Ken ward in the jungle, p.6
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       Ken Ward in the Jungle, p.6
 

           Zane Grey
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  *VI*

  *WILDERNESS LIFE*

  "Now for the big job, boys," called Ken. "Any ideas will be welcome, butdon't all talk at once."

  And this job was the packing of the outfit in the boat. It was a studyfor Ken, and he found himself thanking his lucky stars that he hadpacked boats for trips on rapid rivers. George and Hal came to the forewith remarkable advice which Ken was at the pains of rejecting. And asfast as one wonderful idea emanated from the fertile minds another onecame in. At last Ken lost patience.

  "Kids, it's going to take brains to pack this boat," he said, with somescorn.

  And when Hal remarked that in that case he did not see how they everwere going to pack the boat, Ken drove both boys away and engaged Pepeto help.

  The boat had to be packed for a long trip, with many things taken intoconsideration. The very best way to pack it must be decided upon andthereafter held to strictly. Balance was all-important; comfort andelbow-room were not to be overlooked; a flat surface easy to crawl andjump over was absolutely necessary. Fortunately, the boat was large androomy, although not heavy. The first thing Ken did was to cut out thenarrow bow-seat. Here he packed a small bucket of preserved mullet,some bottles of kerosene and _canya_, and a lantern. The small, flattrunk, full of supplies, went in next. Two boxes with the rest of thesupplies filled up the space between the trunk and the rowing-seat. Byslipping an extra pair of oars, coils of rope, the ax, and a few otherarticles between the gunwales and the trunk and boxes Ken made them fitsnugly. He cut off a piece of the canvas, and, folding it, he laid itwith the blankets lengthwise over the top. This made a level surface,one that could be gotten over quickly, or a place to sleep, for thatmatter, and effectually disposed of the bow half of the boat. Of coursethe boat sank deep at the bow, but Ken calculated when they were allaboard their weight would effect an even balance.

  The bags with clothing Ken put under the second seat. Then he arrangedthe other piece of canvas so that it projected up back of the stern ofthe boat. He was thinking of the waves to be buffeted in going sternfirst down-stream through the rapids. The fishing-tackle and guns helaid flat from seat to seat. Last of all he placed the ammunition onone side next the gunwale, and the suit-case carrying camera, films,medicines, on the other.

  "Come now, fellows," called Ken. "Hal, you and George take the secondseat. Pepe will take the oars. I'll sit in the stern."

  Pepe pushed off, jumped to his place, and grasped the oars. Ken wasdelighted to find the boat trim, and more buoyant than he had dared tohope.

  "We're off," cried Hal, and he whooped. And George exercised his alreadywell-developed faculty of imitating Hal.

  Pepe bent to the oars, and under his powerful strokes the boat glidedup-stream. Soon the bridge disappeared. Ken had expected a long, shadyride, but it did not turn out so. Shallow water and gravelly rapids maderowing impossible.

  "Pile out, boys, and pull," said Ken.

  The boys had dressed for wading and rough work, and went overboard witha will. Pulling, at first, was not hard work. They were fresh andeager, and hauled the boat up swift, shallow channels, making nearly asgood time as when rowing in smooth water. Then, as the sun began to gethot, splashing in the cool river was pleasant. They passed littleislands green with willows and came to high clay-banks gradually wearingaway, and then met with rocky restrictions in the stream-bed. Fromround a bend came a hollow roar of a deeper rapid. Ken found it aswift-rushing incline, very narrow, and hard to pull along. The marginof the river was hidden and obstructed by willows so that the boys couldsee very little ahead.

  When they got above this fall the water was deep and still. Enteringthe boat again, they turned a curve into a long, beautiful stretch ofriver.

  "Ah! this 's something like," said Hal.

  The green, shady lane was alive with birds and water-fowl. Ducks ofvarious kinds rose before the boat. White, blue, gray, and speckledherons, some six feet tall, lined the low bars, and flew only at nearapproach. There were many varieties of bitterns, one kind with a purpleback and white breast. They were very tame and sat on the overhangingbranches, uttering dismal croaks. Everywhere was the flash and glitterand gleam of birds in flight, up and down and across the river.

  Hal took his camera and tried to get pictures.

  The strangeness, beauty, and life of this jungle stream absorbed Ken.He did not take his guns from their cases. The water was bright greenand very deep; here and there were the swirls of playing fish. Thebanks were high and densely covered with a luxuriant foliage. Hugecypress-trees, moss-covered, leaned half-way across the river. Giantgray-barked ceibas spread long branches thickly tufted with aloes,orchids, and other jungle parasites. Palm-trees lifted slender stemsand graceful broad-leaved heads. Clumps of bamboo spread an enormousgreen arch out over the banks. These bamboo-trees were particularlybeautiful to Ken. A hundred yellow, black-circled stems grew out of theground close together, and as they rose high they gracefully leanedtheir bodies and drooped their tips. The leaves were arrowy, exquisitein their fineness.

  He looked up the long river-lane, bright in the sun, dark and stillunder the moss-veiled cypresses, at the turning vines and blossomingcreepers, at the changeful web of moving birds, and indulged to thefullest that haunting sense for wild places.

  "Chicalocki," said Pepe, suddenly.

  A flock of long-tailed birds, resembling the pheasant in body, wassailing across the river. Again George made a dive for a gun. This onewas a sixteen-gage and worn out. He shot twice at the birds on the wing.Then Pepe rowed under the overhanging branches, and George killed three_chicalocki_ with his rifle. They were olive green in color, and thelong tail had a brownish cast. Heavy and plump, they promised fineeating.

  "Pato real!" yelled Pepe, pointing excitedly up the river.

  Several black fowl, as large as geese, hove in sight, flying pretty low.Ken caught a glimpse of wide, white-crested wings, and knew then thatthese were the birds he had seen.

  "Load up and get ready," he said to George. "They're coming fast--shootahead of them."

  How swift and powerful they were on the wing! They swooped up when theysaw the boat, and offered a splendid target. The little sixteen-gagerang out. Ken heard the shot strike. The leader stopped in midair,dipped, and plunged with a sounding splash. Ken picked him up and foundhim to be most beautiful, and as large and heavy as a goose. His blackfeathers shone with the latent green luster of an opal, and the purewhite of the shoulder of the wings made a remarkable contrast.

  "George, we've got enough meat for to-day, more than we can use. Don'tshoot any more," said Ken.

  Pepe resumed rowing, and Ken told him to keep under the overhangingbranches and to row without splashing. He was skilled in the use of theoars, so the boat glided along silently. Ken felt he was rewarded forthis stealth. Birds of rare and brilliant plumage flitted among thebranches. There was one, a long, slender bird, gold and black with awhite ring round its neck. There were little yellow-breastedkingfishers no larger than a wren, and great red-breasted kingfisherswith blue backs and tufted heads. The boat passed under a leaningceiba-tree that was covered with orchids. Ken saw the slim, sharp headof a snake dart from among the leaves. His neck was as thick as Ken'swrist.

  "What kind of a snake, Pepe?" whispered Ken, as he fingered the triggerof George's gun. But Pepe did not see the snake, and then Ken thoughtbetter of disturbing the silence with a gunshot. He was reminded,however, that the Texan had told him of snakes in this jungle, some ofwhich measured more than fifteen feet and were as large as a man's leg.

  Most of the way the bank was too high and steep and overgrown for anyanimal to get down to the water. Still there were dry gullies, orarroyos, every few hundred yards, and these showed the tracks ofanimals, but Pepe could not tell what species from the boat. Often Kenheard the pattering of hard feet, and then he would see a little cloudof dust in one of these drinking-places. So he caution
ed Pepe to rowslower and closer in to the bank.

  "Look there! lemme out!" whispered Hal, and he seemed to be on the pointof jumping overboard.

  "Coons," said George. "Oh, a lot of them. There--some young ones."

  Ken saw that they had come abruptly upon a band of racoons, not lessthan thirty in number, some big, some little, and a few like tiny ballsof fur, and all had long white-ringed tails. What a scampering the bigones set up! The little ones were frightened, and the smallest so tamethey scarcely made any effort to escape. Pepe swung the boat in to thebank, and reaching out he caught a baby racoon and handed it to Hal.

  "Whoop! We'll catch things and tame them," exclaimed Hal, muchdelighted, and he proceeded to tie the little racoon under the seat.

  "Sure, we'll get a whole menagerie," said George.

  So they went on up-stream. Often Ken motioned Pepe to stop in dark,cool places under the golden-green canopy of bamboos. He was as muchfascinated by the beautiful foliage and tree growths as by the wildlife. Hal appeared more taken up with the fluttering of birds in thethick jungle, rustlings, and soft, stealthy steps. Then as they movedon Ken whispered and pointed out a black animal vanishing in thethicket. Three times he caught sight of a spotted form slipping away inthe shade. George saw it the last time, and whispered: "Tiger-cat!Let's get him."

  "What's that, Ken, a kind of a wildcat?" asked Hal.

  "Yes." Ken took George's .32-caliber and tried to find a way up thebank. There was no place to climb up unless he dragged himself upbranches of trees or drooping bamboos, and this he did not care toattempt encumbered with a rifle. Only here and there could he see overthe matted roots and creepers. Then the sound of rapids put hunting outof his mind.

  "Boys, we've got Micas Falls to reach," he said, and told Pepe to rowon.

  The long stretch of deep river ended in a wide, shallow, noisy rapid.Fir-trees lined the banks. The palms, cypresses, bamboos, and theflowery, mossy growths were not here in evidence. Thickly wooded hillsrose on each side. The jungle looked sear and yellow.

  The boys began to wade up the rapid, and before they had reached thehead of it Pepe yelled and jumped back from where he was wading at thebow. He took an oar and began to punch at something in the water, atthe same time calling out.

  "Crocodile!" cried George, and he climbed in the boat. Hal was not slowin following suit. Then Ken saw Pepe hitting a small crocodile, whichlashed out with its tail and disappeared.

  "Come out of there," called Ken to the boys. "We can't pull youup-stream."

  "Say, I don't want to step on one of those ugly brutes," protested Hal.

  "Look sharp, then. Come out."

  Above the rapid extended a quarter-mile stretch where Pepe could row,and beyond that another long rapid. When the boys had waded up that itwas only to come to another. It began to be hard work. But Ken keptthe boys buckled down, and they made fair progress. They pulled upthrough eighteen rapids, and covered distance that Ken estimated to beabout ten miles. The blue mountain loomed closer and higher, yet Kenbegan to have doubts of reaching Micas Falls that day.

  Moreover, as they ascended the stream, the rapids grew rougher.

  "It 'll be great coming down," panted Hal.

  Finally they reached a rapid which had long dinned in Ken's ears. Allthe water in the river rushed down on the right-hand side through achannel scarcely twenty feet wide. It was deep and swift. With the aidof ropes, and by dint of much hard wading and pulling, the boys got theboat up. A little farther on was another bothersome rapid. At lastthey came to a succession of falls, steps in the river, that barredfarther advance up-stream.

  Here Ken climbed up on the bank, to find the country hilly and open,with patches of jungle and palm groves leading up to the mountains.Then he caught a glint of Micas Falls, and decided that it would beimpossible to get there. He made what observations he could, andreturned to camp.

  "Boys, here's where we stop," said Ken. "It 'll be all down-stream now,and I'm glad."

  There was no doubt that the boys were equally glad. They made camp on agrassy bench above a foam-flecked pool. Ken left the others to getthings in shape for supper, and, taking his camera, he hurried off totry to get a picture of Micas Falls. He found open places and by-pathsthrough the brushy forest. He saw evidences of forest fire, and thenknew what had ruined that part of the jungle. There were no birds. Itwas farther than he had estimated to the foothill he had marked, but,loath to give up, he kept on and finally reached a steep, thorny ascent.Going up he nearly suffocated with heat. He felt rewarded for hisexertions when he saw Micas Falls glistening in the distance. It waslike a string of green fans connected by silver ribbons. He remainedthere watching it while the sun set in the golden notch between themountains.

  On the way back to camp he waded through a flat overgrown with coarsegrass and bushes. Here he jumped a herd of deer, eight in number. Thesesmall, sleek, gray deer appeared tame, and if there had been sufficientlight, Ken would have photographed them. It cost him an effort todecide not to fetch his rifle, but as he had meat enough in camp therewas nothing to do except let the deer go.

  When he got back to the river Pepe grinned at him, and, pointing tolittle red specks on his shirt, he said:

  "Pinilius."

  "Aha! the ticks!" exclaimed Ken.

  They were exceedingly small, not to be seen without close scrutiny.They could not be brushed off, so Ken began laboriously to pick themoff. Pepe and George laughed, and Hal appeared to derive some sort ofenjoyment from the incident.

  "Say, these ticks don't bother me any," declared Ken.

  Pepe grunted; and George called out, "Just wait till you get the bigfellows--the garrapatoes."

  It developed presently that the grass and bushes on the camp-sitecontained millions of the ticks. Ken found several of the largerticks--almost the size of his little finger-nail--but he did not getbitten. Pepe and George, however, had no such good luck, as wasmanifested at different times. By the time they had cut down the bushesand carried in a stock of fire-wood, both were covered with the littlepests. Hal found a spot where there appeared to be none, and here hestayed.

  Pepe and George had the bad habit of smoking, and Ken saw them burningthe ticks off shirt-sleeves and trousers-legs, using the fiery end oftheir cigarettes. This feat did not puzzle Ken anything like the onewhere they held the red point of the cigarettes close to their nakedflesh. Ken, and Hal, too, had to see that performance at close range.

  "Why do you do that?" asked Ken.

  "Popping ticks," replied George. He and Pepe were as sober as judges.

  The fact of the matter was soon clear to Ken. The ticks stuck on as ifglued. When the hot end of the burning cigarette was held within aquarter of an inch of them they simply blew up, exploded with a pop.Ken could easily distinguish between the tiny pop of an exploding_pinilius_ and the heavier pop of a _garrapato_.

  "But, boy, while you're taking time to do that, half a dozen other tickscan bite you!" exclaimed Ken.

  "Sure they can," replied George. "But if they get on me I'll kill 'em.I don't mind the little ones--it's the big boys I hate."

  On the other hand, Pepe seemed to mind most the _pinilius_.

  "Say, from now on you fellows will be Garrapato George and PiniliusPepe."

  "Pretty soon you'll laugh on the other side of your face," said George."In three days you'll be popping ticks yourself."

  Just then Hal let out a yell and began to hunt for a tick that had bithim. If there was anything that could bother Hal Ward it was a crawlingbug of some kind.

  "I'll have to christen you too, brother," said Ken, gurgling with mirth."A very felicitous name--Hollering Hal!"

  Despite the humor of the thing, Ken really saw its serious side. Whenhe found the grass under his feet alive with ticks he cast about in hismind for some way to get rid of them. And he hit upon a remedy. On theridge above the bench was a palm-tree, and under it were many dead palmleaves. These were large in size, had long
stems, and were as dry astinder. Ken lighted one, and it made a flaming hot torch. It did nottake him long to scorch all the ticks near that camp.

  The boys had supper and enjoyed it hugely. The scene went well with thecamp-fire and game-dinner. They gazed out over the foaming pool, thebrawling rapids, to the tufted palm-trees, and above them the dark-bluemountain. At dusk Hal and George were so tired they went to bed and atonce dropped into slumber. Pepe sat smoking before the slumbering fire.

  And Ken chose that quiet hour to begin the map of the river, and to setdown in his note-book his observations on the mountains and in thevalley, and what he had seen that day of bird, animal, and plant life inthe jungle.

 
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