will it fit in the space allowed by the festival committee?

If it is too large, you could be caught in the unflattering position of asking your neighboring clan to share "just a little" of their space. Not the best way to greet your fellow Scots, especially if they like to demonstrate the ease at which one of their family claymores can amputate appendages, such as tent legs.

If this happens to you, a quick bribe of single malt should be offered immediately.

What goes up... comes down!

Lowering the tent (also known as collapsing) is not something for the faint-of-heart, but you couldn't ask for a more spontaneous way to share clan fellowship as your cousins extract your body parts from the collapsed tent.

An "E-Z Up" tent may be just that, easy to lift, but the reserve doesn't hold true because all tent legs must be collapsed simultaneously.

Each person at a tent leg simply pushes the center leg button in unison to allow the upper half of the tent leg to rapidly slide on to your other hand holding the lower portion of the leg.

As your eyes begin to water and an old Scottish oath nears your lips, you quickly learn to step on the foot of the tent leg while lifting the upper portion with all your might to free the thin skin between your thumb and index finger that was caught between the two halves of the tent leg.

But if you're lucky, your head was caught inside the tent when it dropped, this way you merely raise the 100+ pound tent as it rests on your shoulder, which is of course, assuming you didn't go to your knees from the weight of the tent's impact.

The best away to help during the tent lowering is to remind the tent leg attendants, while you are standing well away from them, to closely follow the tent leader's instructions and to watch their fingers.

Does mustard yellow go with my kilt?

Wearing the proper shirt color is essential. I'm not referring to the colors of your clan tartan, but the colors of the fast food you plan to eat during the day, such as, mustard yellow, ketchup red, and gravy brown.

If you aren't careful and are rather creative in your eating habits, you could fabricate a one-of-a-kind family tartan on your shirt in no time.

Where are the "loo's?"

I assume that for most women, knowing the location of restrooms with the shortest lines should have been at the top of the list.

I must admit that this is not something I would have given much thought to if not for Sue's occasional derogatory comments about the lines and the disgusting looks I and other males in general get from the lined up women as we quickly enter and leave the other facility.

At these times, gentlemen, it's best to casually look in the opposite direction. I think I better get back to the subject of finding short lines before my diversion gets me into some domestic trouble.

Anyway, short lines, by design, are in less popular areas and in hidden corners of buildings.

Secret locations of bathrooms!

There are two such places at Woodland: One is tucked behind a vendor's booth in the far corner of the vendor's building immediate to your right as you enter the main gate; and the other is at the other end of the grounds near the dog trial arena.

Because of their distant locations, however, some pre-planning is essential before drinking that large cup of lemon-aid.

How to shop at a Games!

Buying merchandise, such as jewelry, clothes, and other odd and ends, at the festival is a complex art that takes some time to learn.

Early morning is the best time to buy, though it usually requires that you enter the festival grounds before the official opening time. This way you beat the crowds and get the full attention of the vendors.

Note, however, that this technique frequently requires that you help the vendor unpack his boxes or uncover his tables, but don't worry, it is still to your advantage because you'll be able to examine the merchandise without the interference of others, unless of course, some pesky, early bird wants to buy something from you.

Now, after your start hitting the vendors early, don't overly compare items among the shops nor seek the advice of your spouse.

Buy "it" now!

My simple motto, at least for those outside of my family, is when you find "it", buy "it"!

A "learning-the-hard-way" example occurred in Woodland when I noticed a unique sporran at 8:47 A.M. (gates opened at 9. A.M), but I decided to "shop around" just in case I could find it cheaper at another booth, even though the vendor only had one in stock.

Needless to say, I didn't find another of the same design until later in the day when a fellow clansmen showed me one he had recently purchased.

It was more than the same design, it was the same one!

Shop alone!

I discovered the "spouse-advice-technique" the expensive way when I recently .

I spotted a dandy silver lapel pin for my coat.

Being the frugal and gracious husband that I am, I asked Sue for her advice about the cost and her impression of the design.

Having excellent taste and a good sense of value, she immediately spotted a distinguished silver necklace lying next to the pin, which she quickly observed was a good match to the pin.

So I now have my pin for four times what it would have cost alone and Sue, I must say, has a very attractive, matching necklace.

Beware the re-enactment folk!

Watch out for the re-enactment people because they can really get into their parts, especially the entertainment troop that encourages people from the crowd to participate in simple sporting events, such as the tug-a-war between two people standing on small wooden boxes. I thought that such an event couldn't be too hard because it's mainly technique with a little muscle.

So I closely watched the husker's technique for about 20 minutes as he got young and old to come forward for their due embarrassment.

His opponents would either pull too hard, in which case he would simply release the rope and they would fall backwards, or they wouldn't pull, in which case he would slowly pull them forward off the block.

I soon figured it out.

You need only counter pull with equal force while maintaining your balance on the one foot square box top.

So I eagerly stepped forward for a try. I must say, my observations proved correct because I put up three long matches before being defeated.

Long matches, that was my mistake.

If you do participate...don't tell your chiropractor!

I forget to mention that you play this game by keeping your legs slightly flexed and your back bent nearly 90 degrees at the waist.

You need few muscles in your arms or legs for this game, but young, flexible muscles in your back.

After I was tricked off the box for the third time, my back graciously allowed me to slowly rise to a semi-vertical position for the sportsmen hand shake. In fact, it took several minutes for my back to fully regain its dignity.

Gain fame and fortune!

I'm sure you'll gain the admiration of your family and others if you follow these simple tips at the next festival.

Just think of the ecstasy you'll experience as you conquer the parking lot with the ease of Kit Carson, are the first to buy items after a simple glimpse, and artfully captain others in the rising and lowering of the clan tent.

He who knows where the rest room is...is a hero!

And just think men, how you'll dazzle your wife or girl friend with directions to that cherished short-lined restroom.


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