Published: 12th of August, 2023 by Patrick Carpen
I learned the story of the saddled horse which ran home without its master while I was still a child – in the late 80s and early 90s. And I learned this story through clippings from various sources. The accuracy of some statements on which this story is based cannot be verified, but the story is undeniably true because I heard a part of it “from the horse’s mouth.” That is, from the daughter of the antagonist of the story. Her name was “Galo,” and, because it was traditional to address older women as “aunty,” my sister and I called her “aunty Galo.”
While we were kids, aunty Galo worked with us as a maid. That was during the late 80s and early 90s. Naturally, aunty Galo was much older than us. She was a little girl when her father was hanged by the British government. And she was also a little girl when Guyana gained Independence from the British Empire. My sister and I, having been born in the 1980s, never lived in the time of British rule which was pre-1966. We only heard stories of what life was like during those times. And they were mostly wonderful stories. From these stories, I got the impression that the British were good rulers.
As a maid, aunty Galo would come several days per week to clean the house because my mother wasn’t around, and she did an awesome job. I took a special liking to her because she worked with us for a long time. She would also work at different places, including for a doctor in the town of New Amsterdam. Sometimes, we wouldn’t see her for months on ends because she would be off to other jobs. When she came back, she would do a wonderful job once again. She would share stories with us, especially with my grandmother who was born in 1917 and had lived almost half her life through British rule. My grandmother too told many beautiful stories of what life was like during British rule.
In the year 2001, I received the news that aunty Galo had passed away. A wave of sadness swept through me. “No,” I thought anxiously. “This can’t be.” I was 18 years old at that time. She had died too soon – before I was able to do something nice for her – like build a house for her to live in comfortably. I always wanted to do something like that for aunty Galo when I grew up because it seemed to me that she had had a hard life. This was partly because she didn’t have a high level of formal education, and partly because she had lost her father to state execution at a very young age. Little is known about her mother or siblings. All I knew was that she hustled really hard in life. She was slim and super-active. With her death, my dreams of making her life better also perished.
The story is told of the white plantation overseer who was ambushed and shot dead by two East Indian indentured laborers. He was shot off his horse and fell dead on the ground. That day, he was performing duties of overseeing the sugarcane plantations. That was the day the saddled horse ran home without its master. My grandmother would narrate clippings of the story to us, and other clippings came from other sources. The two men reportedly boasted afterwards that they “tricked the white man,” and killed him. “Don’t kill me!” he exclaimed. “I’ll give you back your jobs.” But they turned a deaf ear to his pleas for mercy and shot him dead. He fell to the ground with a dull thud, and the frantic horse ran home without its master.
The matter was quickly investigated by the British government, and the killers were found. One of them, perhaps the one who pulled the trigger, was aunty Galo’s dad. He was sentenced to death by hanging – and the sentence was carried out not too long afterward. My grandmother said that the family pleaded through all possible channels to have the sentence overturned and obtain leniency from the prosecutors. They even wrote to the queen of England but got no reply.
Having lost her dad in such a terrible manner at such a young age obviously had a psychological effect on Galo in addition to negatively affecting her education and financial life.
They waited in the bush for him. And as he came round the corner, they sprang out and aimed at him. His shirt pocket was full of papers and a pen. He put his hand up and pleaded for mercy. “Don’t kill me! I’ll give you back your jobs!”
Then bang – the shot rang out…followed by perhaps a cry of agony, and a dull thud as the body hit the ground. The frantic, saddled horse galloped home without its master.