Our first stop was an island where this man with a heavy Westindian accent landed us since he sat behind me steering the small craft around the watery road he seemed to know by heart. At first glance I could tell that it was his pet spot or his “money maker charcoal pit.” I discovered that he made money off making charcoal from the giant mangrove forests on these islands.
After landing he seemed to become a different person or someone that really did not want me to know him fully. His secretive actions made me become suspicious of his motives right away. Although I had not really seen anyone in Colon or in Panama make charcoal for cooking purposes, I had lived the early part of my young life close to a neighbor who bought the product to sell to the neighborhood.
That day I remained looking around but maintaining a safe distance in the place as my guide and boss inspected the various mounds of sand with slow burning blue smoke emerging through the top. We did not work that day at anything but I had become exhausted from the rowing I had been doing for the first time in my whole life.
Our next stop was on another island where I could stretch my cramped legs and arms before focusing on the issue of visiting the Westindian people who lived there who happened not to be home. The young woman who came to the door to answe my companion and looked me over told him that the man he was looking for was not home but that the he-goat he was inquiring about was tied up in the back of the house which resembled an old Canal Zone Silver home.
We went around the back and approached the animal and my companion immediately cut his throat. We were soon ready to take off again for sights unknown to me.
That evening I waited on another deserted island for the Mulatto man to pick me up again for yet another trip that turned out to be his cabin overlooking the sea. Mind you, it had been a worthwhile trip for him and for me a well deserved rest. As the sun went down my first day quickly ended in the deepest of sleep making me remember my evenings sleeping soundly in the railroad boxcar after dinner in Baseline. The big difference, however, was that I had not had anything to eat all day and all evening. But, the rest had more than made up for any hunger I might have been feeling.
That night I was awakened at what seemed to me about midnight since I was not accustomed to such a darkened night or even going out on a trip to go fishing. We did, indeed, go night fishing in the ocean. My friend cast his line and I laid back to enjoy the stars and the reflection of a beautiful night on the bay. For some reason I became quite talkative and romantic singing some Spanish love song to myself. It was then that my host told me to be quiet because I was scaring the fish away. Duly admonished, I then quietly laid back to enjoy the night since I had no knowledge of fishing and the like.
In a little while I heard, “Juni why don’t you pull up that line next to you there?” I hesitated for a moment since I had never fished before. My friend said, “Just pull it up don’t be afraid!” I pulled on the cord hand over hand as I had seen the boys do at the sea wall in Panama and was surprised to see that I had caught a fish. “Why don’t you put a piece of meat on the hook and see what else can happen?” he said seeing my encouraged look.
I did as I was told and sat back to relax but a little while again I hear him say gently, “Pull your line in Juni.” Again, I obeyed and pulled on that line until I had hauled in the biggest fish that I had ever seen in all my life. It brought me great satisfaction that night that I had been the one who caught the biggest Red Snapper that I had ever seen. After my mornings well deserved rest, that Red Snapper became our delicious lunch in the form of a heaping pot of rundon.
This story continues.