The business man who lit two candles and sparked a folklore
'Truth is stranger than fiction'. So the saying goes. Well, just ask Peter D. McConnell. After more than 30 years he can relate to this idiom on a very personal level.
The two 'quart' bottles, each with the remnants of a red candle, sitting on a shelf in his office bear mute testimony to the day his legend as an obeah man was born. Today, he still ponders the economic sense of the decision not to pursue a job along that line.
"I nearly had a career change because I had a lot of requests ... all I had to do was go and buy some oil a dis and oil a dat and put up two red flag and I probably make more money than I made in agriculture. Because people were coming to me, 'Boss, I having trouble with this woman, light the candle fi mu nuh.' I say well bring the money first ... so these candles must be up there now, for must be 30 or more years them sitting up there," said McConnell.
The saga started one morning when McConnell was driving on the property and saw one of the bottles lying in a cane field.
"I drove down a little further and saw another one. I turned around and picked them up. Don't know why. Anyway, they turned out to be bottle torches. We had a pond nearby so the people were using them as torches to go and fish."
What led to his next course of action he still can't say, but it would set the stage for a lucrative career option, were he so inclined.
"I brought them (both bottles) back to the office. I don't know what got into my head, (then) I sent to the village and bought two red candles and put them in there and I didn't trouble it.
"That afternoon in driving around the farm again, I see a tractor running and don't see nuh driver. I stopped and called out and nobody answer, I walk into the cane field and I find four five-gallon jugs and a hose - they are stealing the gas oil out of the tractor. Well, the man ran away."
The story continues: "So the following day suppen say to me, light the candles. So I had the two candles sitting here burning and the wax is running down and my office is open, so people come up to me 'Boss, weh you light candle for?' I say I light for the man who teef mi gas oil and run way yesterday."
That which was said in jest would take on a bizarre twist less than 24 hours later.
"Do you know that the next day lightning struck him dead? You hear me?"
Even though the two incidents were unrelated, the workers were convinced otherwise, and from there on saw the boss in a very different light. Still, it did nothing to dampen their love and respect for him.
"I've had some really interesting times and my style of management I would say is paternal. Somebody having a baby, them call me at night to ask if them can get the ambulance to carry them to hospital; this one call 'bout this one a give him bun; that one involved in disputes of that nature.
"I know what's going on, I know who is pregnant for who, who is going out with who. It's like a family and you know everything that's going on in the family and that makes life very interesting," he offered by way of explanation.
It is no wonder then that his answer is a simple, "I think the
people" when asked what he will miss most when he walks away from his current role.
- Christopher Serju