Tales of a Mayaro stickman
By CALDEO SOOKRAM
Sunday, January 30th 2005
The Panther was always ready for battle. Photo: Caldeo Sookram
"THE Panther fears no stickman. When The Panther reach the gayelle, is serious bois, no time to gallery," said the stickman from Mayaro.
"I don't want to know your name or whey you come from. I come here to battle,'' said Natto Sylvester alias The Panther.
Sylvester said he watched big men play stick when he was a youth.
"I used to look at them big fellas, men like Mayaro Tiger, Tony Red, Boss Frazier, Bandy Alexis, Sonny Bigteeth, Chinkey Fat,'' he recalled.
At the age of 14, Sylvester started to work on Beaumont Estate, a cocoa and coconut plantation in Mayaro.
"On the estate we start playing stick with cocoa chipon, pieces of sticks and things like that,'' he said.
Then one Carnival Monday The Panther made his debut in the stickfighting gayelle, where big men fought and blood flowed, and spectators cheered the heroes and booed the underdogs.
Then they turned and gulped down rum by the bottles, a popular recreation at stickfighting gayelles.
Joe Pringay one of the biggest names in stickfighting arena clashed with the young Panther making his debut in Sangre Grande.
The Panther fought bravely and earned accolades for that.
The long journey for The Panther had now begun. Gayelles in Mayaro, Manzanilla, Moruga, Siparia, Tacarigua, Rio Claro and Sangre Grande were just a few of the battlefields he fought opponents, big and small.
"I had about twenty stickman with me and plenty supporters. We used to travel in cars and van. It didn't have maxi that time,'' he said.
From gayelle to gayelle The Panther roamed and fought for pride, honour and good money too.
"When you see man fighting the pile ah money used to be high,'' he said.
"I went to fight ah stickman one day. The people start to boo me; they waste meh down. They want to know whey I come from, they never hear 'bout me. They bring they king. When I make the second bois I cut they king. All booing done,'' said a laughing Panther, his front teeth visibly missing when he opened his mouth.
"One thing, ah could tell yuh, I was a great breakser. I coulda breaks real good,'' he stressed.
"I get defeated three times and that was because of rum,'' he recalled.
"I see one time ah stick buss and a big bee fly out from the stick. When the police call the man to see the stick, you know the man pelt 'way the stick,'' he said.
"I see man get stick and kneel down. Man get stick and stop talking for days. I hit ah man three lash watap, watap, watap, and he get three bumps on top he head. The man sit down right dey,'' said The Panther.
"When I hear the drum beating, is like ah jumbie calling. I couldn't resist,'' he said.
"I see man, woman and child dance and cry when they hear drum beating,'' he said.
"We start playing stick with flambeau. It didn't have street lights in country area long time,'' he noted.
"When you hear Mayaro and Moruga clash, that was bois. That was the big battle. We make stick. I always hold a stick for Mayaro,'' said The Panther holding up his poui stick as a caution.
The Panther's arms and chest are coated with tattoos.
Female names, his long time girl friends, are etched on his arms.
The Panther's finger tips are now out of shape, having received some dents from "boismen''.
"Well you could see for yuhself,'' he said, displaying the battered finger tips.
Nowadays, The Panther has taken a back seat. He is a pensioner and indulges in a little Play Whe.
He is not happy however, with the state of stickfighting in recent times.
"Them fellas can't fight. They only walking 'round with stick and playing they could fight,'' he lamented.