In Memory of Warfield Clay, 1949-2005
by Don Chesnut ©2005
Warfield and Ann Clay called me up one day and told me they were going to British Honduras (now Belize) to homestead some land there. They asked me to go along with them. I agreed. I didn't know that it was their honeymoon trip. They drove down from Lexington to my hometown in London, Kentucky. All three of us got in their VW bug and headed for Texas. We took a break in Houston and visited some of their friends for a day. The next day we headed for Brownsville, Texas and the border crossing.
On the Mexican side, I showed the officials my passport (from a recent trip to Germany). They told me that they wouldn't let me in their country. I asked why. They said that my hair was too long. It was down below my shoulders. I turned around and walked to the bathroom, grabbing my hair in one hand and opening my large pocket knife. I was going to cut off my hair with the pocket knife. They came running after me laughing, saying not to cut my hair, it was alright to come into their country after all. It was all a big joke. The following is my account of the trip with linked photographs. Or you may just want to view the photographs in the thumbnail directory (no maps or descriptions).
Warfield and Ann wanted to drive directly to British Honduras, but I talked them into going into northern Yucatan to look at the famous ruins. I'm glad they decided to make this detour.
I bought fancy embroidered dresses and bathing suits for my two sisters and my Mom. I also bought jars of honey wherever I went and brought those back to my Dad. The best honey was from Tuxpan. My Dad and I enjoyed that honey for a long time.
After leaving El Cuyo, we drove down the east coast of Yucatan to Chetumal. We left Mexico, crossed the bridge and went to the British Honduras/Belize border control. Warfield and Ann told the border officials that they wanted to homestead land. The officials asked them how much money they had with them and they told the officials. The official asked me how much money I had. It wasn't much. He decided that I couldn't enter the country. Instead of leaving me there at the border, Ann and Warfield decided to return to Kentucky. I really think it was the long hair that put the officials off. Anyway, we heard some horror stories from British troops stationed in British Honduras (on vacation in the Yucatan) and they said that the homesteading was a scam. They enticed people to develop land with their own money and after improving it, the government takes it and gives it to other officials. That soured the homesteading interests of Warfield and Ann, so we decided to meander our way back to Kentucky. We headed to the Pacific Coast and spent several days in Salina Cruz (Google Map).
At Salina Cruz, we rented hammocks at a thatched, but open-air restaurant. In the morning, the owners would push the roosters in to wake us up. Hammock rental was about 35 cents a night. Seafood was very reasonable; a large dish of lobster for a dollar and a large container of boiled shrimp for less than that. It was great.
After Salina Cruz we drove to Oaxaca and spent the night there. We met some friendly university students and they invited us to stay in their rented house. Ann and Warfield bargained for woven rugs and baskets. Warfield bought one large basket which we tied to the roof of the VW and used it to store everything else that they bought. Then we headed to Mexico City; very heavy traffic. I suggested that we got to some of the famous museums there. After negotiating the traffic, we got to one of the museums and were told that on that day, all the museums were closed. Bummer. We then headed back to the east coast, I bought some more honey at a mercado in Tuxpan and headed back to the border at Matamoros. At some point in the trip, I was driving in the middle of the night, far from any lights, and saw the very large comet tail of Kahoutek. It was not very bright, but it covered a large part of the sky. What a sight. This was perhaps in the central highlands of Mexico, I don't remember exactly where. At the Brownsville border crossing, the officials took everything out of our car, disassembled the seats and the door panels. They spent quite a bit of time going over our car. They finally let us go and we headed back to Kentucky.