SALADO — The 58th Scottish Gathering and Highland Games hit mid-stride Saturday on the grounds of the Salado Civic Center. A shorter program winds up today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Many onlookers took in the highland dancing, and the bagpiping and drumming performances, but the biggest crowd — and the most groans and roars — came for the Scottish athletics competition, particularly for the tossing of the caber. In the men’s division of the impossible-looking event, the kilted man picks up an 18-foot pole weighing up to 200 lbs. He holds it in his hands, and tries to toss it end-over-end, so it lands pointing directly away from him.
The other four athletic events were the combined weight toss and weight throw, hammer throw, tossing the sheaf and stone toss. The women competed in all of these events, but with smaller weights, and both sexes had age divisions.
Bill Galco, originally of Abilene but stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, said he competes in Scottish games throughout the state.
“Get a good pick,” he said of tossing the caber. “Get a nice good cradle while leaning forward. If you stand straight it’s going to go over your shoulder.”
He finished in the middle of the pack, he said, and had two personal records.
“We all have our personal records,” he said. “Getting a first or a place is good, but we love getting our personal records.”
Hayden Baillio of Austin, waiting to toss the sheaf, said he’d already tossed the caber. In his class, he said, he was one of only two who got the caber to flip over. This was his first visit to the Salado games, but he competes in other Scottish games. He’s won three championships in Texas this year, he said.
“There are a lot of strength sports,” he said. “This one has a lot of tradition.”
It’s best to have a caber to practice with, he said, but his backyard isn’t big enough, so he only gets to practice at meets.
Kat Barker of Eastland and Ruth Snow of Cedar Park, waiting to toss the sheaf, said they were “throwing friends” and were in the masters, or over-40 class.
“Our sheaf weighs 10 lbs,” Barker said. “The men’s weighs 16. Today I would like to make 16 feet. My personal record is 14 feet.”
This was about her fifth Scottish games, she said, but her first at Salado.
“One of the nice things about having it in a compact area, is you get to see a lot of the festival and other competitions,” she said.
Snow said this was only her second try at Scottish games. “I’ve done three events,” she said. “Two of them I did better than last time.”
A few minutes later, she tossed the sheaf over the bar at 12 feet, and said that was a personal record for her.
Aaron Woods, athletic director for the games, who was keeping score, said the men start tossing the sheaf at around 18 feet. He has competed in Scottish games for 22 years, he said, and tossing the caber was his best event. The sport has taken him all over the country, primarily Texas and the East, he said.
“The camaraderie is part of all sports,” he said. “This is the best one as far as camaraderie.”