1995, Mel Gibson released his epic film "Braveheart,"
a cinematic retelling of the life of William Wallace, the Scottish
rebel who joined the clans in rebellion against the oppressive rule
of Edward "Longshanks" Plantagenet I of England during
the late 13th century.
the story takes some liberties and cinematic license with the actual
events of Wallace's life, it is true to the character of the individual.
Wallace was a man of substantial physical stature, a natural leader,
and a hero of epic proportions to his fellow countrymen. He had
tremendous courage, and was unbowed by his enemies, even unto his
death by disembowelment in 1306. His torture
at the hands of the English is the climactic scene in the film
where, while the English witnesses to his agony call out for mercy,
he uses his dying breath to shout u2018FREEDOM!".
message to his tormentors is clear: They have failed.
earlier line in the film, however, struck me as offering a greater
insight into what would motivate an individual to make the sacrifices
Wallace made on behalf of his beliefs and his countrymen.
dies, not everyman really lives."
there is no evidence that Wallace actually made this statement,
it is clearly an articulation of his life, and the decisions he
made about his destiny. William Wallace was true to his family motto:
Pro libertate — "For Freedom"
to Culloden Moor, the morning of April 16, 1746. In the final battle
to be fought on British soil, William, Duke of Cumberland, the man
who would become "Butcher Cumberland" to all future generations
of Scotsmen, led his superior numbers in a massacre of the Scottish
clans gathered under the banner of Prince Charles Edward Stuart,
or "Bonnie Prince Charlie," as he was better known. Prince
Charles had wanted to reclaim the crown that he believed had been
taken from the Stuarts in a coup against his grandfather, King James
VII, in 1688.
was so ruthless in his prosecution of the battle that he collected
the wounded from the field of battle and had them executed on the
spot. There were even reports that his lust for blood led to the
murder of non-combatants who were witnesses to the fighting that
the battle, the clan chiefs were stripped of power, homes and property
were destroyed, crops and livestock were confiscated, and the playing
of bagpipes and wearing of plaid were outlawed. Even today, the
Scots harbor bitter resentment over the systematic destruction of
the clans, an action that, by our modern sensibilities, would be
called "ethnic cleansing."
in the same century, this time on American soil, the descendants
of these same Scottish clans would again thumb their nose at authority
in a bit of civil disobedience known as the
Whiskey Rebellion. This uprising was a direct challenge to federal
authorities, who sought to disproportionately tax the settlers of
Western Pennsylvania for the production of whiskey, a libation preferred
by the Scots and Irish inhabitants of the West, but used sparsely
by the well-heeled in Philadelphia who preferred wine and port as
their intoxicants of choice.
the revenue to pay of the war debt, George Washington led his troops
to a quick suppression of the uprising, but the die had been cast
for a long and colorful engagement between the "moonshiners
and the revenuers."
the river of illegal liquor through history brings one to the foothills
of the Appalachian mountains of Georgia in the late u201830s and early
u201840s. A young "whiskey
tripper" by the name of Lloyd Seay (pronounced "See")
was about to become the first star of what would evolve into the
sport of the South, NASCAR racing.
was considered the best driver of his day, and was notorious among
lawmen in the North Georgia Mountains. Legend has it that one night,
while heading back to Dawsonville from Atlanta, he was stopped for
speeding. Seay handed the deputy two $10s. The officer said, "You
know the fine is only $10.00." Seay responded, "I'm paying
for my return trip later tonight."
u2018shine along the Dawsonville to Atlanta highway was a lucrative
business, and one that paid the bills for many of the mountain people
who had little use for the revenuers or a government that wanted
to tax what any enterprising man could produce in his own backyard
with a few hundred dollars worth of equipment, some corn, wheat,
or barley, and some sugar and water. Like their rebel ancestors
in Scotland and Ireland, or their forebears in the Whiskey Insurrection
of an earlier century, they knew when the government was treading
on their freedom.
a brief, but illustrious career as a stock car driver at Atlanta's
Lakewood Fairgrounds, Seay met his demise not on the track, nor
at the hands of the federal tax agents, but in a dispute with his
cousin over sugar, used in the production of moonshine, that resulted
in his shooting death.
its obituary on the event of Seay's death, the Atlanta Constitution
Seay, lanky, blond and youthful, was well known in Atlanta and
all along the highways to the mountains. Federal, state and county
officers knew him as the most daring of all the daredevil crew
that hauled liquor from mountain stills to Atlanta. They had many
a wild chase when they hit his trail, but they only caught him
rarely, for he handled his car down the twisting blacktop hill-country
roads at a pace few of them cared to follow.
will be missed by race fans as well. Fifteen thousand people saw
him race his souped-up Ford around the track at Lakewood Monday,
running a hundred miles in 89 minutes to win more than $450.00
Seay, the smiling blond Georgia daredevil who gave speed fans
at the July 27 stock car race here their biggest thrill when he
turned his No. 7 Ford up on its running board as he negotiated
the north turn, and who won the August 24 race here, will race
an odd twist, there is a museum opening the summer of 2001 in Dawsonville,
Georgia called "Thunder
Road, USA". It is dedicated to the history of stock car
racing, and to the bootleggers who begat the sport.
to the museum website, the sponsors of the museum range from corporate
entities like Alltel and the Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling Company,
to a number of local banks and businesses. The Georgia state legislature
recently approved an expenditure of $150,000 tax dollars on the
can't help a sense of delicious irony in this corporate and legislative
largess within walking distance of Lloyd Seay's gravesite. The very
same Lloyd Seay who made a career out of flipping off federal and
local law enforcement while providing tax-free libation to the good
citizens of Atlanta.
brings us to the now famous events in turn four of the February
18th running of the Daytona 500, and the untimely death
of NASCAR legend, Dale Earnhardt.
great deal has been made of the circumstances of Earnhardt's death
in the liberal press. We have been inundated with the hue and cry
about racing being a "blood sport," how the drivers are
reckless daredevils who lack the good judgment to wear the correct
equipment and drive at slower speeds.
maybe all of that is true. Dale Earnhardt did choose to wear an
open face helmet at a time when all of the other drivers have moved
on to the safer full-face helmet design. It now appears that the
open face helmet may have contributed to his fatal injuries. Dale
Earnhardt intentionally chose not to wear a HANS device that provides
restraint to the head in the event of a collision, a point that
the media has harped on about, demanding that NASCAR require its
Earnhardt also made the decision to drive in pursuit of an unprecedented
eighth Winston Cup championship at a time when most of his contemporaries
would have been seriously contemplating retirement in order to focus
on running the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. racing teams that carry drivers
half his age into battle every Sunday.
a brief moment, however, let's return to that Sunday afternoon.
to the voice of rookie race broadcaster Darrell Waltrip, a former
driver and legend in his own right who retired from driving in an
emotion-filled ceremony last November. Waltrip is a three time Winston
Cup champion, a man who had his glory years driving cars for former
whiskey tripper and NASCAR great Junior Johnson.
to the voice of Darrell Waltrip as he calls the last laps of that
fateful race, his younger brother Michael in the lead, a brother
who has never won a NASCAR points race in 462 attempts, an effort
to which he had committed over fifteen years of his life.
to Darrell Waltrip call the last lap, where a third-place Dale Earnhardt
is fending off the late chargers attempting to overtake his son,
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., himself a rising star of the sport.
to Darrell Waltrip as he has us ride with "Little E" and
brother Michael, the second place car of Dale Jr. chasing race leader
Michael Waltrip at over 180 MPH through the last turn of the Daytona
500, the same turn that a moment later, unbeknownst to the combatants,
will claim the life of Dale Jr.'s father and Michael's close friend
to the pride. Listen to the joy. Feel the rush of victory in battle.
Libertate, Dale. William Wallace would have been proud.
Allen is a technology professional in Georgia. As a reformed Yankee,
who has lived in the South for roughly twenty years, he has very
little tolerance for Northern sanctimony, or the erosion of individual