Sun | Oct 24, 2021

Tony Deyal | Buck dodgers in the 21st century

Published:Saturday | May 4, 2019 | 12:00 AM

It used to be a penny for your thoughts but now the price has gone up to a buck – not a Trinidad buck or even an American buck, which is worth almost eight Trinidad bucks these days, or a Jamaican buck, but a Guyanese one, which is about 209 bucks to one US. What is also different are the lengths some people went to in their effort to shut the buck up.

Having grown up in Trinidad in the immediate aftermath of World War II, when electricity and even water were not available in the village homes until I was about nine years old, all of us, children and adults, were surrounded by spirits, not just the overproof rum, which was the popular choice of the workers in the sugar cane fields, like my father, uncles and aunts, but of the dead, the malicious, the wicked and the weird.

In the nights before the radio came and my family could listen to the ‘Indian songs’ or I could tune in to ‘The Shadow’ and other stories, with one lamp or a candle flickering in the room, we heard about the ‘lagahoo’ or creature who dragged a chain around the village with a very loud noise that disturbed the dawn or ‘foe-day-morning’, even from a cow (and there were many of them) that had escaped from temporary bondage and was roaming the roadway catching its grass.

Then there was the La Diablesse or female creature, known by its cloven hooves, thatsought to bewitch men but, fortunately for my father, uncle, neighbour or family friend, who all told different versions of the basic story, inevitably failed. There they were, riding from the rum shop at midnight along the dark and deserted village road on their Raleigh men’s bike, the most popular vehicle of the time, which differed from the female bike because of the suggestive, Freudian, characteristic iron-bar, running from front to back, which made it easy to ‘tow’ or carry a passenger, side-saddle, so to speak.

The creature, in the guise of an extremely beautiful woman whose dress reached the ground in order to hide her ‘cow-foot’, claimed to be stranded and begged for a ride to her home near the Catholic Church (which had a cemetery) where she lived. The man, feeling sorry, and a little more horny than the cow with the chains or the La Diablesse herself, would let her mount his handlebar and lean on him as he rode on Cloud Nine.

Inevitably, however, just before being taken for a ride to God knows where, the rider would ‘ketch’ himself, see the cloven hooves, and escape the ghostly clutches. As he ditched her and fled, he always heard her screeching, cackling laughter and the loudly voiced opinion, “You get away this time but I will ketch you again!”

There was also the ‘Soucouyant’, a witch who left her skin at home, generally in a mortar, while the female pest flew through the night, sucking the blood of anyone in the village whose ‘blood took her’ or to whom she was positively attracted.

Women would wake up with swollen, blue marks on their bodies, demonstrating that the vampire had invaded their house, their privacy, and sometimes their privates, for a meal.

MAGICAL POWERS

This is also where the buck started. However, in this particular case, the buck (according to a local newspaper) was a three-foot tall, short fat man with a fat face, big hair and big ears, who, despite this, was a shadowy spirit creature which supposedly lived inside the home of a family in the town of Gasparillo and had terrorised them for many months.

It had eaten valuable racing pigeons, sausages and meat, poisoned their goats, and stolen an expensive vase, a picture of Jesus Christ, a Bible, a tablecloth and money. Home appliances, including a television set, stereo, fridge and stove, which were levitating off the shelves, had to be firmly anchored, using pieces of wire to keep them from disappearing into the unknown.

The newspaper explained, “The term ‘buck’ has ties with both Guyanese and African folklore. It is believed to have originated in West Africa where the short races (pygmies) were believed to have magical powers. They were referred to as ‘Baku’, which in many West African languages means ‘little brother’ or ‘short man’.

“There are also stories of rich Trinidadians who came upon their wealth, not through hard work, but rather through a trip to the forests of Guyana to capture one of these little wish granters. The bucks usually live in dark places like attics and usually demand blood and milk.”

However, this buck claimed to be Jamaican but with a Trinidad accent.

If that was not gruesome enough, the story grew some more in the claim that even after several local exorcists had sought to cleanse the family and their household of this walking, talking, thieving, thoroughly reprehensible apparition, obviously a Buckaroo Banzai from the eighth dimension, the buck returned and sucked the toe of the son of the house.

According to the boy’s father, “The boy woke up and said he got bite on his foot. It sucked him about four places in his foot and right now it is blue black. That thing is so brave. It is still in the house. We have to get it out somehow.”

And they did. An American exorcist exorcised the demon and rid the exhausted family of the excrescence so that they now live happily ever. In other words, folks, the buck stops here.

Tony Deyal was last seen saying that even if his children are performing badly, he would never tell them to “buck up”. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com