by Barbara A Arrindell
It pleases my old heart to know that people still stop by to visit. How I wish they would sit quietly beneath my branches even if only for a few minutes so I can share my stories with them. Actually the stories I want to share are their stories so it’s really important that they take some time to listen. How else can I work my way into their consciousness?
But those damn contraptions that they carry these days make it more and more difficult for me to reach them. They flitter here and there taking pictures and every beeping noise causes them to forget where they are. Must they spend so much time staring at the contraption? Life is passing them by. If only one or two people would focus. I could easily set them straight about my back yard, this area they call Wallings.
I’ve heard tour guides telling visitors that I was built by slaves. Slaves, what slaves? These structures, this reservoir that fascinates them wasn’t built until the turn of the 20th century. Many overseers did treat the black workers as though they were still enslaved, but legally they had been emancipated 56 years earlier. Freedom came to Antigua in 1834 long before someone decided to destroy hundreds if not thousands of my friends in the name of progress. I’m one of the few original trees to have survived that horrible period of time. The year was 1890 and they agreed that for the sake of something they called sanitation (a big word I’ve never really understood) they needed to capture the rain that fell and direct it through pipes to fifty tanks in 15 villages.
It didn’t sound possible to me and after what they had done to my friends I cannot say that I wished them well. They began. The men in white shirts and khaki pants came with big rolls of paper and gave instructions and they argued about wasting the crowns money. Then the work stopped for a few months and I enjoyed the peace and quiet but then they would return and continue building.
They started and they stopped many times. In 1897 just when they thought that they had completed most of their work they realized that the reservoir was leaking terribly. O how I laughed. They had cut down my friends Black Loblolly, Spanish Oak, Mango and Ironwood and their cousin and offspring but they had forgotten about their roots. I still don’t know if the stupid men in white shirts and khaki pants ever realized that we were the cause of their problems. They were so damn arrogant that they never understood just how dangerous we could be, dead or alive.
The story doesn’t end here .. the story continues. Check back next week for part two of “The story of Wallings Dam”.