It being January 25, the birthday of Rabbie Burns, Scotland's National Poet, I thought I would tell you of the haggis I am eating this year. I have dined on haggis so many times that I have grown jaded, and a bit tired of the usual, domestically-raised haggis they serve at Burns' Suppers. So this year I decided I must try to hunt a wild, heather-fed haggis.
Two months ago, I was in Scotland, on Islay, where they have millions of wild haggisii (in fact, since wolves and lynx are scarce, they have become a bit of a pest). Islay is a mostly flat island, with few trees, so I thought it would be easier to bag an Islay haggis than one of those elusive mountain haggisii that you find in mainland Scotland. I also thought that Islay haggisii would be encumbered by the species trait that makes mountain haggisii so fast -- having legs on one side a wee bit shorter to run around the hills. I thought in flat Islay, this would only hinder them.
Was I ever wrong. The Islay haggis is a wily wee beasty. They run very fast, and the shorter legs give them a broken, twisting, left to right and up and down sort of gait, so even if you do manage to get a shot off, they are really hard to hit. That's if you get to see one at all.
After hours of freezing mo thon waiting for one to appear, I'd see one peaking out of the heather at me. But as soon as I'd raise my gun it would dissapear into the thick heather or the machair on the lowlands. It was as if they knew I was there all along, and were just toying with me. I never even got a shot off.
Then I tried a new tactic: beating through the thick heather, gorse, and machair with a big stick -- a very dangerous thing to do, seeing as cornered haggisii can be horribly vicious, and they have a venomous bite. Yet every haggis I got near would just show me a' thon before disappearing down his borrow. Then he would pop out again 50 yards away, and give his snickering little call. If I raised a gun, he would disappear again, only to re-appear 50 yards behind my back and snicker again.
So I came back empty handed (well, aside from a suitcase full of Islay whiskeys), and had to eat domesticated haggis yet again -- although, I do have to admit the whiskeys made up for it somewhat.
I am reminded of a great poem by James Jackson Montague (April 16, 1873 – December 16, 1941), an American journalist, satirist, and poet.
My heart’s in the Highlands, twa strings on my bow
To hunt the fierce haggis, man’s awfu’est foe.
And weel may my bairn ha’ a tear in his ee.
For I shallna come back if the haggis hunts me.
Note: bairn = child. thon = backside.