Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Story of Burkie Rolle

The population on Staniel Cay is between 85 and 90 Bahamians and about 20 US land holders.  Smaller than Black Point by 250 souls, Staniel is THE bustling mecca of the tourist trade.  Drawn in mainly by the SCYC, so admirably promoted by its owner David, cruisers, charter yachts and off-island visitors find diversion, provision and community on Staniel Cay.

Imbibing local colour can be done in a variety of ways:  attending fund-raisers to support the local school library, fishing tournaments, Superbowl Regattas, or Christmas feasts and festivals where the whole land and water-side community is involved.  The people on Staniel are its most cherished asset.      Joan Rolle is one of the efficient, long-time bar tenders at SCYC.  Her warm, slow smile covers you like molasses and sweetens your day.  She angles for a date and time to have her nails done and lazily kibitzes abut daily life as if time were not relavent.

Burk Rolle owner of the Blue Store offers a seat in the shade and chats you up about home, savouring his slice of paradise away from the land of ice and snow.  His wife sits by, absently weaving mat strips by the mile, preparing them to be made into baskets for the tourist trade.

Believe it or not, there are two men in the 85 with the exact same name.  Rolle is the most common last name in the Exumas, being derived from Lord John Rolle who set up plantations on land granted to him by the British Crown in the late 1700's.  His attempts at plantation life were thwarted by the poor soil here, and he was forced to acknowledge defeat.  After emancipation, the slaves took on his name as their own.  Over the years, the progeny has swelled as each man has done his best to leave his mark on the family tree.  With our story of Tucker Rolle on Compass as an example, one can easily see why there are so many with the same last name here.

Let me introduce the second Mr. Burk Rolle.

That he has a story to tell is immediately obvious the moment one lays eyes on him.  Today, he is near 60 years old.  If  you are lookingt for him, get ready for a hike, because this man's on the move.   He is the go-to-man if you need to refill your propane tanks.  He is owner/operator of Isles General Store.  He works as dock-hand at SCYC.  He has recently been promoted to acting pastor of the local Baptist Church.  He is a family man with children, grandchildren, several dogs, fishing boats, and real estate for sale.  The list is endless, which makes him a moving target.

About 12 years ago, taking stock of his many respoibilities, Burk decided it was time to get some health and life insurance.  The papers were signed, the premiums were paid, the certificates delivered.  Almost one-month-to-the-day later, tragedy struck.

It was just after dark on a moonless night, as Burk drove the dirt path in his old pick up towards home.  The path is almost a road by its constant use as a shortcut across the west end of the Cay.  There is scrubby jungle growth on one side and the airport runway on the other.  Two men, one driving a beat up truck, one coming in for landing in a single-engine airplane.  One intersecting point on each trajectory and one life-changing impact.  As in the case of many traumatic incidents, amnesia has claimed most of the details.  Being that Burk is a bonafide tea tottling abstainer, precludes the assumption that alcohol was in any way involved.  There was no airstrip lighting in those days.  Each landing pilot is supposed to do a fly-by to assertain that the runway is clear, and usually there would be no air traffic after dark.

Burkie was air lifted to Nassau for life-saving surgical treatment and plasma infusions.  His face was lacerated in several places and he had many broken bones.  He had lost a great deal of blood and most of his left arm.  Once he was stablized, he was evacuated to Miami where he spent many, many months receiving reconstructive surgeries and rehabilitation.  He was fitted for a prothesis, which he chooses not to use.  The medical bills and evac fees were astronomical and would have bankrupted his entire family but for the insurance coverage so providentially in place in his time of need.

These days, Burk Rolle is an Elder, sitting on council governing the day-to-day running of the island.  He feels blest to have been cared for so freely and so well by his family, his community, his medical teams and his insurance agents.  In a small world like it is here on-island, this is a happy-ending story for the whole community.

Here's hoping you enjoyed the story.  Comments are always welcome and looked for.  Thanx for reading.
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