The Devil Went Down to…Scotland?

(Three score candles. Ouch.)


A few days ago, I turned sixty. It’s a weird feeling, being older than the speed limit.

But there it is. In fact, I’m somehow older than many things that I shouldn’t be. I’m older than…

  • two stars on the US flag
  • rap music
  • my doctor
  • my doctor’s parents

When I was born, there were only 48 United States. Mankind had not yet landed on the moon, which would turn out to be just a desert in Arizona. Computers were the size of frat houses, and about as intelligent. Telephones had no apps or built-in cameras. The phones had a rotary dial instead of a touchscreen, and they were bolted to the wall.

In 1957, there was no such thing as Daylight Savings Time, or streaming audio, or trans fat. People ran around wildly eating gluten and peanuts, and actually drinking tap water, and somehow lived to tell about it. There were no ATMs; there was no internet; there was no email. Americans had just three TV channels, two genders, one enemy, and not a single Elvis impersonator.

Other things, on the other hand, were no different sixty years ago than they are today. Car salesmen still seemed to associate high sales with high decibels. In southern States, bread and milk sales were still genetically linked to snow forecasts. Democrat Presidents then, as now, attempted to have sex with anything that moves…and lied about it.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The year I was born, several (in)famous people died: Humphrey Bogart, Joe McCarthy, Jimmy Dorsey, Elliot Ness, Oliver (of Laurel &) Hardy. But I’m pretty sure none of those were my fault. Okay, maybe McCarthy.

And I’d like to say that I’ve grown wise in my three score years on Earth. I’d like to. But I’d be lying.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

One of the things I have learned along the way is this: Americans will celebrate absolutely anything. Here’s a very, very partial list of honest-to-goodness “National Days:”

  • National Blueberry Popsicle Day
  • Elephant Appreciation Day
  • National Ampersand Day
  • National Grateful Patient Day
  • National Acorn Squash Day
  • Lumpy Rug Day
  • National Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses Day
  • National Grateful Elephants On An Acorn Squash Diet Day (okay, not really…or not yet)

Here’s a sad observation: each September, some people with really very little else to do in their lives celebrate National Ants On A Log Day. In case you didn’t already know, “ants on a log” is a snack: peanut butter, smeared on celery, topped with raisins. Apparently, some poorly monitored educators at the University of Illinois have deemed ants on a log an “iconic, nutritious snack” or, as it would’ve been known by kids born in 1957, “corporal punishment.”

And I’ve just discovered that’s there actually something Americans celebrate called National Poisoned Blackberries Day. The name is odd enough already, and it’s odder still that Americans would choose to celebrate such a thing as tainted food, but even weirder yet is that the whole thing is based on a legend that didn’t even happen in America.

Stay with me here…it gets better.

According to somebody really old – Strom Thurmond, maybe, or Dick Clark – the legend behind National Poisoned Blackberries Day goes like this: once upon a time, long, long ago, the devil got himself kicked out of heaven, possibly for not showing respect during the National Anthem. (This was a very long time ago, before anybody’d dreamed up identity politics, or hypocrisy.) Of course, heaven is a place way up in the sky, like a Star Wars city run by Billy Dee Williams, so when you get kicked out, you fall. And, apparently, you end up in Scotland.

See? I told you it gets better.

So, according to Dick Clark, Lucifer landed somewhere in Scotland – which would’ve been punishment enough for a creature that likes heat – but then, to make matters worse, he fell straight into a blackberry briar on a moor. (In Scotland, a moor is a large tract of unmanaged land, primarily used for filming Mel Gibson movies. In fact, there are only two types of land in Scotland: moors and golf courses. On the other hand, in medieval Spain, a moor referred to a Muslim who’d taken a wrong turn.)

The legend then tells us that the devil – being, you know, the devil – didn’t handle the situation very well at all. In fact, he was furious on several counts:

  1. It was cold
  2. He was sitting in a thorn bush
  3. He’d packed nothing that would handle blackberry stains
  4. Heaven had kept his golf clubs

And now for the “poisoned blackberries” bit: Beelzebub, shunned, sore, chilly, and without a tee time, decided to get even with Scotland by…and I am not good enough to make this stuff up…by peeing on all their blackberries.

So, naturally, Americans would want to celebrate that. After all, we need something to commemorate while we, as global leaders of the free world, eagerly await the next National Two Different Colored Shoes Day.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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