The closer the due date for the baby came, the more I worried that the girl I had brought to live with me would be happy. I hoped that she would appreciate the things that we had acquired so far without her having to worry too much about where the money would come from. By then I had learned how women in Bocas, as in Colon and Panama City, worked their bodies to bring home more money. So far, in the couple of months she’d been there with me we had a respectable place to live and she didn’t have to wash my clothes or cook for me or herself as it was all done for her. The only thing I asked of her was to be loyal to me. One day, however, the question of her loyalty would be brought home to me. Continue reading
Image thanks to Amazon.com
Despite the initial cold reception I had received from the Office Manager at the Engineering Office, I remained alert and in an attitude of someone who is quick to learn about all the things that the small office handled. I quickly found the instruction binder to aid me and learned some of the things that were in direct relation to what was happening in the banana fields. I also found the Code Book for every job and that enabled me to help some of the foremen with codes for their various reports. Continue reading
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
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
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
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