Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 11 - Monkey trial's still bringing up bananas

Dayton, Tennessee:

Folks might say I made a bad decision in driving 287 miles to a little town close to no one has heard of to check out a brick courthouse. I began to think the same as I came across mustached men smoking and looking soused in the neighboring towns, but maybe that’s just me falling back on my preconceived notions. But on Tuesday I continued the drive to Dayton, the site of the infamous 1925 Tennessee vs. Scopes court case sometimes called the Scopes Monkey Trial.

To refresh your memory, it was about a high school teacher indicted for teaching Darwin's theory of natural selection in defiance of a Tennessee ban on teaching evolution. William Jennings Bryan, a three-time Democratic presidential nominee, joined the prosecution, and his earnest knowledge of the Bible frequently ended in soliloquies in court. Then there was my hero, Clarence Darrow, a man for humanitarian causes, women's rights, and civil liberties, and the attorney for controversial defendants such as strikers and even accused killers.

When I saw a statue of Bryan outside the courthouse while a similar monument to Darrow was conspicuously absent, I laughed. Of course they wouldn’t erect a statue of the man who, point by point, blew up the prosecution's attacks by using scientific method and reason. Anyway, I can’t say enough about Darrow. I’d drive anywhere to see where the great man debated in the courtroom still much preserved. I’m hoping in the next couple days to find his birth home somewhere in Ohio. And someday I'll go to Chicago and visit his museum/home that's supposedly haunted. That would be icing on the Beard Papas.

On a frustrating note, I was stopped by the police Tuesday when a sleek black SUV flashed me over to the shoulder with the blue lights. I swear, this city has the neatest cop cars. Anyway, same old same old. He had nothing on me. The officer just went straight to the point. "Do you have firearms...cocaine...marijuana...meth, etc." He let me go not even five minutes later. The combination of my milk truck Scion and California license plates is going to get me in trouble deep before this trip is over.

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