“The Ghost from Jost,” came by yesterday. He was beat up as usual, this time from a run in with a coconut palm. Apparently he took a job cleaning coconut palms at Caneel Bay and it didn’t work out all that well.
The ghost is a true culture man and normally an excellent climber, in his day that is. I used to see him sleeping or sometimes writing up in the crown of some coconut palm as if he was lounging in some fluffy stuffed sofa. But that was some years ago and he hasn’t been climbing for some time.
Anyway, Ghost takes on a job cleaning trees for Caneel Bay Resort. This means cutting down dead fronds and removing coconuts that might fall on some tourist potentially causing injury to the tourist and probably a law suit for Caneel.
The first palm to be pruned is not one of the newer Samoan dwarf varieties but an old traditional palm tree, tall and wide at the top near the crown. There’s a ladder leaning against the tree that goes up about a quarter of the tree’s height.
Besides the obvious impediments for a good safe climb, like not having climbed in seven years and being 58 years old, the Ghost makes another bad move, he eats a the big breakfast offered to him finishing five minutes before the climb.
“Begin my climb by removing my sneakers and started up the ladder to where my climb began. Around my waist was a rope that held a small chain saw. My intention is to pull the saw up so that I could use it to cut what needed to be cut.
In any case, after leaving the end of the ladder behind me, my climbing method was walking using hands and toes only. Almost to the head of the tree I notice that the rings are getting smoother causing me to change the method of my climb. I now had to lean my entire body against the tree with both legs clamping the trunk and extend my arms grabbing the tree. This method is called leg lapping. which I now had to do until I got to the top.
However, just before I made it to the top, the trunk started to get fatter, causing me to exert all the energy I could. Finally I reach the top, I grab a branch with the intention of pulling my body up into the crown.
Suddenly I felt my muscles tightening up from my neck, arms and legs. What I started to feel, I had felt before and from experience I decide quickly to vacate. Making sure that the rope around my waist holding the chain saw would not interfere, I began my slide down the tree when both my arms and legs started to lose strength. Feeling my strength leaving I made the slide the quickest I ever slid down a coconut palm and was relieved the moment my feet touched the ladder, which I carefully climbed down. But about 10 feet before the grass, all physical strength left my body and I fell off the ladder.
I have never felt anything like what I felt while lying on my back looking up at the the top of the tree that I had just slid down. For about five minutes, I couldn’t even raise my hands and my legs wouldn’t respond either. I was finally able to crawl to the trunk of the tree, remove the rope and put on my sneakers. Then I went to the boss to let him know that I am not going to finish the job
I had been away so I never saw Ghost’s original injuries, but his rapid slide down the tree had taken off enough layers of skin that those areas of his body that contacted the tree, legs, arms and chest, normally a dark brown were raw and pink. The Ghost had been treating the wounds with aloes and amazingly there was no sign of infection and it looked to be healing nicely.
Curtney Chinnery, aka The Ghost from Jost is a writer and poet and contributor to the collection of St. John stories, “Tales of St. John and the Caribbean.”