Zone Policeman 88; a close range study of the Panama canal and its workers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 178 pages of information about Zone Policeman 88; a close range study of the Panama canal and its workers.

Laughter and carefree countenances are legion in the West Indian ranks, children seem never to be punished, and to all appearances man and wife live commonly in peace and harmony.  Dr. O——­tells the following story, however: 

In his rounds he came upon a negro beating his wife and had him placed under arrest.  The negro:  “Why, boss, can’t a man chastize his wife when she desarves and needs it?”

Dr. O—–­:  “Not on the Canal Zone.  It’s against the law.”

Negro (in great astonishment):  “Is dat so, boss.  Den ah’ll never do it again, boss—­on de Canal Zone.”

One morning in the heart of Empire a noise not unlike that of a rocky waterfall began to grow upon my ear.  Louder and louder it swelled as I worked slowly forward.  At last I discovered its source.  In a lower room of a tenement an old white-haired Jamaican had fitted up a private school, to which the elite among the darker brethren sent their children, rather than patronize the common public schools Uncle Sam provides free to all Zone residents.  The old man sat before some twenty wide-eyed children, one of whom stood slouch-shouldered, book in hand, in the center of the room, and at regular intervals of not more than twenty seconds he shouted high above all other noises of the neighborhood: 

“Yo calls dat Eng-leesh!  How eber yo gon’ l’arn talk proper lika dat, yo tell me?”

Far back in the interior of an Empire block I came upon an old, old negro woman, parchment-skinned and doddering, living alone in a stoop-shouldered shanty of boxes and tin cans.  “Ah don’ know how ol’ ah is, mahster,” was one of her replies, “but ah born six years befo’ de cholera diskivered.”

“When did you come to Panama?”

“Ah don’ know, but it a long time ago.”

“Before the Americans, perhaps?”

“Oh, long befo’!  De French ain’t only jes’ begin to dig.  Ah’s ashamed to say how long ah been here” (just why was not evident, unless she fancied she should long ago have made her fortune and left).  “Is you a American?  Well, de Americans sure have done one thing.  Dey mak’ dis country civilize.  Why, chil’, befo’ dey come we have all de time here revolutions.  Ah couldn’t count to how many revolutions we had, an’ ebery time dey steal all what we have.  Dey even steal mah clothes.  Ah sure glad fo’ one de Americans come.”

It was during my Empire enumerating that I was startled one morning to burst suddenly from the tawdry, junk-jumbled rooms of negroes into a bare-floored, freshly scrubbed room containing some very clean cots, a small table and a hammock, and a general air of frankness and simplicity, with no attempt to disguise the commonplace.  At the table sat a Spaniard in worn but newly washed working-clothes, book in hand.  I sat down and, falling unconsciously into the “th” pronunciation of the Castilian, began blithely to reel off the questions that had grown so automatic.

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Zone Policeman 88; a close range study of the Panama canal and its workers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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