The Lure of Strange Women

Our crew would lay the network of cables to carry away the harvested bananas.  image.

Our crew would lay the network of cables to carry away the harvested bananas. image.

I had started working in a distant field with two young Spanish speaking boys who were about my age. They talked about visiting the whorehouses all the time. On one of those days when we almost had the job done a Company Supervisor came riding an agricultural tractor and turned in near us, turned off the motor and walked away into the nearby Banana Plantation. We understood then that soon this field would be harvested. My two companions kept up their conversation about the whores at a nearby brothel and suddenly jumped on the unattended tractor and took off, waving at me and shouting, “We will see you after lunch amigo!” I knew perfectly well where they were going.

So I was left working alone. At quitting time a Westindian foreman suddenly showed up and angrily started ordering me around. And so I worked with him to finish the job while he bitterly complained of having to work as a field hand that day.

The news about my two companions had apparently already spread like wild fire that afternoon back at the engineering department and the boys were immediately fired. The straw that broke the camel’s back, evidently, had been the fact that, in their hurry to get to the brothel, the two fools turned over the tractor and this, more than their taking off without permission, had been the cause of them losing their jobs.

That evening when we boarded the the truck, the West Indian man who had been berating me all the way there got bolder, constantly referring to me as a “good for nothing kid!” As usual the Boss would be on that truck that took him around to oversee the plantation and also served to pick up the men it had taken to the various work areas in the morning. And so, I jumped on the truck fearlessly and as that resentful Westindian man got louder, I immediately jumped off the truck and entered a nearby field to avoid getting into an argument with him. The long leisurely walk home cooled my temper and the Boss took note of it.

When finally I got to the platform past the office, I happened to run into my office buddy and advocate who filled me in on the news of the day in the office. Apparently the West Indian office manager/supervisor had been injured and had to be taken to the hospital in Almirante.

The rumor was that a jealous husband had gotten the story that “some man- a supervisor” had been spending his lunch hour in the company of his wife. So, this man silently returned home to investigate and found my supervisor in his room with his wife and proceeded to slash him with a knife while accusing him of sneaking around messing with other men’s wives. As my friend related this story to me, he suddenly said, “Reid, I’ve been really trying to get you a job somewhere else but every time something comes up that man, the supervisor, would intercede and tell other supervisors, ‘No, not him!’ So, I am asking you did you know this man before you came to Bocas? Now, what the hell have you done to that man Reid?!” Of course he would get the same answer. “Never seen that man before in my life!”

During these turbulent moments in my life I had to remember that my pregnant wife had been a child of fourteen years when I met her. In fact, I had been but a child myself for I had been but a few days over my seventeenth birthday. However, as changes would have it, I would be kept in the fields with another Westindian supervisor on a crew slated to put up electricity lines into the back country where we had previously installed a network of pipelines to bring them water. So, our crew was almost completely of Westindian descent and the supervisor turned out to be a jolly man with a smile that could charm even the most sullen kid like me.
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