Ned and Zed Do a Family Tree

📅 March 17, 2020

Excerpt from Tales of Hog Holler

When Maybelle Higginbottom’s 9-year-old twins Ned and Zed announced their teacher had assigned ‘a family tree,’ she located the photo of Great-Great Granddaddy Angus McGillicuddy and thought her motherly duty was done. But Zed wanted to know why Granddaddy ‘had on a skirt.’ Maybelle explained it was a ‘kilt.’ The boys, having discovered their Scottish heritage, begged to go to the library for ‘books on Scotland.’ Maybelle said they could come along on her trip to the fabric store on Saturday. After three hours in the library…

…we emerged with a stack of books a foot high—all on Scotland.

The boys piled in the back seat and turned pages all the way to the fabric store. In we went to find the material I needed to make my Christmas aprons. I was admiring a lovely holly print when the boys came careening around the corner, holding three bolts of plaid cloth each.

Could I make kilts for them? They’d “get extra credit.”   

I shook my head. “It’s too hard to match plaid, much less make pleats, too.”  

Grinning big, green eyes shining, they said I ‘could do anything.’

Out we came from the fabric store with a stack of plaid fabric a foot high. 

That evening they pored over their books at the kitchen table.

They’ll sleep good tonight, I thought.

I was wrong.

About 2 in the morning, I heard shuffling and tapping in their room. I opened their door.

What are you doing?” I asked.

“Scottish Country Dancing. It was in the books.”

“I’m going to Scottish County Dance you. Turn out that light and get to bed.”

The next morning, I was stirring grits when I looked over to where my picture of Elvis Presley was supposed to be. In its place was a pencil drawing of a big hairy cow with a long mane hanging over his face.

I hollered upstairs. Yawning and rubbing their eyes, the boys came down.

“What is that?” I demanded, pointing my spoon at the drawing.

“It’s a highland cow,” Ned said. “They raise them in Scotland. Me and Zed aim to save up and buy one.”

“And Ma,” Zed said, book under his arm. “Could I practice my poem? We get—”

“I know,” I said, spooning grits onto their plates. “You get extra credit. Go on.”

Zed scrunched up his mouth. “My luv is like a r-r-red, r-r-red rose, that’s newly spr-r-rung in June.”


He repeated, concluding: “It’s by R-R-Robert Burr-r-ns.”

I said, “Eat your gr-r-rits and get to school.”

While they were gone, I worked on their kilts, yearning for the day I would be done helping my boys embrace their Scottish heritage.

But I wasn’t done—not by a long shot. When they came home, they asked how to earn extra money. They planned to buy bagpipes…and a sheep.  

I put my foot down. “You’re not going to keep me awake practicing bagpipes. And what’s the sheep for? I thought you were going to raise Highland cows.”

“I don’t want to raise sheep,” Zed said. “I want you to make haggis.”


“Made of sheep innards. You mix in oatmeal and spices and cook the whole thing in the sheep’s stomach. It’s the national dish of Scotland.”

 There I sat, drowning in a sea of  Tartan plaid, rolled ‘ r’s’ ringing in my ears, the Highland cow winking at me from across the kitchen.

“I’ll haggis you,” I said. “Get upstairs and do your math homework for a change.”


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Holly Bebernitz

Native Texan Holly Bebernitz moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1967. After thirty years of teaching speech, English, and history on the secondary and college levels, she retired from classroom teaching to become a full-time grandmother. The change in schedule allowed the time needed to complete the novel she had begun writing in 1998. When Trevorode the Defender was published in March 2013, the author realized the story of the Magnolia Arms was not yet complete.


Semi-Finalist - 2021 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition - Florida Writer's Association