As with all stories, my friend, there is no beginning and there is no end. But since I must start somewhere, I suppose I shall start with this guy….
This is my great great granddad, Marvin.
This story isn’t actually about him, though, it’s about his great great grandfather, Jasper. I don’t have a picture of him, though, because he lived in the day before cameras and nobody has ever bothered to draw a picture of him, although my dad still has his bison horn sitting on his mantle.
(It looks like this except it’s ivory colored and it has carving all over it.)
It was never stuffed with poo from a lactating cow and buried for six months for use as fertilizer, it was the horn used to call the rains upon the land.
My ancient super great grandfather, Jasper, was a Choctaw Indian witchdoctor. He lived in the time when the white men were running the natives off the land and making them either die or walk the trail of tears to a designated reservation.
Jasper wasn’t run off his land, though, because he had a prophetic dream warning him of what was soon to come. So he built a log cabin, stole a suit from a dead guy he found laying in the forest, and pretended to be a white guy from Ireland who hated Indians. Heck, he even married a white lady.
So technically speaking, the land that I lost years ago, when I was just a child, had been in my family since the beginning of time.
Now, let’s get back to my great grandfather, Marvin, because he really is sort of important. This is a picture of him and his brothers. He’s the tall one in the upper left. I believe this picture was taken in 1912.
Marvin’s the one who planted the mango plantation that I was born on. His father and his grandfather were both witch doctors, it’s a tradition that was passed down from generation to generation. (Of course, I think they were called shamans back then, but my parents just call them witch doctors). They lived back in the day before modern medicine, and finding someone with medicine that could cure influenza, small pox, or malaria, was just rare. My ancestors grew medicinal herbs on their land and knew how to make tinctures and decoctions that could heal anyone and anything. They could heal people, plants, soil, and even make rain, lightning, thunder, tornadoes, you name it, they could do it.
Some people call it mysticism, metaphysics or voodoo witchcraft, but it was all scientific, it could be replicated and duplicated and they had it all written down. There is no possible way you can pass on that much information by word of mouth, there was just too much information, too many plants to remember and far too many recipes to remember. I mean, how many times to you need to rid someone of leprosy? Maybe once in a lifetime, perhaps.
Unless you use a recipe every week, you can’t possibly remember it. But they had books filled with recipes for curing everything. And because of this, people came to see my ancestors to be healed, but they didn’t always have money to pay. They paid in whatever they had, and it was usually food they had brought from home, and it was usually mangos from South America, because that’s where most people came from.
My great grandfather, Marvin, saved all the mango pits, and the seeds from date palms, and planted them along the Red River, underneath the shelter of the oaks, pines, and pecans, that had been growing there since the beginning of time. In fact, he planted all kinds of seeds on that land. He’d chase down his brothers and sisters and take their peach and plum pits, still covered with saliva and goo, and plant the seeds in circles that would one day become groves that his grandchildren would play in.
I too planted such a mango grove. It didn’t live long enough to produce fruit. I had hoped that one day, my children would get to run and play underneath the shade of the mango trees and munch on the sweet juicy fruit all summer long.
But alas, the only such magic that can be found, can only bee seen for an hour or two on a long expensive vacation that becomes only a memory so small that it it almost seems like a dream.
My children rarely get to eat mangoes and not one of them has seen a full grown mango tree that drops sweet juicy mangoes from it’s branches all summer long. For alas, my mango trees have long been buried beneath orange juice cartons, and boxes of half eaten Cheerios, splattered with rotten tomato puree.