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The Bougainvillea Tree

From the Series Almonds and Sunday Dresses

The Bougainvillea Tree

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by Margaret Sullivan and Nelcia Marshall Robinson

IT FLOWERED IN front of the ‘Excel’ Cottage, and gladdened our eyes as we passed on our way to school. It was a spreading Bougainvillea Tree that seemed to be always in bloom. Then, one day, two mischievous brothers – Isaac and Jacob, decided to exercise their muscles on the tree. First, it was older brother Isaac who began cutlassing the branches, and younger brother Jacob liked what he saw, and came in to help. Together, they cut that Bougainvillea Tree to the ground.

This Bougainvillea tree was a staple in the village.

It provided bouquets and floral decorations for weddings, concert halls, church harvests, and most of all wreaths for funerals.

It was a very sad day in the village when this poor Bougainvillea tree was cut to the ground. The village echoed with the moans and groans of the villagers at the tragic loss of this tree. This tree could always be depended on for flowers – in season and out of season. There was no other tree like it anywhere else.

The area lost a landmark, and suddenly had a naked look. To our childish minds, the ‘Excel Cottage’ was stripped of its beautiful adornment – and our curiosity now centred on it.

What had earned it the name of ‘Excel Cottage”?

It was sharply in contrast to most houses that were

either of wattle and daub with a thatched or ‘thrash’ roof, or one-bedroom board houses with galvanized roofs. This house had a wide verandah, with what is now called ginger bread ‘fret work’. The walls were of terra cotta, a kind of wattle and daub, but plastered with cement instead of mud. There was a large hall and dining room, three bedrooms, and at the back was a Kitchen with a hearth for cooking. The house also had a large stone tank for water storage. The roof was sloping to protect against high winds, and covered with heavy galvanise. It was indeed a Mansion in its day!

However, the “Excel Cottage” proved its worth when it stood firm during a hurricane. When the roofs of other houses went flying in the air, the roof of the “Excel Cottage” remained intact.

The ending was happy.

“Bougainvillea” bloomed again in even greater glory. We had not understood pruning, and that in the world of agriculture, pruning was a way to promote growth and increased yield from the plant or tree.

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