Last night my kids and I were having dinner in a local restaurant. I heard a familiar voice at the table next to ours and immediately recognized Kim Peek and his dad sitting next to us.
Kim Peek is a mega-savant and the inspiration for the Dustin Hoffman/Tom Cruise movie Rainman. He is also the subject of several TV documentaries on savants and people with unusual mental abilities. Our conversation ranged widely, as anyone who has seen the documentaries might expect. Kim asked about my kids’ bithdays and told them what days they were born and what days they would retire. He answered obscure history questions for them, and talked about music.
When I mentioned that I was a piper, he said that he and his dad both enjoyed the bagpipes. He told me about listening to bagpipes at Fort Douglas, an old fort in Salt Lake City. Then he asked me if I knew the tune “Scotland the Brave”. I said yes, of course I did. He said “do you know that the tune has words?” Living in the Salt Lake area, it’s impossible not to come across this – the LDS (or Mormon) church has a hymn called “Praise to the Man”, which uses the tune to Scotland the Brave. (When we play it in my band you can usually see people in the crowd singing along.) I told him I was aware of the words to the tune, and then he started to sing it. Very Loudly. In the crowded restaurant.
It was a marvelous moment, and anyone who has seen the documentaries about him would have an idea what it might be like. He was a fascinating person to spend time with, and a genuinely likeable guy too. My kids have been talking about the experience all day, and I’m sure they will remember this for a long time.