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#1 Sep 29, 2017 11:07 am

New Historian
Active

The Unfortunate Mister Pink

In those days I worked on a huge farm in Jamaica, where we exported winter vegetables to the US market. At the height of the reaping season the farm would be hiring upwards of two thousand workers. Inevitably, given the nature of mechanized farm work, there were casualties. Like the worker who, against all regulations, was sitting on top of a tractor called a ripper, designed to break up hard dry soil for planting. His wellington boot got caught in the universal coupling, and within an instant he was dragged underneath the ripper which, well, ripped him. To shreds. Fortunately I didn’t get to see that dead body.

And then there was O’Neil Pink.

It’s a lot cheaper to send vegetables from Jamaica to Miami by ship than by air, which we did in the early days. But then we started using a company called Nhy-temp®, which replaced the normal air inside the container with nitrogen. It was an integrated chain from packing house to truck to shit to truck to market, using the same nitrogen-filled containers all along the route.

The vegetable packing house was as big as a football field, and at the height of season there’d be hundreds of people working there, sometimes in round the clock shifts. Brand new John Deere tractors unloaded tons upon tons of vegetables onto the sorting lines to be graded, packed and stacked into dozens of forty-foot refrigerated containers; all in one fluid, organic motion. I loved to watch it; there was something … earthy, noble about it: reaping earth’s bounty!

One day, a packing house worker called O’Neil Pink didn’t go home from his shift. He lived with his mother, who called the farm in a panic at about ten that night, saying that her O’Neil was a good boy and would never go missing just so – something must have happened to him. In the small community there weren’t many places he could have gone to unseen. And nobody had seen him since earlier that afternoon, when one of his co-workers had noticed him … sleeping inside a container.

When the vegetables were packed into the pre-chilled shipping containers, they were left in the yard with their doors open for a few hours, to “breathe”, before they were locked up for their journey to Miami. Although it was against all kinds of rules, not least being common sense, it wasn’t uncommon for off-duty packing house workers to chill out, inside the chilled container, in the heat of the day. What if …?

A forty foot refrigerated container is a big, noisy piece of equipment, with thick insulated walls; with that reefer engine at full blast, anyone trapped inside would stand no chance of being heard on the outside. The packing house manager called me around midnight. The trucks that left the farm that afternoon had dropped off the containers at Kingston docks, and the ship had sailed. We had no choice; we called the ship’s agent, who called the ship’s captain: open the containers – all of them!

And sure enough … The disgruntled captain turned the ship around; these things cost a lot of money to run. I had to go down to the wharf to identify the body. When I got there the container door was closed. Are you ready for this? asked the dock worker, then yanked it open. And there was poor dead O’Neil Pink, splayed upside down on a pallet, arms spread like a crucifix, his wide open mouth gasping like a fish, for more of that useless air that killed him. I’ll never forget those dead eyes, staring into mine.

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#2 Sep 30, 2017 11:58 am

Calypso
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Re: The Unfortunate Mister Pink

New Historian wrote:

In those days I worked on a huge farm in Jamaica, where we exported winter vegetables to the US market. At the height of the reaping season the farm would be hiring upwards of two thousand workers. Inevitably, given the nature of mechanized farm work, there were casualties. Like the worker who, against all regulations, was sitting on top of a tractor called a ripper, designed to break up hard dry soil for planting. His wellington boot got caught in the universal coupling, and within an instant he was dragged underneath the ripper which, well, ripped him. To shreds. Fortunately I didn’t get to see that dead body.

And then there was O’Neil Pink.

It’s a lot cheaper to send vegetables from Jamaica to Miami by ship than by air, which we did in the early days. But then we started using a company called Nhy-temp®, which replaced the normal air inside the container with nitrogen. It was an integrated chain from packing house to truck to shit to truck to market, using the same nitrogen-filled containers all along the route.

The vegetable packing house was as big as a football field, and at the height of season there’d be hundreds of people working there, sometimes in round the clock shifts. Brand new John Deere tractors unloaded tons upon tons of vegetables onto the sorting lines to be graded, packed and stacked into dozens of forty-foot refrigerated containers; all in one fluid, organic motion. I loved to watch it; there was something … earthy, noble about it: reaping earth’s bounty!

One day, a packing house worker called O’Neil Pink didn’t go home from his shift. He lived with his mother, who called the farm in a panic at about ten that night, saying that her O’Neil was a good boy and would never go missing just so – something must have happened to him. In the small community there weren’t many places he could have gone to unseen. And nobody had seen him since earlier that afternoon, when one of his co-workers had noticed him … sleeping inside a container.

When the vegetables were packed into the pre-chilled shipping containers, they were left in the yard with their doors open for a few hours, to “breathe”, before they were locked up for their journey to Miami. Although it was against all kinds of rules, not least being common sense, it wasn’t uncommon for off-duty packing house workers to chill out, inside the chilled container, in the heat of the day. What if …?

A forty foot refrigerated container is a big, noisy piece of equipment, with thick insulated walls; with that reefer engine at full blast, anyone trapped inside would stand no chance of being heard on the outside. The packing house manager called me around midnight. The trucks that left the farm that afternoon had dropped off the containers at Kingston docks, and the ship had sailed. We had no choice; we called the ship’s agent, who called the ship’s captain: open the containers – all of them!

And sure enough … The disgruntled captain turned the ship around; these things cost a lot of money to run. I had to go down to the wharf to identify the body. When I got there the container door was closed. Are you ready for this? asked the dock worker, then yanked it open. And there was poor dead O’Neil Pink, splayed upside down on a pallet, arms spread like a crucifix, his wide open mouth gasping like a fish, for more of that useless air that killed him. I’ll never forget those dead eyes, staring into mine.



Your tale of the shipping industry in Jamaica is insightful and yet gross. Accidents will happen but the safety rules must be well-established to prevent these macabre occurences. Jamaicans hardly have access to these winter vegetables. They eat too much starch in the ground provisions. They need to add more of these vegetables to their diets and cut down on the salt and frigging starch.

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#3 Sep 30, 2017 12:41 pm

New Historian
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Re: The Unfortunate Mister Pink

I agree with you except "Jamaicans hardly have access to these winter vegetables" - they certainly do have access to fresh vegetables, it's just not their preference. Starchy, fatty diets are caused by poverty, people concentrate on quantity over quality. But the tide is turning, people in Jamaica are becoming more health conscious in their eating - started off by the Rastas!

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#4 Sep 30, 2017 12:56 pm

Calypso
Active

Re: The Unfortunate Mister Pink

New Historian wrote:

I agree with you except "Jamaicans hardly have access to these winter vegetables" - they certainly do have access to fresh vegetables, it's just not their preference. Starchy, fatty diets are caused by poverty, people concentrate on quantity over quality. But the tide is turning, people in Jamaica are becoming more health conscious in their eating - started off by the Rastas!


What is the percentage of "winter vegetables" are being exported? What is the percentage that is accessible to Jamaicans? I do remember accompanying my grandmother to Coronation Market in the seventies  and did not see, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, squash  chard, etc. I did see callaloo.  We have a tendency to export the best abroad and keep the dregs for ourselves. Jamaicans are not all farmers or have access to farms. Even in my days, the Rastafarians were very health conscious. They made the best food and healthy drinks. They are vegetarians and eat real healthy. I the Caribbean go on a health campaign to lower the rate of diabetes in the region, the eating habits of the Rastas could play a major role.

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#5 Sep 30, 2017 12:57 pm

Calypso
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Re: The Unfortunate Mister Pink

Calypso wrote:
New Historian wrote:

I agree with you except "Jamaicans hardly have access to these winter vegetables" - they certainly do have access to fresh vegetables, it's just not their preference. Starchy, fatty diets are caused by poverty, people concentrate on quantity over quality. But the tide is turning, people in Jamaica are becoming more health conscious in their eating - started off by the Rastas!


What is the percentage of "winter vegetables" are being exported? What is the percentage that is accessible to Jamaicans? I do remember accompanying my grandmother to Coronation Market in the seventies  and did not see, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, squash  chard, etc. I did see callaloo.  We have a tendency to export the best abroad and keep the dregs for ourselves. Jamaicans are not all farmers or have access to farms. Even in my days, the Rastafarians were very health conscious. They made the best food and healthy drinks. They are vegetarians and eat real healthy. I the Caribbean go on a health campaign to lower the rate of diabetes in the region, the eating habits of the Rastas could play a major role.


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#6 Sep 30, 2017 1:12 pm

New Historian
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Re: The Unfortunate Mister Pink

Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, squash  chard aren't Jamaican staples, unless you "hoity-toity and fareen" lol, but as that video shows, there's still plenty of fresh natural foods in Ja - in abundance. If I had to live the rest of my life eating only one nation'
s food it wouldn't be Chinese, French or Italian - it'd be Yard Food lol! I'm a Grenadian to the core but Jamaican food is DE BESS.

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#7 Sep 30, 2017 1:18 pm

Calypso
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Re: The Unfortunate Mister Pink

New Historian wrote:

Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, squash  chard aren't Jamaican staples, unless you "hoity-toity and fareen" lol, but as that video shows, there's still plenty of fresh natural foods in Ja - in abundance. If I had to live the rest of my life eating only one nation'
s food it wouldn't be Chinese, French or Italian - it'd be Yard Food lol! I'm a Grenadian to the core but Jamaican food is DE BESS.

Those foods I mentioned can be grown in Jamaica and must be looked into as staples for Jamaicans. It is much healthier. I am Jamaican but I had to abandon some eating habits to stay healthy. If there is more education and literature about the benefits of such vegetables, many Jamaicans will eat them.

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#8 Sep 30, 2017 1:51 pm

New Historian
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Re: The Unfortunate Mister Pink

Agreed. Like the Israeli growers used to say: meir huss - 100%!

When I lived in Kingston back in the seventies there was an ital food place at the back of 56 Hope Road - Bob's house. They did a delicious lunch, with fish or without - and you could stock up on "supplies" at the same time too lol!

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