In Part I of Miss Meada’s Yard I mentioned Trumps.
Perhaps there is a person from your childhood who, if you’ve spent time thinking about it, had a profound influence on your life. For me that person was Trumps.
What can I say about Trumps? His real name was Ohenio, but the only person I knew who called him that was Miss Meada.
He was a mystery. Whose child had he been? Who was his family? How/why had he come to live in the tiny shack in Miss Meada’s yard? At least that’s where Erva and I assume he lived, near the ancient lignum vitae tree in an area of the yard we never went. How old was he? I remember him having a smooth skinned face with thin chin whiskers. Yet he was ancient to me.
As a little girl of five, six and seven, I was fascinated, repulsed, afraid, and felt terribly sorry for him all at the time.
Trumps was small, wizened, and deformed. A large head sat atop narrow hunched shoulders. His shoulders were hunched because he had a large hump on his back which bent him forward. His left arm was thin and small and shrunken. Permanently bent at the elbow, his hand at the end of it was curled, a near useless claw.
A lot of kids teased him. Erva and I did not. We hadn’t been told not to, but maybe our experience of being white and different and being teased, taught us a sub-conscious lesson; it wasn’t right to tease, it hurt. Why inflict that hurt on someone else, particularly someone like Trumps, who, except for snarling and raising his broom threateningly, could do little to defend himself?
Despite his physical handicap, Trumps had a job which he performed with slow, deliberate care. Possibly in return for a place to live and food to eat, he kept the Park (an area next to the yard that was bordered by mahogany trees and had benches and a swing-set) and Miss Meada’s yard swept clean. My best guess it that it was about an acre of land that he kept meticulously, spotlessly clean.
He used a broom made of bound sticks. He raked and swept up every leaf, twig and fallen flower. Where he had been the ground was clear of the tiniest mahogany leaf. The twigs from his broom left behind tiny trails, marks like those made in a Zen sand garden.
Every day, except Sundays or when it was raining, there he was, sweeping. Sweeping, bent over, slow, working the broom with his good arm. Sweeping leaves, flowers and twigs into small piles. Then he’d scoop up the piles onto a piece of tin and carry it to a place in Miss Meada’s yard where all kinds of leaf debris was deposited. Palm fronds, coconuts, branches, everything went onto the midden. The chickens liked to scratch around on it.
Everyday, sweeping. He was part of Miss Meada's yard, part of the yard culture.
I wanted to befriend him, but my fear of him kept me from it. Never once did I ever speak to him.
But I have never forgotten him. The years have given me time to think about the part he played in my life and the person he helped make me. I give Trumps the credit of instilling in me a love for the underdog. I give Trumps the credit of my coming to understand that everyone can have a place, a job, a reason for being. I give Trumps the credit of learning to respect those who are “different” from myself.
In one of my novels, which needs a lot of work, I gave him a major role. It is a small way for me to honor him, a twisted, bent little man, who must have spent the majority of his life in physical pain and discomfort and yet, who despite his being an outcast, was cared for by Miss Meada and developed the Zen of sweeping into a fine art.
I wonder why, even now, after all these years, his memory brings tears to my eyes.