Paul H. Williams, Contributor
In the thatched hut Herman waited for Neville's goats. He lay on a bamboo bench, his head resting on his bag. Sleep came many times, but he had fought to keep it at bay. He had to catch those goats, the ones which he claimed were eating his ground provision.
It was after midnight, and the Portland rain was pouring, drips of water fell on to the bamboo bench. He was not moved, too late to go home in the pouring rain.
About one o'clock, he heard movements outside. He sat up, and reached for the Cuban machete, lying beside him on the bench. The sounds of a walking animal were going closer to the hut. It was perhaps going to shelter. Herman's heart raced. The machete was now in his hand.
The sounds were now at the entrance to the hut, and just as Herman put his head through the opening, and raised the machete, a huge creature he had never seen before glowed its eyes at him. The creature was startled, and so was Herman, who screamed and dropped the machete. Then darkness came.
It had been weeks since Herman and his best friend Neville had been at loggerheads over the destruction of Herman's crops. Neville, a goatherd, staunchly defended his goats, giving reasons as to why they couldn't be the culprits. And he even had a strange suggestion. A rolling calf, that ghostly red-eyed cattle that goes around with a piece of chain around its neck. This angered Herman even more.
On his back he lay in his hut, while his wife Dotty and neighbours were raising the alarm. It was unusual for Herman not to return from his field. Not even rain could prevent him from going home. But Herman was in his hut fast asleep, knocked out, literally.
Back in the village of Shrewbury, at daybreak, Herman's neighbours and acquaintances gathered at his house. His wife was beside herself with worry. Soon, a search for Herman ensued. His hut was the first target.
On the way up the hillside, the search party came upon Neville, going down the hill. Everybody stopped. They all knew about the feud between Herman and Neville. And when the news of Herman being missing came, Neville had come across some people's mind, including Herman's wife's.
"Yuh no see Herman, Nev," Ralph, the self-appointed leader of the group, asked.
"Yes, him no go home last night."
Ralph stood akimbo, a machete was in one hand, as a puzzled look took over his face. "But mi nuh see Ralph yesterday, but him nuh call to me, so mi nuh call to him neither."
"Whey yuh see him?"
"Inna the eveling mi see him going inna him hut."
"Well him nuh go home, so come."
A moment of tension. Everybody stared at Neville. Then he led the way back up the hill, to find his friend.
As they walked, they looked among the wet bushes and tall grasses, but there was hardly any long conversation along the way. Neville uttered not a word. He was very upset that Herman didn't believe him, even though he had been vigilant over his goats. He too was at a loss, despite his rolling calf suggestion, as to what was destroying Herman's crops.
Upon reaching a level piece of land where the hut was, the searchers became collectively anxious, as there was nothing to reassure them of Herman's well-being all the way up. Ralph started to shout Herman's name as he approached the hut. At the door, he turned to the group, and exclaimed, "See him yah!"
"Herman! Herman! Herman!" Ralph shouted upon seeing Herman lying on the ground. "Get up, man, daylight, yuh wife a worry bout yuh, why yuh never go yuh yard?
"Uh," Herman uttered, as he stirred and opened his eyes. The other men gathered at the entrance.
"Wha happ'n, man, yuh awright? Ralph asked strongly.
Rubbing his eyes, Herman sat up on the ground.
"Whey it deh? A dazed-looking Herman asked as he pulled himself from the ground on to the bamboo bench.
Wha yuh talking bout, man? Winston chipped in.
"The rolling calf!"
"Yes, nuh rolling calf a eat mi food dem."
"Man, yuh lick yuh head or wha?"
"Yes, afta de rolling calf frighten mi."
The men, now crowded in the hut, stared incredulously at Herman, whose eyes were as red as a rolling calf's. A smug look lit up Neville's face, just as Herman's eyes caught his.
Later, in the evening, after the villagers had ridiculed Herman and Neville all day, a decision was taken to have a vigil one moonshine night to really see whether a rolling calf was behind the eating of Herman's ground provision.
The night came, and with it much excitement. It was like an outing. Food and drink were taken along. But, at 2 a.m. no rolling calf, and one by one, the watchers were falling asleep.
About 3:30, someone claimed he had heard something. In the little hut they all gathered, some shaking with fear. Even those who believed the idea of a rolling calf was foolishness were excited. But nothing emerged from the bushes.
The sounds of hissing teeth filled the air, and as a crestfallen Neville was about to leave the hut, he whispered, "But what in God's name is this?"
Filled with dread and curiosity, the watchers slowly left the hut. In the moonlight, they stared in awe at a big white tail deer approaching Herman's provision ground.
That was in the mid-1990s, and the white tail deer, which was an offspring from the two that escaped from a cage in west Portland, simply scampered back into the bushes when it saw the frightened onlookers.