Uncle Bill Installment #10

Photo by Bill Scales.

Nat Walker proved to be a fount of information. The following day broke with absolute brilliance over San Salvador Island. We got up early and headed toward the north end of the island for a hike along the coral cliff. During the hike, I shot photos using my uncle’s cameras, etc. while my mind picked over events of the night before. Our Zoom date with the psychic had been a bit troubling. Hiking cleared my mind and let me rethink the previous evening’s meeting.

 

Prior to my trip to San Salvador Island my hunt for information on my long lost uncle had turned up meager results. A friend’s suggestion to hire a psychic didn’t seem too farfetched. I’m not a huge believer in that mischief, but I asked around for recommendations. The most highly recommended psychics, however, either couldn’t schedule the time or didn’t get back to me at all. Time was closing in and, just a few days before I left for the Bahamas, I had only 3 psychics left on my list. I’d written their names and phone numbers down on a piece of paper. I sat and stared at the paper. I closed my eyes and concentrated. I decided whichever one called me first was hired. After about 10 minutes, I gave up and began punching in phone numbers. That’s how I found Tammy. She agreed to a Zoom meeting, which we scheduled during our Bahamas trip. We, on San Sal, and she in Denver.

The Zoom would take place after dark on the deck out back of our Airbnb. As the sun set we lit the propane-fueled firepit and, with the surf and the hiss of release of pressurized gas as our background soundtrack, we settled in and prepared to meet … I don’t know who?  Tammy, anyway.

 

As the sun descended below the western horizon and the moon moved across the sky  …

 

…we settled in for our first ever session with a psychic medium. (That’s Gabe and John.)

After the usual awkward wait that precludes a Zoom meeting, Tammy popped onto the laptop screen.

Tammy.

She tells us we need to pay. It turns out I forgot my Venmo password and there’s more awkwardness as John pays for the session. Tammy recites a prayer with no emotion. She then says flatly, “Oh. I got chills.”

Tammy asks why everything looks so dark? We explain where we are and the fire pit. I ask about our uncle.

“All right. So I feel like he’s been gone a while. He’s almost like a trailblazer, I feel. This guy did whatever the hell he wanted to and created.”

She says, in a brusque yet rambling manner, “Yeah. I feel like he was, like an entrepreneur. He really had his hands in a lot of things. Okay? So I feel like he was really an entrepreneur. Wherever he could make money, he got into it. Like a jack of all trades, okay? And I’m going to say this in a very loving way, and he said, it’s okay. I don’t know if all of them were on the up and up. Okay? And some weren’t up and up. I just feel like there was some backhanded stuff going on, but he had a lot of power in that area. I feel like there’s a lot of wheeling. He was a wheeling and dealing kind of person. So I feel like he made a lot of deals and did a lot. He had a lot of leverage, okay? I’m going to say this. He was known in that area, but he wasn’t given all the credibility that he should have had.”

 

Immediately she is off the mark. I feel my cousin check out. He appears uninterested in continuing. I’m in it for the adventure, so she and I soldier on. I ask questions. She comes back with things that seem so far from what we know that … yeah … I’m willing to follow her to whatever planet she’s living on, but I’m skeptical.

Major points she touched on:

“I feel like somebody killed him. I feel a stabbing.”

“It took days.”

“He didn’t want everybody to know what he was doing.”

“He had a few women.”

“Part of his death was somebody felt like they got screwed.”

“He really loved his mom.”

“He thrived in the Bahamas. He came alive there.” [Sort of an ironic statement, don’t you think?]

“I think he has a daughter.”

“His motivation was making money.”

“I feel like there’s a local heavyweight woman that actually knew about him. Okay? Ask around. She might have worked the bar or worked some kind of joint there, but she knew him really well, and they were good friends and she gave him good advice.”

…She said many more things, pretty much along the same lines. We said our thank-yous and goodbyes.

She said Bill’s final advice was, “Be careful with your choices.”

 

My mind was mulling all of this over that morning as we hiked the spectacular cliffs of the north end of the island.

Coral reefs surround San Salvador Island

This was our final full day on San Salvador. By this time, I had connected with Garnell about her mom, the woman who said she knew Bill and Don. We were set to meet that evening in North Victoria Hill, a small settlement at the north end of the island. For now, our morning hike was nearing it’s end and we needed to get back to Cockburn Town to meet with Clifford Fernander …better known as Snake Eyes. Clifford lives at the end of a street past Dorette’s (just ask anyone). When we arrived he took us into his kitchen, through his well kept living room, and out onto the front porch.

Snake Eyes shows us a portrait of him and his lovely wife, Mrs. Fernander. She is in the hospital in Nassau getting treatment and you can tell he misses her.

We sit on the porch and ask him about our uncle. Snake Eyes tells us our uncle and Don Diehl went on a deep dive that morning, over “the wall”. They came back up, got lunch, and said they wanted to go deeper. They were after black coral, which is expensive. After they disappeared, only a fin was found. The bodies were never recovered.

Snake Eyes said that he’d actually attended Don Diehl’s memorial. The family went out in a boat and placed wreaths into the water.

He explains that there are three items on the island that are protected by the government:

 – black coral

 – Lignum Vitae

 – Yellow Elder Flower

Snake Eyes is an excellent story teller. He was born in 1932 and told us stories of growing up on the island. He almost cries as he tells us of a time when his arm was injured while working on a generator at the USAF base. “They” wanted to take him to the U.S. for treatment, but he refused to go. He was worried they would keep him there and he would never return. He worked for the government for 27 years. When I asked whether there was any socializing between U.S. personnel and locals, he brought up a place in town called “The Rip”. He got excited when he spoke of it!

The Rip. Cockburn Town, San Salvador Island.

The band there was made up of skin drums, guitar and rip saw. It sounded like a raucous good time!

Snake Eyes gave us a history lesson regarding Christopher Columbus’ 1492 crossing of the Atlantic. One of the island’s major claims to fame is, it was the first landing point of Christopher Columbus. There are huge memorials on this tiny island, dedicated to that guy … and I think I forgot to mention it until now. No biggie. [It’s a biggie.]

Snake Eyes and a photo of the Christopher Columbus memorial on the west side of the island.

 

We were shown flags (this one of Ferdinand and Isabella). He had a lot of flags.

He then spoke of the post-Columbus slave trade. When slaves left Africa, as they neared San Salvador, they would place a certain type of soap into their armpits. This raised their body temperature. The transported slaves were considered cargo or cattle. It was illegal to transport sick cargo, so the prospective slaves, proclaiming to be sick, were dumped off on the [at that time, scrubby and insignificant] island. They were free, but life was tough. [Later, when I was recounting this story to Bob his face lit up – to avoid going to Vietnam, he said, some draftees would put a certain soap in their armpits. The soap would change their metabolic rate. They would be considered 4F due to their heart “condition”.]

I think this history Snake Eyes recounted was the reason he didn’t want to visit the U.S. at first. He said he was worried he would never come back. When he did enter the U.S. in the 1950s, segregation was rampant. Simply a part of life. “If you saw a white girl, you crossed the road – or you could end up in jail.” He added though, “Some of the white folks were, well, friendly.”

 

We learned a lot from Snake Eyes. This black coral thing came out of the blue! We wished his wife well and left his home. That evening, our last on the island, was to be spent with someone named Juanita who had known our uncle.

(A note about the nickname “Snake Eyes”: Bahamian Creole often doesn’t use the “s” at the end of a plural. Island locals call Clifford “Snake Eye”. He calls himself “Snake Eye”. While researching him on the internet, I found that he is called “Snake Eyes” by non-Bahamian Creole-speaking people. I went with.)

Installment #9

Installment #11

You can keep track of updates and photos, beyond what I post on my site, on my Whatsapp channel “Outermost Uncle“.

5 Responses

  1. Hmm… Can I faintly hear psychic bells tinkling in the background? Or… is that just my imagination?

    1. Barb: Trust yourself. Maybe you’re hearing a “coral and bells”? Thanks for commenting. -MM

  2. Once again my thrice daily exercise of checking your website has payed off 🙂 another great installment Marcy.

  3. Gripping account and mysterious clues. Beautifully willed and illustrated as always. Look forward reading about Jaunita

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