Douglas Clegg


August 1st, 2020

The One-Eyed Man with the Yellow Bag

I’ve been called a lot of things in my time but my favorite sobriquet involved broken glasses, a travel bag, and a raconteur who told endless tales on beckoning roads.

I’d just finished fifth grade.

We went on a trip to Mexico. My parents hired a driver and car. When we drove out of Mexico City, we headed to Puebla, Oaxaca, Taxco and many archaeological sites, several only half-unearthed.

We stayed at hotels in various places and then the following day we’d meet our driver for the next adventure. The only resort town we stayed in was Cuernavaca towards the end of the trip.

The driver was a wonderful guy who wore a cowboy hat, had a moustache, and a philosophical outlook. I would guess he was forty (maybe younger or older?) but all I knew at ten was he was a grownup.

I sat up front with him while the rest of the family (Mom, Dad, sister, two brothers) sat in the back where there were two rows of seats.

I carried a Braniff Airlines yellow bag that seemed huge. I don’t know what was in it now but some travel necessities were likely stuffed down within its uncharted depths.

I wore a pair of sunglasses but they dropped on a stone at Teotihuacan when I sidestepped some sunning rattlesnakes and I lost one of the lenses.

I kept wearing the sunglasses anyway.

After this, the man who drove us called me “the one-eyed man with the yellow bag.”

It remains my favorite nickname from childhood.

He’d say it like it was some Homeric epithet. Then he’d tell tales from the road and his various adventures. Sometimes he had beer on his breath, which meant the stories would get wilder as he drove.

Once, after wandering ruins at Monte Alban, he shouted across a distance filled with many people, “At last! The one-eyed man with the yellow bag is here!”

All heads turned toward a ten year old.

I felt famous.

That guy made the trip amazing for me.

The time in Mexico opened my eyes to a deeper world than I’d known before. I have other moments from the trip that felt profound to me—the one-eyed man with the yellow bag—and though I don’t remember his name now and he may never have remembered mine, I’ll never forget his tales or the moment he christened me in the shade of ancient stone carvings of jaguar and Quetzalcoatl.

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