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St. John USVI Flora: SuckersThe Sucker
Tales of St. John and the Caribbean

I was taking some people out for a charter to the British Virgin Islands and had arranged to meet my passengers at the National Park Dock in front of the Visitor’s Center.

Two of the passengers arrived in Cruz Bay early. They decided to buy some snacks and some beer at the Mongoose Deli to bring along on the boat with them. They did their shopping and returned to the dock to wait. They were still about an hour early for the meeting and after a few minutes, they decided to kill some time by taking a walk on the Lind Point Trail, which begins right across the road from the Visitors Center. They figured that they could stop along the way, have a bite to eat, drink a beer (that wasn’t going to stay cold anyway) and still be back in ample time to meet the boat at the dock.

They had only walked about five or ten minutes when they found what appeared to be an ideal place where they could sit down on a large rock in the shade of a mampo tree and enjoy their picnic.

Unfortunately for one of the men, the place where he chose to sit down was already occupied by a small cactus, commonly called a sucker. The barbed spines easily pierced his pants and stuck into his posterior parts. This elicited a sharp cry of pain and surprise immediately followed by a rather colorful string of profanities.

Sucker spines are difficult to remove once they pierce the skin. This is due to the barbed point and the tendency of the spines to break off when you try to pull them out. They also have a chemical irritant on the spine, which causes them to be painful, and if allowed to remain imbedded in the skin they can be quite annoying. The spines will eventually work themselves out, but the best thing is to remove as many as you can; which is just what the poor guy tried to do.

This job, however, was especially difficult because of the part of the anatomy in which the sucker spines were now located. He succeeded in plucking out some of the spines, but it soon became evident that he was going to need help.

The job of administering this first aid fell to his friend. The wounded man pulled down his pants and leaned against the trunk of the mampo tree. His buddy then put on his trusty reading glasses, and with intense concentration, began the awkward and embarrassing procedure.

The two men, engrossed in their difficult task, were suddenly aware of another presence…They looked up to see a thoroughly shocked and seemingly horrified National Park ranger standing on the trail staring at them. The bare-assed man (also startled) fumbled to pull up his pants. Stumbling over words and feet he attempted to explain to the quickly retreating ranger,   “Officer” he cried, “I know what you’re thinking, but I can explain…It’s not what it looks like! You see I sat on a cact….”

He didn’t get a chance to finish. The ranger backed up some more and mumbled something to himself.

“But officer, I can explain, please listen!” exclaimed the chagrined individual; but it was to no avail. The ranger didn’t say another word. He just, rather hurriedly, continued down the trail, never looking back.

Excerpted from Tales of St. John and the Caribbean

Virgin Islands News

WAPA Shift From Oil to Propane Moving Ahead
By Source Staff — February 5, 2014

The V.I. Water and Power Authority’s conversion to cheaper propane fuel for power generation moved forward this week as the company tasked with the conversion hired a local contractor for the initial phase of work, WAPA said.

Vitol Virgin Islands Corporation was hired in July of 2013 to convert WAPA’s turbines and put in the storage tanks and infrastructure for the conversion, which is projected to cut fuel costs for power generation by 30 percent…. Read more

V.I. to Benefit from USDA Sub Hub in P.R.
By Lynda Lohr — February 5, 2014

Farmers in the Virgin Islands will now be able to get help from the newly created U.S. Department of Agriculture Climate Sub Hub in Puerto Rico announced Wednesday at a White House press conference led by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack.

The Sub Hub will be based at the U.S. Forest Service International Institute of Forestry in Rio Piedras, an arm of the USDA.

The Sub Hub will address issues important to tropical agriculture and forestry and will focus on a unique set of issues relative to the network of hubs.

“Climate change directly affects agriculture and forestry in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Forest Service Sub Hub leader William Gould said. “And climate change impacts in other regions also affect the Caribbean’s supply and demand, the state of agriculture and forestry, food security and the culture of rural life.” … read more

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“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.

Ghost writes:
“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.”

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