“Everybody know me as the bush woman because is years now I does sell bush, you know, and I does look after people. They would come to me house. I don’t really make plenty money but is a lil something that I love doing,” she said smiling brightly.
We were standing on pavement in Robb Street and she had an old baby pram in front of her filled with an assortment of herbs, some dry and some green. She caught my attention when I overheard part of a conversation she was having with an acquaintance.
“I does still live in Linden, but I does come to town to sell the bush, you know how it does guh,” she said to the acquaintance.
When I approached her, she quickly agreed to speak to me and was happy to tell me her story.
Her name is Bernadette Mc Bean and she is 64 and lives in Amelia’s Ward, Linden.
“I have the karila bitters. This is the daisy. This is the inflammation bush. This is the St John,” she told me as she held up the different pieces of bush she had in her pram.
“This hay suh good for when women finish getting baby. The St John bush good for cleansing the inner part of the body like bringing down [blood] clots and suh out of the body along with cow foot bush and then they have other mixture that I would do up for them to pass out the clot,” she told me.
“They also have the dandelion, that is good for whenever you have like sugar. If you have anything like humbugging the inner part of the body, the dandelion good for that. The karila bitters with the other tea bush that good too,” she continued.
“I don’t have the red zeb grass here, but that is good too. And you see I have dry congo pump that is very good for plenty things,” she said, holding up the dry leaves up.
I was taken in by the way she explained the usage of each piece of bush she had in the pram and she swore that they worked for the various ailments she listed.
“This liquid that I have here,” she pulled out a bottle from the side of the pram filled with what looked like muddy water, “this is the Capadulla bark that I boil and have here but it have other things mix up in here.
“I would sell this and the karila bitters [she held up the bottle with the capadulla liquid and another bottle with liquid] like for $60 for a snap glass, when people explain to me what happening. And some a dem would take some home but some would drink it right on the road when I give them,” she explained.
“This [the liquid] is to deal with you back, if you back open… this is very good for it,” she continued.
I asked her to explain that and how one would know this is the complaint.
“You does feel the pain. You does feel the pain in the lower part of you back,” she explained, stressing that she knew what she was talking about and how it has helped many persons.
“I normally deal with this from since my kids was babies and even before that like since I was a teenager. My mom and uncle and so use to do the same thing and I learn from them, so I know what I talking about,” she maintained.
“I does syringe baby whenever they get thrush, whenever they get bad eye… I only just finish looking at a baby yesterday. I do my syringing for nine days and I does see nuff baby get help and big people tuh. They does come to my home when things wrong,” she said.
“At first, I ain’t use to take the bush work too serious, you know, until somebody tell me I have a work to do and I was wondering what kind of work I have to do… and then I start getting more serious when me children start dying,” she said.
She must have seen my quizzical look and even before I asked, she answered.
“A lot of children die for me, plenty. I had 13 birds [children] some born and some dead before they born and after I see that I start getting serious with me wuk,” she said.
She was not keen on speaking about the deaths of her children but insisted that those deaths propelled her into what she is doing now.
“I had to do what I had to do, and a lot of people does come to me for help, come to my home. And you know is because I finish syringing a baby yesterday, I said let me come down to town and deal with me other rest of customers,” Mc Bean shared.
I asked her if the business was profitable.
“Well no, I don’t really make a lot, but because I like the herbal business and it is my tradition and my calling, I just go towards it,” she answered.
Aside from being the ‘bush lady’, she is also a ‘Bam-Bam Sally’, a dancer in a masquerade band, typically with a stuffed exaggerated derriere who at times dances on stilts.
“I have been dancing as Bam-Bam Sally since about 1978 and I don’t only do it in Linden, I do it all over. When they had the Mash competition, I was right here in Georgetown doing it,” she said, laughing as she spoke.
“I was dancing right on Main Street,” she continued.
She has five adult children and I asked her how they reacted to her being Bam-Bam Sally.
“Well at first, to be honest, I had a lil fight down with them when they start getting big. But then they just say, ‘man lef she to do wah she gah do.’ I does really enjoy doing it,” she added.
Mc Bean said she also has a stall in front of a school in Linden and she is also known as the guinep lady as she sells the fruit whenever it is in season. She noted that she does “a little here and a little there” to make a living.
“I don’t want to have to depend on me children, so I have to get up and get to make a living. I don’t have to pay rent because Habitat [for Humanity] help to build a home for me so I have somewhere I can call me own,” she said.
“And you know I just want to encourage women out there to watch my attitude about life, don’t depend on a man for everything. Get serious and do what you have to do to take care of yourself. Every little thing can do something to make you an independent woman,” she said.
“If the man working that is alright, hand wash hand things would be better when both a dem working or doing something,” she added.
“And I am not ashamed of what I am doing. I am proud of what I am doing because I am making an honest living.”
While we chatted, a customer came along and purchased $500 worth of bush.
Smiling, she left me saying she had to “hurry up the road to see how much more she can sell. At least I want to make back me passage to Linden.”
Her positive attitude made the rest of my week. Stay positive sisters we have to do what we have to do as we continue to tread life’s pathway.