The Scopes Monkey Trial (Dayton,
Dayton, Tennessee was only a few
miles away, so I drove over there that afternoon and got a room at a place called the Kelly
Motel. Whoever Kelly is, I'm sure he's a nice guy but his motel was a bit of a
dump and, worst of all,
there weren't any non-smoking rooms. That night, while breathing in the equivalent
of two packs of Marlboros, I made a vow to never again stay in a smoking
room... or in a dingy motel. I should've slept in my truck out in the
parking lot, but I'd already paid my $32 and, dammit, I was going to sleep in
that room even if it killed me -- which it nearly did.
gladly saying goodbye to the Kelly Motel on Sunday morning, I headed into
downtown Dayton to visit the Rhea County Courthouse, site of the Scopes "Monkey"
Trial, where the high-school teacher John Scopes was put on trial back in 1925 for...
horrors!... teaching the theory of evolution. I'd wanted to visit Dayton ever since I
read about the Monkey Trial in my high school English class, about the only
worthwhile thing I did in that class.
I was surprised, though, that no one else
was there poking around the courthouse grounds, but I suppose that rural
Dayton is pretty far off the beaten tourist path. Nevertheless, it was
walk around the courthouse and imagine Clarence Darrow battling William Jennings
Bryan -- and just about everyone else in the very religious state of Tennessee. Not
surprisingly, Darrow and Scopes lost, but the
ruling was later overturned.
noon, as the thermometer topped 100 degrees, I left Dayton and drove
east towards the Smoky Mountains. The eastern
Tennessee countryside is really scenic with lots of green, rolling hills and small truck
farms (where they grow small trucks, what else?). Like I say, this being my first trip to eastern Tennessee, I was half-expecting
to see hillbillies sitting on their front porches playing the banjo and sipping
moonshine, but actually this area is fairly modern -- although it is pretty poor. It was also pretty muggy and I couldn't figure out why anyone
would willingly live here, at least during the summer.
probably the nicest folks in America, but they're apparently not too smart. Of course, that's
probably what Southerners say about people like me who live in rainy Oregon.
Above left: Downtown Dayton, Tennessee was a busy place in July, 1925 during
the Scopes "Monkey Trial." It's a lot quieter these days.
Above center: The Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton, scene of the "Monkey Trial." A few days after
the teacher John Scopes was convicted, the prosecutor, William
Jennings Bryan, died here in Dayton... and on a Sunday, no less. I parked under a
shady elm tree here Sunday morning and ate lunch in my truck while listening to an entertaining preacher on
the radio. Listening to the preacher, it was easy to envision Bryan preaching to the jury.
Above right: After traveling through the steamy South for a few weeks, it
was a real treat to climb the Great Smoky Mountains and cool off. Here's
my truck at 4,400 feet. My elation was short-lived, though, because I soon
headed down into the steamy lowlands of North Carolina.
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