Strange Overtones at the Midnight Hour – By Laurie Stevens

Strange Overtones

Living in a country setting – to a city denizen at least – can remain a distant wish over many years of summing up the pros and cons of whichever lifestyle you feel the most comfortable with. Having all the services, conveniences, streetlights and ease of urban commute remains a deep-rooted warmth that many would not give up, even for the rustic purity of fresh air, more space and fewer vehicles clogging the highways. Some of us though have thrown caution to the big winds, made the move to the remote environs and as they say in ‘street cred’ “Bring it on, ‘mon’- bring it on!”

Our setting in the mid-upper Layou Valley of Dominica is virtually neighbourless with views that centre upon many tree-line levels, a backcloth of verdant cliffs and a picturesque winding road that provides us with a quick access to whatever social intercourse one needs without sacrificing one iota of privacy.

Though remote, we have always felt safe in this area and ‘tuned in’ with the locals. How strange then, that late in the evening – as I was battling with a Windward Islands version of ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’, the dogs struck up their loudest chorus and my better half shouted as if she was on the downhill descent from a roller coaster. “Someone’s climbing up the telegraph pole with a torch! Do something!!” In my state the only reply I could give to my wondrous one was that “I am doing something at a great rate and fixed to the spot. Improvise, will you?!”

When I eventually emerged from the bathroom it was greeted with a mildly sarcastic comment of “Well, here’s my hero now!” The dogs were not impressed with me either, but seemed to have downsized their excitement somewhat. Outside was blacker than liquorice, even the stars were in remission and whatever was upsetting the peace had disappeared. So I just stared at what was scantily possible to discern, thinking out loud as to what sort of a ‘torches and a telegraph pole’ mystery was about to unfold.

Dawn arrived uneventfully and bathed the surroundings in a fissure of light that is the sort of illumination that artists have difficulty in trying to reproduce. Some would say: A valley of prisms no less. I focused upon the telegraph pole with the torch issues and noticed some baling twine hanging down from the cables that span the highway to the other pole, maybe 25ft or so across. A large torch battery was attached to the twine and appeared to have been slung over the telephone and electric wires and then pulled on tight. No matter how I pulled on the twine I couldn’t budge the contraption and started to puzzle over the motive for such a stupid move. Mmmm…

The gardener was fully paid up, no fall-outs with anyone and we always give lifts to people we know. My ‘novelist’ mind took over and I imagined that someone wanted us to lose our utilities in a reckless manner. Just picture the scene: If the hanging nylon twine snagged itself to metalwork on a passing container truck, the cables and maybe even the pole could be dragged in its wake, totally oblivious to the driver. Scary!

I gave a friend a call he came by a few hours later with other friends to take a look-see. A lot of possibilities were considered, from pranks to retribution, and a few more imponderables until one of the guys who spoke for the first time since he arrived nailed it, ‘You got manicou hunters mon. Dis is the only place on dis road where cables cross from one side to de other. Manicou, dey no like crossin’ de road, so dey go up de pole, tread de cables and get over safe. Mon wid de torch shine up, see de manicou, sling over de battery and twine, pull hard and try to shake de manicou off. Wid luck it’s Splat! Tomorrow brekfist, huh?’

For those who haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, a Manicou is an elusive kind of opossum; a timid rodent-like creature that grows to 2ft or more and is considered a delicacy – albeit an acquired taste. The wires and torch on the telegraph pole were a creative way to trap this creature.

So I won’t be surprised one of these fine days I have some guy, or gal, at the door peddling a skinned version of the above. If he or she is down on their luck I’ll put a donation in their pocket but paying to eat a rodent as a gourmet delight? I don’t think so!

Written by Laurie Stevens – Guest Contributor

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