From Yellowstone to the presidency: How far we’ve come

Published 3:00 am Saturday, August 6, 2016

Whether you like Hillary Clinton or not, that gal has really done something.

Last week, she accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination as its candidate for President of the United States of America. At that instant, she claimed the bragging rights as the first woman, lady, female – whichever is politically correct – nominated for that high office by a major political party.

Eight years earlier, Barack Obama plowed new ground as the first African-American to be nominated by a major party as its candidate for the White House.

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Oddly, African-Americans were given the right to vote in 1870 but women had to wait another 50 years to get to cast a ballot.

So, Hillary had a right to be smug. I reckon if I had just been nominated as the first woman, lady, female candidate for President of the United States, I would be haughty, too, and grinnin’ like a possum.

Just think, about 100 years ago women were sitting around at quilting bees lamenting the fact that the men out in world voting on everything that really mattered while they were home rocking babies and baking cookies.

And the leashes had not been lengthened a whole lot in the 1960s.

When damsels graduated from high school in the early 1960s, we basically had four choices of what we wanted to do with our lives. We could be teachers, secretaries, nurses or we could get married, have babies and bake cookies.

I had learned everything I needed to know when I was in fourth grade. The next eight years were spent serving out my time. I did not want to be a teacher.

In Miss Nadine Turnipseed’s class, I had typed, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country” a thousand times on a Remington manual typewriter. Always with “errers.” I did not want to be a secretary.

I had seen cows have calves, skinned squirrels and cut up chickens. I did not want to be a nurse.

I did not like to make up beds, sweep the floor or scrub the toilet. I didn’t like squalling babies. I did not want to get married.

So I threw my mortarboard in the air, boarded a slow-moving train and went to work at Yellowstone National Park for $50 a month.

I would have paid the park $50 a month if I’d had it just to be there. What an amazing place that God had created: the sunrises, the sunsets and dark starless nights; the hoots of the owls and howls of the coyotes; and the rummaging of the grizzlies.

We hiked the backcountry, camped under the stars, shot the rapids, fished the deep lakes and climbed the mountains. We drank hot-butter rum while basking in nature’s hot tubs and declared we never wanted to go home.

When the summer ended way too soon, I had decided I wanted to stay. I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to work for the National Park Service.

Mama and Daddy said working for the National Park Service was not anything for a girl to do. That’s what boys do. “Come home.”

Boys could always do things that girls could not. Boys always had the most fun.

How many times I was told, “Girls can’t do this. Girls can’t do that.”

But my granny said if little girls could kiss their elbows they would turn into little boys. No matter how I twisted and turned and wrenched my arms, I could not kiss my elbow.

I was doomed to being a girl.

When I boarded the train from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Montgomery, Alabama, that early September morning, I puckered my lips and gave my elbow one last, determined twist.

A few years later, Troy State College announced that, because the cold wind whipped the legs of girls in dresses as they walked across campus, girls could wear pants

At long last, women had been liberated. From there we could only imagine: Why one day, a woman might be president of the United States of America.

Such a foolish thought.