Yesterday I had the purest form of Highland Games I have every participated in.
It was in a pasture owned by someone who, for his birthday, decided he wanted to have Highland Games. The competitors were all known to each other, all Masters (over 40). There were only a few friends of the birthday man there to watch - no crowds, no announcer, just 7 throwers (5 men, 2 women) under warm November skies in a pasture. One trig to throw from, one set of standards to throw over. That and the implements were all.
It was the greatest of all throwing days.
Why? Because this was the very origin of the Highland Games themselves: friends and associates coming together to throw to challenge themselves and each other to feats of strength. No glory but in achievements, no cheers but that of their friends. No prizes but of the simplest sort - except the badge of participation, which is ultimately all any Highland athlete can lay claim to.
People sometimes ask me why I throw. I am certainly neither the youngest nor the strongest on the field. And it is seldom that I walk away from the field with more than a t-shirt to show I participated. There is little glory to be gained and certainly no prize money to be had.
I throw because I can.
I throw because 99.9% of the world will never do what I do - for many, they would never dream of trying what I am doing. I throw because every time I hurl a stone or weight or line up to a caber, I am trying to better myself, become a little more excellent. I am trying to achieve a little bit more.
And I am surrounded by people doing exactly the same thing. Seeking to better themselves, to become more excellent at what they do as well.
And we all do it in one big happy group, full of jokes (sometimes coarse) and jeers. And underlying it all, a sense of brotherhood. And (if you asked them to look deep down in their souls) love.
We came to celebrate our friend. And we came to do what we love - not for money, not for glory, but for greatness. For greatness in ourselves. For the greatness we see in our friends when they throw.
I went home with a roll of athletic tape and a container of deer chili. And a mind full of memories of doing something I love so very much with the people I love.
It was a very good day.