The woodsman


NOW AND THEN, a banana tree has to come down. They make the decision themselves by choosing to be parents, sprouting a banana bunch.

The bananas they sprout, due no doubt to their being out of their natural tropical element hereabouts, are pathetic little things. Parenthood on the mountaintop must be such a bitter disappointment for them.

When a banana tree enters parenthood, it’s the death of her, literally, and she doesn’t die nicely. Her offspring, dangling there on an outstretched limb, start sloughing off crap which litters the ground, making a mess.

I detest them for it.

I have often planted things in the yard that sounded like a great idea at the time. Trumpet vines, magueys, ground cover, banana trees, other stuff I cannot name. I now curse them all.

And I’ve removed them all, sometimes at great effort. The only exception are the three stands of bananas that started with three little trees that were knee-high to a grasshopper back then. A Gringo who lived here years ago, Roy Reynolds, told me when I planted them:

You’re gonna regret that.  Alas, I ignored him.

This morning I headed out to the stand inside the property wall against the front street. There were two, towering mamas there with their nasty little kiddies tossing crap all over the cement-and-rock ground. I had a wheelbarrow, hedge trimmers and a pruning saw.

paulLuckily, neither tree fell on me as they thundered to the ground. Neither did they drop on nearby planters or the Olmec head. Banana trees can be very heavy, but they are easy to cut.

I ended up with two wheelbarrow loads, which I toted to the Garden Patio out back and dumped on the cement floor. I always feel winded after these tasks. Perhaps I should hire someone, but I keep thinking I can do anything — and so far I can.

I will, however, employ Abel the deadpan neighbor who mows the grass weekly to come over and haul them to a ravine just past his house. He likes to earn pesos, and I like to pay him. Easier that way.

* * * *

(Note: Due to cancer, I have been bald since last Sunday. Details here.

Spring cleaning


THAT’S MY CHILD bride, in the old, pink, gym pants, leaning against the stone Olmec head, just so you have a sense of perspective, the size of the trash pile. It’s even bigger than it seems.

Every Springtime I have to whack the yard back and, with every passing year, that work becomes more onerous because the serious plants get bigger and bigger, and I get older. This year I did it over a period of about two months, picking away at it, depending on my morning mood.

What you’ve got in there are thick trunks of banana trees, mostly ones that birthed bunches of bananas, the lousy ones we get here on the mountaintop. And there are dead or dying limbs of the fan palm, which have mean-spirited spines. There are swords of a huge maguey, which is also a sourpuss piece of greenery that growls and bites at each opportunity.

An astute observer will note the cardboard box at the right, rear. It’s one of four, the others being just offstage. Those boxes contain paddles of nopal cactus from my towering nopal tree. Every year I cut parts in an effort to keep it growing just upward, not outward. It’s an easy 12 feet high by now, maybe more. You don’t really pal up to a nopal tree just to measure. You steer clear.

The final addition to the pile, around Wednesday or so, are cuttings from the loquat tree. If you don’t count the banana, it’s the only resident of the pile that does not stab. Its distasteful trait, however, is that it’s full of bird crap. Dunno why, but birds love to dump in the loquat tree.

By Wednesday, the deed was all done, and I walked just past the sex motel to ask Abel the deadpan neighbor if he could haul it all away. I told him he’d need to find a pickup truck, something he does not own. He said he’d come Saturday with a truck and clean it up, which he did. I have no idea where he dumps it, and I do not care. It’s all fruit of the Earth anyway.


The locals have a little routine when it comes to being paid by a Gringo. When you ask them how much for whatever they’ve done, they never have a clue, leaving it up to you to decide. They do this because they know we invariably overpay.

Though I have been preaching against this overpayment for years, I often do it myself. The reason one should not do it, and that includes the scandalous overtipping in restaurants, etc., is that it solidifies the locals’ conviction that we’re all filthy rich, stupid with our money and easily duped.

But I’m a soft touch, a dummkopf.

I paid them $300 pesos, which is about $10 each. A bona fide Mexican would have paid less. The boys departed here with smiles on their faces, and I was pleased to have the pile removed for $20.