Joseph was born in Brasso Seco, he had(sure?) two brothers and two sisters. His father was East Indian and "Bajan" [African heritage]. His mother was "trini Spanish". In the hills of Brasso Seco you still get a feel of what little Joseph had experienced as a young boy walking barefoot on the pebble strewn tracks through the fields of cocoa trees. In fact, it was common to walk long distances with persons reaching as far as Tunapuna, "we walk to El Dorado Road through Caura…leave Brasso at four/five [A.M.], sometimes I would ride on the donkey ["every house had a donkey"] back from Caura." At that time, Caura was the cocoa selling district. Cocoa was sold by the pound: Each pound sold for 8c. 110 pounds of cocoa made up a "fanegan." The samboas, square baskets used for carrying the cocoa, were made from the braided vines of an abundant species of trees in the forest, "vines running on the ground… clean it and plait it up to make the cocoa basket."
When drying the cocoa men had to be diligent "after sweating [cocoa] you had to be on the cocoa right through, two [men] drying and the other in the field." Diligence was required to be prepared for the intermittent rains in the area which would come without warning.
Hunting in Brasso's forests was a way of life where game was plentiful, running through the trees around your house. "You keep your shotgun in the kitchen [fireside or external kitchen] I shooting from 12 years old." "Loose [gun] powder in thin brass shells, caps separate …you fix everything home [loading the shells and ammunition before going out to hunt with all the components being purchased in the village stores]. Hunting at night was particularly remarkable as it was done by the light of a flambeau in one hand, and the shotgun held and fired using the other. With the fast moving quarry (what is this?) and ever alert biche (deer), this was absolutely necessary.
Whistling was the way people communicated through the maze of trees and valleys, "when you hear [the whistling sound] everybody know is time to move [to hunt or to meet at a particular event]." Parang was one such event. Joseph remembers, as a child, listening to his elders play the instruments and learning to sing and play the songs. "They would play night time, Papa Goon would be on mandolin and they play for fun for the people in the area." Instruments were made not bought, "take cedar wood, plane (?) to that size [quatro size]. Wet it, bend it and glue [glue made from wheat flour]." This process was used to make guitars, mandolins, violins and a large bass guitar which (or all of which?) had the same dimensions as a quatro. Traditional parang is still proudly practiced in Brasso Seco.
Communities that work and play together stay together, and so where there is work to be done, such as house building, everyone comes together to help. For instance, building the Tapia house, a white-walled mud dwelling, would require many hands. "Collect the [dried] Tapia grass; dig a hole [in the ground for a foundation] and line up [the tapia grass] and pile it up [with the trademark mud that dries to white to give the familiar colour]; smooth it down, making rooms like in any other house…When you work, you work." In those days, when all houses were made of dirt, it was a community event to assist neighbours in building their dwellings. But when the work was done there was merriment to be had.
Not even the hellish high waters on the day after we visited Papa Joe, occasioned by some of the heaviest rains Trinidad has seen in years, could keep his quiet community from celebrating his 95th birthday. Well-wishers with '4x4' vehicles laid large boulders along paths washed away by the torrent- all to celebrate this iconic figure of the Brasso Seco landscape.