Scotch pioneers were built to last

Gogol once said there are many faces in the world where nature has taken no great pains to sculpt.

One stroke of the axe and there’s a nose, another and there are the lips, the eyes gouged out with a  great drill…


Our Scotch neighbors might be tall or short, stocky or lean, although most of them were remarkably in between. But it was evident at a glance that they were made to last.

Their faces and hands were covered not with a pink or white film but a heavy red parchment designed to give protection to extremes of climate for a lifetime. It had the appearance of leather, and appearances were not deceptive.

This excellent material was stretched over a firm bony structure on which the nose, often retaining its axemarks, was by all odds the prominent feature. Additional protection, though it may not have been absolutely essential, was provided for most of the week by a stiff-bristled beard. The story was told in my youth of a stranger who, in a moment of aberration, poked one of the McKillop boys on the jaw. He would not have been more damaged, it was said, if he had driven his fist into a roll of barbed wire. In any case, he was badly wounded. Our older neighbors wore a mustache. This was no clipped nailbrush, but a full-flowering piece of foliage which grew and straggled and sagged at the ends as nature had obviously intended.

In natural shades it might be black, red or gray. However, on many of our neighbors, as a result of an informal rinse, it came out a rich tobacco brown.

The Scotch, John Kenneth Galbraith, 1964, p. 13-4. Image: back book cover.


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