Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Growing up Wild

When I was a kid, first of all I was terrible at school. But we lived in the banana fields of Central America. Surrounded by pristine rainforest. My only friend and peer, my neighbor Guillermo Montes de Oca, was from our early age a wild man. He was happiest when we found snakes. He would lasso them and pick them up. We handled them like born again snake charmers and eventually let them loose once we got bored of them. These where not your run of the mill garden snakes. We lived in the tropics and the reptiles where very poisonous. FerDelances, Corals, vipers and even boas. But for us it was just another day in our back yard. His father also a wild man had alligators in his back yard and we loved nothing more than to go see them after school.

Once Guillermo left with his family, I would walk almost every Friday afternoon to visit my other friends that would drive all the way from across the border in Panama to their farm in Costa Rica. I would take off from my house, not telling anybody. Walk all the way to the closest town, Villa Neily, get on the Panamerican highway, cross the Corredores river bridge and eventually make to the Price's farm, where Andy, Dicky, Rex, the towering Mr. Price and their mom (one of my many adoptive banana moms) Doña Tilcia would just welcome me in. We would ride horses, hunt with bb and pellet guns, build dams in the creek, climb the hills, catch fireflies, fish for crawfish, all without adult supervision. All we had to do was to be home for dinner, and we would, usually covered in mud or soaking wet.

Later as I got a little older me and my new neighbors the Cano brothers and Max Vargas would take off every afternoon during weekdays and all day during weekends, we would take off to the Corredores river and the lagoons created in the ballast pits. We would hunt, fish and just have fun. Once I managed to shoot poor Max in the knee with my pellet gun when I tripped and fell over on one of our hunting expeditions. But the code was so strong amongst us that he just chewed me out and since all he got was a nasty welt on his knee we continued and nothing else came from it.

We would chop down balsa trees with our machetes and make rafts to fish in the lagoons. Once during some floods we even picked up the body of a dead pig and brought it home as a prize. It was the only time my mother actually intervened and made us get rid of the carcass. Some time later when the lagoons dried up we where able to catch hundreds of fish with our bare hands as they lay trapped in the shallow water. It was a glorious day.

When we visited the town on Coto 47 on the weekends, even though it was a little more civilized we still managed to find our thrills. We crossed the canals balancing on the pipes that criss crossed them. We ran all over the place as our parents danced the night away at the club. We fired fire crackers at the dancing elders and even managed to launch some stink bombs in the dance hall when I was older.

At Mt. Adams School, I was a terrible student but we always managed to enjoy the place. We would swing from a rope tied to the top branches of a Mango tree on the school grounds. I still remember the adrenaline rush I felt when I finally managed the courage to swing from it.

The actual school swings had metal chains and wooden seats, and I would swing so hard that I thought I was going to be able to loop it around. I never did. But it was a rush. We would go into the creeks to catch crawfish, and run into the drainage pipe that ran under the bridge close to the school. Screaming and yelling like savages just for the pleasure of hearing our voices echoing inside the drainage pipe's walls.

I have to admit that I was not the most adventurous of the lot, but I did ride in the back of my dad's pickup truck, jumped from trees, built forts, rode on giant tractors at the Zamora rice farms, got drenched in rainstorms, got covered in mud, climbed tall trees, brought down wasp nests, trekked alone in the tropical jungle and did many other things as a child growing up that now as a grown man I am the better for it.