How to leave a comment on this blog.

If you open the individual stories from the links on the right side of the page you will find a comment box beneath each story. You can also open the comments box by clicking on the "Comments" link at the end of each story. I would love to hear your thoughts about the story, my writing style and/or any constructive criticism you may have.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I Remember Living In Panama

I was around two when we moved there and about five when we came back to the states.  We went at the end of World War II because my father was stationed at an air force base in the Canal Zone.  We lived in a two-storied apartment, we had the bottom floor and other families lived upstairs.  There were lots of American families with children living there. It was one of the really good times in my life because later I lived in rural areas where there were few playmates.
Near my house were numerous coconut palm trees.  There was a local native who came by regularly to harvest the coconuts.  This guy was simply amazing to a young boy.  He had a little two-wheel cart in which he carried the coconuts he harvested. It was odd to watch him push his cart along the streets because his shoes had the ends cut off of them. Now I don't mean he just had holes in his shoes, he had the entire end of his shoes cut off, sole and all, and he didn’t wear socks so as he walked along his toes were sticking out of the end of his shoes all the way up to the ball of his feet.  He carried a large machete like knife on a string hooked to his belt.  The coconut trees were probably fifteen inches in diameter and had trunks which were curved like the letter C. It was like the wind had blown against them from one direction all of their years as they grew.  The native would pull his cart up to one of these trees and then just walk up it.  He would grip with his hands around the tree and with his butt stuck way out he gripped with his bare toes, his shoes still on his feet, and just climbed the trees like a monkey.  When he got to the top he would hold on with one hand and cut the ripe coconuts off with his knife letting them fall to the ground, then down he would come just like he went up.  He would pick up the coconuts and put them in his cart and go to the next tree.  I would follow him watching, thinking that every tree would be the last because it seemed that he was doing something that was humanly impossible. He had to fall and I intended to be there to see it when he did.  No human should have been able to climb a tree like that but he never fell and he always smiled at me when I followed him around.  He didn’t cut all of the coconuts from the trees, only the ripe ones and they had to be just the right color.
We had a Mango tree in our side yard and the black ladies who worked on the base as maids and housekeepers would stop and pick up the ripe mangoes and eat them right there under the tree.  There were large colorful Macaws or parrots living in the trees on base and one in particular lived in a tree near a men’s barracks building. The men who lived there had made a pet of it even though it was not caged and taught it to say a number of words which really fascinated this young boy.  I got in trouble a number of times when my mother came looking for me and caught me under his tree trying to get him to talk.  You see the words the men taught him to say were not, in my mother's opinion, appropriate for a very young man to listen to and repeated visits to the tree caused me to learn another use for the limbs of trees other than parrot’s roosts, switches.  Panama and the military base was a very unique and interesting place for a young man to grow up.

I remember the bay also.  The house we lived in was only about two blocks from the bay.  The street that circled the bay was cobblestone and made the base housing form a circle that followed the bay.  There was a stone wall that went straight down into the water and you could walk along the street and look down into the bay and see all kinds of neat ocean creatures.  There was a huge Manta Ray which made the bay his home and watching him move through the water was like watching a blanket on a cloths line wave in the wind, except he had a long tail.  Near one end of the street the wall ended and the water, at low tide was very shallow so you could wade and find all kinds of things to catch to look at or just to marvel at.  Often the bay was full of jellyfish.  I don’t know what kind they were except that they were white and had long hair like tentacles hanging down.  Because, I guess, they had stung me on more than one occasion I would catch them in a bucket and take them up on the hot cobblestones and watch them melt away.  When I think back on this it makes me feel like a little cruel boy who would pull the wings off of house flies, which I never did, but at the time I don't remember thinking there was anything wrong with it.  There was a large pile of rocks in the middle of the bay that were out of water at low tide.  One day, probably at the time of a very low tide I was able to wade out to the rocks to investigate.  Being four or five years old I guess I didn't reason that the water would come back up so fast.  Several hours after I had gotten to the rocks the tide had risen to the point that I was sitting on the last rock on the top of the pile wondering what to do.  I could swim, dog paddle that is, but didn't think I could swim all the way back to the street.  Boy was I happy to see two men and my mom coming in a boat to get me.  Boy was I sorry when I got home.  It seems that Mom had been looking for me for hours and I had "forgotten" to tell her I was going to the bay.  Regardless of the fact that in a short time I would have probably drowned, the Mango Tree provided the means for mother to remove her frustrations over me being "lost and or drowned" and remind me that it was my responsibility to tell her where I was going.  I stood up for dinner and did not forget my responsibilities for some time to come

No comments:

Post a Comment