Damien Hinkson with his daughters, Isis (in hand) and Dabrianna. (Picture by Lennox Devonish.)
FRESH AIR, FARMING AND FRIENDLY neighbours is what life’s like in Baird’s Village, St George. And for Damien Hinkson, there is no place in the world better to live.
Hinkson fell in love with the country at the age of seven when his family moved from the city to the country community. From then, he was free to venture outdoors and play, unlike the City where he had nowhere to run around.
Though he enjoyed catching bugs and playing with his favourite toys, what he loved most about the country life was spending time with the elderly.
“When I moved to Baird’s Village there was a lot of old people, all of whom were in their 70s. The only young person besides me was a boy named Troy. He did not like old people as much as I did so I used to help do things for them by myself,” Hinkson recalled.
“I would help them in their garden, sweep the house and pick breadfruits. Both my parents were working at the time and got home late. After school I would go by my grandmother, “Mum-mum”, who lived out by me, and then head cross by the other old folk.
He soon learnt that his surname was popular among the residence of his new community.
“Hinkson was a popular family name. Everybody knew my grandfather as “Mr Fix-It”. When they wanted anything repaired they would check him. In fact, they used to call him “Uncle Do” because he could do anything,” he said.
“I found out about that by talking with the old people. They told me plenty stories about him. Maybe that is what Troy did not like about them. They would talk off your ears, you could see that they wanted a little company.”
Hinkson said his favourite elderly person to hang out with was his neighbour, Glow.
“Glow was a real character,” he said laughing. “He had a high pitched voice and knew how to have fun. He also taught me how to make a fly stick.”
“When I look back, I am happy he taught me how to because it is a part of our culture that has been lost.”
Hinkson explained how he made the bird trap with Glow’s help.
“You used a fly trap to catch chickens. You put a stick in the ground and bend it to make a curve to get tension. The stick should have a string with a noose.
“The string is attached to another stick across the ground. Then you form a barricade in the form of a square and put corn or scratch grain there.”
“When the chicken goes for the food it will stand up on the stick. It flies up and the noose hooks its foot.”
“That was my job. Glow was too old to catch the fowls so he had me doing it. He was a free spirit. The other old people were domesticated, but he was kind of wild and loved nature. So I was able to relate to him cause he had his inner child.”
His senior neighbourhood friends influenced his outlook on life and made him the man he is today.
“Bairds Village is in the centre of two plantations, Fair View and Drax Hall so all the old people worked in the crop. This land was given to them eventually. I grew up seeing them enthusiastic about agriculture to the point that everybody had a garden,” he said.
“I think that has a lot to do with me farming,” said Hinkson, the co-founder of Baird’s Village Aquaponics Association.
Aquaponics is a system in which the waste produced by farmed aquatic animals is used as a nutrient solution for plants to grow in.
He created a miniature aquaponic system that he plans to display at AgroFest next year.
“From doing marketing research, I found that a lot of women would like a small system so they could plant vegetables for their diets,” said Hinkson, who is also a trained carpenter.
“For some reason, women like to go on this two-day or three-day diet. So if they can grow what they are eating and know that it is organic, they would like it.”
He just entered The Caribbean Innovation Competition and is hoping to be the winner in June 2017.
The father of two applies the knowledge he acquired from his childhood friends to his parenting skills.
He taught his 11-year-old daughter, Dabriana, some of the sayings his predecessors passed onto him.
“Yah don’t run bout behind fowl cock when yah know were he does sleep.”
For a youngster, that means that if you give trouble nobody will run behind you because they know where you live and they will complain to your parents.”
He also taught Dabriana, who attends Queen’s College, how to manage her schoolwork and keep the house in order.
When Easy visited the family, she was preparing lunch in the kitchen. He hopes two-year-old, Isis, would adopt her older sister’s discipline as she grows.
Hinkson also has strong views on education. He said he has issues with the criteria for the Common Entrance Exam and he believes children should not only be graded purely by an academic rubric.
“I believe in the exam so the school can have an idea of how you learn, but children are different. Some are good with their hands, while others have different talents and skill sets. But the way how the 11-Plus is set up, the ones who can follow orders good will excel while the others who think outside the box will suffer.”
“At the secondary level, I believe schools should be set up like colleges. Children should do classes based on their abilities, and not based on the year they entered school.” (SB)