“My Story” Chapter 15

“My Story” – by Randall Butisingh.

(Reminiscences during my life beginning 1913)

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

As a lover of the outdoors,  I enjoyed my stay at Baracara.  There was a little church on the other side of the river.  The people used to cross by small boats dressed up in their Sunday best.  I visited the church once.  I remember the minister, an African, leading the singing of a hymn and shouting at the congregation to sing up.  I did not like that treatment of big people, so I did not attend another service.

Sometimes I would climb a hill to visit a house perched on the top.  I would see the young men making paddles for canoes.  I was fascinated by the intricate and symmetrical carvings on the handle done only with a sharp knife.  I thought I could try too.  I cut the branch of a silverballi tree about two feet long and eight inches in diameter and worked assiduously on it to fashion a beater for washing clothes for my mother.  I was able to produce one, and to carve on top of the blade a heart with the words “MY MOTHER” carved in semi circular letters above it.    It was a crude production; nothing in comparison to what the Bovianders did, but I was satisfied with my accomplishment..   When I presented it to my mother, she tied a ribbon around it and hung it up in the living room.

I sometimes wondered  why these young men would spend so much time, living in semi-primitive conditions when time and labour were important for survival , to embellish an article which would have served its purpose unembellished.   I later realized that this was an urge of the human spirit which hankers after beauty and finds it in the joy of creativity.  It is at this time when the mind is absorbed in its creation and loses touch with the outside world; when hunger and thirst disappear and time ceases to exist.  This is the experience of poets, painters and composers of music among others, who in the height of creativity gets a glimpse of eternity.  It is when the object of creation becomes the focus of their life, that nothing else matters.

I remember when four of us were playing a game of Chinese Checkers one evening.  We started early, well before midnight, and as we played, each person became so absorbed in the game that he hardly spoke.  I was so absorbed that I did not realize the passage of time until I was jolted to reality by the crowing of the cock.  It was 4 a.m then.  What an experience of unbroken concentration.

My stay in Baracara was cut short.  After two months the teacher for whom I was acting wrote and told me he was returning.  I should have stayed three months, but I had written and told the manager of the school complaining about the big bushes near the school which I had to pay someone to cut.  This must have irked the teacher as it was a reflection against him.  Before I left, I tried to get Jim’s father to take me with his crew to mine for gold, but he refused on the basis that I would not be able to cope with the conditions there.  I, however, was quite sure I would be able as I was in good physical condition and was used to hard outdoor work. I was disappointed especially as my friend Jim was going.  So after saying goodbye to the few families on the mission, I left with unforgettable memories of a way of life in which there was a blend of cultures into which I was easily adaptable.

When I returned home, the first thing I did was to pack a box with little parcels of sweets for each of the children.  Then I walked all the twelve miles from Buxton to Stabroek Market with it to post to the school.  I then entered a hardware store to buy a cutlass.  The young salesman wanted to know what a goodlooking man like me wanted with a cutlass, if it was to kill someone.  I told him it was to do gardening.   The walk took me three hours.  I returned by bus, my feet sore with blisters.

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