Monday, February 2, 2009

the coconut man

One quiet afternoon in Goa, the coconut man visited our guest house. People growing up as I did in a land devoid of palm trees frequently wonder (or at least I did): How often do coconuts really fall and hit people on the head? Cartoons lead us to believe that this may be an issue. As might be expected, the denizens of coconutty realms have contrived a protection against this danger: The Coconut Man. (People who have lived in coconutty realms will not learn anything from this and they will be amused at my ignorance.)
Each coconut palm tree has a mess of coconuts in all stages of maturity, so the coconut man squints up at the tree and decides which branches, leaves, and coconuts to knock down. He then climbs it very quickly and knocks down the dried stuff that might otherwise fall on a person or a car.
Sometimes they climbed the trees with their feet through a loop of rope, and other times they would wait until the top to use the rope. This is all very clever. Actually, I don't have any statistics about coconut men and their lifespans, so I do not really know how clever it is. Maybe it isn't clever at all. These guys looked pretty experienced though.
In the picture above, you can see the coconut man slipping his feet into the rope loop. Also, they would occasionally (and with admirable nonchalance) use their cleaver/machete to hack a little wedge out of the tree to use as a step. This heightened my respect for the coconut men.
The best part about their job was that they made the mess and somebody else scurried around cleaning it up after they had moved on to a different tree. The family that lived at the guest house collected all of the branches and coconuts, quickly sorted them into piles around the yard. Each residence had sorted piles of coconut trash. The leaves can be used to make brooms, the branches are used for fuel, and the coconuts are eaten and their fibrous shells are used to make rope. Also, the green smooth shell is the outside and if you chisel it off you can get to the hairy brown shell.

It looks like an afternoon's project, but the whole thing was probably done and cleaned up in less than an hour.


  1. cool pictres! MaryGrace

  2. Wow, Nate. Good pictures. If you aim for a second career, trek around the world on National Geographic's dime. Love you much.

  3. So cool. It brought me right back to Cameroon, where we used to see those incredible 'coconut men' too. :)
    love to you and your wonderful family. Karin and David