Yard culture has nothing to do with flora or fauna. It’s about people. In the Virgin Islands, and probably throughout the
Caribbean, yard culture was a way of life.
Until its rapid decline in the mid-1960s, it was a way for the village to take
care of the children.
After school or on week-ends children congregated in the yards of different homes. Groups of friends who hung out at school usually hung out together after school.
The yards were large, an acre or two, or more. Often times there was more than one home on the property housing extended family members: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. There might be kitchen garden or fruit trees on the property. For most there was no electricity and no running water. The homes were small and made of wood. By today’s standard they would be considered shacks.
Overseeing the yard and the children was a matron, who would be the mother, aunt, or grandmother of one or more of the children. She kept an eye on the kids as they ran around and played in the yard. It was a kind of baby-sitting or after school day-care. A snack might even be provided, a johnny cake or a paté (a pastry fill with beef, salt fish, or pork, then deep fried) fruit, or a simple sandwich. It was also a place for kids to play if they lived in a home without a large yard. Everybody knew everybody and the kids knew which yard they “belonged” to. If they weren’t in school or at home they were expected to at a particular yard. It was difficult for children to get into trouble, but if they did, it was certain word of their misbehaviour would mysteriously reach their parents before they got home.
Two typical wooden homes.
Each yard had its own culture, its own feel, smell, and energy dependent upon the children who played there and the matron who oversaw them.
This lignum vitae tree, over 100 years old, is in the corner of what used to be a large yard in
a yard where I spent many hours playing with my sister and a number of other
children. Cruz Bay
In my book, The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, Sam and her best friend Nick, often pass through or explore a yard very like it. In this brief excerpt Sam gives a description of Miss LuAnne’s yard.
ExcerptWe have a picnic under the lignum vitae tree, sitting on the smooth, swept dirt. The air is alive with different smells: Miss LuAnne’s cooking, damp chicken feathers, rotting leaves, the perfume of oleander flowers, the ocean, the mangrove swamp. It’s a mysterious soupy mix particular to this yard and nowhere else. I love the smell of Miss LuAnne’s yard; it’s comfortable, familiar, and safe. It’s the smell of home, of friendship.
Pirates. Explorers. And spooky ghost hunters.
It’s 1962. Sam and her best friend, Nick, have the whole
, in the U. S.
Virgin Islands, as their playground. They’ve got 240 year-old sugar plantation
ruins to explore, beaches to swim, and trails to hike. island
of St. John
But when a man disappears like a vapor right in front of them, they must confront a scary new reality. They’re being haunted. By whom? And why? He’s even creeping into Nick’s dreams.
They need help, but the one who might be able to give it is Trumps, a reclusive hunchback who doesn’t like people, especially kids. Are Sam and Nick brave enough to face him? And if they do, will he listen to them?
As carefree summer games turn into eerie hauntings, Sam and Nick learn more about themselves and life than they could ever have imagined.
Available now at:
About the Author
Bish Denham, whose mother’s side of the family has been in the
She says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book.
named the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander
Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. The ruins of
hundreds of sugar plantations, built with the sweat and blood of slave labor,
litter the islands. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. It is
within this atmosphere of wonder and mystery, that I grew up. Life for me was
magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic.”
The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the
Virgin Islands, is her third book and second novel.
You can find Anansi and Company: Retold
Jamaican Tales and A Lizard’s Tail,
To learn more about Bish,
you can visit her blog, at Random Thoughts
you can visit her blog, at Random Thoughts