August 10, 2008

1950's La Ceiba: Horseback riding and teen clothing

The following is another guest blog from Ed who spent his teen years in La Ceiba in the 1950's when his stepfather brought the family to Honduras to work for Standard Fruit Company:

Honduran boys on horse(Not Ed, but the closest I could find)

I had the use of one of the company's horses (a pony actually) and all I had to do was show up, saddle him, and ride. The ranch hands took care of all the menial tasks, feeding, mucking the stables, etc. This was an old, but wise, pony to the saddle procedure. My job was to cinch up the belly band snug enough to prevent the saddle from moving while riding. The pony had ideas of his own. He would take a deep breath, expand his belly as I cinched, and I would mount, ride off and in a few steps the saddle (and me) would slip off to one side. And the process would be repeated.

I finally learned to wait until the pony exhaled..then harden up the cinch. This animal only had two speeds (when leaving the ranch) slow and stop. It was a different story on the return trip. Once he realized that he was homeward bound, he would break into a gallop that I couldn't control. Couldn't stop or turn him. He was headed to the barn, and that was it. I was just along for the ride. Frightening experience!

My rides were usually to a small river southwest of La Ceiba in the direction of Pico Bonito. The stream was crystal clear. One could see all the way to the sandy bottom, 10 feet below. Near the opposite shore was a large rock; great for climbing up and jumping into the water.

Miracle Fruit, Sideroxylon dulcificum, from Wikipedia

Also on that shore lived a man and his family. He tended a large grove of lemon trees. Once he offered me a small piece of fruit to eat. About the size of a kidney bean with red skin and a large seed. I was encouraged to eat the pulp. Mild panic set in as I chewed the pulp, and then that of another. What in the world was this man doing to me! He was all smiles and assured me that all was okay. A few minutes later, he picked a lemon, cut it open and offered me a slice. Fully expecting the acid tang of the lemon, I bit. Imagine my surprise when that lemon was as sweet as sugar! I have no idea what that red fruit was to this day. For the rest of the day, everything I put into my mouth tasted sweet.

Once before riding to the river I decided to wear just swimming trunks, rather than changing into them at the stream. All was well on the ride out. It was a different story after the ride back. Valuable lesson learned that day....never ride horseback in a wet bathing suit! I couldn't sit down for several days without wincing.

As a growing boy, I was in constant need of new and larger clothes. At that time there were no malls or department stores in which to shop. If one wanted clothing, one went to a tailor for custom mades. Bolts of cloth were there for your selection in colors and prints. My choices were not guided by parental advise, and they were my own whims. Looking back, my taste (as it were) ran to the garish. A far cry from the preppy looks of later years. Most of my shirts were along the lines of a guyabera with short sleeves.

Shoes were handmade by a local cobbler. No pictures, no catalogs. The cobbler would trace the outline of the left and right foot on a piece of paper, I would tell him what style and color of shoe I wanted, and in a couple of days, they would be ready. I wore jodhpurs, mimicking my hero the BSA rider. I didn't have the motorcycle, but perhaps people would see me as a rider anyway. I don't remember the cost, but I'm sure they were inexpensive. No man made materials, either, all leather. The leather heels made a very macho click when walking on hard surfaces. Very appealing to a boy with no small amount of ego.

I have the answer to your question, Ed! You ate matasabor (kill the flavor), also called Miracle Fruit. I had one of those bushes but one of the workers ripped it out by the roots and it didn't survive the transplant. I want to get another one. You can read my article about matasabor here.

Thanks for the article, Ed. For anyone wishing to read more about 1950's La Ceiba, check out Ed's other articles under the "guest bloggers" topic in the sidebar.

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