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Jan 29, 2002

Belize River icon dead at 95

Story Picture
He was a link to a time in Belize’s history when mahogany was king, chicle was queen and the power of a boat on the Belize River was measured, not by the size of its outboard engine, but by the strength of a man’s arms. By that measure– and many others– Thomas Green was a giant. Green died on Saturday at the age of ninety-five and was buried Monday morning in San Ignacio. “Mr. Thomas” as he was known, pursued a colourful career revolving mostly around the economic life of the Cayo District. But it was not until his later years that he achieved national notoriety as a dory builder, herbalist and much sought after tour guide. We at Channel 5 feel particularly close to Green, as he was a featured subject in a number of our productions dating back to “This is Belize” in 1983, “Belize at the Fair” in 1984 and more recently in “Coming of Age”. The following profile from that series was produced in 1994 when Green was a young man of eighty-seven.

Rudy Castillo, Narrator

In his eighty-seven years in Belize, Thomas Green has rarely lived beyond the high water mark of the Macal River. He probably knows this eight-mile stretch between San Ignacio and his home upstream as well as any man on earth. And he ought to, he’s paddled and poled this spectacularly scenic route as regularly as most city people drive to work. And while those urban commuters pilot vehicles assembled in Detroit or Tokyo, “Mista Thomas,” as he is known, prefers to build his own.

He has crafted over forty of these rugged yet graceful dories. They start from towering Mahogany, Cedar or Guanacaste trees and with a little help from a saw, axe and adze are transformed into transport. At four scoring seven how does he do it?

Thomas Green

“If you live a good life you have to have a certain amount of faith or confidence in yourself and try to learn the good and the bad side of you. Let’s say…like now I could work with an axe or an adze whole day, and it doesn’t do anything. But with the machete, I can’t do it. To chop the whole day with the machete, I am not used to that. But the adze or axe I could work the whole day. Do you see what I mean? See the difference?”

Doing work that suits him has taken Thomas Green on a course that flows not only through the centre of Belize’s majestic forest, but through the nation’s history as well. From rough and tumble Mahogany camps to mule trains laden with chicle. And as today’s economy expands to embrace environmental tourism, Mista Thomas, now much in demand as a guide, is going with the flow.

Thomas Green

“I go on the river and I keep on working on it and I make a living that day. Sometimes you meet birds or different animals that you see and you explain to them and sometimes you tell them about when they used to pole and paddle the channels change and things like that. Anything that you know you experience or you have an idea on it, you explain that to them. Some of the time they ask question.”

And one question Thomas Green has no trouble answering, is whether he regrets the life that he has chosen.

Thomas Green

“Here you have no noise, no trouble, nothing…where I could live a peaceful life and thing. Nobody worries you with nothing. You don’t have to hear too much noise and fight or nothing. So you could live your life this way. But if you’re in the town, you’re in trouble because sometimes you’re sleepy and you have to be out at night. Not because you want to, but you meet with your friends and you move from one thing to another and you’re always getting home late. You don’t get your rest.”

Thomas Green is survived by his daughter Theresa. He will be missed by many.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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