One Man’s Journey preview

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ONE MAN’S
JOURNEY


ONE MAN’S JOURNEY is a recall
of the author’s life. In it he tells of his life and his birthplace of
Jamaica, his move to England and finally to Australia, remembering some periods
as great adventures, and other as less than happier times. He tries to recall
them as accurately as he remembers them but gives no guarantees that his early
recalls are chronologically correct.

His recounts his life in a corner
of Jamaica named Queensbury, his schooldays and of his dreams and endeavours to
get away from what seems a hopeless and dead end situation for him, his mother
and sister.

At twenty he gets away to
England. Here he is joined by his mother and sister after three years. He falls
in love with an English girl, and whilst prevented from doing so at her home,
courts her for four years, and eventually marries her using a ruse to get her
father’s permission.

The author tells of his sixteen
years in England living in various lodgings, and Hostels, and of the constant
battle with the cold weather. He tells of his longing to get away to where the
sun shines as he remembers it in Jamaica, but only a return to that country is
open to him and he does not want to go back there.

In 1966 he applies to go to
Australia and is accepted on the 10 pound assisted passage scheme, only for his
wife to become pregnant and his house not sell in time. In 1968 he sets out for
Australia as a family of five and settles in Acacia Ridge, Brisbane where this
book was written.

In 1991 after forty years and a phone call that
again put him in touch with his past, he found himself yearning to visit
Jamaica. He and his wife embark on a round the world holiday that includes a
whirlwind tour of Queensbury and adjacent places that allows for reunions with
long lost friends there and in the USA, before travelling on to his mother and
sister in England, and then back home to Australia. The author wishes to point
out that this story is as he remembers living it, and that the people in it are
real. The inability to provide photographs of his younger days is due to the
fact that there were no cameras around in Queensbury then.

In Store Price: $27.00 

Online Price:   $26.00

ISBN:1-9210-0509-2

Format: A5 Paperback

Number of pages:
360


Genre: Non Fiction

Author:
Elmore Myers 

Imprint: Poseidon

Publisher: Poseidon Books
Date Published:  2004

Language: English

HOME PAGE

CHAPTER
ONE
(part sample)

 Nan’s
Sow and The Big Adventure

 

Have
you ever walked a pig, holding onto a rope tethered to its foot for eight miles,
along dirt tracks and a main road?

It
was my first big adventure as a child and a chance to see close up what I had
only viewed previously from the steps of our house and from the branches of
trees around it. This pig belonged to my Nan in whose house Mum, Myrtle, my
sister and I also lived. Also living here is my Uncle Tailor and Merton. Aunt
Bertha and her two children used to live here too, but she has just got married
and has moved into her own house.

This
morning, while we all waited for coffee that Mum had brewed before going off to
collect food for the day, Granddad said to Nan, “That old sow of yours is
coming on heat. I will have to get her up to the Millar’s place. Hear he has a
pretty good boar up there.”

Nan
was not impressed. “That is a long way away, Ned,” she replied.

“Well,
the two boys can do it tomorrow. It will be a great adventure for those two.
They are young and have all the time in the world to walk her there and back,”
Granddad said.

“Have
you mentioned this to Vida?” Nan asked.

“Can’t
see why she would object, Helen. It will give her boy a chance to see ‘over
the fence’ so to speak, for the first time in his life. What harm can he get
into?” Granddad asked.

“But
what if they were to be on the road when a vehicle come ‘round the corner’,
Ned?” Nan asked.

“Helen,
we are not living in Kingston, you know! When is the last time you ever hear or
see a car going up the main road at Southfield?” he asked.

Nan
was not happy about me going, stating it could happen, and that I was too young
for such a hazardous journey. Granddad asserted that I would be going and that
he would inform Mum of the decision when she was back from the garden.

This
pig was a sow and, to me, she had always been around. So it is fitting I start
my recall with her as the star of my first big adventure.

With
me on this trip is Merton, my cousin, who is much older and one whom everybody
accepts as not being a very responsible person. 
For this trip he is going to be the boss, for he knows where we are going
and I will do anything to get out and see the world.

I
am sitting on the exposed roots of a very large ackee tree that grows between
the house and the kitchen. Nan and Granddad are still in the kitchen discussing
the safety of the plan and I am hoping he wins out because I want to go to Mr.
Millar.

From
where I am sitting I can see Mum coming down the hill balancing a basket of
sweet potatoes on her head. I run to meet her and try to hug her around the
waist.

Her
dress is wet with sweat and her body odour for me is reassuring.

“I
am going to Mr. Millar,” I told her.

“You
are going to Mr. Millar are you? Who is he?” she asked.

“I
don’t know, but he has got a good boar and Nan’s sow is on heat and Merton
and me will be taking her there tomorrow,” I told her excitedly. 

“What
in the world are you talking about, son?” Mum cut in.

“Merton
is coming too, and he is going to lead and I am going to drive,” I said.

I
was excited even though I did not comprehend fully what Granddad was talking
about.

Mum
entered the kitchen door just as Granddad was coming out and she stood aside for
him. Inside she lowered the heavy basket of sweet potatoes to the ground, half
dropping it the last part of the way. The perspiration ran down her face and her
dress was wet in places. She turned and pulled me to her.

“What
in the world is he talking about?” she inquired of Nan.

Mum
was not in agreement with Granddad’s plan, but Nan told her that Granddad’s
mind was made up, and that I would be all right to go with Merton.

     
“He is not going all that way with Merton. That boy can’t even look
after himself. I don’t think I like the idea,” Mum said finally.

“See
your Dad, Vida, but I think you will find his mind is all made up. After all, he
will be going to school shortly,” Nan told Mum.

Mum
did not say anything more about the trip and, after the sweet potatoes were
crapped, washed and packed in the pot, she sent me for a banana leaf.

Because
the pot was too small for the amount of potatoes needed for the family, Nan had
to pack it high above the edge and used the banana leaf to cover it. To hold
this in place she used a wire hoop. After this operation, I left the kitchen to
play with Myrtle among the exposed roots of the ackee tree.

From
here, through a break in the wall I could hear them discussing the trip, and Nan
and Mum expressing their concerns about me going all that way with Merton.
Myrtle and I played under the ackee tree until lunch was ready and I was sent to
fetch Granddad from among the coffee trees where he was working. Lunchtime could
be anytime between eleven a.m. and two p.m. for there was no way to be accurate
about time in our house as we had no clock and, as far as I can remember, no one
could read one either. Everyone settled for the sun and its location in the sky,
and time telling was qualified always by the word ‘about’ – ‘about’ ten
a.m. or ‘about’ three p.m. Because everything was based on ‘about’, no
one could be late or was expected to be punctual – within reason that is.

    
After lunch, Granddad told Mum what she already knew. He added that
Merton and I would be leaving at about eight a.m. the next morning for Mr.
Millar’s place.

That
night, I slept, as usual, with Mum and Myrtle in the same bed, me on the edge,
Mum in the middle and Myrtle between Mum and the wall. Mum was always the first
to get up each morning and sometimes I would follow her to the kitchen,
bleary-eyed and cold. Here, I would sit on the hearth as near the fire as I was
allowed, while she would boil water to brew coffee for everyone. Just when
everyone was up, Uncle Arthur would come down the gradient from his place, come
rain or sunshine, and would head for the hill beside our house where he would
relieve himself. After this he would come to the kitchen for his can of strong
black coffee.

Merton
and I would retire to the other half of the kitchen called the Buttry. Here,
Granddad stored dried corn on the cob, gungo peas and any other produce that was
in excess of our daily requirement. It had a dividing wall of wattle that one
could see through. The kitchen was the center of home life, and everyone would
move from the house to the kitchen for the day and back to the house only when
daylight was spent. In the conversations at coffee each morning, Uncle Arthur
had something to say about everything. Mum said it was because he was the
first-born and heir. Nan said he had a special gift for upsetting people and
never could tell when he had said enough. At about eight a.m. this morning he
took it upon himself to give Merton and me our marching orders. I couldn’t
wait to be away.

We
pushed off across the common in front of the house on our big adventure, with
Merton leading from the front and holding the rope tied to one of the sow’s
front feet, and me bringing up the rear, hurrying her up with an occasional
shout. By the time we had reached the lane on the far side of the common, it was
plain to me that the sow was not rapt in the
adventure like I was and that even a ship without a rudder in a tempest was more
manageable. By the time we were on the Queensbury Road she was downright
cantankerous and so was Merton.

I
also discovered that Merton’s collection of adjectives and his schooling in
their use was not from around the house, and that it made no difference at all
to the sow. It got worse as the sun rose higher in the clear morning sky, and
after about an hour getting nowhere, we resorted to a stick to hurry her up.
This made little difference to her speed and certainly increased her grunting
and squealing. I now believed this was due partly to us, for it is difficult for
an animal to walk on all fours if one of your feet is continually being dragged
out from under you in order to hurry you along. Grunting and squealing, she
would attract the attention of every passerby. As we left the Queensbury Road
and started up the main road at Southfield, she added another trick,
crisscrossing the road from one shaded area to another shaded area. Slowly we
progressed up the main road at Southfield. The road was graded and had large
trees growing along it, giving shade.

Here,
we made better headway for she stuck to one side of the road. I was always
taking in the view, all of which for me was new. Merton told me that a little
cottage we were passing at the foot of Binn’s Hill was where a murder had been
committed. I right away recalled Granddad’s vivid descriptions of the event.
Of how a man was shot dead and of how the hole left in his stomach was so large
the gungo peas he had eaten for his dinner rolled out onto the floor.

As
a child I did not think of this as an exaggeration, only hosting a thought that
this man could not have had any teeth to chew his food. As I passed this little
house, I moved to the far side of the road, even though Merton reminded me it
had happened a long time before.

All
along on one side of the road up Binn’s Hill, large trees grew and their
branches formed a continual shaded area, which stopped the sow crisscrossing the
road. When we got to the top of this hill, there was a large wooden building.
Merton informed me it was a furniture factory. As there was quite a bit of noise
coming from it, we wanted to get near a window to have a closer look.

The
sow had other intentions and started to pull us in the direction of a large
seagrape tree nearby. Its fruits were all over the ground and a vinegary smell
was in the air. I liked the seagrape fruits even though the flesh in relation to
the kernel meant you had to eat a large number of them to be satisfied. No such
problem for the sow for the whole fruit seemed to be very much appreciated by
her. No matter what we did, she would not be denied, and kicked up a terrible
fuss with her squealing.

Across
the road, Merton showed me Mr. Binn’s petrol station that bore no likeness to
a petrol pump of today. He explained how it worked and how the petrol was pumped
up to the big glass tank on top. There were no cars about for me to see. I asked
him how many cars called there and he replied, “I don’t know, maybe one a
week. Maybe you will see one today if that bloody hog don’t get moving.”   

 

A
Walk Down A Lane

 

While
the sow continued to gorge herself on the fruits, kernels and all from this
tree, Merton suggested we leave her and walk down a lane past the petrol
station. I pointed out that Nan would kill us if we lost her sow, to which he
said that he didn’t really care. He tied the sow to a branch of the tree and
told me she would be all right there until we got back. I wanted to know what
was down the lane and he told me I would find out when I got there; in the
meantime I should shut up.

We
went to where a high stone wall blocked our view of a large house on our left.
Here, large trees grew on the far side of this wall and their branches hung over
it in places, with fruits of a kind I had never eaten before.

“We
are going to get a few of these,” Merton told me as he attempted to jump up to
reach them.

“That’s
stealing!” I told him.

“So
what? Come on stupid, no one care about these fruits,” he said sneeringly and
derogatively.

Merton
told me that I should climb up on his shoulder and break off a couple branches.
From my perch on his shoulder I could reach with ease and I broke off a couple
of branches like he had instructed. I thought they might be poisonous and said
so, but he told me he knew what he was doing, and that he had eaten these fruits
many times.

After
bringing me back to earth, we shared them between us and walked back to where we
had left the sow. She was sleeping in a pile of sawdust and wood shavings, and
was in no mood for travelling. We stayed in the shade of the seagrape tree for a
while and I followed Merton’s instructions as to the right way of eating
guinups. The amount of pulp on the kernel of each fruit was not a lot, but its
amber flesh was quite tasty, and I wondered why Granddad did not have one
growing among his coffee trees.

After
making the most of this new fare, and seeing who could spit the kernel furthest
– a contest that Merton won every time – we forced the sow from her slumber with
some difficulty and started out again on our journey.

Her
grunting and squealing alerted everyone and a tug of war developed to stop her
commandeering a cool spot on the verandahs of the two other shops at Southfield.
We                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
               steered
and pulled, coaxed and beat, while Merton’s language rang loud and foul. It
made no difference to the sow, for she pulled me to the doorway of a shop where
she made a deposit of pig’s poo despite our effort to pull her away or the
shopkeeper’s threat to “lop her bloody head off with a machete.”

The
shopkeeper was partly crippled in the legs, but he clung to the side of his
counter and some railings with one hand as he wielded the machete in the other,
uttering some of Merton’s adjectives. Despite his thunderous yells, the pig
did its poo and walked away without much urging.

Not
far from the shops, a road to the right took us off the main road. Down this we
went and, with large trees overhanging the road creating lots of shade, the sow
travelled well. We passed three large buildings that Merton said was the church
and school, but he said he had never seen inside any of them because he was
never sent to school.                                                     
  

 

Two
Lonely Tombs

 

At
the bottom of a gradient in the grounds of these buildings was a large Poinciana
tree with two marble tombs side by side. These tombs were surrounded with many
strands of barbed wire, as if security was uppermost in the mind of whoever had
buried them there. Merton informed me they were white people buried there and he
pointed to the far side of the playing field where there were many other tombs
of concrete.

“These
two thought themselves too good to be buried with the black people over
there,” he said. “They once owned all the land around here and gave this
piece for the School and Church to be built on,” he explained.

A
dry stone wall ran along one side of this road, and Merton pointed to an adobe
building with a thatch roof and very small wooden windows. He told me that when
I started school that was where I would be going. At the top of the hill and
quite a distance from these buildings, Merton pointed to a house and informed me
it was the house to which we were going. It seemed a long way off and, as the
road we were on was going in a different direction, I did not see how we would
ever get there.

Along
this stretch of road stood a very huge tree, its roots rising out of the ground
to four or five feet up its trunk and forming areas where one could play hide
and seek. I was taken up with the size of this tree and turned to Merton for an
explanation.

“That
is a cottonwood tree,” he told me.

I
thought he was joking, for in front of our kitchen, there was a cotton tree but
it was no way as big as this tree. Even I could pick the cotton balls off
the one at home. I asked how come it was so much bigger and he wanted to know
what I meant. When the penny finally dropped, he called me an idiot and carried
on with his explanation saying, “Some people call it the canoe tree.”

When
I asked why, his reply was, “Because they make canoes or dugouts from them,
stupid.”

I
knew what canoes were, but dugouts were new to me.

“One
and the same,” he told me. “Used by fishermen, and made from this kind of
tree.”

The
old sow was about to rebel against the heat after passing this cottonwood tree,
but it became cooler when we turned off left on a path completely overshadowed
by the branches of the logwood trees that grew everywhere. Here, the path was
steep and rocky and, in places, terraced by layers of rocks that emerged from
the ground forming steps. The whole place seemed to be comprised of rocks on
which in selected places the logwood trees grew. A coarse grass grew where it
could and hung over the ledges of the exposed rocks. Here and there small
waterfalls occurred where the water, unable to penetrate the underground rocks,
seeped out. The air was cool and pleasant to inhale as we helped the sow up the
steeper of these terraces. By this time, I found the expression ‘bloody hog’
escaping my lips quite easily.

Logwood
trees are self-pruning, dropping their dead twigs each year, and these have
thorns. I had to be careful where I put my bare feet. Merton pointed out a large
house on a hill across the valley. It was old and in a class of its own. He said
it once belonged to the white people whose tombs were under the Poinciana tree
we had passed earlier.

“Don’t
look like anyone lives there now!” I said.

He
pointed to a woman standing by a small lagoon between where we were and the old
house. “She lives there still, but she would be old now and she does not go
out because there are not a lot of white people left in these parts any more to
visit. Now, she lives on her own with only her cows for company,” he told me.

“Don’t
she have any friends?” I asked.

He
looked at me as if I had said something stupid. “How would I bloody know?”
he asked.

The
setting where the old lady was standing was fantastic and the few cows by the
lake added to its beauty. Despite this beauty I felt sorry for her and thought
of her as only having the cows for friends.

We
urged the old sow further up the hill until we reached a flat area at the very
top of the hill. We again turned left. From here I could see both sides of the
mountain as we followed the path along its ridge. The sow now seemed to be in a
hurry, as if sensing something ahead, so we let her have her way and followed.
We had no trouble keeping up and it was a change from how it had been since
leaving home. She scampered towards a pool of muddy water, and not wanting her
to be muddy on arrival, Merton hurried to intercept her. It turned out she was
not interested in the water and kept up the pace in the direction of the house
not far down the path.

 

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