In the middle of the half acre plot in which the rectory of Savannah Lar Mar Catholic parish is situated, a mango tree has pride of place, writes Fr Bobby Gilmore.
Not only is the tree admired for its expanse and the shade it offers in the dead tropical heat of this town beside the sea on the edge of large sugar plantations but also for its fruit.
The latter is the envy of all who pass by on the street but in particular for the students of the local high school beyond the fence.
My Columban colleague, Sean Lavery, is not averse to sharing the fruit with anyone who requests a sample. Only he can safely approach the tree and pluck its fruit as in the shade of the tree rests the parish guard dog, Trooper, admired and respected by all as the guardian not only of the mango tree but of the property itself.
Trooper is about a metre in height, imposing in his physique and dark coat bordered with brown rims around his eyes. He is on a leash of about thirty metres from the base of the tree allowing him to monitor his domain with ease.
He is of uncertain heritage. No doubt the impurity and diversity of his origins enhances his impressive beauty, gait, demeanour and respect inherent in his role as guardian of the whole property. He seldom is aroused from his seeming sleepy position by the arrival of those seeking services of the pastor or his expertise in composing a piece of calypso or reggae music for an up and coming Bob Marley, Harry Bellefonte or Lady Saw.
Trooper seems adept at reading a person’s sincere intent on entering from the street or of those arriving with devious intent on acquiring a few mangos without permission. As he stretches out with his handsome head resting on his front paws giving the impression of indifference, rest assured that he is aware of his responsibility at all times and will send out an alarm if needs be.
On one such occasion in the mid-afternoon heat an unsuspecting curious goat passing by on the street on seeing the opened gateway and the lush green grass beyond decided to have an afternoon snack. Having entered the property and not aware of the presence of Trooper he approached a grassy spot.
Alarmed by the goat’s approach Trooper gave a lunge from his prone position and had the goat by the throat mortally wounding it. Passers-by seeing the event occur raised the alarm. Sean on hearing the initial bark of Trooper and the voices of the witnesses emerged from the rectory.
He was shocked on seeing the mortally wounded goat. After listening to the witnesses describe what happened and pointing to the culprit, now back in usual position, Sean asked about the ownership of the goat.
Miss Cynthia was Sean’s nearest neighbour. She was identified as the owner of the goat. Being informed of what happened and the demise of her goat she was distraught. Her angry words directed at Trooper are not repeatable. He was the perpetrator irrespective of her goat’s trespass of Sean’s and Trooper’s property.
As the argument about the goat’s demise went back and forth between Miss Cynthia Sean and the onlookers, Miss Edith, the parish cook and housekeeper, aroused from her afternoon nap arrived on the scene demanding details of the incident. She sympathised with Miss Cynthia who was her friend blaming the foolish goat for trespass. Trooper was not directly apportioned blame for doing his job.
Having heard the event recounted in its gory details she asked Miss Cynthia ‘what the goat worth?’ After some thought about the loss of her goat and the grief caused, Miss Cynthia replied J$400. Miss Edith replied, ‘That goat not worth J$400.’
A haggle began between Miss Edith, Miss Cynthia, Sean and self-appointed onlooker actuaries. Miss Edith led the haggle as it went back and forward. The onlooking actuaries recognising Miss Cynthia’s trauma and loss sided with her valuation of both the goat and her grief. Miss Edith, recognising the goat’s silent struggle for life took control offering Miss Cynthia J$350.
An accepted senior neutral voice among the onlookers suggested to Miss Cynthia that it was a fair price for her loss. Miss Edith turned to Sean and ordered him to pay Miss Cynthia J$350.
Sean went to the rectory returned to the scene, handed the money to Miss Edith who settled with Miss Cynthia. With commiserations all round Miss Cynthia accepted the remuneration.
As she moved away to her house and the onlookers disappeared Miss Edith took up the dying goat and moved towards the rectory kitchen. As she did, she took a sharp look at Trooper and in an aside rebuked him: ‘No curried goat for you mister.’