I returned to Cane River in St Andrew (near Bull Bay) recently, to fulfil an obligation to one Margaret Johnson, an approachable sexagenarian with a minor obsession with orchids. I had met her on my last visit to the area, about a year ago.
"Make sure yuh come back and seh howdy when time yuh is in the area again," she told me then.
As I stood calling out her name just outside what memory led me to believe was her home, I was astonished to see a fair-skinned fellow with piercing eyes and a scruffy beard poke his head out a front window.
"Who dat?" he grunted. I promptly divulged my name and stated my business. "Mi nuh know nobady name nuh Johnson. Wrong number!" the man yelled and shut the window without another word spoken.
Smarting from the curt dismissal, I scurried off, looking around at nearby homes, wondering where I had gone wrong.
I walked around for about 15 minutes, searching for what I remembered was a large white house with red windows and a rusting zinc roof. But Miss Margaret's house was nowhere in sight. Perhaps she had it painted since my last visit? I considered that, but still saw nothing close to the place I remembered.
Many 'dead' resting places
As I carried out this search for the woman, I was surprised by the number of riverside burial plots there were in the area. A peaceful resting place, I'm sure, but what of hurricanes and landslides? I sat on a wooden post near one of the burial plots contemplating this very question when up walked a woman with elaborate hair. Now, I contend that there were no fewer than 30 multicoloured clips, all strategically positioned, on that head, and my first remark to her was an exclamation of the tremendous strength her neck must hold to support such a burden.
"Tee hee!" she giggled. I introduced myself and she told me to call here Gene. I offered her a seat next to me on the wooden post and asked if she was from Cane River. "No, not me, my cousin dem," she said, pointing to a nearby roadway.
"Wah meck yuh siddung into di dead yard?" she asked. I told her of my search for Miss Margaret and she, too, denied knowledge of the woman.
Across from us was a grave with the words 'Platty Heavy' painted on it. I asked her if people in the area ever worried about the burial plots being so close to the river.
"Nuh really, yuh know," she said. "Is long time di place stay so, and nothing never happen, so we don't really have no reason to worry about dat," Gene explained.
We both got up and started walking together up the road. I told her I would have to resume my search for Miss Margaret another time, since it was getting late and I had no leads.
"Yeah, yuh can do dat," said Gene. "When mi reach up top, mi will ask 'bout har, but mi never hear 'bout nobody name so from mi born. Maybe ah one ah di duppy dem yuh did see, yuh know," she chuckled. "For yuh love fi siddung inna dead yard, maybe is one of dem love yuh off and teck a set pon yuh!"
I said goodbye and hurried home.
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