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Report to the Office!

United Fruit Company (later it was called Chiriquí Land Company) poster depicting the Great White Fleet.  Image thanks to http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/images/ufc.htm

United Fruit Company (later it was called Chiriquí Land Company) poster depicting the Great White Fleet. Image thanks to timetableimages.com

I had traveled to Bocas as a real novice and it was the first and longest trip I had ever made in my young life. And now I was no longer a rookie plantation worker. I was working with gangs of men, oftentimes alone in the hot sun and on rainy days, digging and setting up the various sections of cable lines that would eventually tow out the pampered fruit and take out rows of heavy four to five foot long stems of banana fruit.  Continue reading

The Gangs I Worked With

Sixten Tons album cover.  Image thanks to wikipedia.

Sixteen Tons album cover. Image thanks to wikipedia.

Suspicion followed me at home in Bocas Town for my recent habit of trying to stash away some money every week in order to have enough cash to contribute to Pug’s upkeep. Her Aunt and the rest of her family were imagining all sorts of things I figured , that I was doing with my money as there was a lot of prostitution going on in Baseline catering to the workforce. Continue reading

A Full-Fledged Workman for Chiriqui Land

The hulk of one of the Chiriqui Land Company railroad cars.  Image thanks to our friends at http://www.ferrolatino.ch/en/reports/panama/

The hulk of one of the Chiriqui Land Company railroad cars. Image thanks to our friends at ferrolatino

Although the rest of that first day was uneventful, the two of us, as partners, started enjoying working as a team all morning and during the afternoon. Once the concrete slabs were in place we had time to enjoy each other’s company. The foreman would briefly appear and then leave after he saw us shoveling and digging as expert workmen.

By then part of the evening was spent digging our first hole which was approximately six feet deep, six feet long and three feet across. As we dug, we wondered about what was to be buried in that hole. Soon, as the day reached its end, our friendly coworkers whom we hadn’t seen eye to eye yet suddenly shouted, “You two better get ready to get going because the truck will be here soon!”  Continue reading

To Work and Eat Like a Real Man

A vintage Quaker Oats can.

A vintage Quaker Oats can.

That first day on the job the foreman had tried to explain the job at hand to me and to the boy who would work with me knowing that we both were neophytes but, he decided to rush off leaving us to our own devices. I sensed that the foreman was a white Colombian man due to his way of pronouncing words in the Spanish language.

He left us abruptly to see if we could take orders and also stand the strain of a day’s labor. I detected on his part that he expected one or both of us to just walk off and quit as soon as we started the real work. I had to admit that, I in particular, did not know anything about working more than eight hours a day in the hot Panama sun. Continue reading

Baseline: Learning the Ropes

image thanks to seekingalpha.com

image thanks to seekingalpha.com

I made the trip back to Baseline on the last train and, reaching the station after crossing the Changuinola River Bridge, made stops into some of the sections of the farms or fincas I would later get to know as places of work. The darkness of the night, however, didn’t help with any clues of the terrain outside. Getting back to Baseline during the early morning  gave me a chance to size up the place that I would now call work and home for an indefinite period of time. Continue reading

It’s Good News!

joy

On the train ride to Almirante I was eager to tell my story to Pug and her Aunt of my good fortune at getting a job with Chiriqui Land Company and, what was even better, that I would start work on the following Monday morning. It had been a long day for me and the train rides had helped me recover. I felt very good, however, about my experiences so far and, frankly, I liked the country people I met. Continue reading