I just posted a picture of me in the Scottish Brigade back in high school. That was Austin High School in Houston, Texas. We dressed in kilts, had a bagpipe corps, along with drums and bugles. It was awesome. As part of the drill team, I learned Scottish dances, just like the sword dance Blade did in Real Vampires Know Hips Happen. Yes, I used my own experience when I wrote that scene in the latest Glory book. We only did the sword dance once and it was for a special occasion.
Now I don’t tell my age. I heard once that a lady never tells. But this was back when John F. Kennedy was President. He was coming to Houston to give a speech at Rice University. The Brigade was invited to perform for him. The speech was given at Rice’s football stadium which held thousands of people and it was expected to be packed. Of course our sponsor was eager to have us do this. It was summer, we were out of school, but we headed to campus near downtown and began practice. We’d never done a sword dance before but somehow we got some swords, not sharp of course, and that’s what we began to learn.
Now Houston in the summer is just a little cooler than hell itself. We practiced in shorts but when the big day came we wore our dress uniforms. That meant wool jackets, wool kilts, knee socks, plaids over our shoulders, hats, the whole nine yards. We were so excited. We marched in to the beat of the drums and the sound of the bugles. Company C, my group, was always last. We were the shorties. My best friend and I were always close together. I still see Pattie frequently. Lucky for me. Anyway, we formed groups of four, the crowd got silent and the bagpipes started. Talk about goosebumps!
Then we began to dance. We twirled and leaped over the swords we laid on the ground. I think I still remember a few of those moves. We’d practiced so much it was automatic. No way could we mess up in front of the President of the United States. Our kilts flared out as we danced. We had to keep solemn faces, that was part of the show, but after we marched off the football field, we were excited. We’d done it!
Do I remember the President’s speech? Not a word. I saw Kennedy again that November, the day before he was shot when he drove down Airport boulevard. He waved to us and said hello through a microphone in his limo. He wasn’t in a convertible in Houston. This all happened in 1963. Yep, I was just a kid.
Anyway, when I was writing Real Vampires Know Hips Happen and had just visited Scotland, that day in Texas came to mind. I knew I wanted Jerry to dance for Glory. Because the sword dance was something that warriors did. It was a man’s dance but graceful. I loved doing it for the President, but how great if our strong hunky Scot could show Glory his elegant side in this ancient ritual. Of course his sword would be lethal. I was glad mine was little more than a toy.
Funny how that high school experience became useful so many years later. But that’s how writing goes. You never know what you will draw on when you sit down to tell a story. The people you meet, the things you go through, they are all potential story lines.
I had a great time with my gal pals in the Brigade. We enjoyed slumber parties and exchanging gifts before every football game. Any fond memories of your high school days? Share and you can win a gift card from your favorite book retailer, Amazon or Barnes & Nobles. Twenty-five bucks this time. Comment by April 15, tax day. I can’t wait to hear what you have to share.