Making Impressions - Part 1
by Orville Green
“Cooya ‘G’, im de try fi ‘peak!” (“Look here, ‘G’, he is trying to speak properly!”)
I would have found the remark amusing, if I had not been its subject. On the contrary, I was offended by the fact that the same little country boy who had just assaulted me with a couple of green-skinned Red Coat plums was now ridiculing my reaction.
When the first plum hit me, I did not immediately determine what it was or where it had come from, as he and his accomplice were almost hidden among the luxuriant foliage of the plum tree.
However, as the second plum found its mark on my head, I heard giggling in the tree which overhung the unpaved, dual-track roadway that unapologetically wound its stubborn way from the low-lying Jackson Town main road, through the challenging terrain of First Hill, Sawyers, Ulster Spring, Albert Town and Alps, to the heart of Trelawney’s famed Cockpit Country mountain range.
I looked up into the tree and saw the mischievous pair, then reproached them: “Stop it! I am not joking with you.” That remark had prompted my assailant’s derisive comment to his partner, “G”, and elicited such uproarious laughter that the pair almost fell from their roost. I hurried out of range as they continued to guffaw helplessly.
It was during a summer holiday of my early elementary school years, as I was spending a couple of weeks at my grandfather’s home. The plum-throwing incident occurred about mid-morning on a Saturday, when I was on my way to the Jackson Town market where my grandfather -- widely known as “Busha” Roberts -- was manager. He had long retired from a career as a Busha on the nearby sugar estates, and after some years as a ‘farrier’ (taking care of horses’ hooves) now eked out a meagre stipend from administering the affairs of the public market.
I enjoyed spending time with “Dada,” especially at the market. Although some of my relatives considered him sullen and unapproachable, I got to know him as the wryly humorous patriarch who endowed me with the sage advice, “Never laugh at your own joke.” He and I got along very well together.
I was born and raised “under The Clock” (of the Kingston Parish Church’s tower), an expression that “country” people appropriately regarded as an offensive boast. Yet, like a large number of the city’s residents, my family’s roots and many of its branches were in the country.
Both of my father’s parents hailed from St. Catherine; my mother’s family was rooted in Trelawney but had spread widely in that parish and elsewhere. As a small boy and into my early teens, I had the privilege of experiencing aspects of rural Jamaica that my friends who never left the boundaries of Jones Town, or Kingston in general, were eager to hear about when I returned from holidays.
The venture into rural Jamaica usually began at the de facto bus terminal on Darling Street, not far from the railway station. The adjoining Grass Yard was the gathering place for the mule- or donkey-drawn dray carts that plied the streets of Kingston with bags of charcoal from the countryside for sale, or hauling cargo from the wharves.
The grass yard was also the marketplace for bundles of grass brought in from the country, which provided fodder for the mules and donkeys. Youngsters could buy grass for rabbits and guinea pigs -- the preferred pets of the day -- from the carts as they were returning home in the evening with bundles for their own animals.
Mr. Isaacs, our neighbour at 34 Myers Street, was a coal vendor and in the evenings his son, Eddie, waited for him at the corner of Price Street for a short ride home on the dray cart with its load of grass for the long-suffering donkey’s evening meal. Many of the premises in Jones Town were large enough to accommodate vehicles -- carts, cars or trucks -- but most were subdivided later into two or even three separate premises.