A Mango Tree Grows in Cocoli
by Louis J. Barbier (BHS 57’)

When I was a kid growing up in Cocoli and attending Cocoli Grade School, I lived in a wooden duplex on creosote post on Tamarind Avenue with my family. In my back yard there was a Mango Tree which I called Sammy Ho. Sammy Ho was a very beautiful evergreen tree that produce some of the best mangos in the world. It had large green thick leaves that kind of waved at me each morning. I could see it from my bedroom window. It was a marvelous tree that had been married to a couple of Tamarind trees. Don’t laugh. This is a must! Mangos are the king of the tropical fruit. It was a custom by the founders of Cocoli to marry the Mango trees to Tamarind. The tamarind fruit is the Queen of the tropical fruit. The Tamarind tree tends to be a bit tart and sassy......just what a good mango producing tree needs. We had plenty of Tamarind trees in Cocoli.

Both the Mango and the Tamarind trees are great for climbing. They will grow to 50 feet. Wow, what a birds eye view of the world you can see from up there. Sammy Ho was maybe 30 feet tall and still growing. I had a favorite spot I would climb which was level with the tin roof of our tropical quarters. Of course Sammy had a lot of pesky bugs crawling all over it. And soon they were also on your little body. Then the nasty bites. But my mother had some Chinese balm "El Tigre" that she would pick up at Casa Miller on her weekly visits to La Central. The stuff burned and smelled awful but it worked. My Mango tree also provide lots of dense shade. And at high noon everybody in Panama is looking for some cool shade to capture some breeze. Yes, Mon.

Sammy Ho had lots of visitors. The first to arrive were a flock of chattering parakeets that sounded like a small VW barreling down the Chorrera Auto-pista sounding its horn. Sammy Ho was not any Mango Tree. It was a tree that produce those large mangos with red shoulders. Teddy Roosevelt would have said, ".....these mangos are bullish on the Canal Zone. Kid get me a sack full for eating later in my room at the Tivoli Guest House."

Sammy Ho had some really strong limbs. I use to climb it with a little red-haired girl who lived up the street. I would study my tree all year long. I would even talk to it. Then when the small yellowish flowers would appear, I knew that soon we would have those little mangos. Now those flowers produces a volatile substance which in some little kids it would cause an allergic reaction and respiratory problems. Gorgas ER had a few cases each year. A couple of teaspoons of Benadryal and you would be okay......as long as you stayed away from the Mango Tree Blossoms. I was lucky I never had that problem. Then the day would come when boo-koo small green mangos would appear. Mangos are a hardy fruit. Sammy like other mango trees has to put up with pesky black birds, bugs, insects, bees, and they are susceptible do getting mildew.

Yes, that is what all that black stuff all over the trunk, leaves, and fruit. That is why one must wash mangos before eating. Also wash your hands.......you don’t want to leave mildew marks on everything you touch.

But when Sammy Ho was laden with fruit I would pick and pick all the ones that were just right. After I had a sack, I would pick another one for my mother. She could really do wonders using Mangos in salads, sauces, and deserts.

Now the perfect place to eat Mangos was under the house in the carport. I always kept the water hose handy for cleaning up later. But the juice seems to run out the corners of your mouth with each bite. Then of course, there is all those fibers which seem to get stuck between ones teeth. So, it can be very messy to eat but oh......so good!

Now, that I think back Old Sammy Ho is probably still there in Cocoli. A good Mango tree can last for 300 years and still fruiting great tasting Mangos.......the kind you love to eat. Yes, once a long time ago I knew a Mango Tree that grew in Cocoli