Daily Archives: November 19, 2009

Of Aircraft Graveyards, and rotting Bajan plantation homes

Last year I was privileged to see the photography collection of a man who worked for a time at the aircraft disposal facility at Kingman, Arizona. The photos were works of art, but so much more too. On his days off, the photographer took his camera into the cockpits of the doomed airliners and documented every switch, every scratch and what remained after ten thousand flights.

A Douglas DC6 photo showed a flight plan dropped between the seats by one “C. Moss” in 1959 that remained there until the photographer found it thirty years later. The same aircraft had a plexiglas dome installed so the navigator could take star shots in the high arctic where compasses cannot be trusted. As I looked at that photo I thought about the man who could hold a sextant steady enough in turbulence at twenty thousand feet to do any good. I admire that pilot because he was a better navigator than I’ll ever be.

Most of my friends at home don’t understand how a person can get sentimental over a junkyard for airliners that are past their useful life, but my flying friends understand immediately. The airplanes are a connection with the people, now passed on, who made the aluminum, steel and oil come alive.

I feel the presence of those gone before me as I touch a fifty-year old mixture control worn smooth by a thousand hands.

I get the same feeling when I touch the wall of the restored Morgan Lewis windmill, but with more sadness then anything when I touch some of the other crumbling bits of history around the island. When I walk the ground at Newton, I can feel the souls of the thousands who toiled and died there – but so much of what they built was deliberately left to rot.

In our haste to assert ourselves as a people and to break the chains of our colonial slave masters, we somehow decided that the structures of the plantation class were oppressive – so we let them rot.

Deliberately, I believe.

We thought that destroying the structures of the planters would somehow free us, and that is what we did.

Are we better for that?

I say that letting the plantation homes rot didn’t free us from our past. It set us adrift without the tangible bits of history that connect us to where we came from and who we are.

Robert

Special thanks to Keith Clarke of Barbados in Focus for the shot of the old mill base. A hundred years from now Keith’s photographs of contemporary Barbados will be treasured as future generations look at the past to develop a sense of who they are.

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Filed under Barbados, History, Slavery