Sunday, June 09, 2013

banana trees

Originally we bought one banana tree from a greenhouse on the Eastern Shore.

However, when the fall came around and the temperature dropped below freezing the tree died back to just its roots.

And remained that way all through the winter. Dead. we thought.

However, in the spring, from the roots of the original tree, five new trees sprouted and each one of the five trees, by the fall, had grown to be over ten feet tall. Only, again, with the first hard frost, to die back to its roots.

Each year since then, with the frost, the trees have died back and each spring they again reproduce from the previous tree's roots.

Since it takes two years of uninterrupted growth for a banana tree to produce fruit we never do get any bananas.

If, though, we weren't constantly digging up excess banana trees in the spring and moving or giving them away.

Or in the fall cutting them down and destroying the trunks our front yard would become, during the heat of the summer, an impenetrable banana forest.

Once upon a time, over 45 years ago... When I was an 18 year old kid, playing medic on a five American advisory team in Vietnam our team leader a 25 year old lieutenant with an English degree from Berkeley  decided this triangular shaped berm surrounding the outpost needed something to liven it up.

Something like trees.

Banana trees.

No doubt reflecting my lack of anything meaningful to do he told me to go for a hike into the forest that bordered the north side of the outpost and dig up some banana trees.

"Dig up some small banana trees and plant them on top of the   berm."

So, in short order, carrying one of those army issue entrenching tools I headed out,  finding a path of sorts that headed into the forest of overgrown bamboo, palm trees and fruitless bananas.  I immediately walked through some one's booby trap.

A trip wire.

A  piece of thin, almost invisible wire strung across the trail.

The sort of thing, in its simplest form, where one end of the wire is attached to a stake, or a tree.

And the other end hooked to the detonator on a grenade.

The sort of device where  when someone unsuspectingly comes strolling down the trail, walks into the almost invisible wire, by their forward motion gives the wire a pull, just enough to give the wire a pull, a pull that activates the grenades detonator.

And something like eight seconds later there's an explosion.

One that sends pieces of metal flying.  Enough to kill anyone nearby.                                                           Only this time there was no explosion. This time the other end of the trip wire wasn't attached to a grenade.  or explosive.  No anti personal mine.  No explosion.

Instead the wire was attached to a flare.

The sort of thing that is set up to to give you a warning if someone is walking through the woods at night.

Our soldiers had strung the woods with dozens of trip wires attached to flares so they would be warned if anyone tried to sneak through the woods in the dark.

But enough of the war part of the story. 

What I meant to tell was about digging up banana trees.  And carrying them back  and planting them up on the berm.

And how everyday I learned the value of watering plants.

That without plenty of water trees, banana trees would quickly wilt and die.

Very much like the plants out in our fields.

And a month later just as the trees were starting to put out roots.  We got transferred fifty miles up north, closer to the border with Cambodia.

Guarding a bridge.

 That was blown up the week before I went home


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