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A Simple Matter of Trust or a Maya's Perception of Honesty

Mar 1, 2008
We hadn't heard anything about our house and jungle ranch after Hurricane Dean. We knew that trees would be down but we didn't know if the two palapa houses were standing or not. But we did know there had been no serious injuries or deaths.

We also suspected the roofs would be gone as well as the roof on the sheep building. The wife even wrote a letter but since there is no mail service, it was returned. We weren't overly concerned because we had left our Maya pal Poot in charge and Poot was a jungle man. If the roof was off, he could fix it. On the ranch we had plenty of wood and 'guano' or palm branches for the thatched roof.

Poot didn't know we were coming so there was no special preparation on his part. As we drove into our village and out to the house, we couldn't believe it. The roof on the back hut was gone but the roof on the large hut was fixed. Outside everything was clean and we could see that flowers had been planted and it looked very nice.

In the coming days it became clear that Poot had packed up all our things and stored them for the hurricane. Nothing was missing. Not a hat, spoon or pot. Even the used bars of soap and half filled bottles of shampoo were still there. No matter where I am I will use whatever soap and shampoo I find in the bathroom...so it was surprising he had not.

The Maya have a saying that little tests can be done to determine one's character. Poot had certainly passed his test. Later we found out that some of our not so honest neighbors had wanted to cut our wood and guano 'since the Gringo would not miss them.' Poot had refused. Not only was there enough material to fix our roofs but also enough to fix our fences and sheep corral.

When we finally got out to the ranch we saw how trees were blocking the road. No big deal since we had no animals and in fact the downed trees would prevent anyone from coming in and stealing our wood; our ranch having hundreds of high value hardwoods. We only lost three tin sections of roof that were fairly easy to fix at a minimal cost.

There was some fence damage but nothing Poot couldn't fix in a week or so. But that wasn't our only problem. The jungle is relentless and in the six months since he had cleaned around the well and corral it had grown at better than a foot a month. We needed a longer term solution. If we didn't do something long term, the jungle would take over like it always does.

In the ensuing conversations with Poot he told me he was tired of finding outside work and trying to squeak by growing tomatoes and chili peppers. He didn't want to work in Cancun or Playa del Carmen since he had to take care of his sister and elderly father. He wanted to start raising sheep on his piece of land but just didn't have the capital. Ah, a perfect match.

I know nothing of sheep other than that was what our ranch was built for. Poot suggested that we allow him to raise a few starter sheep on our lot in town and as the flock grew move them out to our ranch. Poot would move out to the ranch to live; being a jungle man, he has no fear of big snakes or our resident jaguar.

So there it was. Poot had passed the first tests of honesty and we were now getting ready to become business partners. So far, so good.

And some day I imagine we will have several hundred sheep and Poot will as well. He will live out on the ranch and run it and administer it. Together we both will prosper because of his honesty.

But even then I doubt he will use our soap or shampoo.
About the Author
Jack Deal is the owner of Jack D. Deal Business Consulting and a jungle ranch outside Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Mexico. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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