In 1957, I was almost 13, and each year we took a two-week vacation which dad began planning about a week after we returned from the current year’s vacation. He always knew when his vacation dates were going to happen. It was the same each year. We went to battlefields, mostly Civil War, but visited Valley Forge, New Orleans where there were different wars and battles. But one year he decided we would go to Texas, see the Alamo and drive to Monterey, Mexico and spend a few days. Dad and mom began saving right away. You see we always camped out, and in Mexico we would have to stay in a hotel. When we got there, we discovered that one of our dollars were equal to nine of theirs. Dad bought a new 1957 Plymouth station wagon. It had high fins, was a rust-orange color, looking very much like the “Family Truckster,” in the movie “Vacation.” We even had Papa and Mamaw Bryant with us, I kid you not, but we had to leave them in Brownsville, Texas for the few days we were in Mexico. Dad had sent to the Federal Government for information, and they sent back pamphlets outlining the rules and laws that were different from the USA. In 1957 a woman in Mexico could not wear short pants, or Bermudas. It was considered indecent exposure, south of the border.
We had a great time and on our first evening there, dad and I walked to the town square where a promenade was underway. It was a sort of street dance and festival. There were bands playing and many men dressed in clothing like the Cisco Kid and Zorro wore on television. The Mexican ladies were beautiful in their ruffled dresses with flowers in their hair. At one end of the square was a large Catholic Church. Amazingly, a man came up to dad, and asked dad if he would like to meet his sister. He said she was very beautiful and lots of fun. He even had a little sister he could introduce me to. Dad backed away from him and waved “no-no” with his hands while thanking him for considering us as worthy to meet his sisters. I was entering puberty, and really wanted to meet the younger sister, but dad said no. For some reason he told me not to mention the man or his sisters to mom. Things were much more, strict, 45 years earlier, in 1912 when Papa Bryant got his teaching license, it was different. He taught in a one room school near the Tennessee line. Papa lived in the attic of a member of the school board’s family. He left every morning to get to the school and ring the bell. The bell was on a post just a short way from the school, further on, was a creek where the student’s horses or ponies were tied.
One day at recess three little girls carrying a bag slipped down to the creek. Papa followed them. When at the creek they hid and changed into their father’s clothes. Papa told them to change back and right now! It was against the law for a woman to wear men’s clothes or a man to wear women’s clothes. Papa’s duty was clear. He had to whip them.He cut three switches and made them bend over the desk, and one by one, he whipped them. Then wrote each girl a note to her father, telling him what they did and what he did. The next day, he asked the first little girl what her father did? She said he whipped me again. Papa told her that’s what he should have done. The next girls were sisters from a sorry family, led by a father in and out of jail and often in his cups. They said he just laughed. Later on, Papa was sent an order from the State of Kentucky, to buy a pistol and bullets to defend himself from the father who had threatened to shed his blood. I asked Papa if he had to fight the man? He said no I never saw him. I asked why? He said, “I don’t rightly know, but every morning, instead of ringing the bell, I shot it. Funny stories, but not so funny times. Progress is when things advance improve, and not worsen. (See part 3, what we sow we shall reap)