Chapter 12

Pitcairn Humor (Tee-hee)etc.


One book I read pointed out that Pitcairners have no sense of humor! That's not what I found. In fact, some of their humor ranks as funny as anything I've seen in other parts of the world.

Here are some excerpts from my diary.

Seen and heard during construction of the longboat in the tractor shed.

A "topic of conversation had to do with 'fox wedges.' It seems that Jacob had called small wooden wedges about 2" across and 4" long and " thick 'fox wedges,' and everyone was tickled with the name. The rest of the morning everyone was calling for 'fox wedges' and talking about them, most of the time in playful jest." 9/1/82

"I've noticed that, while the men here like to tease each other, sometimes mercilessly, they do not embarrass each other in public. The other day, we had to repair the stern part of the keel on the new boat. It seems that the crew that worked on that section had used paint when mating two parts of the keelinstead of glue. The men who were making the repair worked furiously, trying to finish it before the stern crew returned. I couldn't understand why they worked so hard. It would seem to me they would want the stern crew to know they had made a mistake. But now I realize that their speed came about because they didn't want to embarrass the other men in front of the whole group." 9/2/82

"Dennis and several others have been teasing me because of my American accent. They especially laugh at the flatness of my "A"s (as in "day"), where they pronounce them more as "Ah" (as in "far"). Dennis used my pronunciation repeatedly while saying 'Paass the _____ Paastor,' instead of saying in his own accent, 'Pahss the _____ Pahstor.' It was so funny the way he would emphasize it each time, and then get his cute smile on his face." 9/2/82

Another time Steve tried a similar thing: "Paaster, paass the naheeayls [nails] (Australian pronunciation exaggerated)." 10/1/82


Miscellaneous diary entries:

Every week I take the church money up to Ben for him to count and give me a receipt. "He always figures the amounts in his head, and on paper, even though he has an electronic calculator on his desk. 'I don't trust that thing, Pastor,' he has said to me several times. 'You can never tell if it will give you the right answer.' Sometimes he uses it, but he almost always checks it against his own figures." 9/2/82

At a pot luck meal: "Everyone is in good spirit. Even Jimmy was smiling and talking much more than usual. He told me, after Clarice prompted him, about the time two years ago when he was named man of the month because he had mistaken popcorn for yellow split peas. He had boiled them for a long time and couldn't figure out why they weren't getting soft!" 12/23/82

"The crews of longboats #3 and #4 race each other from time to timeall in good fun, of course. Everyone on board cheers their crew and shouts at the other boat things like 'Yorly (you're) slow. Better get a new boat.' One of the actions often used by someone on the lead boat says it all: Taking a piece of rope and pushing the end toward the other craft, as much as to say, 'Do you need a tow?'"

"During collecting sand at Flat Rocks, Terry and Clarice over-powered me and swung me hands and feet yo-heave-ho into the drinkclothes and all. When I came up I discovered that Clarice had also pushed the unsuspecting Terry in after me, to the cheers of the watching crowd."

"The men seemed to enjoy teasing Charles―who was chairman of the committee that decided on what work needed to be done. When there was heavy work to do, someone would say: "Let Charles do it." They did this because Charles often appeared to try to get out of the hard labor and often sat―even reclined―on the sidelines rather than work. (To be honest, though, I've seen Charles work quite hard while others sat on the sidelines and watched.)" 9/5/82

Betty told me of a name that was used to describe a circumstance. One is called "Allen." "Allen came home to supper one day," she said, "and all there was on the table were raisins and boiled potatoes. When he bowed his head to pray, instead of asking the blessing on the food, he said "Where is the food that we should eat?" From then on, whenever there is little food to eat, people would say that they were "having Allen" for supper."

"One day when we came down from Aute Valley into the village, we met the Tractor with Dennis, Terry, and Steve. They were carrying a large new box about 7 ft. long, and 2 x 2 feet square. I joked with them about carrying a coffin, and they asked: 'Would you like to try it out?'" 8/9/82

During public work of clearing the roads "Warren told me a story when we were passing Paulu Valley. This point, a saddle between two hills, gives a nice place from which you can see both ways that ships come―Panama and New Zealand. He told me that during the war, when there was no radio contact allowed with ships, they had a ship stop every month. But they had to keep a lookout so that they could see when the ship would come. He said that one day when he and two other men were 'up ha station' (the name for the place) they were lying in the grass, waiting for the ship to appear. One of 'dems' wives came along and asked them if they had seen any ships yet. 'No', they said. 'Then what's that right there,' she pointed toward New Zealand, and a ship had almost reached the island. They hadn't even seen it!" 10/6/82

The longboats returned after a day of fishing. Along with other fish, they had caught 5 barracuda and two tuna―all very large. The practice is to apportion the fish into somewhat equal piles and share them out to the ones who had gone on the trip. That meant cutting the barracuda and tuna in several pieces. To make it fair, they gutted the fish before cutting it up. I couldn't understand why one of the piles had a small pile of octopus and a few scrawny fish. The share-out went without a hitch until Steve pointed to the tiny pile. Brian said in a loud voice, "Allan!" (Cox, the teacher). It was such a scrawny pile that Allan was taken back until he saw it was a joke. 10/27/82

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