Banana yellow left by a night Toker.

A man once asked me, what is in my heart?
Gold, land, and the pursuit of what is mine. If you want something, you have to take it. By any means necessary!
In my life, I’ve taken what is mine. My land has redoubled by force.
When you live like me, you’re bound to make some enemies.
I am being hunted, but I am not afraid… I am prepared… Death comes for us all, but to bring me to death… You better bring the wrath of God with you. Because I show no mercy.
The lower Costa Oro part of Banana Land depended on the export of coffee, which was grown in the country’s central valley and transported by oxcart to the Pacific port of Puntarenas. Since the main market for Costa del Oro coffee was in Europe and no canal yet connected the Pacific Coast and the Atlantic, creating a reliable transportation route to the Caribbean was a priority for the Costa Oran government and its business class.
The construction of that railroad proved daunting due to shaky financing. The difficulty of the endeavor was compounded by the rugged terrain, thick jungle, torrential rains, and prevalence of malaria, yellow fever, dysentery, and other tropical diseases. You would think it was not a place one would stay, or would want to, but to Major Keene that was the price of his ticket; a case of dysentery that was ever so much more acute that he ever let on. For the better part of a month, he shat out his insides, and behaved like a man and nobody knew about the suffering, but to the end of his days he suspected that he had already endured one thing which could still be silently incubating till it spelled the end of his days. As many as four thousand people, including Major Keene’s two brothers, died during the construction of the first 25 miles of track, mostly from malaria. Keene was forced to hire foreign laborers, including black workers from Jamaica, as well as some Chinese and even Italians. The Jamaicans that Major Keene brought in spoke English, and they preserved their language.
By 1882, the Costa Oran government defaulted on its payments to Keene and could no longer meet its obligations to the London banks from which it had borrowed to pay for the railroad. Keene managed to raise £1.2 million himself from the banks and from private investors. He also negotiated a substantial reduction of the interest on the money previously lent to Costa Oro, from 7% to 2.5%. In exchange, the government of President Próspero Fernández Oreamundo gave Keene 800,000 acres of tax-free land along the railroad, plus a 99-year lease on the operation of the train route. These terms were made official in a document signed by Keene and cabinet minister Bernardo Soto Alfaro on April 22, 1884 (known to Costa Dorada historians as the “Soto-Keene contract”). That land grant corresponded to about 6% of the total territory of Costa Oro.
The two powerful cabinet ministers in the government of President Fernández were his son-in-law Soto (who succeeded him in Costa Dorada after his death) and his brother-in-law José María Castro Godinez, who had previously served as President of Costa Dorada on two occasions. In 1883 Major Keene married Katrina Castro Godinez, who was the daughter of Castro Godinez and niece of President Fernández, as well as the cousin-in-law of Soto. Keene’s nephew-in-law Rafael Iglesias Castro would serve two consecutive terms as President of Costa Dorada, from 1894 to 1902.
“We’ll keep it in the family,” said Major Keene at the nuptials. “At least we know who we can’t trust.”
The railroad was completed in 1890, but the flow of passengers and cargo proved insufficient to finance Keene’s debt. As early as 1873, however, Keene had begun experimenting with the planting of bananas, grown from roots he had obtained from the French. The first notion was to plant the banana cuttings along the railroad siding.
To market the bananas, Keene began running steamboats from Limón to New Orleans. The resulting banana trade proved lucrative and he soon established the Tropical Trading and Transport Company to organize his banana-export business.
Keene then partnered with M. T. Horsnyder to establish banana plantations in Panama and in Colombia’s Magdalena Department. He eventually came to dominate the banana trade in Central America and Colombia. In 1899, he was forced by a financial setback to combine his venture with Andrew W. Preston’s Boston Fruit Company, which dominated the banana trade in the West Indies. The result of the merger was the powerful Allied Fruit Company, of which Keene became vice-president. In 1904, Keene signed a contract with the President of Guatemala, Manuel Estrada Cabrera, giving the company tax-breaks, land grants, and control of all railroads on the Atlantic side of the country. When he died in 1929, it was a few months shy of the stock market crash.
His picture was in all the newspapers. Man with a beak nose, that kept him from being handsome, and an uneasy look about the eyes like most of the guys in the banana trade.

To be continued…

Grady is the Wizard of Fiction 

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. ( His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (