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A Palmy Tale
by Paul Craft

As you read this tale, how many different common names of palms can you find hidden in the text?

Once upon a time, far, far away in the tropical paradise of Buri, there lived a swash-buckling buccaneer named Alexander Bailey. His comrades called him Fred. They felt Fred was a far more commanding name. It made no sense but very little about this tale will make much sense.

Buri was a small island in a kingdom of islands named Bouga Bouga located in the Bismark Sea. It was home to an entirely wacky bunch of outcasts who worshipped plants, and more specifically, palms. Their entire lives were spent discussing their virtues, growing them, and trading for species they had not yet cultivated. Seeds were used as a form of currency. The island was virtually over run by palms. Needless to say, they got little else done and would have gone hungry if not for Fred and his pirating of the high seas.

It was morning and Fred’s mother, a small dwarf lady, stepped up on a footstool to open the window and let the fresh salt breeze in. The windowpane rattled from a distant thunderstorm. A rainbow could be seen arching over the ocean to the seashore as the sunshine shown through the raindrops. Fred mused upon the thought of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If only it were true and if he could retrieve it, the people on the island would no longer have to worry about anything again. Fred sighed. Chasing after rainbows was not going to solve the islands economic woes.

After a breakfast of jellybeans, cabbage, and pimentos, Fred headed up to the old windmill to talk to his good friend, Silver Joey. No one knew how old Joey was. It seemed he had always been there and was considered the town wise man. His nickname came from his long silver beard.

Fred asked Silver Joey what he thought they could do to ease the islanders’ problems. There was little left to eat, no material for fixing up the houses, and no cloth for clothes. The islanders had always counted on the pirate booty that Fred brought back from his high seas adventures to make do. Fred was tired of pirating and a longer term solution was needed to solve the islanders’ problems. Silver Joey sat silently, leaning on his walking stick, thinking. Actually, Fred was not sure if he were thinking or asleep, as Silver Joey would often dose off in the middle of conversations. As he watched a butterfly flutter by, Fred was suddenly startled as Silver Joey sat straight up and exclaimed, "I have the answer!" He then related to Fred a tale of how he had helped the King of the kingdom long ago and that he had told him to please let Joey know if he could ever return the favor. He was too old to go, so Fred would have to make the journey to the Big Island to meet with the King. It was a long shot, as what had happened occurred so very long ago, but Silver Joey was hopeful the King would remember. Silver Joey prepared a letter of introduction for Fred. As he sealed the envelope, some sealing wax dribbled on his belly, which he mopped up with a piece of his petticoat.

The tide was going out so Fred packed up immediately and set sail for the Big Island. He was grateful the crew had just cleaned and waxed the ship. That carnauba wax really brought out the shine in the old boat. It would make a good impression on the King. He had forgotten to check on the hurricane report before leaving, but it really was not the season for them anyway.

It took three days and three nights to travel to the big island. A school of dolphin swam along to show them the way. As the Big Island came into view, Fred got out his comb, shaving brush, and toothbrush to make himself presentable. He did not want to make a bad impression on the Royal Family.

The ship was anchored by the mangroves and Fred rowed ashore. It was a short hike up to the castle. He thought he looked quite smashing in his Puerto Rican hat with the red feather and the beautifully carved ivory cane that had been a present from Silver Joey. He thought about what Silver Joey had told him about the Royal Family. King and Queen Macarthur were thought to be very long distant relatives of King Arthur of Camelot fame and had made their fortune selling cheeseburger franchises. They had a daughter, Princess Loulu, who was considered a prize catch for the fortunate man who could win her heart.

A solitaire sentry holding a large spear guarded the castle. After showing him the letter of introduction from Silver Joey, Fred was ushered inside to wait awhile in the Parlor. It was an elegant room with some unusual paraphernalia. There was a stuffed tiger in one corner and a blue and gold macaw sitting on a perch in another. A lion’s head peered at him from above the door. Overtop the fireplace was a slender crystal triangle with a silver star on top. It reminded Fred of a stylish looking Christmas tree. His wait was shortened when his Majesty, the King, burst into the room and exclaimed, "how is my dear old friend Silver Joey"! Fred then knew this would be informal and friendly meeting.

The Queen was away, but her sister, Lady Alexandra, was in attendance. She called for a servant and shortly thereafter a peculiar looking women named Hairy Mary brought in a bottle of cherry wine along with potato chips covered with peach jelly. Although strange sounding, they were quite tasty. The vision of Hairy Mary would not leave Fred’s mind as he wondered if she had ever been with a man or ever even gone out on a date. Words fail to conjure up a likeness of her. It would have been a wild date if it ever had taken place.

The King told Fred his version of the tale about how Silver Joey had helped him. It is a gruesome story and suffices it to say it dealt with Zombies, black cats, redneck teddy bears, and bamboo under the fingernails. It was an adventure that had occurred when both were young and foolish boys who should have known better. Looking at the King now as an old man, it was difficult to imagine him ever being young. He also wondered why the King wore lipstick.

The tale having been told and the red flames of the fire in the fireplace beginning to dim, the king leaned over and asked Fred if there was anything he could do for his dear old friend. Fred told him the problems faced by the people of his island. The King just looked at Fred with puzzlement in his eyes. He proclaimed to Fred the answers to all their problems were quite simple and had been before their eyes all along. Fred was quite taken aback and astonished by this. The king yawned and said it was time to retire for the night. All would be explained in the morning.

After a breakfast of gingerbread, fishtails, and Chilean wine, the king took Fred by the arm and said they would be off to the market where all the answers to Buri’s problems would become obvious.

It was a short walk to the market, which was full of activity. The stalls were full of food, clothes, and building materials, which were exactly what Fred was looking for. The King looked at Fred and said the answer to all of Buri’s problems could be seen in these stalls. Fred was bewildered and asked the King how could the islanders ever afford to purchase what they needed. The King grumbled under his breath, grabbed Fred by the arm, and went to the first stall.

Before them were wine, bread, fruit, nuts, oil, and sugar. The King asked Fred where did he think all this food came from. Fred shrugged and looked confused. The King sighed a heavy sigh and blurted out, "Son! All this comes from palms!" Fred still was perplexed. The King then explained how certain fruits of palms could be eaten and were quite good. Likewise the seeds were an excellent source of protein and tasty as well. Starch taken from the pith of some palms could be made into a starch that could then be made into bread. Oil could be taken from seeds and fruit alike. The sap harvested from a cut flower stem could be fermented and made into a wine. There seemed to be no end to what could be produced as food from palms. Fred was completely flabbergasted. This had never been even considered back in Buri.

At the next stall were clothes, brooms, rope, baskets, and woven things of all kinds. Fred looked at the King and the King just nodded. It was difficult for Fred to believe all these things were made from palms as well. The King explained how palm fiber is very strong and durable. It can be woven as well as braided to make a multitude of things. Palm leaves can also be woven into baskets, utensils, and even ornaments. By now Fred was getting excited and beginning to understand the magnitude of what he was learning.

The next stall featured beautiful furniture of every kind. It too was made completely from palms. Rattan, from a vine-like palm, could be bent and twisted to any form and was extremely sturdy. Narrow strips of rattan or palm fiber were used to tie everything together. There were beautiful chairs made of bent rattan and woven strips of rattan. Planks from palm trunks made beautiful wood tables. There seemed to be no end to what furniture could be made.

The last stall was a very large stall. In it was all the building materials needed to build a sturdy house. There were panels that could be used to make walls. They were made of a framework of rattan with palm leaves woven inside making a panel that could not be seen through. Trunks of various sizes were stacked that could be used as supports or posts. Carpenters were splitting the outer parts of trunks to make siding and flooring. Leaves were stacked in big bundles that could be used as waterproof thatch roofs.

Fred was by now very excited. The answers to all of Buri’s problems had indeed been before them all along. The palms they had worshipped and cherished could be used in a practical way as well. Caught up in his excitement, he saw Hairy Mary nearby and picked her up and kissed her. That brought him back to reality in a heartbeat.

Fred could not wait to return to Buri with his newfound knowledge. He thanked the King profusely and bid him adieu. The King asked him to stay and partake in the bounty of the Big Island, but Fred was too eager to return to his home. Besides, he wanted to get the vision of kissing Hairy Mary out of his mind.

Fred gathered his crew and set sail back to Buri. No longer would his fellow islanders want for anything. They could worship their palms and eat them too.


The End

How did you do? There were at least 73 different common names of palms used in this story. If you got:

0-19 names, you better go back to page one
20-39 names, you are palm aficionado material
40-59 names, you may be considered a palmophile
60 or more names, you are a board certified Palm Nut

Names in order of appearance in text:

Buri - Polyandrococos caudescens, Buccaneer -Pseudophoenix sargentii, Alexander - Ptychosperma elegans, Bailey - Copernicia baileyana, Bismark - Bismarckia nobilis, Dwarf Lady - Rhapis subtilis, Footstool - Livistona rotundifolia, Windowpane - Reinhardtia gracilis, Seashore - Allagoptera arenaria, Sunshine - Veitchia macdanielsii (recently changed to V. arecina), Jellybean - Synecanthus fibrosus, Cabbage - Sabal palmetto, Pimento - Schippia concolor, Windmill - Trachycarpus fortunei, Silver Joey - Johannesteijsmannia magnifica, Walking Stick - Linospadix monostachya, Butterfly - Dypsis lutescens, King - Archontophoenix alexandra, Sealing Wax - Cyrtostachys renda, Petticoat - Copernicia macroglossa or Washingtonia filifera, Belly - Gastrococos crispa or Colpothrinax wrightii, Carnauba Wax - Copernicia prunifera, Hurricane - Dictyosperma album, Dolphin - Kerridoxa elegans, Shaving Brush - Rhopalostylis sapida, Royal - Roystonea regia, Mangrove - Nypa fruticans, Puerto Rican Hat - Sabal causiarum, Red Feather - Chambeyronia macrocarpa, Ivory Cane - Pinanga kuhlii, Macarthur - Ptychosperma macarthurii, Princess - Dictyosperma album, Loulu - Pritchardia sp., Solitaire - Ptychosperma elegans, Sentry - Howea forsteriana, Spear - Balaka seemannii, Wait-a-while - Calamus australis, Parlor - Chamaedorea elegans, Tiger - Pinanga maculata, Macaw - Aiphanes minima or Acrocomia aculeata, Overtop - Syagrus amara, Triangle - Dypsis decaryi, Silver Star - Cryosphila warscewiczii, Christmas - Adonidia merrillii, Majesty - Ravenea rivularis, Queen - Syagrus romanzoffianum, Lady - Rhapis excelsa, Alexandra - Archontophoenix alexandra, Hairy Mary - Calamus australis, Bottle - Hyophorbe lagenicaulis, Cherry - Pseudophoenix sargentii, Wine - Pseudophoenix vinifera or Raphia hookeri, Potato chip - Chamaedorea tuerckheimii, Peach - Bactris gasipaes, Jelly - Butia capitata, Date - Phoenix dactylifera, Wild date - Phoenix sylvestris, Zombie - Zombia antillarum, Black - Normanbya normanbyi, Cat - Chamaedorea cataractarum, Redneck - Dypsis leptocheilos, Teddy Bear - Dypsis leptocheilos, Bamboo - Chamaedorea seifrizii, Old Man - Coccothrinax crinita, Lipstick - Cyrtostachys renda, Red Flame - Chambeyronia macrocarpa, Gingerbread - Hyphaene sp., Fishtail - Caryota sp., Chilean Wine - Jubaea chilensis, Oil - Elaeis sp. or Attalea sp., Sugar - Arenga pinnata, Carpenter - Carpentaria acuminata, Thatch - Thrinax sp.

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