The saga is back this month taking us back to memories of Jamaica and the culture.
Culture General

Memories Of Back A Yard Part 3

It’s 5:30 in the morning and I could hear the roosters crowing from near and far “cook-ko-roo-koo!” As if they were holding a contest to hear which could crow the longest and loudest. I made a pee, lowered the enamel chamber pot to the floor and while using my left foot to gently push it beneath the bed, crept right back under the cover beside Granny. It’s Sunday morning, another hour and the entire neighborhood will be up, the saints and sinners alike, will be getting ready for church. The radio was on, it played through the entire night and the Evangelist Billy Graham’s Program was been aired. Granny loves listening to his sermon of hell and heaven and bible tales. The sun had already risen, its rays, coming through the cracks of the board walls, created a colorful reflection on the shiney curtain hanging at the window, that Granny had received countless years back from Aunt Tiny, her daughter in Montreal, Canada.

“Greens! Greens! Anybody wants fresh calaloo?” The voice of a vendor heading down the lane, repeating himself numerous times. “Hold on dey Greens man!” shouted Mavis, a woman living almost four gates up the lane from mine. It seemed she had chased him to make the purchase. Her loud chatter woke Granny who slowly got up, knelt beside the bed and began her morning prayer. When she was finished, she picked herself up from the floor muttering these words, “A wandah wey me fe wear tiday go church? Garnet!”

“Yes Granny.”

“Cum get up now and go sweep up de yard, today noh worri cum a church, stay ome and study yu book far next week yu a go do yu exam.”

I never liked going church anyways and in any event I had bucked my big toe and this would have cause me much pain and great difficulty to wear a shoe.

Outside, the morning’s dew had moisten the soil and made the plants and vegetation beam with life. Hummingbirds were feeding from the blooming petals of hibiscus flowers, grown as hedges to the barbwire fencing, as tiny little insects and flies gyrated on mango skins and seeds from last night’s eating. The silence of the morning is punctuated by mooing cows being taken to pasture, dropping their dump all over the lane, some stopping to graze on grasses and shrubs along the side walks. Several cracks of a whip echo from the backs of the cows as Rockfish shouts, “Move up Vera, move up Icy and Doreen!” Which are the names given to animals in the herd, presumably those lagging behind.

I swept the yard, lit the rubbish and made a trek to the bushes, where I gathered the dried branches of trees for firewood to roast breadfruit and to boil the peas for dinner. There in the bushes, I came upon a huge wasp nest and almost got stung by a wasp. Birds were chirping all around and had I my slingshot, few would have taken the oath of silence and become a delicacy to my taste bud. Watching the birds sway from branch to branch, my eyes wandered off to the ground and right next to me was a big load of human waste swarmed by a thousand gyngi flies. Though I had smelled the stench all along and was not quite bothered by it, the sight of it now sickened my stomach and I hurriedly loaded the sticks in a bundle, tie them with a wisp and trotted off to the house. On my return home, breakfast was already done. Fried dumplings, plantains, ackee and saltfish and also chocolate tea, ready to be devoured. Our house had one small table, occupied with all sorts of things and so as I customarily did, I ate from a small bench situated in the right corner of the house, while Granny, with her back towards me, dresses for church.

“Me soon cum back, me a go church and yu tan ina de yard an tek yu book,” said Granny as she picks up her bible and purse and head towards the door.

“Aright Granny noh worri yu self.”

“Mine me an yu eno bwoy, a who yu a talk to so, yu tink me an yu a quabs?”

“Granny me noh mean nutten, sari.” Granny, though seemingly acknowledging and accepting my apology, said nothing and continued her way.

It was mid-day when I completed my studies and decided to go next door. Every Sunday, except for when it rains, that yard was full of people watching and betting on cockfights. Rusty Brown a rooster, very light in weight and of few feathers around his posterior, blessed with long pointed sharpened spurs and blind in one eye, was scheduled to fight. An Indian man named Jerell owns Rusty Brown, who is yet to loose a fight and will be the featured attraction and overwhelming favorite. I don’t quite remember how many fights Rusty Brown had won but to the best of my recollection, he remained unbeaten that day. Granny loved cockfights and she reared poultry and I now recall how she would catch a hen and insert her index finger up its rectum and then saying, “She hab egg and a go lay teday.” Upon her release, the poor hen will cackle all the way under the cellar where it normally laid its egg.

My going next door was never to watch cockfights but mainly to play gig. A circle would be drawn and in the middle, a hole about one inch deep is dug. Two ten cent coins would be place inside with dirt covering it and all gig players would try to use their gigs to knock the money from the ring. If successful, the money becomes yours, however, if in an attempt to knock the money out the ring, your gig got stuck inside the ring, then the owner of the gig must appoint someone to take a maximum of three tries with their gig to knock the stuck gig out and if such attempts failed, the owner of the gig looses it to the person who had placed the money in the ring or then a fee of ten cents must be paid for its retrieval. I like playing this game and on many occasions, split other peoples gig in my attempt to bail theirs out. The ring was so large that many gigs got stuck inside and I made more money bailing out rather than trying for the coins.

Within an hour of my arrival next door, the weather had taken a drastic change, as dark thunder looking like clouds scroll across the sky. Even vultures perched in a coconut treetop, taking turns to feed on the carcass of a dead dog in the bushes nearby, seemed to have noticed the change in the weather. Women living in the yard were scampering to remove wash clothes that were already dried or at least damp from clotheslines. Suddenly it began to drizzle. My gig playing buddies and I dashed off to our respective homes as the lightening flashes and the mighty roar of thunder burst in the sky, followed by heavy raindrops. As kids when this sudden change of weather occurred, we’d say that the devil and his wife were fighting and the roar of the thunder would be God pulling out his chair from his table to go part them. I was always afraid of the thunder and lightening and to this day it does send a shiver down my spine.

Dashing through the barbwire fence, I rip the back of my shirt, just barely escaping a scar and ran straight into my house where Granny had already returned from church and was taking a nap.

“Garnet!”

“Yes Granny.”

"Pastah preach a beautiful sermon today a church, a sari yu neva cum and hear im.”

“Well next time noh dey Granny so mi noh miss nutten. So what him talk bout Granny?”

“Him sey oonu late a days pickney noh hab nat a scrap a mannas, “ replied Granny. I pretended I didn’t hear in order to end the conversation and wisely so, as the next thing I heard was snoring coming from Granny which ultimately cause me to fall a sleep.

About the author

Kharl Daley