Tue | Sep 22, 2020

Cow thieves and cookout in Contrivance

Published:Tuesday | February 26, 2013 | 12:00 AM
A bar on the way to Contrivance, Manchester.
Maas Tom takes a quick break on his farm.
Pots are nearly ready to be raided. - Photos by Robert Lalah
Houses in the area are nearly hidden in the greenery.

Maas Tom is not in a good mood. "Dem nuh know di workings! Dem only waan come reap what edda people sow," he said, wiping sweat from his forehead.

We were standing on a quiet roadway in Contrivance, Manchester, moments after he left his nearby potato farm.

"Mi ignorant, man! Mi very ignorant!" said he. Maas Tom is not alone in his anger. Other community members, including farmers, shopkeepers and housewives, were gathered in the square talking about the theft of three cows from the area the night before. Maas Tom and I walked over to join them.

"Is smaddy unbeknowing to we around here thief Miss Jack cow dem last night. Is not none of we around here. People from bout here don't thief," said Maas Tom.

Sparky, an elderly, bearded man with a raspy voice interjected.

"Wi fi tring dem up!" he shouted.

The women sitting nearby shook their heads.

They told me that it was the third incident of bovine pilfering to take place in Contrivance in recent times, and the people who live there have had all they can take.

"We mek report, but we need fi just ketch di brute dem while dem ah do it!" said Sparky.

Maas Tom was more philosophical. "We need fi understand why dem really doing it. Maybe if we tek dem in and teach dem di farming, den dem won't need fi thief cow," he said.

Now, clearly these people weren't having a good day, but they seemed determined not to let it keep their spirits down for very long, especially with a visitor in their midst.

"So young man, come have a siddung wid we," said a woman called Cat. She wore a red T-shirt and a skirt that just about covered her ankles. I sat beside her on a large rock and asked her if the residents had gathered only to discuss the theft. "No man, is something we do all di while," she said. "Di farmer dem now is coming in from di farm, so we cook a big pot and everybody eat and relax."

'Pot ah bubble up'

I asked her where the cooking was being done. "Prento!" she yelled. With that, a man in a cap poked his head out from behind a bar where others were inside drinking and playing dominoes.

"Who dat?" he asked.

"Come show di young man what we cooking," said Cat. The man seemed puzzled.

"What mi ..." he started to say, but Cat cut him off. "I say to show him what we cooking!" she said.

"Alright, alright," the man said. "Come in, mi bredda. Pot ah bubble up now."

When I got over there the scent hit me with force. I could smell the pepper, onion and other spices. Two pots, one with pork and the other with dumplings were set atop a wood fire and would be ready, Prento told me, in about 15 minutes.

"Is not me really start di cooking," he said. "But mi helping out. Di man what really doing di cooking inside," he said.

I asked him if everyone there would be partaking. "Yes man! Di whole of we going to eat. Yuh going to eat wid we too. For yuh is here and we not leaving yuh out!"

I told him that would be very nice, but insisted that I couldn't impose. Also, I wasn't very hungry.

"Yuh must eat!" he said. "Life short. Food will done pan yuh if yuh nuh eat," Prento said.

I told him I certainly would eat with them, another time, but had to be going.

"Well, alright. When yuh come back wi set yuh up wid some tings fi carry back to town - some potato and yam," he said. I told him that was a most generous offer.

"Is Contrivance yuh come, man," he said. "When yuh come here yuh must feel welcome. People from around here is good people and we like stranger to always feel welcome and happy. When yuh come Contrivance yuh must not want to leave," Prento said.