Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A New Twist for Chicken Little

“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” ~Chicken Little

“A told B and B told C, ‘I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree!’” ~Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Since arriving in Papua New Guinea, we’ve been told many times that one should never hang out under a coconut tree.

I know, I know. You’re thinking of those picture postcards with the white sand beaches, rolling waves, and someone swinging gently in a hammock strung lazily between two coconut palms.

Utter foolishness.

It’s reportedly true, unfortunately, that some people (at least some children) have been killed by falling coconuts.

This must be widespread information in PNG, for one day my wasmama and I were walking home from another village when the wind began to pick up. The trees were swaying madly overhead and before I knew it, Mama had grabbed my hand and was all but dragging me at a full trot the last kilometer or two to the house.

She was scared of falling coconuts.

I tried to reassure her that everything would be alright, that she needn't worry too much, but the wasfamilies have a strong sense of responsibility for the well being of the missionaries in their care. If something happened to me, it would be on her head.

At least that is how it felt to her.

Fortunately, we made it home with no skull-cracking incidents.

A few days later Mama was sitting on the “bet” (a low outside table designed for preparing and/or eating food) outside our house. I and some others were standing around talking with her when it happened.

Now, I’d been observing this phenomenon ever since the wild coconut-avoidance routine a few days earlier, so it didn’t totally take me by surprise when a coconut came crashing through the branches of several trees and landed with a solid *THUD* about eight inches from Mama.

Please understand, these people are smart and would never build a house or “bet” or anything of the like directly underneath, or even close to, a coconut palm. This coconut, like so many others, just had a mind of its own.

This incident and others like it led to this humble composition …

(*Bubu is the Tok Pisin equivalent of Grandma)

The Coconut Tree

Bubu told Mama and Mama told me,

“You’d better not sit under the coconut tree!

A safer place there really must be

Than sitting underneath the coconut tree.

A smart decision is really the key

When hanging around under the coconut tree.

For in the middle of town or as you walk by the sea,

The coconuts fall from the coconut tree.

They might hit your head, though they could hit your knee,

The coconuts falling from the coconut tree.

When you sit down to story or drink your tea,

Just don’t do it underneath a coconut tree.

And should you hear a crash, before you cry, ‘Oh, gee!’

You’d better run away from the coconut tree!”

But, I’ve been watching and I think I see

A pattern to this problem of the coconut tree.

They usually bounce on a branch or even two or three

And fall far away from the coconut tree.

So for what it’s worth, you can take it from me,

The safest place may be right under the coconut tree!


  1. *smile* Yes, laughter is sometimes the best medicine. Kudos!

  2. Simeon told us just a couple of days ago that more people are killed every year by falling coconuts than shark attacks - so indeed something to be careful of!


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