Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/515

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501
WHERE BANANAS GROW.

costumes are far better suited to the climate than the imported European one which the negro apes. Living by themselves in villages of bamboo huts, the coolies have little intercourse with the negroes, whom they regard as their inferiors; and rightly so, from a mental or moral standpoint. The negro, on the other hand, looks down on them, but has learned from experience that their reserved and quiet manners are no more the outward sign of timidity than his own bluster and braggadocio can replace real courage in an emergency.

The typical agricultural tool in Jamaica is the machete. These heavy, swordlike blades are made in Europe and have clumsy handles with grips of rough wood. For a good one the buyer pays a shilling, and then takes it to a smith. Here the wooden grips are removed and a large strip is cut out from the handle to make it narrower and more comfortable; the blade is ground to a keen edge, and its sharp tip is cut off as a safeguard against too serious accident should the tool be dropped upon some always naked foot. The owner now fits to the handle convenient grips, preferably of calabash wood, winds them evenly and tightly with stout cord, and his constant companion is ready at a total expense

PSM V44 D515 Machete ready for use.jpg
Fig. 6.—Machete ready for Use.

of about two shillings. Whether for grubbing up weeds and clearing ground, for gathering grass for his donkey, for harvesting bananas, for cutting yam-poles, or for husking cocoanuts, this implement is indispensable. It is formidable in appearance, and would be so in fact were its owner disposed to use it with sanguinary intent. But, happily, he has rarely the courage that makes a dangerous man, and the blood of the cocoanut is the machete's most exciting draught.

To return to our bananas. When the responsibility of the Jamaica people ends with the sailing of the ship, its captain's responsibility begins. And this is no slight one. In warm weather the holds must be kept wide open but constantly protected from the sun by awnings, and the great ventilating funnels must always be turned to catch the full force of the wind and change the air below as often as possible. In cold weather it may be necessary to cover the hatches and close the ventilators to prevent the freezing of the delicate cargo as our shore is neared. And if the ship arrives during a cold snap she may have to lie several days