Category Archives: Stories Of Interest

Green Lizard Guards Ackee Tree

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One late afternoon, I ventured out to the backyard to pick some Ackees that had opened on the tree. Our housekeeper who unfailingly kept a sharp eye on any and every crop which was ready for harvesting, for some reason kept omitting to clear the tree of the precious fruit. I was curious to know why?

Armed with a long, tapered, picking stick, fashioned with a metal hook on the end, I began my sojourn.

Six or seven ackees later, the housekeeper appeared through the kitchen door, amazed that I had found so many of the fruit.

I took the liberty then, to ask why she had not already stripped the tree? Her answer was simple:

“A hell of a green lizard live on dat tree an me an ‘im a nuh fren.”  “Look ef yu nuh see ‘im?”

Sure enough, a quick search of the tree revealed the presence of the lime green watchman who allegedly lorded over the ackee tree.

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I must admit, the lizard did look a bit intimidating. It lay still, observing my movements as if deciding whether to act on it or simply ignore me.

Historically, lizards found in Jamaica are all said to be harmless.  Personally, I feel that is a questionable matter, especially after being chased at the age of ten by a serious-looking ground lizard.

However, on this occasion, history was not going to be put to the test as just then, the groundskeeper who had quietly come up on the scene, without a word, made a quick, jerking lunge towards the Ackee tree.

The movement was so fast, my brain cells were still actively processing it when the groundskeeper came towards me, machete outstretched.  Hanging hap-hazardly over the sharpened blade was none other than the  mangled corpse of the green, ackee tree watchman.

Before I could register my distress upon the innocent killing, the groundskeeper blurted out, while pointing to the dead lizard:

“Ah one a di worse py-son (poision) dis yu nuh. Ah it dem tek kill one a mi girlfren dem, wha’ day.”

I wasn’t sure which was more curious. Exactly how his girlfriend was poisoned? Or exactly how many girlfriends this tiny, aging wisp of a man boasted?

I was about to pose the question when he spared me the banter:

“Yu know how dem dweet?”

Not waiting on any particular answer the groundskeeper continued.

“Ef yu put it out inna di sun and mek it completely dry out it cyan shred up like powder.  Ah it dem tek sprinkle inna anyting an gi’ yu. All inna cornmeal.”

“Ah so dem py-son mi girl.  Gi’ har inna cornmeal porridge. Stone dead!”

With that the groundskeeper walked away with his trophy, stopping only momentarily to hurl the green reptile over the fence into the bushes beyond, before resuming his duties.

As I watched him in the distance, I could not help but wonder, who actually felt the need to conduct an experiment of this kind to discover its use? And how do others find out?

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Needless to say, my ackee dinner was divine and the helper was extremely relieved the green guard of the ackee tree was gone forever. However, cornmeal porridge for me will never be the same.

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The Hauntings Of Skull Point – Part 1

Recently there was an article published in the Jamaican newspaper – The Gleaner.  It was written by a well-known contributor.

On a visit to a certain parish in Jamaica, he  had made a stop at a local bar where he overheard a strange conversation between the bar cashier and a local parishioner.  From the discussion back and forth between the two, it was apparent, something weird and mysterious was surrounding an area known as Skull Point, located in Mile Gully, Manchester.

Immediately, the writer’s instincts kicked in, realizing there was an interesting story afoot.  Upon the departure of the parishioner, the writer began to quiz the cashier about the earlier discussion he had overheard.

From the information, he gleaned, there were some unusual-looking trees  that grew in the area of Skull Point  said to be possessed by ghosts.  According to local legend, the ghosts lived on or around  the bottom of  these trees and could be heard whispering among themselves at various times of the day.

Naturally curious, the writer traveled to the area to view the trees in question.  Strange looking trees they were. Unlike any the writer had ever seen.

While there, he came across a farmer known as “Shaky”, who up til that day, had been carrying his goat to feed on the grass surrounding the alleged haunted site.  Somehow or other, Shaky did not seem to be aware of the chilling legend. The writer recounted the strange goings on as earlier related by the bar cashier.  Shaky admonished he had never witnessed any such thing.

So, together they stood, waiting for signs of any ghostly banter.  However, the only sounds to be heard came from Shaky himself.  He was afflicted with a bad case of the hiccups.  For the next few seconds, before another hiccup interruption, they listened intently, waiting for something to happen.

At that moment, the gently swaying breeze caused a rustling of the leaves of the trees. The writer wondered aloud if that may have been the origin of the legend. He felt confident they had unmasked the true story here.  Not so for Shaky though.

In spite of the writer’s calm, Shaky declared most assuredly, he was packing up his goats and fleeing the area, never to return.  When asked why by the writer, since they had clearly conducted a fruitful investigation, Shaky’s response was “Mi ol’ but mi nuh fool.” ( I am old but not foolish).  He was not planning to come back to be taken away by any tree trunk “duppy” (Jamaican term for ghosts).

Tune in for my next post: The Hauntings Of Skull Point – Part 2 – Story of the Haunted Abandoned Church,

Banana Drama – World War II

Generally, when Jamaicans think of World War II, they think of a foreign, historical event.  Very few will recall Jamaica’s involvement and the effects it had on the nation as a whole.

 

The main causes of World War II were nationalistic tensions, unresolved issues, and resentments resulting from the World War I and the interwar period in Europe, plus the effects of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The culmination of events that led to the outbreak of war are generally understood to be the 1939 invasion of Poland by Germany and Soviet Russia and the 1937 invasion of the Republic of China by the Empire of Japan.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_World_War_II

Under the “Bases For Destroyer Deal” established  in 1940 – United States was given the right by Britain to build bases on British possessions in return for fifty (50) mothballed World War I destroyers.  Jamaica, under British possession at the time, was the chosen site for two such bases. Vernamfield Air Base in Sandy Gully, Clarendon and Goat Island Naval Base in Old Harbour Bay.  The deployment of American servicemen to Jamaica marked our Island’s first major contact with Americans.  

Photo adapted from Historical Boys’ Clothing site

Though the real war was far away from Jamaica, we were still greatly affected. Beef was scarce, as farmers had gone to work in the ammunition factories in America and England. Kerosene oil and rice were sold by issuance of tickets through appointed agencies. There were very long lines to obtain these commodities and when you did get to the top, you were allowed only one pound of rice per family per week.

Children had to walk miles to school as some school buses were taken off route for lack of gas. Some motorists had to replace their engines with horses to draw their car. Only people in “Essential Services” e.g. doctors, high-ranking soldiers and policemen were issued gas.

The war ended in 1945, but life on the Island did not immediately return to normal. Ships were still experiencing difficulty travelling the seas as mine traps previously set were not all removed and boats were being sunk.

Mom shared this with me – adapted from her “Memoirs”

‘”Trade was also affected as we had a trade agreement with Briton to take our bananas but when the ships did not come, the bananas piled up on the wharf and rotted and the banana growers lost revenue.

Therefore, they started giving them away free to anyone who had transportation to haul them away.

Many little banana depots sprang up all over the place and you could get a bunch of bananas (9-hand bunch) for a measly 3 pennies. That was good for the population for we were near to starving as most of our food items were imported and could not reach our shores.

We were eating bananas in every conceivable way.

My mother would have two bunches tied up in the kitchen ceiling to ripen and we watched out for them and picked and ate each time we passed by.

We ate green bananas boiled along with meat kind like ackee and codfish. We had fried green bananas, roasted green bananas, green bananas crushed with butter, banana porridge, we made banana fritters with the over- ripened ones.

Can be crushed with butter or eaten with meat kind

Banana Fritters

My mother would grate the green bananas (there were no blenders in those days); she would put it out in the sun to dry on a sheet of zinc and when she beat it out and pass it through a sieve, you got the best quality banana flour.

This was used to make banana cake, banana pudding and banana dumplings. These were all very delicious but after a time it could get cloying.

One evening my mother was having a long discussion with the food vendor at the fence and we thought she was staying too long. So we set to work, Joyce (my sister) and I started eating the bunch of ripe bananas. We were just being brats and we ran up and down the big yard and made space for more.

By the time we got through, we had eaten  7 hands from a nine hand bunch. Then you know for another 10 to 15 years I could not look at a ripe banana without getting sick.”

Do you have a story to tell about life in Jamaica during World War II? Please feel free to share…or comment.