St. Ann was one of my favorite places to go as a child, when school was out for holidays. My immediate family lived in Kingston (mostly my dad’s family) and we lived in the same yaard (same property). My grandfather, aunt and uncle lived in the house above ours and my mom, dad, brothers and I lived in the house right below them, with an additional section where my other aunt and cousin lived.
It was an ideal set up. There was always someone to watch the children, we all had someone to play with. Well, except for me. I am 5- 6 years younger than my siblings and cousins and even though they allowed me to play with them, I was really a hindrance in most cases.
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That’s where St. Ann comes in. Even though, when I went to St. Ann, I was still the youngest. For some reason, they didn’t mind me hanging around as much. Maybe it was because we had all that land so I didn’t really get in the way. Plus, in St. Ann, there was never a shortage of things to do or adventures to go on. My biggest partner in crime was one of my older cousins, Rohan (Ruhan).
Rohan was probably 5 or 6 years older than me too, like my brothers, but he didn’t act like it. I can honestly say, if it wasn’t for the height and muscles, I would say he was exactly my age. He was playful and always smiling, even when others were mad at some prank or joke he had played.
Early in the morning, my time was devoted to my Papa Jacob, but after I drank scalded milk with papa, my day was open. By the time I made it back to my Auntie Jean’s house from papa’s, Rohan was usually getting ready to head out for the day. He had his own field and animals to tend to and would always look to see if I was in the house and ask if I wanted to go. Going to the fields with Rohan and to see the animals was another of my favorite things to do because I was almost always allowed to help, which mean having an excuse to get dirty.
Aside from Rohan’s crops, he also had goats, chickens, pigs and a donkey. Depending on what we had to do in the fields and with the animals that day, we would take the donkey and load it up with different supplies. The donkey was much older, so he was never loaded down with anything too heavy to carry.
Every day, I begged my cousin to let me ride the “pony”, because it was the closest thing to a horse that I had ever seen.
"Puhhllleeease, juss till wi reach di tree dem deh-so (Please, just until we reach those trees)."
"Yuh, hear mi say di donkey a nuh fi gallavant wid. Walk u foot dem, man (Don't you hear me telling you the donkey is not a toy. Walk on your own feet)."
Over and over again, Rohan would tell me that the donkey was for work, not to carry people, but every day I'd keep asking. I’m not the type to take no for an answer, so finally one day as we were walking to the fields, Rohan gave in and agreed to let me ride on the donkey.
"Juss till we reach di tree dem. And no badda ask mi again afta dis, yuh hear (Just until we reach those tree. Don't ask me anymore after this. Do you hear me?"
It was as if Christmas had arrived early. I was grinning from ear to ear as he gently helped lift me up onto the donkey. He had only agreed because we did not have to take anything to the field today. We were going to be reaping potatoes and only really needed the donkey to carry them back.
I didn’t care a bit why. I was just excited I was finally getting to ride my “pony.” On top of the donkey, I felt like a princess surveying her lands. I could see so much from up here. I could see down to our neighbor’s property, down to the river and down to Papa Jacob’s house. It was amazing! The only thing that was missing was going a little bit faster, so I started pleading with Rohan to make the donkey go faster.
“Please, mek him move faster, Rohan. Please (Please, make him go faster, Rohan).”
Yuh,yuh, yuh, kn, kn, know seh di donkey ole and cyaan tek suh much hackle up (You know that the donkey is old and cannot handle all of that).
But please, juss until wi reach up deh so (Just until we reach that point there).
M, m, mi cyaan wait fi aunty come fi yuh, so yuh cyan guh back a yuh yard (I can’t wait for aunty to come for you, so that you can go home).
Grumbling some more, Rohan tapped the donkey on his flank and told him to move faster. It was the best feeling ever. The wind was blowing by my face faster and I felt like a true princess riding around her castle now.
All of a sudden, there was a loud snap from the bushes next to us, as if something had fallen. Before I realized what was happening, the donkey had broken free from the rope he was being held on in my cousin’s hand and had taken off in a mad run. To be honest, at first it felt even better than before because we were moving so fast and there was this exciting feeling of running free.
Apparently the donkey wasn't too old after all because we were really moving now. I din't even think it was possible that the donkey could move this fast.
I quickly changed my mind about how things were feeling when the donkey turned off the path to the fields and into an area that was not cleared. Suddenly my arms were being attacked by branches and twigs. all I could do was to put my hands up to try and protect my face and the rest of my body.
Behind us, I could hear Rohan running, yelling for the donkey to stop and trying to tell me what to do to make it stop. I couldn’t really make out the words he was saying and started to strain my ear, since with all the scratches and scrapes I was getting as we stampeded through the bushes, I was no longer excited about this "pony" ride.
“Lean over and try calm him dung, Kim. Rub him head and talk inna him ears (Lean over and try to calm him down. Rub his head and talk into his ears).”
Or at least that’s what I thought he was saying. It was very hard to hear over the donkey’s hooves hitting the ground over and over, the branches and leaves slapping against my face and my cousin being quite some distance behind us.
Trying to hold on carefully, I gently started rubbing the donkey’s head and tried to whisper in his ear that it was okay, that there was no reason to be afraid and that he should stop running.
It didn’t seem to be working though. He was still moving at a fast pace and now I was getting afraid because I didn’t know where we were, since we had left the path headed to the fields. Rohan was still running and also yelling for help from anyone that was close enough.
Yes, I was definitely starting to feel afraid, so I tried again to get the donkey to calm down and stop running. I leaned over, rubbed his head and told him he was safe and that no one was going to hurt him.
This time it seems to work a little and he slowed down to almost a gallop. I kept trying to tell the donkey that everything was ok and that he should just go ahead and stop running.
By this time, I regretted begging my cousin to let me ride the donkey to begin with. We would have already made it to his field by now and I would have been enjoying helping to pull potatoes out of the ground and checking to see if anything else needed to be done.
Rohan was still behind us and was catching up now since the donkey had been slowing down. I could see, from the corner of my eye, that he was trying to figure out how to grab the rope that was trailing behind the donkey as he ran.
To make matters worse, I was starting to ache all over from all the jiggling and scratching, so I was praying that my cousin would be able to get the rope soon, get the donkey to stop and save me from my "pony" ride.
I decided to try one more time to talk some sense into the stubborn, old donkey.
“ Nutten nah chase yuh enuh. Yuh nuh see nobody not bothering yuh. A juss me and Rohan. Juss walk. Yuh muss tyard now. (There’s nothing chasing you. It’s just Rohan and me. I know you must be tired now)."
This time, he slowed down even more and right on time for Rohan to grab the rope and get him to come to a complete stop. I immediately swung my legs around the donkey and started sliding down his body.
“Yuh save mi, Rohan. Thank you. (You saved me, Rohan).”
I could tell from the look on Rohan’s face that he had been worried too. I’d never seen him look so serious. He was normally always smiling, but right now he was sweating, out of breath and looked as if he was close to tears.
I can’t imagine how I looked with my hair everywhere and scratches all over from the branches.
In no time though, Rohan was back to his normal self.
“Suh, suh, suh, suh, how you ask man fi ride donkey and cyan ride donkey (So, how you ask me to ride the donkey and know that you can’t ride donkey?”
I couldn’t do anything except laugh. Next, he gave me some water and told me that we were not telling anybody what just happened. if they asked we’d say I got the scratches from accidentally falling into a macka bush or tree (tree with thorns). Nobody would question it because I had a habit of being clumsy at times and my skin scarred easy, making things look way worse than they were.
Keeping it our little secret was fine by me because I didn’t want Rohan to get in trouble for listening to me and doing what I had begged him to do for weeks.
We were lucky that no one had heard or come to help when Rohan had been yelling for help earlier, too.
Rohan started us out on the path to getting us back to the field. First, we took a detour to the river though because everybody was thirsty at this point and we had to clean up some of the scratches that had started to bleed. Can I tell you that was some of the best tasting water I have ever had!
If you enjoyed Yuh Cyaan Ride Donkey? Then, take a moment to explore the other stories in the I am an Island Girl series. Rolling Calf is about my first encounter with a special type of duppy (ghost), "Fix Yuh Face," is a story about triumphing over an injury. Story 5, Bad Dawg Dem is a story of how an island girl handles a run in with some bad dawg. Story 4, Verandah Keytakes you to the parish of St. Thomas. Story 3, If Ah Poop Yuh Dead, is a hilarious account of why Fridays were my favorite days of the week. The second story in the series, A We Say Acrobat: Chinese Skip, gives a glimpse into one of my favorite childhood games growing up in Jamaica and the first story in the collection,Duppy Business, is a tale of the evil genius of siblings mixed with a popular Jamaican superstition (belief to some).