Sunday, July 17, 2005

This Is How It Goes: Part Two.

Part Two:

My Beloved Mister has been working six and seven days a week the last few, with rarely a grumble, though I know he tires and would wish for greater leisure. I try to accommodate some of that by amping up my efforts, picking up slack on the domestic & social fronts. Increasingly, I deeply appreciate the opportunity to relinquish my role as primary bread winner and place my focus more securely elsewhere. With the merger of Nashville's Table to Second Harvest comes new challenges, but too, the finer insurance I've already mentioned, a good raise, and even agency gear, including long and short sleeve shirts and a great rain jacket. My Mister is learning and has commented somewhat favorably of the difference between a lean and mean little agency and one that has greater resources with which to take care of its employees. Additionally, on top of his regular weekend shifts, he is filling in as weeknight evening host on WPLN continuing through the next week.

Friday found us with an open stretch of day until my Mister had to be at the radio station in the evening. We tucked into the old Lumina sedan and took off for the Tennessee River Valley, driving to the Cumblerland plateau's edge on Interstate 40, then heading first south, then east on highways 111 and 30, winding round and round the hills for a long descent to the fertile valley below. Unusually, I quite nearly got car sick, though perked right up once we arrived in Pikeville where we stopped to buy fresh produce at a roadside stand: okra and tomatoes, for a pot of my Beloved's gumbo, one of the first dishes he prepared for me when we lived at the "nest," my attic apartment of the old farm house across town. Also purchased at this stop was fresh baked whole wheat bread and a small bag of tummy soothing ginger snaps, both from a local Mennonite family whose wares were very fine; aside from which, I have much interest in the Anabaptist communities.

Our next stop was at another produce stand, this one an expansive compound where the owner promised that come fall, we would find more varieties of pumpkins than anywhere in Tennessee save for one other place, which, of course, appealed to our pumpkin loving selves. The wooden stalls, built to accommodate fruits and vegetables through the majority of the year, were adorned with hand lettered signs offering up 'Cups of Tomatoes: $2.50' and such as that. A 'cup' was a quart sized container of enormous vine ripened red heirlooms.... Mmm. Inside an attached outbuilding were boxes of various Jello puddings, bags of 'Nilla Wafers, packs of Clark's Teaberry gum, zip lock bags of dried October & pinto beans as well as blackeyed peas. There were shelves of canned preserves & pickled veggies, jars of rusty ringed berry surprise jam, pumpkin butter, and Sand Mountain molasses. We chattered with the proprietor, who'd arrived to serve us on a riding lawn mower, purchased some hot-pickled tomatoes and for me, a bag of boiled peanuts, piping hot from the kettle. Love me some boiled peanuts!

From the car, we admired the river, the greenness of the land and the preservation of the historic districts of the old towns. As we had a particular purpose for this jaunt, or 'field trip,' we reviewed our research materials on the Scopes Monkey Trial. This month makes the 80 year anniversary of the trial of the century, which took place in the Tennessee River Valley in the town of Dayton, county seat of the hill country which makes up Rhea County. Known for its rich soil and in particular, its strawberries, Rhea County was home to lots of the kids I went to college with in the big city nearby: Chattanooga. My Beloved Mister and I listened to a recent story taped from an airing of All Things Considered, in which townfolk were interviewed as to their recollections of the 1925 trial and its aftermath in the community. My very favorite part of the show is when a local selling fruits & vegetables from his tailgate in front of the courthouse tells Noah Adams, "To me, a monkeys like a chicken!" I've been saying it for days, now, and don't intend to stop any time soon.

Upon arriving at the town square, upon the center of which sits the very courthouse where the trial featuring William Bryant (creationist) and Clarence Darrow (evolutionist) as battling wits, we got very excited. The courthouse is a red brick three story affair with a tower up toppermost, the courtroom itself on the second floor proper, administrative offices below and a basement (now a small but very fine museum) located below that. I was fascinated to learn that all these years I'd misunderstood the genesis of the trial and that Dayton isn't as backwoods as the media has painted it for all these years: the citizens of this little town in actuality placed themselves at the center of the storm ON PURPOSE by getting Scopes, who taught chemistry and coached, to meet the ACLU's request of having someone sacrifice him/her-self for the sake of challenging the law which prohibited evolution from being taught. In point of fact, Scopes has only ever substitute taught biology and later recalled that he wasn't even sure he'd taught evolution at all.

The townspeople hoped to generate interest and income for their town's dwindling economy. Darrow and Bryan provided the bread; the citizens the circus. They brought in performing monkeys, churned out souvenir goods and were thrilled at the prospect of being in newspapers both across the United States and overseas. While the tourists didn't flock to the event as the organizers had hoped, Rhea County homies came out in droves, packing the courtroom far beyond capacity with nearly one thousand bodies tightly filling the space -- no air conditioning! The final day of the trial, the heat rose above 100 degrees and the proceedings were moved out of doors to accommodate the ever growing ranks of spectators.

We were able to go into the courthouse and be right there in the room where this remarkable piece of history took place; my Mister even sat at the judge's chair and that of each opposing counsel. I took some snaps, though haven't yet had them developed. He was a kid in a candy store, being right there in the thick of it and we were pleased to note that this is not some stuffy history set aside, but very much a living history with a room that's in full use to this very day. The Rhea County police station is across the parking lot and behind the courthouse; there's a donut shop (specializing in strawberry donuts) and a deli that caters specifically to the students of Bryan College, both just around the corner.

As we had to be back in Nashville for the Mister to be on the radio in the evening, we weren't able to stay for the town's yearly play, a reenactment of the trial, using actual transcripts of the event and local talent to put it to the boards right there in the courthouse. (A gentleman was setting up the sound equipment while we were in the courthouse and when asked how many audience members they expected, he shrugged and answered, "Oh, two. Or two hundred. Never can tell, really." He then (wisely) encouraged us not to miss the museum in the basement.

Having taken as much in as we had time for, we got sandwiches from the aforementioned deli (the Mister's Club and my Bryan College special were delish: the latter, a lightly grilled turkey sandwich on pesto bread with tomato, lettuce, herbed butter and Muenster cheese). We ate these, along with a to-die-for cream cheese donut (the strawberry variety had just sold out) in the car rolling toward Chattanooga through the lush green surrounding highway 27.

Our kind of day.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful journey and tasty sandwiches in the car.
    Ain't life grand?