from May 10, 2005
They’re making a lot of fuss these days about teaching evolution in the public schools versus teaching the Bible.
Back in Panhandle County, there was not a great deal of fuss being made over this issue. This was primarily because nobody had heard of evolution. Also, there were no public schools.
Well, nobody had heard of evolution until this screwball atheist moved to town. This old guy had a monkey for a pet, so the preacher came to the belief that something fishy was going on. So this preacher, who doubled as our schoolteacher, ordered a book from Chicago. I never got to read this book because it wasn’t assigned, but Daddy Orville III somehow got his hands on it, read a couple of chapters, and burned it.
The preacher didn’t seem to mind. It was his book, he had ordered it and paid good money for it, but as I heard him tell Daddy III, he had read the first few pages and got the general gist and decided then and there that if he ever visited a Christian household and found a copy of it in their library, he’d have the posse out in no time.
That struck me as kinda funny, because I’d have bet my bottom dollar, if I had one, that there was not a Christian household in Pan Count that had a library. It’s not that people didn’t read back then and there. Fact is, they were highly educated. I’d say maybe forty percent graduated from the eighth grade by the age of 16, when you were expected to help out on the farm, doing your Christian duty of milking the cows, planting crops, cultivating them, harvesting them before the grasshoppers beat you to it, and spreading manure.
Anyway, that’s what the boys were expected to do. The girls were expected to cook, have babies, butcher the chickens, and slop the hogs.
So much for that human interest stuff. Now back to the atheist with a monkey for a pet. Our teacher decided to invite him and his animal friend to show and tell, as later generations of scholars learned to call it. The point, I believe, was to show the guy up, make him confess that he was an atheist who believed in evolution, and then run him out of the county to save him from the lynch mob, which in those days was considered the Christian thing to do.
The guy showed up, all right, with his monkey in tow. The guy was wearing the standard Pan Count outfit, cowboy boots, chaps, a gun belt, a string tie, and a ten-gallon hat. The monkey was dressed up in a funny little hat and a diaper and was carrying a box that resembled a guitar case. Fact is, it was a guitar case. “Jayzus!” I thought. “This animal is no dummy.”
He certainly wasn’t, despite the fact that he wasn’t toting a guitar. When the old guy snapped his fingers, this cute little monkey opened the box and pulled out what I later learned was an organ grinder mechanism and started grinding out a song called “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Maybe you’ve heard it.
While this song was being ground out, the monkey did a dance. We all clapped, except for the preacher, who doubled as our teacher. Or did I mention that.
When the song and dance routine was over, the monkey took a tin cup out of the guitar case and went around the room asking for tips. I couldn’t say for sure how many pennies and nickels he hauled in that morning, but it was no doubt enough to get him and the old man through the month.
And that’s how the old atheist and his smart monkey came to be elected to the Panhandle County Commission.