E U L O G Y.
by: Will Johnson
Today we mourn the loss of James Carl Zagers who was born on February 23rd 1927 and died on November 26th, 2016.
Carl was born in the former village of Palmetto Point known in the last years of its existence as Mary’s Point. In the year 1927 when he was born there were a total of 41 children born on Saba. This goes to show the difference on Saba between then and the last thirty years.
His wife was Rose Margarete Collins and she died young leaving Carl with three young children to raise, Lillian, Stephen and Cleve.
In 1934 the people of Palmetto Point were more or less forcefully removed by Governor Krugers to an area here in the Bottom, part of a larger property called the Man-O-War ground.
Carl did as everyone back then tried to do in order to survive. He farmed the land and fished the seas. He also built his own fishing boats when the need was there. As so many young men did at the time he also went to Aruba where he worked in the kitchen of the dining room for the Lago oil refinery there. After some years he came back to Saba and was able to find work here with the government. In those days it was not much of a salary but you grasped at any opportunity you could get.
For many years he was the linesman for the telephone service. Mr. Chester Zagers his former boss will tell you more about that period in his life.
As time moved on and Carl wanted to start a family he found his wife just a stone’s throw from where he lived in the “Promised Land’. He married Rose Margarete Collins at St. Kitts and together they not only started a family but built a house where he lived until he passed away at the age of 89.
Carl and his brother Jimmy were people who retained many memories of past life here on Saba and the people who lived and worked here. I could always ask them to clarify for me some of the families and who was related to whom from Palmetto Point and Middle Island. They would tell me things and when I researched them further they were right on nearly all my questions. I told his son Stephen that I was always promising myself to interview Carl on certain matters thinking perhaps that he would live forever.
He loved to farm and most of his life he farmed, planted the land, kept cattle and pigs and so on in order to provide for his family. The last years of his life he was farming over in a piece called the ‘Plum Piece” situated on a small plateau around 750 feet above Sea Level and on the road around the mountain and just above Palmetto Point where he was born.
This farming of his, led to a major discovery in the history of our island. When I was Acting Governor and Commissioner he called me one day and said he would like to speak to me, so I told him when to come. I thought it was something personal. However he said to me; “I know how much you are interested in the history of our island. I come to you with the following story which might be of interest to you’. And then he went on to tell me that where he was farming at the Plum Piece he was finding all kinds of strange rocks which looked like they had been worked on. ‘Must be Indians, I guess,’ he said.
And he went on to say: “I have some of them at home if you are interested.’ So we made another appointment and he brought a batch of old stones and a talisman made of coral stone with a hole in it which I wear from time to time. I took photos of his visit and offered to pay him for his trouble. He reluctantly accepted payment though he said ‘Mind I did not come for that.’ But I told him, “I suspect there is more to this story,’ and so I am only rewarding you for your labour and for your interest. I had just returned from Holland where I had undergone heart surgery and was still feeling weak. About three months later I thought I was feeling well enough and got my young son Peter to go along with me.
When we got to the Plum Piece there was Carl wearing an apron as if he was working in a gourmet kitchen. He gave me a tour of his farming area and I took a series of photo’s, which I still have and which I will add to this eulogy for posting on my blog The Saba Islander. I gathered what turned out to be some seventy pounds of stone which the Kalinago or Arawak people had left behind. Only when I got to the Queens Garden Hotel and realized that it was only three to four months since my surgery did I get panicky when I was trying to get the bag in my car.
Anyway I discussed it with the then Governor Antoine Solagnier and agreed that we contact Corrine and Menno at Leiden University. They had already been involved for several years in doing research on the Native American past on Saba. They were quite interested of course, though they had doubts if Native Americans would live that far up from the sea.
Menno and Corine decided to come and bring some students with them and to see what was there. This study resulted in a book entitled The Real Saba History. I sent my copy to a friend and fellow historian Lennox Honeychurch on Dominica and I cannot remember the exact title now. The book did give credit to Mr. Zagers for his keen observations and conclusions that there had to be a larger story to the stones and other materials he was finding on his farm.
AS a father it was a struggle to raise his children especially after the death of his wife. However he never gave up and he went on to become a loving grandfather and before his death he was to become a great-grandfather.
He was suffering with skin cancer and had to go to Colombia for medical attention and while there he developed other ailments. After he returned home he steadily got worse and this led to his demise.
In family circles he will be remembered as a hardworking and loving man. I will close by reading a poem entitled The Old Farmers Prayer. I could not find out who the author was but I thought it fitting to remember the life and times of Carl with this poem.
I could not find the name of the person who wrote this poem but I will quote it anyway.
THE OLD FARMERS PRAYER
Time just keeps moving on
Many years have come and gone
But I grow older without regret
My hopes are in what may come yet.
On the farm I work each day
this is where I wish to stay
I watch the seeds each season sprout
From the soil as the plants rise out.
I study Nature and I learn
To know the earth and feel her turn
I love her dearly and all the seasons
For I have learned her secret reasons
All that will live is in the bosom of Earth
She is the loving mother of all birth
But all that lives must pass away
And go back again to her someday.
My life too will pass from earth
But do not grieve, I say, there will be other birth
When my body is old and all spent
And my soul to Heaven has went.
Please compost and spread me on this plain
So my Mother Earth can claim
That is where I wish to be
Then Nature can nourish new life with me.
So do not for me grieve and weep
I did not leave, I only sleep
I am with the soil here below
Where I can nourish life of beauty and glow
Here I can help the falling rain
Grow golden fields of ripening grain
From here I can join the winds that blow
And meet the softly falling snow.
Here I can help the sun’s warming ligth
Grow food for birds of gliding flight
I can be in the beautiful flowers of spring
And in every other lovely thing.
So do not for me weep and cry
I am here, I did not die.
May he rest in peace.